How Much Land Does a Man Need?
Not even the tsar can cancel Leo Tolstoy
all quotes from Gutenberg.org 6157
Act 1: the Devil becomes aware of Pahom, a man who craves more land. In an agricultural society, land is wealth is power.
Act 2: Pahom, without the aid of the supernatural, purchases 40 acres of land on credit.
Act 3: Pahom falsely accuses Simon of poachingtrees from his property. Simon is acquitted, and Pahom’s resentment grows. He hears of cheap land on the frontier, and sells all his belongings.
Act 4: Pahom reaches the frontier, and purchases 125 acres of land. He struggles with the niceties of society and the realities of agriculture without chemical fertilizers. His land must lay fallow, but Pahom is unwilling to rest. The land he can rent is too far away for economical production. Wanting more land, he emigrates again, this time to Bashkortostan.
Act 5: Pahom meets the nomadic Bashkirs, who offer him gifts and the promise of as much land as he wants.
Act 6: Pahom is offered a devils’ bargain by the Bashkir chief. For one thousand rubles, he can buy much land, “as much as you can go round on your feet in a day”. Pahom’s net worth is more than one thousand rubles but less than two thousand. He has a contract drawn up; the money is forfeit if he does not return by the end of the day.
Act 7: Pahom dreams of all the landhe will purchase, but his dreams turn to nightmares. Pahom dreams of the Devil himself, and sees his own corpse laying dead at the Devil’s feet.
Act 8: Pahom starts his trek. It is quickly apparent that he has overestimated his endurance. He calculates that he will be unable to complete the square, and takes a diagonal route back to the start point.
Act 9: Pahom, suffering, runs back to the initial spot. He fears he will not make it back alive before sunset. He barely makes it, and like Pheidippides, drops dead on the spot.
Moral of the Story: How much land did Pahom need? Six feet from his head to his heels.
the word “poaching” normally refers to hunting animals illegally. We use the same word to refer to illegal logging. In the story, it is specifically treebark that is stolen and not timber or lumber.
I do not know exactly where this is supposed to be, but it is stated as “down the Volga”.
“the land of the Bashkirs”. The capital city is Уфа.
He estimates a 35-mile trek. As a square, this turns into approximately 50000 acres. I am reading a translation and have no idea what weights and measures are used in Tolstoy’s original.
I am not sure if the English word is a loan word from Dutch or Afrikaans. Regardless, to the modern viewer, it is a loan word from the title of the show Star Trek.