The tale as told by Ahmet:   “Nasrettin Hoca goes to his neighbor’s house to ask to borrow a pan.  A week later when he returns it, he returns it along with a smaller pan.  His neighbor says, ‘What is this other smaller pan?  This isn’t mine.’  Nasrettin Hoca says, ‘Your pan had a baby.’  The neighbor’s quite confused but, whatever, he takes both the pans.  Time passes and Nasrettin Hoca goes back to borrow the pan from his neighbor again.  When he returns it, the same thing happens again, he returns it with a smaller pan.  His neighbor asks, ‘What is this other smaller pan?’  Nasrettin Hoca says, ‘Oh, your pan had another baby.’  So, uh, the neighbor takes both pans.  Again, Nasrettin Hoca comes back to borrow the pan and this time a few weeks pass and he doesn’t bring it back.  So the neighbor goes to Nasrettin Hoca and asks, ‘Hey, where’s my pan?’  And Nasrettin Hoca says, ‘I’m really sorry, but your pan passed away.’  The neighbor says, ‘That’s ridiculous, pans don’t die.‘  Nasrettin Hoca says, ‘What do you mean?  You believed me when I said your pan had a baby.’”

Ahmet informed me that Nasrettin Hoca (pronounced “hoe ra”) is a common character in Turkey that is used to tell stories that teach some sort of lesson.  He said that there are several different stories that involve the character, and all of them have some obvious moral purpose.  He said that these stories are typically told to children, and that this one was always his favorite because it’s slightly ridiculous and funny.

Ahmet said that he learned this story from his parents when he was younger and living in Turkey.  He doesn’t exactly remember how, when or why he heard the story, but he knows that it has stuck with him since he’s been a child.

Ahmet said that he thinks this particular Nasrettin Hoca story means that people sometimes tend to believe certain things only if they benefit them.  This story is supposed to teach people consistency.  The neighbor believes that his pan had a baby which is absurd and ridiculous, but since he’s getting an extra pan he doesn’t say much about it.  But when the time comes and his pan is missing and he hears the absurd excuse that his pan died, then he’s angry because he obviously lost something.

I think Ahmet pretty much nailed the reason behind the story’s existence, as it seems to be teaching the lesson that people should be consistent and that they should not accept wrongful or unusual occurrences only when those occurrences benefit them.

Also, I think Nasrettin Hoca probably shows up in many different stories that each teach a different moral message because he’s a likable character that kids can trust.  Because kids already know Nasrettin Hoca from other stories, they’re more likely listen to the moral messages delivered by the character in future stories.  This is a clever device used by parents and adults to teach children specific lessons.