The Nasreddin stories have touched many cultures around the world, they are told and retold endlessly. But it is inherent in a Nasreddin story that it must be understood at many levels. There is the joke, followed by a moral and usually the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.
A popular scholar, Nasreddin Hoca was famously considered the foremost protagonist of comical tales with an emotional content or other important message. Definite facts about his life have become mixed up with fictitious anecdotes because of the peoples’ great affection for him. The anecdotes about him focus particularly on love, satire, praise and gentle mockery. His words are a contradictory combination of the wise, ignorant, cunning, harmonious, insensitive, bashful, surprised, timorous and dashing.
Another important element in Nasreddin Hoca stories is the donkey, a reflection of the feelings of the people. It is impossible to imagine Nasreddin Hoca without his donkey, which is itself a vehicle of satire. The donkey, with its suffering and pain, the blows that are inflicted on it, is the most widespread symbol. No donkeys are to be found in humorous tales from the palaces, such people ride on horses.
Below are just a few examples from around a collection of 90 of his tales:
Taste the same
Some children saw Nasreddin coming from the vineyard with two baskets full of grapes loaded on his donkey. They gathered around him and asked him to give them a taste. Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and gave each child a grape.
“You have so much, but you gave us so little,” the children whined.
“There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same,” Nasreddin answered, and continued on his way.
Watermelon vs Walnut
One day Nasreddin Hodja was working in his little watermelon patch. When he stopped for a break, he sat under a walnut tree and pondered. `Sublime Allah/God,’ he said, `it’s your business, but why would you grow huge watermelons on weak branches of a vine, and house little walnuts on a strong and mighty tree?’ And as he contemplated such, one walnut fell from the tree right onto his head. `Great Allah/God,’ he said as he massaged his bruised head, `now I understand why you didn’t find the watermelons suitable for the tree. I would have been killed if you had my mind.’
Nasreddin Hodja had borrowed a cauldron from his neighbor. When he didn’t return it for a long time, the neighbor came knocking on the door. `Hodja Effendi, if you are finished with the cauldron could I take it back? The wife needs it today.’ `Ah, of course,’ Hodja said, `just wait here a minute and I’ll fetch it.’ When Hodja came back to the door with the cauldron, the neighbour noticed that there was a small pot in it. `What is this?’ `Well, neighbor, congratulations, your cauldron gave birth to a baby pot.’ said the Hodja. The neighbor, incredulous, yet delighted, thanked the Hodja, took his cauldron and the new little pot, and went home. A few weeks after this incident, one day The Hodja came again, asking to borrow the cauldron. The neighbor didn’t even hesitate and lent Hodja the cauldron with pleasure. However, once more it was taking the Hodja forever to return it back. The neighbor had no choice but to go asking for it again. `Hodja Effendi, are you done with the cauldron?’ `Ahh neighbour, ahh’ bemoaned The Hodja, `I am afraid your cauldron is dead.’ `Hodja Effendi, that’s not possible, a cauldron cannot die!’ exclaimed the disbelieving neighbor. But Nasreddin Hodja had his answer ready. `My dear fellow, you can believe that it can give birth, why can’t you believe that it can also die?’
One day Nasreddin Hodja bought 2 kilograms of meat from the neighbourhood butcher. He brought the meat home and asked his wife to cook a real nice stew for dinner. Thus secured the evening meal, he happily headed off to his field to work. Hodja’s wife did cook the stew but about lunch time a few of her friends and relatives came over for a visit. Having nothing else to serve to her guests, she served the stew. They all ate heartily and finished it all. Hodja came home after a long day’s work and asked his wife if the stew was ready. `Ahh, ahh! You have no idea what befell the stew.’ his wife said, `The cat ate it all.’ Nasreddin Hodja, suspicious, looked around and saw the scrawny little cat in one corner, looking as hungry as himself. Hodja grabbed the cat and weighed him on his pair of scales. The poor thing weighed exactly two kilos. `Woman,’ said the Hodja, `if this is the cat, where is the stew? If this is the stew, then where is the cat?’