Published On: Thu, Jan 16th, 2020

Nasreddin Hodja, a wise man and symbol of Turkish humor with his legendary wit

NASREDDIN HODJA was born in Anatolia in the 13th century and known to be a symbol of Turkish humor due to his legendary wit. The wise anecdotes of Nasreddin Hoca have been the subject of hundreds of stories and plays throughout time. It is noteworthy to mention that thanks to the witty humor in his anecdotes Hodja has certainly made us more than just laugh by teaching us valuable life lessons in being less judgmental and more thoughtful.

For many decades wise men came together to listen to his words, while the women accepted his teachings as advice and children listened to his stories. His anecdotes were circulated all over the region entering the hearts and minds of tribal members of various cultural backgrounds. They were liked by millions from the Turkish world to Persian, Arab and African cultures, and along the Silk Road to China and India.

So who is Nasreddin Hodja – and did he really exist?

In stories Nasreddin Hodja (hodja meaning master or teacher) is illustrated  as an imam with a white beard and his head wrapped in a turban, wearing a dress and often riding a donkey backwards. The question is “was Nasreddin Hodja in fact a real person”. The answer is yes. Hodja who was born in Sivrihisar village of Eskisehir, in 1208 was a well-educated man. Hodja was a philosopher with a good sense of humor and the ability to convey symbolic messages through storytelling. He was known to have a legendary ability to highlight the social problems of his time using humor.

Nasreddin Hodja often emphasized the link between wealth and social problems faced by society.

He was not only a storyteller and often matched his stories with real live events so well. His patience and sharp wit would make people raged at times but always leave them in awe.

Hodja who died in AKSEHIR, in 1284 was one of the few extraordinary heroes in Turkish folkloric culture to have put signature under the art of humor.

Down below is an anecdote from Nasreddin Hodja: “Paid forward”

The Hodja went to a hamam (Turkish bath) but because he was dressed poorly, the bath attendants would not pay him much regard. Thinking that the Hodja would underpay them at the end of his visit, the attendants refused to heat the water for him or use perfumed fragrance on the bath towels. “This man will not pay us well,” they muttered. So, the Hodja took a cold bath and dried himself using threadbare towels. Upon leaving, he gave the attendants a gold coin. They were very surprised and pleased and the next time he went to the hamam, they gave him the best of service with steaming hot water and fragrant, fluffy towels. This time, when the Hodja left the hamam, he gave them the smallest, copper coin. “What is wrong, Hodja?” they asked. “Were you not pleased with your bath?” the Hodja replied, “This copper coin is to pay you for the bath I got last time. I have already paid for the bath I got today.”

Every year he is commemorated in AKSEHIR where he is buried in a tomb. In fact, many artists, poets, writers, musicians and filmmakers participate in the International Nasreddin Hodja festival held annually between 5 July and 10 July. Nasreddin Hodja was also honored by UNESCO in 1996 for his contribution to society.

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