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Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Hodja Still Lives! Part 2

By Yamen Statue of Nasreddin in Schaerbeek

Today it's time to enjoy more stories of the Hodja,  even three videos as told by friend and colleague, Richard Martin.
Last week I mentioned the international storytelling email list, Storytell.  The conversations have been going on there for a long time.  It started back in the last century and was hosted at that time by Texas Woman's University.  We lost that archive when it was dropped rather abruptly by TWU, although some list members stored some of those conversations.  This includes a HUGE storage by Jackie Baldwin on her website.  The compilation that is just about the Hodja fills 23 pages, so I will publish that next year, on the 60th! Annual International Nasreddin Hodja Festival held July 5-10 of each year in Akşehir, Turkey.

Jackie respected the decision by Storytell members to keep anonymity, so it doesn't state who contributed what.  Jackie continued the site until her compilations stopped when her health made her leave her business, Story-Lovers.  Jackie's information can be found still using the Wayback Machine of  It's not easy, but as I explain in my "fine print" at the end of my Keeping the Public in Public Domain segments, you can go to ,  then paste in this link, , which is the snapshot made on October 22, 2016.  Once there, scroll down and click on SOS: Searching Out Stories.  Once there you can scroll down through the many story topics, including the Hodja if you just can't wait,  and click on the story topic that interests you. 

In the meantime the Hodja continues to interest storytellers on Storytell and today I want to take the discussions that came after Story-Lovers ended.  I checked for permission to publish here with those who posted (if'll see what I mean further down).  Of course, each storyteller's version is just a quick retelling of the story and not the full story as they would tell it.  I know mine, which I gave in part 1 of this series, certainly were condensed.  As storytellers we have all fallen under the spell of the Hodja and, like the story given below about him smuggling donkeys or the one where he, too, is taken in by a rumor he started, we couldn't trace them back to their source if we tried.  We merely spread the fun.

For those of us who love the Hodja and want to access as many stories as possible, next week I will publish a bibliography of Hodja books as well as a way to access even more stories, links about the Hodja, and educational material from yet another site now only found via that Wayback Machine.  Erol Beyman's site was listed on the website of yet another friend and colleague, Tim Sheppard's Story Links (part of an even larger site of his, take a look from his Home page), which also appears in the "fine print" at the end of my Keeping the Public in Public Domain segments.  Tim's site is so large, there's no way to keep it as updated as he might like.  He assures me, however, that Erol would be delighted to keep alive the Hodja information so it continues to be used.

In the meantime, here are the storytellers who contributed their love of the Hodja.  Wherever they have a current website for their storytelling, it's hotlinked after their name.  To clarify my own comments from their own contributions to the list, I use this type font and a different one for what was published on the list.  I've done what I can to format their emails to fit this blog's template.
Re: [storytell] Stories about working together / building community
There's an old Hodja story about a Queen whose prime minister dies. 
Her power relies on two chiefs who each command a great army. Each 
chief has a son they would like to be called as the next prime 
minister. One is a brilliant scholar and the other a mighty soldier.
If she chooses one over the other, she could lose the loyalty of 
one of the chiefs.  
She calls on Hodja to solve the problem. He tells her to let the 
scholar run the parliament and laws and the soldier run the 
military. She tells them they have been pitted against each other
all their lives and would never work together. He then sends them 
both up a dangerous mountain to see who can return first, but he 
gives one son all the food, the other the fuel. He gives one the 
tent and the other the blankets.  They have to work together to 
They get back, but are still arguing. The Queen is not pleased and 
threatens to cut off Hodja's head (as she does to all who displease
her.) Hodja then solves the problem by proclaiming the soldier as 
the prime minister over the laws and the scholar as prime minister 
over the military. They argue that they do not know how to run those
things and Hodja tells them they must learn to work together or risk 
losing their heads. They submit.
The queen is happy and everyone keeps their heads - including the 
Subject: Re: [storytell] Storytelling to teach factual information 
Re: the essence of Story   
Combining two threads- fact based storytelling and a recent call 
for Nasruddin stories.

A neighbor of Nasruddin knocks on his door and asks to borrow the 
Naz's donkey. Naz really doesn't want to lend it out so he replies 
that, unfortunately, another neighbor came by earlier to borrow the 
donkey. At that very moment, the donkey brays loudly from the stable. 
"Nasruddin, I thought you said our friend borrowed your donkey."

Nasruddin replies. "Who are you going to believe, me or a donkey?"

I'll be telling that story tomorrow at a house concert as part of a
longer story (and not so subtle allusion to fake news. and how 
storytellers above all others must hold truth sacred!) about how 
storytelling once saved my life.
In discussing Cultural Appropriation - 
There's a great Nasruddin story. He invites a friend over and serves
a hearty soup. There are some leftovers. The next day, a stranger 
arrives, a friend of the friend. Want's some soup. And so it goes 
for day after day. Friend of a friend of a friend. Eventually he is 
serving water. soup of the the soup of the soup.  
The worst kind of cultural appropriation. without respect, without 
knowledge, without regard is soup of the soup of the soup. From the 
mouth of the teller, in the original cultural context, never written, 
never heard beyond the " village" so to speak is the soup.But since 
the days of Gilgamesh. and the Panchantantra etc. most of the stories 
that have come to us are some form of cultural appropriation. soup of 
the soup. but often still delicious.
By the way, when I talked privately in an email with Bob, he also said:
I'm not sure if I posted this. oh. now I remember, it was in a blog.
I asked a Lyft driver with roots in Lebanon about Nasruddin, Hodja. 
He drew a blank, but after some more conversation he knew who I was 
talking about.. Joha!
Remember my talking about that last week?
I had a conversation with a Turkish man and his reaction was more a Turkish Everyman in jokes.
LoiS(ticking with more traditional material -- there's certainly plenty of that deserving our attention)
Richard has those videos I posted at the start. He also took us back in story to two list members who now tell stories in The Great Beyond, Ofra Kipnis and Mark Wilson.
ADDED by Ofra:
in the mediterranean countries we eat seeds. melon seeds, watermelon 
seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.  salted, grilled we crack them 
between the front teeth eat the seed and spit the hulk almost 
compulsively. it took many years of training and now the cinema 
theaters and the inside of the buses are no more carpeted with deep 
layers of seed hulks .
so when Hodja Nassar A din tried to rest one hot day at noon under a 
fig tree and a swarm of street urchins played  noisy games around His 
tree he sent them to the other side of the village :" what are you 
doing here didn't you hear that Mohammed is giving away seeds to 
honour the birth of his first son? ' the kids scattered and Hodja went 
back to sleep but..he could'not sleep the thought of the seeds kept him 
awake. Maybe it is true it is possible , why not ? May be Mohammed is 
married.. maybe a son is born and Hodja ran all the way not to miss
the (maybe last) seeds.
Shalom    ofra

Added by Mark Wilson

I'm sure there are many variants of the tale type. Here's one from the
mining camps of the American West:
An old prospector who never ran in luck died and went to heaven,but 
the place was so crowded he couldn't get in. St.Peter told him to hang 
around awhile and there might be room. After pondering the matter,the 
old fellow called an angel and whispered to him that there had been a 
gold strike down in hell;and at once there was a pell-mell rush of 
angels,and soon heaven was empty. As the horde fled downward,the 
prospector gazed after it hungrily and then turned to Peter. "You 
know,"he said,"mebbe there was some truth in that rumor."

The above collected by B.A.Botkin. I imagine that Nasruddin must also 
have told such a tale,probably other trickster's too...

and also Richard posts on his own website this story about the Hodja and a donkey.  Donkeys do seem to get into the tales.  By the way, he attributes that story to Lee-Ellen Marvin posting it long ago on the list.  With her permission, I give it here next.  (Handy that Marvin follows Martin alphabetically.)

Ages ago on Storytell she wrote: 
Nasruddin and his Donkey Everyone in the village got "pilgrimage 
fever" and everyone got busy packing up some traveling clothes and 
food for the road.  All except for Nasruddin, who watched them 
labouring away.  Soon, all of the village: the men, women, and 
children, were heading out to Mecca.  They were singing songs and 
shouting with great excitement about how they were off to find God. 
They got about one mile away, when Nasruddin suddenly came riding 
up on his donkey, shouting about some terrible emergency. They 
caught the donkey and made him tell them what the problem was. 
"I'm trying to find my donkey! Where is my donkey?"  "Why, 
Nasruddin, you're sitting on top of your donkey," answered the 
"Oh really. Is that so. And why are you all going on a pilgrimage 
to find God?" 
Who reminds us "Okay to put my name as contributor rather than a source."
The other I remember is Hodja taking donkeys over the border and the 
official suspecting him of smuggling but there was nothing in 
donkeys' burdens. Years later after official had retired, Hodja 
reveals he was smuggling donkeys!
See what I mean about donkeys? That was in response to Sowmya Srinivasan's post 
which appears shortly.
Nasruddin would tell stories, but the people didn't believe his 
tales. He went home to think of a story everyone would believe, and 
swore he would only leave that room when he had such a story. After 
a while, he found himself disturbed by children's noise outside in 
street. He decided he'll play a trick on them to get peace, by going 
outside and telling them, "In market at other end of town - they are 
giving away free melons." Sure enough, the children ran off, leaving 
Nasruddin in peace to think. As children ran others who saw them 
asked why.  When they heard about the free melons, more started 
running - children - adults ran - soon the whole town ran.  An old 
man happened to run by Nasruddin himself, and when Nasruddin asked 
why he was running, he told him.  Nasruddin thought, "Perhaps there
really are free melons."  And he ran off, too, showing that the 
only people who can tell really good stories must believe them 
I included that version of a story told above to show how the same story changes and yet is the same.  Off the list I wrote that I had heard a similar story that supposedly happened with a leader of the French Revolution.  (Appropriately enough, today's blog will first appear on Bastille Day.)
For some crazy (HTML?) reason the next story insists on being in a different type font, but it was indeed contributed by Sowmya.
SOWMYA SRINIVASAN - and also check
My favorite Hodja tale goes like this Hodja reached Mecca on a pilgrimage and looked for a place to stay one night.
No one had space in their caravanserai. Finally one kind keeper asked him to adjust with a man already sleeping in a room. Hodja lies down fully clothed with his fez and shoes on! Sometime later the other man ( who sleeps naked )wakes up to find Hodja lying down next him on the bed, fully clothed. Flabbergasted he wonders why someone would do that in this heat. Hodja explains that he too has a habit of sleeping naked and was not sure how he would be able to identify himself if they were both naked!( without clothes) Other man is amused He devices a plan..says Hodja could sleep with a doll tied to his leg(left in the room by a previous occupant)..and the one who wakes up with the doll around his leg would be Hodja! 
Nasrudin was napping on his porch when a traveler roused him politely 
asking "Excuse me, how long will it take me to reach the next village?"
Nasrudin opened one eye, gazed at the traveler, went back to sleep.  
"I said, how long will it take me to reach the next village?" repeated 
the traveler.
Nasrudin opened the other eye, went back to sleep. 
"It's not a difficult question! Are you too stupid and lazy to answer?" 
the traveler berated.
Nasrudin didn't even bother to look - until the traveler stormed off 
in a huff. 
Then Nasrudin watched him several seconds and shouted after him, 
"Twenty minutes!"
The traveler returned angrily. "Why didn't you answer me before?"    
"I had to see how fast you walk."
I hope you have enjoyed your own walk through yet a few more stories about the Hodja.  Next week I'll give you resources to find books and other resources to continue the journey.

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