How Much Land Does a Man Need? – by Leo Tolstoy

I bought a book, basically an anthology of short story by writers from around the world. The book has some amazing stories about which I might write later. This post is about Leo Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” . It’s a beautiful, beautiful story that will resonate with everyone who reads it.

The story begins with two sisters who remain unnamed but who are the reason that set the event of the story in motion. The protagonist of the story is Pahom who is a peasant and who believes that life could be easier if could have a bit of more land. The essential question asked in the story is how much land does a man really need?

Pahom reminds us of ourselves who never tire of our quest to get a little more. Pahom, starts as a humble farmer who never loses an opportunity to increase his lands. In the story, it is the devil that brings all these opportunities to get more land right at Pahom’s doorstep. The greed to get some more is indeed devil himself.

The story reminds me of our incessant running to add just a little more to our wealth, to gain a little more, to be a little richer than our neighbors. All this while we forget ourselves, stop living our life, stop enjoying what nature and life has already bestowed us with. We run and run and don’t stop until we realise it is too late.

The story ends with Pahom dying a pitiful death. Most of us may not die in our quest to add a little more but the life we invent for ourselves in the process is not much better than death itself. We often sacrifice what we love most in order to gain material pleasures, thinking we would go back someday. Like Pahom we don’t realise when it’s the right time to turn back and return.

Pahom took off his under-coat, his boots and kept on walking thinking just a little more. He injured himself in the process but the compensation that had blinded his eyes seemed too much in exchange for a few wounds. This is what we all do. We hurt ourselves, ignore our bodies and most importantly taint our souls to achieve what is just a mirage to our eyes.

Like Pahom, when it is too late, do we realise that it is just a few feet of land that we actually need.

You can read the story here.

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