The Two Brothers And The Gold by Leo Tolstoy, 1886
The magic trick:
Delivering a moral with a quick, efficient fable
This really is like reading the Bible. I say that as both a compliment and criticism. It’d simplistic and didactic. It’s certainly not fun. But, wow, it’s good. It’s not easy to be simplistic and didactic! This is universal stuff, told quickly and memorably. You go try to write a fable real quick. It ain’t so easy. And that’s quite a trick on Tolstoy’s part.
“What was he afraid of, and what did he run away from?” thought Athanasius. “There is no sin in gold, sin is in man. You may do ill with gold, but you may also do good. How many widows and orphans might not be fed therewith, how many naked ones might not be clothed, how many poor and sick might not be cared for and cured by means of this gold? Now, indeed, we minister to people, but our ministration is but little, because our power is small, and with this gold we might minister to people much more than we do now.” Thus thought Athanasius, and would have said so to his brother, but John was by this time out of hearing, and looked no bigger than a cockchafer on the further mountain.
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