Leo Tolstoy and a Chicken

A Funny Episode from the Life of Tolstoy

Posted by Alexey Tkachenko on October 4, 2018

Memoirs of Leo Tolsoy’s daughters, sons and of all the people close to him abound with interesting, touching and vivid memories. When you read these first-hand accounts on Tolsoy’s sense of humour, his opinions and thoughts expressed in conversations, the greatest Russian writer as if speaks to you through the time…

Leo Tolstoy and his elder daughter Tatiana.

In the book Memories, Tatiana Sukhotina-Tolstaya, Leo Tolstoy’s elder daughter, writes so much about her life with her father and shares her memories about him. Among the funniest ones is the story about Tolstoy and a chicken.

In autumn, Tolstoy’s wife Sofia Andreevna used to move to Moscow with the younger children – who attended school there. Tolstoy with his two daughters Tanya and Masha stayed in Yasnaya Polyana for some months more. The three tried to live simply: avoid help of the servants, clean the rooms and do the cooking themselves.

But one day they were told their aunt was going to visit them – Tatiana Kuzminskaya, Sofia Tolstaya’s sister. Tanya and Masha knew she loved tasty food, especially meat. Tolstoy and his daughters, however, were vegetarians. What were they to cook? Tolstoy said they could cook as usual.

At noon, Tatiana Kuzminskaya arrived, ‘beautiful, cheerful and energetic as usual’. When dinner time came, they all went to the dining hall.

Sofia Tolstaya (left) and her sister Tatiana.

And what did we see here? A huge kitchen knife placed near my aunt’s dish, and a living hen tied to the chair leg. The poor bird was fluttering and pulled the chair.

Tolstoy explained that neither he nor his daughters could kill the poor bird, so he offered his sister-in-law to do it herself.

– Another joke of yours! – aunt Tanya exclaimed laughing. – Tanya, Masha, let the poor bird go immediately.

After that, vegetarian food was served, and the aunt liked it. But Tatiana Kuzminskaya didn’t change her mind and continued to eat meat after this funny joke of her famous brother-in-law.

From the book: Memories by Tatiana Sukhotina-Tolstaya (Moscow, 1976, in Russian).