Table of Contents
- The Peasant: A poor and humble farmer
- The Imp: A small creature like a little man who has power but uses it to harm others.
- The Devil: The master of the Imp who makes good people sin.
- The peasant’s wife: A simple loving woman.
- A poor Peasant: A hardworking man who comes to the peasant’s house asking for a drink.
- Wealthy peasants: The peasant’s friends.
‘The Peasant’s Bread’ by Leo Tolstoy is a story based on Russian folk tales. The story is a parable, a kind of simple story that is written or narrated for the purpose of teaching a moral lesson. The story is about an imp who got promoted for corrupting a kind and upright peasant. The imp worked for the Devil, his master.
The stolen Breakfast
One day early morning, a poor peasant went to plow his field and took his breakfast with him, he put his coat around the breakfast and hid it under a bush, and started his work. After a while when he felt hungry, he went to the bush to have his breakfast but his breakfast was missing. The peasant searched for it but it was nowhere to be found. The peasant was confused as he saw no one there but someone must have stolen it. It was an imp who stole his breakfast while the peasant was plowing. The imp was sitting behind the bush, he wanted to hear the peasant swear. He was waiting to see him call on the name of the Devil.
But the peasant didn’t swear at anybody. He only said, “After all, I shall not die of hunger! No doubt, whoever took the bread, needed it. May it do him good.” The peasant went to the well, drank some water, and began plowing again.
The Imp disguises himself as a working man
The imp went back to the Devil, his master, and reported what had happened. The Devil grew angry with the imp and blamed him for not being able to do his job properly. He further said that if the imp did not get the better of that peasant within three years, he would be thrown into the holy water. The imp was so frightened that he hurried back to the earth. He wanted to make up for his failure. He thought of a plan to get the better of the poor peasant. The imp changed himself into a working man and went to work with the poor peasant. The first year, he advised the peasant to sow corn in a low-lying damp place and the peasant took the imp’s advice.
It happened to be a very dry year. The hot sun burnt up the crops of the other peasants but the poor peasant had a very good crop. He had enough for his needs and much to spare. The next year, the imp advised the peasant to sow on the hill. Again, the peasant accepted the imp’s advice, and this year, it rained very heavily. The crops of the other peasants were beaten down but the peasant’s crop on the hill was a fine one. Now he had even more grain to spare. He did not know what to do with it all. The imp asked the peasant to make vodka from it. He showed the peasant how he could make vodka from the grain. The peasant made vodka and began to drink it.
The Imp succeeds
Then the imp reported to the Devil about his success. The Devil said that he would himself go to the earth and see it. When the Devil went to the peasant’s house, he saw that the peasant had invited his wealthy friends and his wife was offering the drink to the guests. But as she took it round, she fell against a table. A glassful of vodka splashed onto the floor and the peasant shouted angrily at his wife.
The imp was happy that the information he gave to the master was correct and he saw it himself. Just then, a poor peasant came there, he was on his way from work and was feeling very thirsty. Though he had not been invited, he hoped that he too would be given some vodka. But the host didn’t offer him any rather he said dryly, “I cannot find a drink for everyone who comes here.” This pleased the Devil even more. The Devil saw that the peasant and his friends were drinking and telling nice lies about each other. They had another glass and started behaving like foxes, trying to please each other.
Too many possessions can ruin anyone
As they had more drinks, their talk became rougher and wilder. Soon they started fighting like wolves. They hit one another on the nose. The peasant also joined them. After taking another glass each, they started behaving like pigs. They made strange noises. When the guests started leaving, the host went out to bid them goodbye. He fell down on his nose in the mud, he lay there making noises like a pig.
The Devil was very pleased with the imp. He thought that in preparing vodka, the imp first added to it the blood of foxes, then of wolves, and lastly of pigs. That was why first the peasants behaved like foxes, then like wolves, and in the end like pigs but the imp told the Devil that he had not done any such thing. He had only made certain that the peasant had more grains than he needed. When a man has more than he needs, the blood of wild animals automatically springs up in man. The Devil was so pleased with the imp that he gave him a position of high honor.
The story very well depicts the nature of humans. The poor man was satisfied with what he had but, when he got more than what he needed, he started finding ways of getting pleasure out of the excess. The story also brings out the light the ill effects of alcohol. The poor man was good and gentle but was turned into a beast because of alcohol.