Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina the greatest novels ever written did not emerge from a vacuum. They were preceded by at least twenty prose works of different kinds some of them masterpieces in their own right. These stories may be viewed as a fascinating encounter with literary predecessors such as Rousseau and Pushkin and they are never far removed from autobiography but in them Tolstoy can be seen forging a strong new cultural personality. Their virtues lie in local colour brilliant characterization and dialogue along with strong narrative interest linked to important ideas and meanings most of which will re-emerge in the later works. This undervalued area of a great man’s writing deserves closer attention and will reward the reader with unforgettable individuals issues and situations. In The Cossacks for example Tolstoy succeeds in combining a realistic description of the Caucasus with his hero’s personal vision of the locality. Nor is this success the only one in this remarkable period. Reading these early stories gives a penetrating insight into the workshop of a towering literary genius.