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Автор Тема: Mulla or Hodja Nasreddin as seen by Cypriot Turks and Greeks  (Прочитано 7304 раз)

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Mulla or Hodja Nasreddin as seen by Cypriot Turks and Greeks
« Ответ #1 : 18 ёоЭм 2003, 11:03:19 »
Harid Fedai
This is a copy of the article from printed version of electronic journal
Folklore Vol. 16
ISSN 1406-0957
Editors Mare Kõiva & Andres Kuperjanov
Published by the Folk Belief and Media Group of ELM
Electronic Journal of Folklore
Electronic version ISSN 1406-0949 is available from
It's free but do give us credit when you cite!
c Folk Belief and Media Group of ELM, Andres Kuperjanov
Tartu 2001

Harid Fedai
Anecdotes credited to Hodja Nasreddin can be found in written
sources from as early as the 16th century. However, there is no
consensus among them as to who Hodja Nasreddin was. The Mufti
of Sivrihisar, Hüseyin Effendi (d. 1880) writes in Mecmua- Maarif
that our Hodja was born in the village of Hortu, Sivrihisar in 1208
(605 Hegira) and died in 1284 (683 Hegira) in Akehir, the town he
had immigrated to (Kabacal 1991: l5). Some authors claim he was a
contemporary of Timurleng, basing their claim upon the Travelogue
of Eviya Chelebi:
He was from Akshehir. He was in the world during the reign of
Ghazi Hüdavendigr (Murat the First, 1326-1389), and lived
during the rule of Yldrm Khan (1389-1402). He had great virtues;
he was witty, he was a miracle worker, a philosopher, and he
was straightforward and moderate in sacred and profane matters.
He was present at sessions of the learned held by Timurleng.
(Kabacal 1991: 17)
Ebu'1-Hayr-i Rm in Saltuq-nme (1480) written in the name of
Jem Sultan, considers Hodja Nasreddin a follower of the same spiritual
guide or 'pir' as Sar Saltuq who migrated to Roumelia in 1263-
1264 with ten to twelve thousand Turkomans living in nomad tents
(Akaln 1988; Kabacal 1991: 11).
The circumstances that led to the emergence of the anecdotes has
been described by different authors in the following way:
The Anatolian people of the 13th century were an unhappy, unlucky
community devoid of everything, who felt deeply the kind
of hunger which could not be endured for too long, and who were
so helpless as to quench their hunger by eating the flesh of the
dead during the famine at the end of the century. (Kurgan 1968:
207; Kabacal 1991: 23)
This kind of life, devoid of any hope resulted in the belief in happiness
after death, and it is due to this belief that such mystical
poets as Mewlana and Younus Emre, who were Nasreddin's contemporaries,
made their appearance. The period of time during
which all three lived together falls between 1239 and 1273, that is
a duration of 34 years. (Kurgan 1968: 226; Kabacal 1991: 22)
Despite the great number of hypotheses as to Hodja Nasreddin's
historical personality, it must be noted that none of them is based
on convincing documents or evidence. For instance, the Russian
writer Leonidas Soloviof has claimed Hodja to be of Bukharan origin.
Uigurs and Uzbegs do not believe that Hodja Nasreddin lived in
Anatolia. According to the Uigurs, Hodja Nasreddin was from
Eastern Turkistan; Uzbegs, on the other hand, think that he was
born and lived in Bukhara. (Nasrettinolu 1996; otuksöken
1996: 16)

It is even claimed that he is a figure of fiction altogether, that he is
nothing but a Turkish conversion into Hodja (Khodja) from the famous
Arabian joke-teller Juha (Djoha/Djuha) (Özkan 1983; Kabacal
1991: 19). Bardavid (1996) begins his treatise on Hodja Nasreddin:
Hodja Nasreddin; Nars-a-din Hodja, Nastrazzi Hotza, Hioha,
Joha-Juha, Juhi, Ceha, Cahan, Goha, Gha, Guifa, Moha, Yukha,
Yoha, Djha, Djufa, J'Ha, Jinfa, Jovani, Ch'Ha, Jeha [---] are
only a couple of names our Hodja has. Humour will be with us as
long as the world exists.

Each country has created its own Hodja. And the anecdotes
of Hodja, the proverbs and folk poems have increased like an
avalanche, multiplied, echoed around the world in innumerable
examples, a model of a myth spread by word of mouth that has
travelled around the world for nobody knows how many times!

Each country created its own Hodja, the anecdotes became common
and were translated to all languages.
The subject is consolidated by the following words: "As indicated by
the types clustered hitherto, the anecdotes of Hodja Nasreddin is a
common property of nations whose languages and cultures vary
greatly." (Boratav 1995: 68). The reason why these anecdotes spread
along a wide geographical territory during a period of many centuries,
is explained in the following way:

While some considered these anecdotes entertaining stories, useful
for making the simple common people laugh, others noticed
in them moral lessons and criticisms of the society, or qualities
of humour with positive effects. It is without doubt that the stories
of Nasreddin derive their extraordinary liveliness and their
great power to spread from their qualities which bear diverse
values and have multifarious aspects. (Boratav 1995: 69)
Since his person as the hero of the anecdotes and the historical
person have become separated in time and we have ended up
with a Hodja Nasreddin who symbolises that person in both the
anecdotes and as described by people, and since we do not have
enough documentation in our hands, it is impossible to reconstruct
Hodja as he really was. (Kabacal 1991: 11)

It is not possible to save Hodja Nasreddin from the fate of being
shaped by the views, sensations and cognition of the people. Such
an attempt would amount to denying the very reason for his
universality and centuries-long survival within many languages.
Since it is the people who created the current figure of Hodja,
we should see and show him as people have seen him in his anecdotes
and we shouldn't feel out of place when we understand that
the transformation which has come about in his real anecdotes
has been reflected in his image. (Kabacal 1991: 25)


The anecdotes of Hodja Nasreddin are quite widespread, not only
among the Turkish but also the Greek Cypriots. However, the anecdotes
have been to a large extent passed on from generation to
generation as part of the oral tradition and have not been written
down. Still, what has been written down is mostly done by Greeks:
in the 1930s, three books were published by two authors (Stavrinides
1937: 16; 1939: 8; Malta 1939: 17).
The first Turkish anecdotes were written down only in the early
1950s in verse form. Burdurlu first published them in a daily
(Burdurlu 1951-1952), later he increased the number of anecdotes
to 40 and compiled them in a book (Burdurlu 1965). His example
was followed by Tekman (1954) and Hakeri (1956). However, due to
conflicts between Hakeri and his publisher, only a few copies of his
books were ever sold.

Greeks know Nasreddin also as Hodja Aslant (Fedai 1996: 135-137).
Up to the early 1960s before the situation on Cyprus became complicated,
Hodja's subtleties were related in humorous atmosphere.
The Greeks would consent to the Hodja figure in order to belittle
the Turks and Turks would reply by using the figure of the 'Priest'.
After the strifes at the Christmas of 1963 the Greek and Turkish
communities began to live on separate territories, and since the
Peace Operation held by Turkey on July 20, 1974, Cyprus has been
divided in two. Considering that the subtleties of Hodja Nasreddin
aimed at making fun and belittling are still told in South Cyprus,
we can assume that the stories of the 'Priest' are still in demand in
North Cyprus. But it can also be claimed that in the aftermath of
the strife, new types of anecdotes have emerged. An example to the
point would be the booklet in verse by Kutlu Adal (1971) that criticises
the political activities of Makarios (the former Archbishop and
President of the former Republic of Cyprus) in the form of the anecdotes
of Hodja Nasreddin. Let us conclude by giving some examples
of anecdotes from both communities:

i. Tekman (1954: 33-39)
Hodja enters a contest of wisdom with three priests and wins.
(Kabacal 1991, No. 303).
ii. Adal (1971)
1. Hodja rides his donkey sitting facing the rear end, advising the
Greek leader to ride like this, too, to be able to see what remains in
his trail (reference to terror, a divided Cyprus, etc.) (Kabacal 1991,
No. 181)
2. The anecdote titled "What if it takes?" (p. 12) criticises the Greek
leader's indulgence for things that would not take root (Kabacal
1991, No. 124).
3. The subtlety "Let's See When the Stick Hits" (pp. 50-51) explains
that just as the kids who made fun of Hodja were brought to reason
with the help of a stick, the Greek leader, too, would be brought to
reason (Kabacal 1991, No. 317).
i. Malta (1939)
The seven anecdotes found in the booklet describe Hodja as a person
who would always be overcome by his opponent, belittled, helpless,
the victim of funny situations.
1. When it is discussed in the coffee house whether a 100-year-old
imam could have a child or not, Hodja intervenes and says: "Of
course he can, especially if he has a young male neighbour!"
2. Hodja's wife establishes a relation with a man through a matchmaker.
This results in abundance in the kitchen, and Hodja is relieved
from eating just olives and bread. He relishes eating all the
delicious food. One day his wife wants to test him and again serves
just olives and bread. Hodja retorts by saying: "You, wife, olives and
bread is not the food of pimps!"
3. His neighbour consents to bringing Hodja a stuffed goose for
which he has been hankering, so that Hodja may lend him the cauldron,
an act Hodja has been reluctant to do. However, the neighbour
then makes an excuse and breaches his promise, thus cheating
4. Hodja visits a friend of his, the gullible Cadi Mehmed, who is
swindled by a man. Then when the friend sees that Hodja is writing
his name in the book of idiots and making a picture of his, he swears
at Hodja.
5. Being unable to make a living by serving as an imam, Hodja
becomes a boatman. One day a Pasha who wishes to have a delightful
ride embarks on his boat. While the Pasha is trying to show off
his wisdom, an unexpected storm breaks out. The boat sinks and
the Pasha who, despite his pretentious wisdom doesn't even know
how to swim, gets drowned.
6. Hodja has worked all day in the garden of his father and is completely
exhausted, then he prays to God to send him a donkey so
that he can ride home easily. Suddenly a donkey appears before
him, but with a gunned bully riding it! He orders Hodja to pick up
the foal and take it to the village. Poor Hodja, dreaming of riding
the donkey ends up carrying the foal on his shoulders and getting
7. Hodja explains to the peasants how virtuous poverty is. The peasants,
however, happen to be of the opposite opinion. One day a disaster
hits the village and the peasants start looking for a place to
shelter themselves from danger. In the end the disaster has made
it clear that it is the peasants who are right, not the Hodja.
ii. Corfiades has a total of 52 anecdotes in his book. However, 25
of these have nothing to do with Hodja, 13 of the remaining subtleties
mention 'Hodja', while 14 talk about 'Hodja Nasreddin'. Characteristics
of the Hodja figure exposed in these 27 anecdotes are
given below under different headings, with the numbers of the anecdotes
1. Hodja's wife is a lewd lying and disrespectful woman, cuckolds
him all the time. Nos. 8, 27, 31, 40.
2. Hodja cannot get along with his wife and mother-in-law, and threatens
them all the time. Nos. 5, 15, 18, 19, 23, 24, 28.
3. Hodja is foul-mouthed, crafty, licentious and a liar. Nos. 3, 9, 10,
17, 25-27,44.
4. Hodja is interested in teaching lessons to others and leading them.
Nos. 5, 15, 18, 19, 23, 24, 28.
5. Hodja tries to appear sincere. Nos. 7, 28, 44.
6. Hodja demonstrates stupidity. Nos. 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 22, 28.
7. Hodja lays the blame on himself. Nos. 8, 10.
8. Bad identity and bad language ascribed to 'Hodja'. Nos. 9, 12, 22,
27, 28, 44.
Presented to the ISFNR 2000 Conference, Kenyatta University, July
17th-22nd, 2000.
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