Wisdom Of Children by Leo Tolstoy, 1885
The magic trick:
Using narrative to illustrate a universal message
We close a week of big thinking with Tolstoy with an appropriately massive point about humanity. Children, even in moments of immaturity, often show more capacity for growth and productivity than their adult counterparts, who are more likely to hold grudges and get caught up in petty emotions. This is often translated with the plot-spoiling title “Little Girls Wiser Than Old Man.”
The story itself that illustrates the point is very simple. Two girls get in an argument while playing in a puddle. They soon get over the issue, though, while their parents are caught up starting a neighborhood-wide rumble to pinpoint blame. Reading this during the government shutdown of January 2018 as I did gave me a good chuckle. Talk about still relevant.
And that’s quite a trick on Tolstoy’s part.
‘You naughty, dirty girl, what have you been doing?’
‘Malásha did it on purpose,’ replied the girl.
At this Akoúlya’s mother seized Malásha, and struck her on the back of her neck. Malásha began to howl so that she could be heard all down the street. Her mother came out.
‘What are you beating my girl for?’ said she; and began scolding her neighbour. One word led to another and they had an angry quarrel. The men came out and a crowd collected in the street, every one shouting and no one listening. They all went on quarrelling, till one gave another a push, and the affair had very nearly come to blows, when Akoúlya’s old grandmother, stepping in among them, tried to calm them.
‘What are you thinking of, friends? Is it right to behave so? On a day like this, too! It is a time for rejoicing, and not for such folly as this.’
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