Junior Great Books, Series Five, Volume One

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1984
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This little volume contains two excellent fables by Leo Tolstoy. If I knew them at all before, I know them better now. Both took me by surprise. In the first, an ailing king promises half his kingdom to the person who can cure him. The only man at court to dare an answer gives this solution: Find a happy man, take his shirt, and put it on the king. Then he will be cured. Of course finding a happy man proves an impossible task--until the king's son passes by a poor little hut and hears a man say that God should be praised, since he finished his work, ate his fill, and could lie down and sleep. What more, this poor man asks, could I want? The king's son gives orders to carry the man's shirt back to the king--for whatever amount of money the poor man wants. When the prince's lackeys go in, they find that this happy man is so poor that he has no shirt! In the second fable, two brothers find an inscribed stone challenging them to go into the woods, cross a river, take a she-bear's cubs, and climb the mountain. One declines the challenge, but the other accepts and completes it. He becomes royalty but, after five years of ruling, he loses a war and is driven out. He comes as a wanderer to his older brother's house. They rejoice to see each other. I was right, the elder brother declares. You have seen a great deal of trouble. The younger brother answers that he has no regrets. I may have nothing now, but I shall always have something to remember, while you have no memories at all.
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The Great Books Foundation
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