Nasrettin and the Villager — Turkish Joke

Main Piece: 

So there are a couple stories and jokes about [Nasrettin] and his interactions with others, so one of them is one villager comes to this teacher and he’s like, “I hate my house, it’s so tiny I can barely sleep. I don’t have enough room to go to my kitchen, it’s like next to my toilet— whatever.”

And so [Nasrettin]’s like, “Alright, well don’t you have a barn?”

And he’s like, “Yeah I have a barn.” 

And then he’s like, “Alright, take your chickens. Put them in your house, it’s gonna get better.”

So [the villager] takes his chickens and puts them in the house, and he comes back the next day and is like: “This is worse what’re you talking about?”

And [Nasretting] says, “Keep going. Don’t you have goats?” 

“Yeah I have goats.”

“Okay. Put them in the house.” 

[The villager]’s like, “Alright, fine.”

So he goes through the barn and he takes the goats, and puts them in the house. So now he has chickens and goats, and the next day he’s even more infuriated and he’s like: 

“Yo, what is this? It’s terrible, I hate my life!”

And then [Nasrettin]’s like:

“Alright, now take your cows and put them in your house.” So [the villager] takes his cows and he puts them in the house and he’s like, 

“I can’t even get in anymore!”

And [Nasrettin] says, “Alright, you feel all this crap?” 

“Yes, I do.” 

“Now, take [the animals] all out.” And [the villager] takes them all out. And then he says, “Now just go and enjoy your home.”

And the guy goes, “Oh my God, there’s so much space now!” 

And that’s the joke.


My informant is one of my friends from high school, and is of Turkish heritage. Growing up, he often remembered hearing various Turkish sayings and narrative stories from his parents and extended family. This one features a popular character, a wise village teacher named Nasrettin. When asked about the lesson behind the joke, my informant responded, “the idea behind that is you won’t understand what you have until you lose it, so in this case the villager doesn’t understand that his house is actually not as bad as he thought once he literally had no space to go inside.”


This piece came up when I was asking my informant about what kind of Turkish folklore he knew. I initially asked if he knew any proverbs, but he said that in his experience, Turkish culture had a lot of jokes in narrative form, and provided me with this one, which is one of his favorites to tell. 


Apart from being genuinely hilarious, I liked how this joke had both a narrative, and a lesson to be learned at the end. With jokes, I usually thought that they were only supposed to be entertaining at the expense of someone else without providing a lesson, but that’s not the case with this one. Based on what my friend told me about knowing more jokes than proverbs, I think it’s interesting to see how humor in his culture (or at least in his experience) is used as a tool for fun and for education. For younger audiences like kids, this narrative has a moral lesson at the end, but for older generations, I think it makes them more aware of how important it is to be grateful for what they have, lest they want to be turned into the butt of a joke. Furthermore, the way that embarrassment through humor can be used to condition peoples’ behavior is fascinating, because in many cases, it can be more effective than other methods because it relies on the impressions you make on those in your peer group, which can either lead you to be accepted by them, or ostracized. Lastly, while I haven’t heard anyone else tell this joke, I liked how we can tell that it’s being performed by someone from a younger generation, based on the slang that my informant used in his telling. It makes me wonder how an older person in the same cultural group would tell it, and in what kind of language.