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Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Hodja Still Lives! Part 1 - Stories, Jokes, Festivals, & More

From the 59th International Nasreddin Hodja Festival held July 5-10 of each year in Akşehir, Turkey to an email list, Storytell, for storytellers, this "wise fool" stays alive long after his supposed existence in the 15th century (although some say it was the 13th century).  Whether his name is spelled Hoca or Hodja and beyond Turkey, especially in Islamic countries, there are enough other names for Wikipedia's article to need a whole paragraph on name variants.  The Egyptians claim their 9th century Juha or Goha was merged with his stories.  The confusion and good humored chaos is all so typical of what we should expect of this folk character embraced by many cultures and, yes, tourism in his stated home town.
The 2018 opening of the festival
I've known storytellers who have gone to Akşehir on tours related to the Hodja.  I'm not prone to "bucket lists", but if I were, this would definitely be on mine.  Turkish tourism recognizes this.  Tour guide, Burak Sansal, has a thorough site, All about Turkey, showing the many cultural tours he can do.  (Turkey's history includes many ancient cultures as well as the Islamic and Christian roots there.)  He gives a page on Nasreddin Hodja, including those many names and places and an explanation for why it is sometimes transliterated Hoca, also that it means "teacher."  His site and others stress the Hodja's humor, calling the few stories he gives there Jokes.

The online Turkish journal, Raillife, in 2015 opened with the poster I have at the top of today's article.  It talked about the Humor Train going to the festival, including a caricature competition.  The Daily Sabah, sponsored by Turkish Airlines in 2016 did an article about "Nasreddin Hodja: traditional tales from a witty sage."  They called him a "philosopher with a good sense of humor and the ability to convey symbolic messages through storytelling, his uncanny ability to highlight the social problems of his time by his use of humor was legendary. Nasreddin Hodja often addressed the connection between wealth and social problems, attributing the habits of the wealthy to the problems faced by society."  They, too, give a few Hodja stories, because it's almost impossible to avoid.  For a bit more on the Hodja and Turkish tourism, there's also in Portuguese, Spanish, English, and German.

Turkey isn't the only one to recognize what a gem they have in the Hodja.  The year 1996 was proclaimed "Nasreddin Hoca year" by UNESCO.

I earlier mentioned the email list for storytellers, Storytell.  Earlier this year a member asked for our favorite Hodja stories because his father-in-law passed away unexpectedly and "was much like Nasruddin Hodja" and he wanted the Hodja's "wit, his wisdom, his whimsy, and his desire to be helpful (even if it seems strange and foolish)."

Of course I responded.  This was what I wrote.
I, too, find Nasruddin Hodja a delight.  Thinking of my favorites, three 
and then a fourth popped into my mind.
   The Hodja on the donkeys befuddled because sometimes the number 
increased when he got off his own and only then counted it.  The Hodja 
having to deliver a sermon when he doesn't know what to say so he asks "Do 
you know what I'm going to say?", letting his listeners the first week 
shake their heads "yes", the second week shake their heads "no", and on the 
third week he says let those who know tell the others who don't.  The 
Hodja's arrival at a fancy dinner in his shabby work clothes earns him a 
poor place at the table, but, when he leaves and returns in his good coat, 
he puts food in the pockets and says "Eat, my fine coat" because he claims 
the better place it earns him at the table is obviously more important. 
 The Hodja is able to rescue a drowning tax collector from a pond after the 
tax collector fails to "Give" his hand to another would-be rescuer because 
the Hodja knows the tax collector only can "Take" anything, even a rescuing 
 Ah, yes, and in typical Hodja fashion that reminds me of another as I love 
to tell about how he collected taxes and put the receipts on his wife's 
fine cookie dough after seeing other tax collectors forced to eat their 
receipts by Timur, a.k.a. Tamerlaine -- which means Timur the Lame and NOT 
something to be said in his presence.
 Oh and then that reminds me of yet two more -- how the Hodja kept his coat 
dry before going to Timur in the rain (naked, but he claimed he went 
between the raindrops) and how he showed his archery skills by three shots 
-- the first missing the target which he says is how Timur's opponents 
shoot; the second on the target but not the bullseye which he says are how 
Timur's soldiers shoot; and finally hitting the center which is how the 
Hodja shoots.
 LoiS(omehow one Hodja tale always seems to irresistibly lead to another 
and I couldn't resist answering with a few) 

Storytell list members prefer their privacy in discussion, even though storytelling itself can make us very public in our telling.  (I understand because an earlier employment at a library meant my own comments needed to be unattached to my work there.)  As a result, if you clicked the earlier link for Storytell, you would need to subscribe to access the archive currently maintained by the National Storytelling Network.   Next week I plan to continue with Hodja stories from there and other sites specifically from storytellers.  This will give contributors a chance to say if they wish to share a story anonymously or publicly.  At least one storyteller has an online video I expect to share.

Next week on Saturday, July 14, it's officially Pandemonium Day.  That seems like a great way to celebrate it.

In the meantime I will include some other storytelling sites I usually recommend at the end of my Public Domain posts.  Many will include the Hodja.
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.

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