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How Much Land
Does a Man Require?

by Leo Tolstoy

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About the Author

Count LEO NIKOLAEVICH TOLSTOY (1828 - 1910) was a giant among the great European writers and his influence has endured to the present day.  A Russian of noble birth, he was heir to large estates but because of his deep moral and spiritual convictions he gradually gave up a career as a landowner.  His flight form his home and family at the age of eighty-two was the last step in a journey in search of truth that had lasted sixty years.  In his writing Tolstoy exhorted non-resistance to evil and the abolition of governments and religious dogma, but also belief in God and love of humanity.  The sheer power of his writing, whether in novels (eg War and Peace, Anna Karenina), essays, short stories,or drama (The Power of Darkness is considered his greatest play) gained him such a reputation and influence that despite his revolutionary view Russia's Czarist government dared not interfere with him.  His use of realistic detail and his vast imagination which grew out of experience as landlord, teacher, army officer, husband and father and social reformer, combined with his forceful style to make Tolstoy one of the world's most important writers.

To find out more about Leo Tolstoy visit these links.  To view other links about Russia click here.

Prereading Activty #1 - Vocabulary
Identify the root word where appropriate, define the following then use them correctly in a sentence to aid in comprehension of the story.

1. squalor

2. idle

3. nomads

4. steppes

5. boisterously

6. deed

7. forfeited

8. herbage

9. caftan

10. emblazoned

11. summit

12. oppresive

Prereading Activity #2 - Farmer Roleplay

You are a farmer who wants more land but you are short of cash.  A stranger comes to you and says, "I have an enormous amount of top-quality land.  I'll sell you as much of it as you can walk around in a day, starting at sunrise and returning to the same spot before the sun sets.  The cost to you is flat $1000."

Option A

Option B

You are a farmer that accepts this deal.
Your task is to plan your day walking
(on paper) in order to take the best
advantage of the deal.  
You are a farmer that turns down the deal.
Your task is to write all the reasons that
you can think of for not accepting the
stranger's offer.  

Prereading Activity #3 - Venn Diagram Comparison/Use of a Graphic Organizer

Compare and Contrast the similarities and differences between people who live in a town/city/urban center with those who live in the country, on a farm in a rural area.  Consider stereotypes as you complete this activity.  

For an example of a Venn Diagram click here.  For an explanation of how to complete the Venn Diagram click here.

Click here for evaluation rubric.

Prereading Acivity #4 - Viewing Russia - Fast Facts About Russia

It covers one-sixth of the earth's land area.

It is more than twice as big as the USA or China.

It is 5000 km north-south and 9500 km east-west.

Its population is less than one-third of China's.

Approximately 150 different nationalities live there.  

It has extremes of climate from the Arctic cold to desert heat.

The steppes are a vast, treeless, grassy area with very fertile soil.

Some famous Russian dishes are Beef Stroganov and Chicken Kiev.

Prereading Activity #5 - The Devil in How Much Land Does a Man Require?  
Backround Information

This is the Devil of the folklore of many countries: the wicked spirt who pounces on people's weaknesses and encourages them to bring about their own destruction.  Tolstoy and most of his audience would have viewed the Devil more as a fictional character than as a real representative of the underworld.  

Guided Reading and Listening - The story had been divided into five sections.

Section 1
to " . . . that is precisely how I will get at you," (page 37)

1. How did his wife's elder sister make Pokhom feel discontented with his lot in life?

2. What kind of stove do you think Pokhom was lying on?

3. What wish did Pokhom make?

4. What usually happens to people in stories when the Devil says he'll grant their wishes?

Making Predictions: How do you think the Devil will "get at" Pokhom?

Section 2
to "After that, the two men started on their journey in the cart." (page 39)

1. What kind of story did Pokhom's first visitor, the peasant, tell him?

2. Why did Pokhom become discontented again after five years of prosperity?

3. How did he plan to acquire more cheap land before the merchant appeared?

4. What better suggestion did the merchant make?

5. What coincidence was there in the price the merchant had paid for his land (1000 rubles was exactly the sum Pokhom had saved)?

6. What did the merchant say about the Bashirs that made Pokhom think he would get an extremely good deal from them?

Making Predictions: Do you think Pokhom will get all the land he wants from the Bashkirs?  Why or why not?

Section 3
to ? . . . he was given a feather bed, and everybody retired to rest." (page 41)

1. What are nomads?

2. Why did Pokhom offer the bashkirs gifts?

3. Why did Pokhom insist on having the terms of the land sale set down in a contract?

4. Why were the Bashkirs amused by his insistence?

5.  What were the exact terms of the deal?

Making Predictions: Do you think the contract will work in favour of Pokhom or the Bashkirs?  Why?

Section 4
to " . . . he was quite ready to start." (page 43)

1. Why did Pokhom have trouble sleeping the night after signing the contract?

2. How far did he think he would walk in a day?

3. What were the most worrying details in Pokhom's dream?

4. How did the Bashkir chief show that he was a clever businessman at the starting point of Pokhom's walk?

5. What preparations did Pokhom make for his trek?

Section 5
to the end of the story

1. How far did Pokhom walk?  Make a diagram of Pokhom's walk showing his starting-point and the distance he went in each direction.  Be sure to include a directional arrow.

2. When did he make his first big mistake?  

3. What was his second big mistake?

4. What shape did his land turn our to be?

5. When did he first admit to himself that he was responsible for the trouble he was in?

6. Why did Pokhom recall his dream when he saw the chief squatting on the hillock?

7. Why did the chief laugh when Pokhom died?

Responding Personally and Expressing Opinion

1. Do you feel sorry for Pokhom?

2. Do you think the Bashkirs were really stupid?  Were they evil?

3. If Pokhom had planned his walk more carefully, do you think he would have defeated the Devil?

4. According to the story, how much land does a man ultimately require?

Critical Thinking and Exploring Values

Find and write sentences in the story that prove these statements about Pokhom's shortcomings:

1. He thought he was stronger than the Devil.

2. He had no scruples about making gains for himself from other people's misfortunes.

3. He was happy to use the stupidity of other for his own ends.

4. He was foolish enough to believe that you can get something for nothing.

5. He preferred to be suspicious of other people rather than to trust them.

6. He ignored warnings of trouble to come.

7. He made foolish decisions because he allowed his feelings to run away with him.

8. He valued material goods over everything else.

Critical Thinking and Discussing Values

1. In your opinion, is Pokhom much worse than other people?

2. Would Pokhom have behaved in the same way if the Devil had not played a part in his life?

3. What would we call the Devil today?

4. Someone has said that the moral of "How Much Land Does a Man Require?" is that greed is evil.  Do you agree? Iin your opintion, it a true and useful moral, ?

Responding Creatively Through Informal Debate

Express your opinion on the following statement, supporting it or challenging it:

Pokhom deserved his fate.  

Source: Context 3 Teachers Guide, 59 - 68.