The Three Questions

by Jon J Muth (Scholastic Press NY 2002)

Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy

peace with ourselves-peace with each other

highly recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


Tolstoy delivered timeless messages in all his writings. But in this book Jon Muth has simply interpreted Tolstoy's messages and captured the true essence of the meaning of life as he explores the answers to three basic questions, we all tend to ask, at some time in our lives. This amazing story is one for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many of the following peace-building elements:

  • happy endings

  • everyone winning

  •     nonviolent resolution

  • imaginative and creative

  •     challenges existing stereotyping

  • faith and hope

  •     peace with the environment

  • finding personal peace

  • element that supports the idea that peace is possible

Nikolai is uncertain and needs to find answers to his burning questions. First he asks his friends, who as friends always do, happily give their advice. Still dissatisfied Nikolai decides to ask the oldest and wisest of his friends, but it is not until Nikolai helps someone in need does he truly appreciate the meaning of his friend's words.

Peace is a very special gift, one we can actually give ourselves. Teresa Hsu, the wonderful peace-maker responsible for the development of the Heart to Heart Foundation in Singapore, possesses some very simple beliefs. Teresa believes there are three important pathways to peace.....have no regrets...mind your own business..and serve others. Teresa continues to find peace by serving others and she is 105 years of age.

find out more about Teresa and her work

In "The Precious Present" by Spencer Johnson MD (Exley Publications 1985) a similar theme is presented.

Do the best you can in this moment.

So often we can get lost in our yesterdays or overwhelmed by the uncertainties of our tomorrows.

Peace belongs in the precious present.

These wonderful stories remind us of the importance establishing personal peace

before we seek it for others.

Critical questions to explore with children

  • What did Nikolai want to be?
  • What were the three questions he wanted his friends to help answer?
  • Who did Nikolai finally choose to ask for help?
  • What did Nikolai hear as he moved towards shelter from the storm?
  • What did the panda ask Nikolai?
  • What did Nikolai learn from the turtle?
  • Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • Why do you think Nikolai asked his animals friends the questions?
  • How do good people behave?
  • Which animal do you think would be the wisest of all the animals?
  • Why was the wise old turtle proud of Nikolai?
  • What questions would you ask the wise old turtle?
  • How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation February 2005

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