This Wikipedia article says that Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption “has been thought to be loosely based on Leo Tolstoy's 1872 short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"”. But this Wikipedia article says “Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was widely thought to be based on Tolstoy's short story "God Sees The Truth, But Waits", which Stephen King has disavowed.”

So my question is, is there any truth to the notion that it’s based on Tolstoy’s story? Has Stephen King discussed the issue at all?

  • 6
    ..."which Stephen King has disavowed." think you answered your own question.
    – dbugger
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 23:20
  • 1
    @dbugger If you can post an answer proving that Stephen King really has disavowed that notion, I’d be happy to accept it. Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 0:12
  • 2
    @dbugger The Wikipedia article about Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption says "thought to be loosely based on" and the text of its source was changed to "is similar to". So finding a source for King's disavowal would be helpful.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 10:14
  • Was my comment here removed? Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 23:05

1 Answer 1


In today's era, saying someone's work is based on someone else's work is equivalent to calling the former as ungrateful and the latter as unacknowledged. We tend to relate things and find patterns in similar things, but we fail to grasp the real exquisite feeling that produced the work. It happened with every subject at some point in history where people thought that someone's work was inspired or based on someone else's work. A very famous example from mathematics is who invented calculus, as there was an intense debate and heated arguments over who came up with the idea of calculus, was it Leibniz or was it Newton? Later it was found that both of them independently came up with the same concept.

There is no doubt that King's Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption has the very same nature which Tolstoy's God sees the truth, but waits (written 110 years before King's) has. Hope is dignified in King's novella, while in Tolstoy's story hope is given up:

Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

And Aksyónof wrote no more petitions; gave up all hope, and only prayed to God.

So, there is a kind of intense similarity between them. In both works we find that the main characters (prisoners) get a good reputation among other convicts and become a judge, to quote from God Sees the Truth, but Waits:

and his fellow-prisoners respected him: they called him 'Grandfather,' and 'The Saint.' When they wanted to petition the prison authorities about anything, they always made Aksyónof their spokesman, and when there were quarrels among the prisoners they came to him to put things right, and to judge the matter.

Similarly, in King's novella, Andy trades with Hadley for beer for his fellow prisoners, and even tried to teach Tommy some basics. And the most important of all is that in both of the works, the main character (and us) get to know who actually committed the murder. So, they are very profoundly similar. We can argue that King's novella is based on Tolstoy's story, someone can argue that they are not similar as both of them have a very different endings which matters a lot. An educated man can argue for anything, no matter how absurd or self-evident the topic is.

I cannot find any interview or things like that where Stephen King disavowed or even discussed the matter. Here is a blog which discusses the same issue, but still we don't find Stephen King denying or confirming that his novella is based (loosely or not) on Tolstoy's short story.

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