A long, long time ago, when the sieve was inside the straw, when the donkey was the town crier and the camel was the barber. . . Once there was; once there wasn’t. God’s creatures were as plentiful as grains and talking too much was a sin…

Turkish tales are nothing if they are not fanciful. Most of them include leaps of the imagination into the realm of illusions.  Bizarre transformations abound along with abrupt turns of events and inexplicable changes of identity.  It would not be incorrect to say, “The heart of the Turkish tale is fantasy.”

Seljuk Anatolia and the Ottoman Empire nurtured storytelling as a prevalent form of entertainment and enlightenment: Professional storytellers, preachers, teachers and comedians kept the tradition alive, developed new versions, and contributed fresh material.

One of Turkey’s most famous story tellers was Nasreddin Hoca.  He was a philosopher, wise, witty man with a good sense of humor.  His stories have been told almost everywhere in the world.  Common Turkish citizens and every institution of Turkish society have received a criticism from his philosophical mind. He did not spare his satire for the state, religion, culture or habits.

He was born in the district of Hortu, in Sivrihisar in 1208, and died in Akşehir.  Definite facts about his life have become mixed up with fictitious anecdotes because of the peoples’ great affection for him, and he has even been ascribed extraordinary powers.  Among these claims is one that he met the Seljuk sultans, was close to Mevlana Celaleddin, spoke to Tamburlaine who lived at least 70 years after him, and was even seen in several places at the same time.

Another important element in Nasreddin Hoca stories is the donkey, a reflection of the feelings of the people.  It is impossible to imagine Nasreddin Hoca without his donkey, which is itself a vehicle of satire as you can see below.

Hadja had lost his donkey. While he was looking for it, he kept repeating, “Thank God!”

“Hodja, why are you thanking God all the time?” people asked.

“I am grateful that I was not on the donkey, otherwise I would be lost too.” he answered.

Nasreddin Hoca is famously considered the foremost protagonist of comical tales with an emotional content or other message.  Turkish artists have used him in theater pieces, music, movies, cartoons and paintings; and every year from 10-15 July, the International Nasreddin Hodja Festival takes place in Aksehir, where his tomb is.


Source:  Ege Eye

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