Who is Nasreddin Hoca?
P.N. – “He’s a man we get all of our idioms and fables from essentially. I don’t know if this guy is real; I’ve been told that he was real, but I don’t know to what extent that’s the case; it’s super old.”
You’ve been told by whom?
P.N. – “Family members, teachers, Turkish people, we would watch movies and make animations of this guy. He’s been portrayed by everyone, but I can’t say if he’s actually real.”
“‘Hoca’ means teacher; and he is a short, chubby man, with a really really big turban. A comically large turban. He has a white beard, and he rides around on his donkey. He always has a little pack on him. He is the source of most fables, all folklore comes back to him essentially.”
“I remember one story – he comes into the village, and there’s a blind man begging on the street. He comes over and offers him money, but the blind man refuses. He leaves the next day. Comes back, tries to offer him money again, but again the blind man refuses. And then, the third day he comes back and he offers him a job, and the blind man agrees. And it kinda teaches you – give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever.”
“To me, Nasreddin Hoca symbolizes the fact that there are so many ways to help people. A lot of it is: live your life with simplicity, be independent, grow your own food, very much just help people and accept help as well.”
Would you say that you’ve taken this mystery man’s advice into account throughout your own life?
“Without noticing, definitely. It’s been ingrained in my head. Not necessarily because ‘oh, Nasreddin Hoca said this,’ but more just like ‘oh, my mother said this, and she got it from this guy, who got it from Nasreddin Hoca!'”
The tale that this person told me, with the blind beggar, reminds me of how many tales are told. Immediately, I thought of the rules of a folk tale, and how – seemingly – every rule was checked off, making it a perfect story. This Nasreddin Hoca character was someone I’d never heard of, but he also made me think about my own interpretations of folk tales. Do I consider all tales told to me from the perspective of one man, going through life, learning lessons? I just might; and that thought is jarring for me. In the same way that I may or may not think everything with one voice, I may or may not relate all folklore to one character.