Tag Archives: nasrettin hoca

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. 


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.