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[Masters of Our Culture]

NASREDDIN HODJA (1208 - 1284)      

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A Turkish Scholar. He has been the symbol of satirical comedy combining feelings and a biting point. He was born in Hortu, Sivrihisar and died in Aksehir. His father was the imam(a teacher or leader of the Muslim prayer) of the village Hortu and his mother was Sidika Hatun, living in the same village as his father. Nasreddin Hodja, has won heart of the public, and the information we have had regarding his daily life, has combined with legends throughout the centuries.

Nasreddin Hodja can not be considered only within the framework of the era he lived in, and the framework of the events he has experienced himself. The fact that the anecdotes attributed to him reveal a satirical approach with a biting tongue is a point that should be taken into account. His anecdotes focus on love, satire, praise, mocking, making fun, conflicts, a biting and sharp point when faced with interesting situations, and choosing a soft attitude rather than a harsh one depending on the context, and he seems wise, illiterate, easygoing, impervious, shy, reckless, puzzled, cunning, coward, audacious depending on the context. Paradox is the main point of humor in his anecdotes. His anecdotes reflect the approach of Turkish people towards some events and are the products of elaborate thinking. The people of Anatolia have expressed their feelings by considering Nasreddin Hodja as a focus of humor. His jokes can be encountered in the context of daily lives, and thus the common people have the opportunity to express their opinions.

Nasreddin Hodja, is not an abstract being in his satires but he is a human made of flesh. He reacts to the events or he approves them via a biting or satirical worst or a behavior. For instance, The Hodja goes back home seeing that everyone ignores him when he has his daily clothes on, and wears his fury coat. Now he is greeted cordially by everyone and he is invited to it down to eat and drink. He is given the most important seat. When the soup is served to him, he dunks the sleeve of his coat into the bowl and says "Eat, my fur coat, eat!" In this way, he expresses the reaction of the public regarding the fact that people attach too much importance on the appearance rather than the characteristic features of a person. When the dogs attack him in a place he is not familiar with, he tries to take out the stones on the street and use them against the dogs. Having realized that he can’t take the stones out, he makes a critic of this situation by saying : “What kind of a country is this, the dogs are free, but the stones aren’t.”

The events told in Nasreddin Hodja’s anecdotes usually take place among the folk. The hodja does not like being around the high society. For instance, he has no anecdotes concerning the Selcuk sultans of the era he has lived in. However, there are lots of anecdotes concerning Tamerlane though they did not live in the same era. For instance, Tamerlane asks Hodja how much he would cost were he a slave. When Hodja says 50 coins, he states only his loincloth alone makes that amount. Hodja gives the answer immediately: “That was what I calculated. ” Hodja stands against Tamerlane and says “I am talking to you my daughter, but for you to hear my bride.” , and criticize him in that way. Here its not only Tamerlane who is satirized, but the high society of the palace who consider themselves well above the folk.

Donkey is an important element in the anecdotes of Nasreddin Hodja. The hodja can not be considered as a different element without his donkey. The donkey, which is actually his vehicle, is an element of criticism and satire. When a person asks where the centre of the world is, he immediately indicates the place where his donkey put its left foot. When the person asking the question does not want to believe, Hodja tells him to measure it then. Hodja rides his donkey backwards while walking with his students. When people ask him the reason he says “If I sit the other way neither can my students see me nor can I see them. Therefore, this is the best solution....” . Thus, Hodja gives a massage to the people and makes it clear that we might find a positive aspect of an even not seemingly right situation. When people see him around Aksehir pole trying to fermentalize the water there, people make fun of him asking “Does fermantalization work in the pond?”, and Nasreddin Hodja says “What if it does?”, giving a massage to the people on not yielding in to hopelessness. In another anecdote by him, a neighbor of his asks for a rope, and the hodja says he has put floor on the rope. Then, the neighbor asks whether this is possible or not, he says “If I am unwilling to give, yes, it is possible”. Here, he makes his intention clear. In a similar anecdote a neighbor of his wants to borrow his donkey, and Hodja says there is no donkey. Then the donkey brays in the stable. The neighbor asks the Hodja about it, and Hodja asks the man whether he believes in the Hodja or donkey. Again, the Hodja shows his practicality and ingeniousness in this particular anecdote.