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Nasreddin Hodja Stories


Posted July 17, 2017 by

Nasreddin Hodja, Shrewd and Silly

Nasreddin Hodja (Hoca) is a 13th century Turkish personage who is believed to have lived in Akşehir in south-central Turkey. About 400 handwritten manuscripts that narrate anecdotes demonstrating Hodja’s quick wit and wisdom have survived. Hodja was clearly a beloved character whose advice and opinion the townspeople solicited and respected. They also loved to test his wit by playing mischievous games on him or by asking him absurd questions. Hodja was often victim to the practical jokes of children and adults, who wanted to see how he would get himself out of trouble. Nasreddin Hodja, to the delight of his fellow villagers, was never stumped to deliver a witty one-liner.

In Turkish, “hoca” means both teacher and religious leader both of whom are supposed to be sage men. Our wise Nasreddin, or Hoca Efendi as the locals respectfully called him, is sometimes an imam, leading prayers and other religious ceremonies; and sometimes a kadı (muslim judge), resolving local disputes. He is, first and foremost, a small farmer who has a few live stock and a small land to cultivate. He is hard-working and honest. He is often poor. He and his family live very modestly. From time to time, they even suffer from abject poverty where there is no food or fire to keep them warm. Nasreddin Hodja is willing to do any job to support his family. Tough times sometimes make him bitter, but mostly he maintains his sense of humour and optimism.

In some stories the Hodja acts utterly foolish. It is believed that he too, in his turn, wants to play games on others. He likes to astonish his townspeople and deliver a good message in the form of idiocy. Sometimes, either for his own benefit, or to save face, he pretends to be stupid. At times, he is tempted to cheat a little for small favours or an extra meal. We see in the stories that when it comes to poverty, the villagers are all on the same boat, and it is a daily quest to trick one another into offering a meal or a treat.

The stories attributed to Nasreddin Hodja, his character, his life and times, can be debated to no end. However, I believe that this little summary is enough to get us started with his tales. I translated the following stories for ReadLit.com. You will also find below a glossary to help with some of the Turkish terms and traditions.

Please find all Nasreddin Hodja stories here:

© 2001 Lale Eskicioglu

ReadLit Team