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"The Grain", sometimes also translated as A Grain as Big as a Hen's Egg, is a short story by Russian author Leo Tolstoy written in 1886. It takes the form of a parable about being content with one's lot in life.
One day some children found a strange object in a ravine, and they sold it to a passerby for a penny, who then sold it to a curiosity shop. Eventually the object found its way to the king, and the king was very curious to know what it was. He called together his wise men, and they discovered that the object, about the size of a hen's egg, was actually a large grain.
The king wanted to know where such a large grain could come from, and he had his men bring him an old peasant, hoping that he might know something of it. An old decrepit peasant, nearly blind and unable to walk, was brought before the king. The king showed him the grain, and the peasant said that he had never seen anything like it before, but maybe his father would know something. The peasant's father was found and brought before the king. The father was apparently healthier than the son, with only one bad leg and better eyes. He, however, still could not identify the grain, but suggested that his father might know something about it. That peasant's father was found, and he was a healthy man with good legs and bright eyes. He identified the grain as one that he and his family had planted in abundance in their time.
The king asked the man why he was so much healthier than his son and grandson, and how the grains were so much bigger in his day. The man explains that his health and the grains are because in his time, men were content with what they had, and they could thrive simply from the fruits of their own labor. In the times of his son and grandson, men begin to covet their neighbor's property, and they could no longer find contentment.
- "The Works of Tolstoy." Black's Readers Service Company: Roslyn, New York. 1928.