Saturday 10 April 2021


Nasir ud din aka Nasreddin aka Nasruddín Hoja was born, a Sunni Muslim, in 1208 [ten years after the Frankish 4th Crusaders sacked Constantinople] somewhere in the Seljuk Empire and died in the fullness of his years in 1285 [just before the Crusader kingdoms in Asia were finally extinguished] more certainly in Akşehir in central Turkey. His life is remembered as a series of quippy anecdotes in which his persona shoulders a number of roles: joker and jokee. teacher and student, wise and foolish; respected and contemptuously dismissed. Many of these tales involve <pfffffft> collapse of stout party as pomposity & pretension are pricked; and injustice is exposed by irony. Nasreddin tales are known across the Arab and Arab-adjacent world. I suspect the parables are popular because they give power to the dispossessed and make subversive fun of The Man. Folklorists reckon that Nasreddin has accreted a number of different prototypical heroes under a single name; which explains some of the inconsistencies in his character.

This week is midterm break for Gdau.I and Gdau.II over in England and their doting Gparents have been chatting to them over Skype while the actual parents are slaving in the kitchen making dinner after work. Nasreddin had recently popped up over my horizon (with an impish smile and arched eyebrow) in a different context, so I shared a couple of food-adjacent Nasreddin tales.

Nasreddin and the banquet.
Nasreddin had to work for a living. Being a Mullah/Hodja didn't put bread on the table. One day after work, he knew that his wife was away, so decided to treat himself to dinner at an inn on his way home. The inn-keeper refused to serve such a scruffy, dusty, poor-looking customer. The Hodja went home, washed, changed into his best mullah-gown, his biggest mullah-turban and his glitteriest sandals and returned to the inn. Much bowing & scraping brings the Hodja to the top table where the knobs are eating. The soup arrives and the Hodja dunks his sleeves in he bowl making sure that the soup runs up his arm to the elbow. When the fish is served, the Hodja pops the best bits into the same capacious sleeves and tucks the lettuce into his hat. The meat course is disposed into his cummerbund. The Turkish Delight ends up in his purse. The inn keeper, the waiters and the other guests are confused and ask him to explain his peculiar behaviour. "Well", said the Hodja, "you refused to serve me when I came straight from work; but were delighted to serve my fancy clothes. It only seems proper therefore that the clothes should eat the food rather than me"

The Beggar and the Soup
A poor man had to beg for his dinner every day. One evening all he had garnered was a dry crust of bread. He went to the inn and asked for a small amount of soup to wet the bread, but the inn-keeper turned him out in the street. The poor man went round the back of the inn and held his crust in the steam of the soup tureen which was boiling near the kitchen's open window. The inn-keeper catches him and charges the poor man 2 piasters for the vapours. The poor man cannot pay, so the rapacious inn-keeper seeks justice from Nasreddin Hodja. Nasreddin takes two coins out of his pocket and asks the inn-keeper to approach. The Hodja rubs the two coins together next to the inn-keeper's ear and says
"There is your payment"
"That's ridiculous, that's just the sound of coins"
"Indeed: an entirely appropriate payment for the smell of soup"

The Wonders of Nature
Nasreddin is enjoying another siesta dozing under a Juglans regia walnut tree. He falls to thinking that Allah has arranged things in a rather foolish way: Such a big tree for such a small nut. If I was running things, I'd get better use out of the infrastructure  and give these tree pumpkin-sized fruit. As he muses, a walnut falls and strikes him painfully in the face. hmmm, the Hodja thinks, in Nasreddin's world I would be dead: perhaps nature knows more about how things should work than any mere mortal.

I bet you're sorry you weren't a fly on the Gdau skype-wall last Monday evening. Other people give Nasreddin their best shot: I -- II 

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