If you spend an extended amount of time in Turkey, you might hear comical stories and words of wisdom imparted by Turkey’s famous 13th century sage, Nasreddin Hodja. Fantastical tales about this philosophical sage have intermixed with real life anecdotes to create a legendary story-telling hero for the common man.
Different cultures around the region claim their own version of Nassreddin Hodja, but enough evidence exists to assume this creative story-teller was born in Eskişehir and later lived in Akşehir and Konya. Nasreddin Hodja was often depicted with his trusty donkey, the hard-working friend of the plebian class. This lies in stark contrast to the regal horse of the ruling elite. His words of wisdom were funny and self-deprecating, and his subtle satire still appeals to all.
Through the centuries, thousands of stories have been attributed to Nasreddin Hodja and adapted to fit the local folklore and culture. Below are some humorous jokes and stories that will give you good insight into this comical legend, as well as some conversation pieces with Turks you might meet while here.
The Criticism Of Men
Hodja and his son went on a journey once. Hodja wanted his son ride the donkey and that he himself go on foot. On the way they met some people who said, “Look at that healthy young boy! That is today’s youth for you. They have no respect for elders. He rides on the donkey and makes his poor father walk!”
When they had passed by these people the boy felt very bad and said that he wants to walk and his father ride the donkey. So Hodja mounted the donkey and the boy walked at his side. A little later they met some other people who said, “Well, look at that! That poor little boy has to walk while his father rides the donkey.”
After they had passed by these people, Hodja told his son, “The best thing to do is for both of us to walk. Then no one can complain.”
So they continued on their journey, both of them walking. A little ways down the road they met some others who said, “Just take a look at those fools. Both of them are walking under this hot sun and neither of them are riding the donkey!”
Hodja turned to his son and said, “That just goes to show how hard it is to escape the opinions of men.”
One night the people heard a frightful noise from the Hodja’s house. They asked in the morning:
“What was that noise?”
“Oh, my coat fell downstairs.”
“Can a coat make such a noise?”
“If you were in it, like me, yes!”
Hodja and the God
The Hodja was traveling from a long way away, he got very tired and decided to rest. Then he prayed:
“Dear God, he said. Please send me a donkey!”
A few minutes later, he saw a man riding on a horse and leading a young donkey.
The man came nearer, stopped beside him and shouted:
“You, leprous man! Instead of starving there, come on carry the donkey, it is tired.”
Although the Hodja said that he was also tired, the tyrannical man beat him with a stick and so the poor Hodja took the donkey on his shoulders.
Then the man on the horse proceeded on his way. Every time the Hodja slowed down, the man beat him and after many miserable hours, they reached the town, where the man let the Hodja go, without thanking him. Then the Hodja fall down on the earth and slept many hours.
When he awakened, he murmured
“Oh, God! What happened? Was it that I couldn’t explain, or that you couldn’t understand?”
Hodja’s Wife and His Donkey
When his wife died, the Hodja became very sorry, but he mourned for her only a few days.
After a while his donkey died and he was even more sorrowful and mourned for him many months.
People asked him why and he answered:
“When my wife died, they all said, they could find a younger and better one for me, but when my donkey died, nobody offered the same service.”
Jesus in Heaven
In a village where the Hodja was giving a speech, he told the people assembled there about Jesus, how he lived in the heavens. One old woman was very curious and asked the Hodja, what this Jesus ate in Heaven.
Now the Hodja had been in the village for almost a month, and no-one had offered him any food, and because of this he was rather angry. So he replied:
“You, silly woman, why do you ask what Jesus eats in heaven when you cannot remember to ask what the poor Hodja Nasreddin eats on the earth!”
When the Hodja was going somewhere, he got on his donkey with his back facing to front.
Hodja Effendi, the people said: “You are sitting on your donkey the wrong way round.”
“No,” he said. “It’s just that the donkey is standing the wrong way round.”
One day, the Hodja went to another village. Nobody offered him something to eat, instead they asked him:
“Hodja, why do people yawn?
“There are two reasons: One of them is tiredness, the other is hunger.”
After yawning for a while he finished up his words:
“I’m not tired!”
Whom do you believe?
One day, a friend of the Hodja came to him and asked if he could borrow his donkey for two hours to go to the town. The Hodja, not really wanting to lend his donkey, thought for a while and then said:
“Dear friend, I would like to help you but I have lent my donkey to another friend.”
The man was turning to leave when he heard the donkey, who was in the stable, bray. The braying became louder and louder. Then the man turned to the Hodja with great anger and shouted:
“You, Hodja, you have cheated me!”
The Hodja, in turn, was very angry and shouted back:
“You silly man, haven’t you any sense, whom do you believe, me or the donkey?”