Saturday, March 14, 2009

Leo Tolstoy-What Men Live By? (Part 1)

What Men Live By is one of Leo Tolstoy`s short stories. I remember read it for the first time in one big book entitled "Leo Tolstoy Collected Short Stories" (forgot the exact title of the book, but sounds like that :P) which I borrow from ITB library.

It tell us story about Simon the shoemaker who encountered a neglected mysterious man in the middle of cold winter night. He then took the man to his house and got hostile reception from his wife, Matryona, who felt the man as an "additional expense" to their poor family. However Simon successfully persuade Matryona to accept the man presence. Matryona even felt touched with the man`s suffering and became fond of him. After she showed her kindness to the man, Suddenly, the man smile at her.

Simon decided to train the man (who at this time only introduced himself as Michael) as his assistant. Michael proved himself as an skilled assistant and help established Simon reputation as the best shoemaker in the area. Despite this, Michael seemed to have his own world. He rarely talk, joke or laugh. He even never smiled again since he had smiled to Matryona.

One day, A Gentleman came to Simon workshop with a fine leather. He wanted Simon to make him boots that will last for a year. Simon accepted the offer after consulted Michael. Strangely, at one moment, Michael stared at the corner of the workshop right behind the gentleman and suddenly smiled. His second smile after one year working with Simon. After the gentleman had left the workshop, Michael started working with the leather, but instead of making boots, he made slippers. Simon became worried because the gentleman had threatened to punish him if his work weren`t acceptable.However, it turned out that Michael had done the right thing because the gentleman passed away that afternoon and what he need is slippers instead of boots

Year by year passing by, Now he had lived for 6 year with Simon. As previous years, Michael still behave strangely and smiled only twice for all these years. One day a lady with her twin girls came to Simon workshop to have their shoe made by Simon. One of the girls was crippled. At that time, Simon became amazed with attention that Michael gave to the twins as if he had known them before. When Simon asked the Lady about the twins, She explained that they weren`t her daughters. She had adopted them because their mother had died after giving birth while their father had passed away three days before. One of the twins was crippled because her mother incidentally rolled over the baby leg when she was dying. Since then, The lady took them and treat them as if they were her own children. After hearing this, Michael started to smile.. his third smile and led to the conclusion of the story

At the end, it is explained that Michael was an angel who had been punished for disobeying God. He was sent to earth as a human and must learned 3 things before he God forgave him.

1. What dwells in man?
2. What is not given to man?
3. What men live by?

He smiled three times because he had learned the answer for the three questions through his life with Simon and his family.

So what did Michael learn from the three questions?
And also, what have I learned from the three qustions?

Lets find out in my next post.. :P
(It`s already too long for a post, so I think it would be better to separate it into 2 posts.. :D and hopefully I`m not too lazy to write this weekend.. *sigh)

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