If you have spent any time in Turkey, you have probably seen images of, or heard stories about Nasrettin Hoca. Children learn his stories as soon as they can read, and everyone can tell at least some of them. He is always depicted as wearing a huge turban, with a long white beard, and often riding a donkey. His image appears in books, cartoons, as statues, and he is an integral part of Turkish culture.
‘Hoca‘ means ‘wise man‘ or ‘teacher‘ and is a respectful term still used to this day. (When I was working in Istanbul my local bakkal (grocer), restaurant staff, bank clerks etc greeted me as ‘Hocam’ – my teacher, which I found very charming).
Nasrettin Hoca, (or Nasreddin Hodja) is widely believed to have been a real person, who lived in the 13th century in Akşehir in central southern Turkey.
Nasrettin Hoca, from the wealth of stories told about him, lives in a village with his wife, and their livestock, and many of the stories are about everyday village life. These stories are usually amusing, often using sarcasm or word play, but almost always have a moral, that is, we can learn something about ourselves by reading the story.
Often he is depicted as an imam, a religious leader, highly respected by his neighbours and called upon to solve disputes and pronounce judgement. At other times he is the butt of neighbours’ jokes, although he often comes out on top thanks to his witty responses and quick thinking.
Apart from Turkey, Hoca appears in many other cultures, for example in Albania, Uzbekistan, Greece, Iran, Turkmenistan, Russia and even China. The name may be spelled differently, but the same stories appear again and again. Below is a statue from Moscow. The headgear may be different, but it is the same Hoca!
Akşehir holds an annual “International Nasreddin Hodja Festival in July every year.
Here is one of his stories, in Turkish: can you translate it? My students can! (in my next post I will give the English translation)
Nasrettin Hoca’nın Eşekleri
Bir sabah Hoca beş eşekle birlikte evinden ayrıldı. Çarşıya gitmek istiyordu.
Yorulduğu zaman, eşeklerden birine bindi. Daha sonra eşekleri saydı: sadece dört tane vardı! Hemen eşekten inip beşinciyi aramayı başladı. Etrafına baktı, ama onu bulamadı. Geri dönüp tekrar eşekleri saydı. Bu sefer beş tane vardı.
Onlardan birine binip tekrar hareket etti. Birkaç dakika sonra onları yeniden saydı, ve gene yalnız dört tane vardı!
Arkadaşlarından biri yanlarından geçiyordu. Hoca ona, “Beş eşekle evden ayrıldım; sonra dört eşeğim kaldı; daha sonra yine beş oldu. Bakınız! Bir, iki üç, dört. Şimdi işte sadece dört eşeğim var,” dedi.
“Fakat,” dedi arkadaşı, “bir eşeğin sırtında oturuyorsunuz. O, beşincisi! Siz de altıncısı…”
If you want to know more about learning Turkish with me, see above for details, cost etc, or at my website: http://www.forlang.com/turkish