The big fireplace
- a fable by Leo Tolstoi
Once upon a time a man had a big house, and in the house there was a big fireplace. His family, however, was small, just himself and his wife.
When winter came, the man tried to keep his fire going; but in one month he burnt up all his firewood. He had nothing to feed his fire, and it was cold.
Then the man began to break up his fences, and use the palings for fuel. When he had burnt up all his fences, the house was now without any protection from the wind, and it was colder than ever. But still they had no firewood.
So then the man began to tear down the ceiling of his house, and feed his fire with that. A neighbour noticed that he was tearing down his ceiling, and remonstrated with him: "Why, neighbour, have you gone out of your senses? - pulling down your ceiling in winter? You and your wife will freeze to death!"
But the man said, "Not at all, brother. The reason I am pulling down the ceiling is to have something to feed the fire. We have a rather unusual fireplace; the more we burn in it the colder we seem to be!"
The neighbour laughed and said, "Well . . . after you have used up your ceiling, then you will be tearing down your house. You won't have anywhere to live. Only the fireplace will be left and even that will be cold!"
"I'm just unlucky," said the man. "All my neighbours seem to have enough firewood to last the whole winter; but I've already burnt up my fences and the ceiling of my house, and have nothing left."
"All you need to do," said the neighbour, "is to get your fireplace rebuilt."
But the man said, "I can see that you are jealous of my house and my large fireplace, and that's why you want me to rebuild it."
And he turned a deaf ear to his neighbour's advice. He burnt up his ceiling. He burnt up his whole house. And in the end he had to go and live with strangers.