Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Imp and The Crust :

Reading Tolstoy has always been a pleasure for me. I keep visiting and revisiting the great author for his classic short stories. 
‘The Imp And The Crust’ is one such story. I had read this story long back with a different title , but have read it again recently.One peculiar feature of this story is that it does not have characters with proper name but just represent a class. 
A poor peasant has gone to work in the field to plough it with a horse. As he had had no breakfast in the morning, before starting his work, he carefully and securely puts the loaf of bread under his coat on the ground. An Imp deputed by the Chief Devil to corrupt the human mind steals the bread and from a vantage position, awaits the peasant’s reaction.When the peasant after finishing his work and setting the horse free to graze , comes to the place where has kept the bread, he, to his utter dismay finds the bread missing but does not curse or abuse the person, stealing his bread thinking that he might be in greater need of the same. The Imp is disappointed at seeing no reaction from the peasant. When he reports the matter to the Chief Devil, the latter gets angry at his failed attempt and threatens him with the punishment of throwing him into Holy Water if he fails in the next attempt.
This time the Imp comes better prepared and guised as a hermit , he comes to the peasant and advises him on farming during the entire season. The peasant acts on his advice and as a result gets a bumper crop with much corn to spare. The Imp , in whom now the peasant reposes trust and confidence advises him to brew Vodka out of the spare and surplus corn. The peasant acts accordingly. With good returns on his produce he is now a rich man and this shows on his demeanour.
The Imp goes to the Chief Devil and invites him to see the ‘progress’ himself.
Both the Chief Devil and the Imp come and perch and position themselves to witness the goings on.
There is a gathering of guests invited for a drinking party. Starting to serve Vodka to the guests, the host peasant’s wife accidently throws the container on the ground and Vodka gets spilled all over. The peasant, in a fit of anger scolds his wife badly . This is the first step in the Imp’s progress in the matter. The peasant now takes it upon himself to serve Vodka . After the first round when the guests have had a glass each, the guests indulge in clever talk , fox like. The Chief Devil is visibly happy but the Imp tells him to keep watching as more is to come . After the second glass, the guests, all of a sudden turn ferocious and start fighting amongst themselves like wolves. Even the host gets hit and hurt in the fight. The Chief Devil feels happier . Then there is third and the last round after which the guest indulge in senseless mutterings and shouting , little knowing what they are saying – in short they start behaving like pigs. The host going out to see the guests off , accidently falls and gets smeared with filth and keeps lying ‘like a hog’ . This makes the transformation complete.
Now the Chief Devil happier than ever , enquires of the Imp whether he had added the blood of fox, wolf and pig to the drink. The Imp replies that it was plain Vodka and that every human being has a beast residing within , which remains suppressed as long as man has just enough for his needs. As soon as he gets more than he needs ,the beastly traits surface themselves. The Chief Devil more than happy with the Imp grants him some promotion.
The story, simple though it is , is a study in human psychology and also seeks to bring out and dwell upon the evils of liquor .

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