The following is the synopsis of a short story called How Much Land Does a Man Need?, written by the famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy.
A peasant man called Pahom was complaining of how he did not possess enough land to satisfy him. He lamented: “If I had plenty of land, I should not fear the Devil himself”. The Devil, hiding behind the stove and listening to this, decided to have a tussle with Pahom to teach him a lesson.
The next day, a lady in the village sold her estate, which was bought up by the peasants. Pahom too tried to buy as much land as possible and by utilising the land he pays off his debts and he leads a happier life. But despite having his wish granted, he was still not satisfied and desired more land. His obsession with his land began to cause troubles with his neighbours and he eventually moved to a larger area of land at another village.
However, he was annoyed that he was growing crop on rented land and wanted more land for himself. He found out that the Bashkirs in the village were simple-minded people with large amounts of land. Pahom decided to exploit the Bashkirs and went to them to negotiate the lowest price possible for their land. The Bashkirs counteroffered with a very strange deal: for a thousand rubles, they would let Pahom take a spade to mark out an area of land and claim it for himself. The only condition was that he had to come back to where he started to close the loop by sunset. Pahom joyfully took up the offer, thinking how stupid these people were.
That night, Pahom had a surreal dream where he saw himself lying at the feet of the Devil. The Devil was laughing maniacally over Pahom’s cold, dead body. After jerking awake from this nightmare, Pahom sets out to start marking out as much land as possible. He decides to travel as far as he can to maximise his gain. However, he forgets to take into account the time needed to come back to where he started and hurries back. Although he manages to close the loop by sunset, the exhaustion causes him to drop dead on the spot. He is buried in a hole measuring 6 feet long.
How much more land does a man need than a place where he can rest in peace?