Volume 15, Number 18
March 3, 2009

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This Week

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The Snowberries of Autumn

müge tekinTurkey's best-known trickster

If you read my first article, maybe you thought of me as a strange one. I mean, I dealt with cancer although there was a wide range of options open to me. Perhaps it would be the last choice for a majority of people. I hope it wasn't depressing at all. Could the reason for my eccentricities be the fact that I'm the granddaughter of Nasreddin Hodja? I'm joking! But, I do want to point out that my home town is Akşehir, where the tomb of the 13th century humorist can also be found. Of course, being the tomb of Hodja, it is a little strange. The tomb has a door with a large padlock, but there are no walls! I think this symbolizes the absurdity he loved to expose when he was alive. It is for this reason that 'Like Nasreddin Hodja's Turbeh' has become an idiom for places left open and unprotected. Can you imagine how many times a day Hodja is alluded to? Even our saying "perhaps, it might turn out to happen" in impossible situations may date to the story of Hodja throwing yeast into the waters of the salt lake, wondering if it would ferment and turn into yoghurt. Wouldn't it be wonderful?

Hodja was born in 1208 in Hortu near Sivrihisar. He received his early education from his father, the village Imam, or prayer leader, and then went on to study at the medrese. After several years he settled in Akşehir where he spent most of his life and studied under such notable scholars as Seyid Mahmud Hayrani and Seyid Hacı İbrahim. He worked as a teacher in various religious schools and also served as a kadi, the judge of the religious system of the time. At the age of 76, he passed away in this town.

Enriched by his shrewd observations and ready made answers, his jokes were the sign of his wit and wisdom. He was a folk philosopher, poking fun at the elite and people’s foibles. That is to say, his stories illustrated the secret of the human soul and the comedic, eccentric and inconsistent characteristics of mankind. This is probably the reason that his jokes and actions have struck a chord for centuries.

Moreover, all the stories that have been attributed to Hodja for the last 700 years or so haven't originated from him. Most of them are the product of the collective humor of not only Turks, but also of other folks in the world. When it came to dealing with troubled times, his greatest weapons were his tolerance, optimism and  ingeniousness. Hodja is immortalised by his humorous, thought provoking words, actions, tricks and anectodes. The delightful personification of Turkish humor received the honorable title “Hodja,” meaning “Master” or “Teacher,” later in his life. And, his name, Nasr-ed-Din means “Victory of Faith.”

Between July 5 and 10 of each year, the International Nasreddin Hodja Festival takes place in Akşehir. To keep the renowned Turkish humourist's character alive, writers and artists come and celebrate through drama, music, animated cartoons, comic strips and paintings.  If you are interested in taking part,  you are all welcome to Akşehir, the center of the world according to Hodja.  Is it really? Just come and perhaps you will find out that he was right. Analogous to Hodja's way of thinking, "Wouldn't it be wonderful?"

Until next time, try to see the fun side of life, just as Hodja did.

Müge Tekin (IE/III)

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