The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories
Ivan The Fool
In a certain kingdom there lived a rich peasant, who had three sons--Simeon (a soldier),
Tarras-Briukhan (fat man), and Ivan (a fool)--and one daughter, Milania, born dumb.
Simeon went to war, to serve the Czar; Tarras went to a city and became a merchant; and
Ivan, with his sister, remained at home to work on the farm.
For his valiant service in the army, Simeon received an estate with high rank, and married
a noble's daughter. Besides his large pay, he was in receipt of a handsome income from
his estate; yet he was unable to make ends meet. What the husband saved, the wife
wasted in extravagance. One day Simeon went to the estate to collect his income, when
the steward informed him that there was no income, saying:
"We have neither horses, cows, fishing-nets, nor implements; it is necessary first to buy
everything, and then to look for income."
Simeon thereupon went to his father and said:
"You are rich, batiushka [little father], but you have given nothing to me. Give me one-
third of what you possess as my share, and I will transfer it to my estate."
The old man replied: "You did not help to bring prosperity to our household. For what
reason, then, should you now demand the third part of everything? It would be unjust to
Ivan and his sister."
"Yes," said Simeon; "but he is a fool, and she was born dumb. What need have they of
"See what Ivan will say."
Ivan's reply was: "Well, let him take his share."
Simeon took the portion allotted to him, and went again to serve in the army.
Tarras also met with success. He became rich and married a merchant's daughter, but
even this failed to satisfy his desires, and he also went to his father and said, "Give me
The old man, however, refused to comply with his request, saying: "You had no hand in
the accumulation of our property, and what our household contains is the result of Ivan's
hard work. It would be unjust," he repeated, "to Ivan and his sister."