Story by the Staff
Brussels and Insirlik photos by Manos Angelakis
Nasreddin Hodja Stories.
Nusraeddin or Nasreddin Hodja was the Turkish folk philosopher and trickster best known in Anatolia. Although most of the stories depict Nasreddin in a small-village setting, the tales deal with themes that are timeless and have a worldwide appeal.
Few things are known about the life of the real Nasreddin Hodja. According to accounts he probably lived in the 13th century but some historians place him in the 14th or even the 15th. Some claim he was born in Khoy in the Western Azerbaijan province of Iran; Uzbeks believe he came from Bukhara, while Uyghurs believe he came from Xinjiang in China. The original individual, however, was probably born, lived and settled in Anatolia where his tomb is located.
He was most likely born in 1208 in the Hortu village of Sivrihisar near Eskişehir, and he spent many years serving as a Mulla i.e. religious teacher and judge in Akşehir and Konya. He died and was buried in Akşehir. Nasr-ed-Din means "Victory of Faith," Hodja means "Teacher" or “Scholar” and he received this honorific later in his life. His father was an "Imam" i.e. a religious leader of the public prayers in the mosque, and Hodja was qualified to become "Kadi" (judge) that is the person who interpreted the religious as well as secular law in Seljuk Turkey.
His stories have been told across a vast area extending from Turkey through India and along the Silk Road, and from Southern Siberia to North Africa. Over the centuries millions have grown up listening to the stories of the Hodja’s legendary wit. The stories were adopted and modified, told and retold, and became part of regional folklore. Today, the stories range into the hundreds. Though not all of them are authentic, they are all part of the Hodja legend. He is portrayed as a wise man and a simpleton at the same time. All of the human follies and social weaknesses get a laugh from him. In his anecdotes, he sees the human element in each aspect of everyday life and Hodja finds a way out of the most thorny situations with his wit, wisdom and common sense, often confounding the individuals he is having the discussion with sometimes absurd but at the same time wise statements; the kind of humor that exposes the shortcomings of a society, criticizes state and religious affairs, yet always settles matters amicably. These stories are an integral part of Turkish and Muslim culture.
Tales like these were banned during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II, who was not a man given to humor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the other hand, was an avid fan of Nasreddin Hoja stories. And their nose-tweaking quality may also have appealed to another great deflator of the mighty. There are suggestions that Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, may have heard Nasreddin Hoja stories after his capture by the Turks off Algiers.
Some samples of the Hodja’s wit:
Mulla Nasreddin had lost out in the last election and was feeling sorry for himself. "I was a victim," he said, "nothing but a victim." "A victim?, asked a friend. "A victim of what?" "A victim of accurate counting," said Nasreddin.
One day, Hodja borrowed a large cauldron from his neighbor, and dutifully returned it. But he also put a small pot inside. When his neighbor inquired, Hodja replied that the cauldron had given birth to a little one, and since it would be criminal to separate the child from the mother, the smaller pot was put with its mother.
The neighbor, knowing Hodja’s eccentric behavior said nothing, but he was also pleased to have acquired a new pot.
A few months later, Hodja asked to borrow the cauldron again.
"Why not?" thought the neighbor to himself. "Perhaps there will be another little pot inside when he returns it." But this time the Hodja did not return the cauldron. After many days had passed, the neighbor went to the Hodja and asked for the return of the borrowed cauldron.
"My dear friend," replied the Hodja. "I have bad news. Your cauldron has died, and is now in her grave."
The neighbor became furious. “A cauldron does not live, and it cannot die,” he shouted. The Hodja answered. "This is the same cauldron that but a short time ago gave birth to a child, a small pot that is still in your possession. If a cauldron can give birth to a child, then it can also die."
One day the Hodja lost his signet ring. He searched and searched in his house, but he couldn't find it. Then he got out and began to search for the ring on the street in front of his house. People passing by asked him: “Hodja Effendi, what are you doing?” “I've lost my ring at home, and now I'm searching for it.” “Why don't you then search for it inside?” He answered “The house is too dark. I can't see anything without a light, so I'm searching outside where I can see!”
And still another:
Hodja was invited to a neighbor's wedding. He went in his everyday clothes and nobody would even talk to him. So, he rushed home and put on his good silk kaftan with fine embroidery on the front and the sleeves and his best turban. When he came back, he was treated with great respect. Everybody wanted to speak with him. When they sat down for dinner he dipped the sleeves of his kaftan in the sauce of the pilaf in front of him and said: “Eat, my kaftan, eat!” And he explained to the other guests: “If the regard in this wedding is for my dress and not for me, then it is also entitled to this meal.”
And then another:
A beggar was given a piece of bread, but nothing to put on it. Hoping to get something to go with his bread, he went to a nearby inn and asked for alms. The innkeeper turned him away with nothing, but the beggar sneaked into the kitchen where he saw a large cauldron of soup cooking over the fire. He held his piece of bread over the steaming pot, hoping to capture a bit of flavor from the great-smelling vapor.
The innkeeper seized him by the arm and accused him of stealing soup.
"I took no soup," said the beggar. "I was only getting the smell of the vapor."
"Then you must pay for the smell," answered the innkeeper.
The poor beggar had no money, so the angry innkeeper dragged him before kadi Nasreddin who heard the innkeeper's complaint and the beggar's explanation.
"So you demand payment for the smell of your soup?" summarized the Hodja after the hearing.
"Yes sir!" insisted the innkeeper.
"Then I will pay you," said the Hodja.
Nasreddin drew two silver coins from his pocket, rang them together loudly, put them back into his pocket, and said to the innkeeper “I pay you for the smell of the soup this poor man had, with the sound of my money. Do not ask for more!”
A neighbor came running to Nasreddin's house with the news that the Hodja's mother-in-law had been washing her laundry in the river when she fell into the water and drowned. "And we cannot find her body," he continued. "We searched everywhere downstream for her, but to no avail."
"You should have searched upstream," replied the Hodja. "My mother-in-law was so contrary that she would never go with the flow."
And even more:
One day Nasreddin was asked the secret to longevity.
"Keep your feet warm, your head cool, be careful what you eat and don't think too much" was his answer
One day the Hodja bought 1 oka (an oka is an Ottoman weight measure, equivalent to 2.8 pounds) of liver and took it home to his wives. Then he returned to work. His wives (he had 2 wives, one older and one younger) called their friends and prepared a superb fried liver (arnavut ciğeri) dinner for them. In the evening, the Hodja returned for supper, and his wives gave him nothing but bread, garlic and onions.
He turned to one of them and said, "But why haven't you fried the liver?"
"I rinsed the liver and was going to fry it when your damn cat came up and run away with it," the older one said.
Nasreddin ran to get his scales. Then he found the cat and weighed it. It was exactly 1 oka!
He turned to his wife and said, "Look here! If what I have just weighed is the cat, then where's the liver? But if this is the liver, then where's the cat?"
And a final one:
When Hodja’s oldest wife passed away, he mourned her for a week.
When his donkey died, he mourned for two months.
Neighbors came to him and asked “When your wife passed you mourned for a week; when your ass died you mourned for a couple months! Why?”
He replied: “When my wife passed, you offered to find me a younger and more beautiful wife with a good dowry. When my ass died, no one offered to do the same!”
If you are interested in seeing more of the Hodja stories, just Google “Hodja Stories”.
© January 2021 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.
In this issue: