Nasreddin Hodja: Turkey’s Holy Fool


Statue of Nasreddin Hodja at an Ankara Amusement Park
Photo by via Wikimedia Commons

Liz Waid and Colin Lowther tell about the traditional storyteller in Turkey – Nasreddin Hodja. He has a way of making people think differently!

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

We begin today’s Spotlight with a story. It begins on a cold day in the country of Turkey.

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It was a cold winter day. A man wearing many heavy clothes noticed Nasreddin outside. Nasreddin was wearing very little clothing. "Mullah," the man said, "I am wearing all these clothes and I still feel a little cold. But you are not wearing much at all. How are you not affected by the weather?"

"Well," said Nasreddin, "I do not have any more clothes, so I cannot afford to feel cold. But you have plenty of clothes. So you have the freedom to feel cold.

Voice 2  

This clever story is about Nasreddin Hodja. Nasreddin is one of Turkey’s most well-known traditional characters. But he is known far beyond Turkey. He is famous for his intelligence. And he is equally famous for his humour. People show him as a round man with white hair and a turban on his head. He is usually riding a donkey. And he is often riding the donkey backwards, facing the wrong way! Nasreddin showed how things in society and the world are often backwards. His stories show the world from a different point of view. And people love to tell his stories even today. Today’s Spotlight is on Nasreddin Hodja.

Voice 1  

People disagree about whether Nasreddin was a real historical person or not. But many people say he was an educated man who lived in the area we call Turkey today. He was born around the year 1200. Nasreddin was known as a wise man, teacher and an Islamic judge. But what makes him special and well-loved is his sense of humour. Nasreddin told stories that were funny but also true. They showed people different ways to think, especially about culture and religion. People laugh at Nasreddin Hodja because he is funny. But his stories also make people think.

Voice 2  

Nasreddin told thousands of stories. These stories are all similar in some ways. Most of Nasreddin’s stories have a lesson about culture or people. Sometimes, they just look at a situation differently. For example, Nasreddin often told stories that showed the bad side of things that people thought were good. Or they showed the good side of things people do not value. This story is about living a rich life.

Voice 3  

Mullah Nasreddin was eating a poor man's meal of chickpeas and bread. His neighbor also claimed to be a wise man. The neighbor was living in a huge and magnificent house. He ate rich meals provided by the emperor himself. The neighbor told Nasreddin, "If only you would learn to only say good things to the emperor and serve him as I do. Then you would not have to live on chickpeas and bread."

Nasreddin replied, "And if only you would learn to live on chickpeas and bread, as I do. Then you would not have to only say good things and live as a servant to the emperor.

Voice 1  

Most of Nasreddin’s stories also have a similar style. They begin with a setting. Then there is a conversation between Nasreddin and another person. Often someone asks Nasreddin a question. Then he answers it. Most of Nasreddin’s stories are very short. Here is an example of how quickly Nasreddin shows a different view:

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Nasreddin sat on a river bank. Someone shouted to him from the opposite side, "Hey! How do I get across?" Nasreddin shouted back, "You ARE across!"

Voice 2  

Nasreddin continues to be an important symbol in Turkey. That is probably because many of Nasreddin’s stories also have a real message about the world. His stories address real problems in culture. They look at how wealth affects people and society. Using stories is a way to teach, but also make people laugh. The stories can encourage change without being threatening. Rich Heffren says Nasreddin is a good example of a holy fool. He writes in the National Catholic Reporter:

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“The holy fool, or the fool as wise soul, is a kind of person in many wisdom traditions. There are figures like this in the Russian Orthodox tradition, the Sufis of Islam, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and the Hasidic movement of Judaism. Such fools make us laugh and make us confused. They are trickster figures. They are silly on purpose. They succeed in breaking through a layer of resistance or disbelief. Holy fools turn our spiritual traditions upside down and inside out. Jesus tells stories called parables that do that same thing. This way we can more easily see the truth within them.”

Voice 1  

The humble Holy Fool now has a place of honour in Turkey and the area around it. And his stories are for people of all kinds. Men, women, and children all enjoy listening to and telling his stories. Nasreddin’s stories are widely known and retold. People have written them into hundreds of books. There are many pieces of art showing Nasreddin. There are statues of him all around the country. The city of Akşehir even holds an International Nasreddin Hodja Festival every year. During the festival, people tell stories, celebrate and even dress up like Nasreddin. Nasreddin Hodja will always have a very special place in people’s hearts and lives. We finish today’s Spotlight program with one more story from Nasreddin Hodja.

Voice 3  

“The moon was shining late one night. A friend saw Nasreddin walking back and forth in the street in front of his house. He was bent over to the ground. "What are you doing, Teacher?" said the friend. "I have lost my keys and am looking for them," replied Nasreddin. The friend agreed to help look for the keys. They both continued to look on the ground. Finally the friend asked, "Where did you lose your keys?" "I lost them in the house," said Nasreddin, "but there is more light out here."

Voice 2  

Have you heard of Nasreddin Hodja? What do you think of him? Do you have a traditional storyteller in your culture? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Nasreddin Hodja: Turkey’s Holy Fool”

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android or Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you heard of Nasreddin Hodja? Is there a traditional storyteller in your culture?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on April 01, 2019

I’ve never read or heard of Nasreddin Hodja, but I really enjoyed the stories Spotlight told us in this lesson. In the culture of my country there are wise characters like Nasreddin. Cancão de Fogo and Pedro Malasartes are well-known people in the Literature of Northeast Brazil and represent characters full of wisdom and humor. In fact, there is another person, called “Little Peter the Monster”, with thousands of stories that are not printable here ...

Avatar Spotlight
I.k
said on April 15, 2019

Yes, i know mullah nasrudddin..

I read the many stories of it..
And also tell the stories of nasrudddin my student’s .. mullah nasrudddin stories it is a lesson for students for better thinking in different situations. And gave them better option for right thing..

Thank you spotlight for beautiful topic about mullah nasrudddin…hodja.