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A Brief Background Information About Nasreddin Hodja :
Wit, common sense, ingenuousness, ridicule... and the kind of humor that reflects human psychology, exposes the shortcomings of a society, criticizes even are the elements which together create a special kind of logic, the Nasreddin Hodja logic. These features of the stories make the 13th century character Nasreddin Hodja immortal. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to consider him one of the main building blocks of folk thought, and his humor, one of the best in the world.
Yet, it should be pointed out that these stories are related neither to Nasreddin Hodja himself nor to his historical personality. In other words, over the centuries many new stories where he was used as the main character have emerged, enriching the collection we have today. According to certain stories, Hodja was a contemporary of Tamerlane, who invaded Anatolia at the beginning of the 15th century, and according to the others, he lived either before or after the age of Tamerlane. Today, we still do not have historical documents that relate Hodja's life his personality in depth.
The date 386 found inscribed on a gravestone attracted a lot of attention.
Considering his humor, the date was read backwards. The year 683 of the Islamic calendar corresponds to the years 1284 -1285. Other documents were used to support the theory that he died sometime in the years 1284 -1285.
The town of Sivrihisar of the city of Eskisehir is accepted as the birthplace of Hodja. A gravestone dated 1327 found in Sivrihisar, belongs to his daughter Fatima and indicates that she lived 43 more years after his death.
The oldest Nasreddin Hodja story is found in the book called "Saltukname" written in 1480, which also contains other folk stories and legends. It is stated in "Saltukname" that Hodja was born in Sivrihisar and that the natives of Sivrihisar were famous for their strange behavior and ingenousness. The strange behavior of the natives of Sivrihisar is also mentioned in a handwritten story book in Biblioteque Nationale in Paris. These documents are considered proof of his birth in Sivrihisar.
Based on the above mentioned documents and certain stories, following is the life story of Nasreddin Hodja:
He was born in the village of Hortu of Sivrihisar and died in 1284 in Aksehir, a province of Konya, where his tomb is. His father was the imam (religious leader) of the village. Hodja, himself, too, served as the imam of the village for a period of time and later went to Aksehir to become the dervish of the two very famous Islamic mystics of the time. In his life time he also served as a judge and university professor.
As mentioned before, according to certain sources, he was a contemporary of Tamerlane, who invaded Anatolia in 1301, but according to the others a person named Nasreddin Hodja never lived; he was just an imaginary character in the folk stories.
It is obvious that Hodja was a witty man with a sense of humor and he was a good conversationalist. Yet, based on most of the stories it is wrong to assume that everything he said was humorous. Over the years, the number of Nasreddin Hodja stories increased significantly, since he was used as the main character in the new stories about other people. Among these, there are some that are easily recognized as not authentic Nasreddin Hodja stories. We can, therefore, say that Hodja and his stories were created by the natives of Anatolia in the 13th century, and the creation has lasted for centuries. To- day, these stories belong to all Anatolian people.
The themes of the stories cover not just the age when Nasreddin Hodja lived but also the adventures of Turkish people over the centuries. As one of our writers said "Nasreddin Hodja is the only person who lived both before his birth and after his death. There are many historical and social personalities who kept on living after their death but the only person on earth who lived before his birth is Nasreddin Hodja" Therefore, social life, the short-comings of social life, differences between the ruling class and the common people, famines, the thousand faces of daily life, person to person, person to object, person to animal relations are the different themes of the stories and in all of these stories Nasreddin Hodja is a symbol of Anatolian wit.
Nasreddin Hodja stories were spread by word of mouth over a vast area mainly in the lands under the domain of the Ottoman Empire and the lands where Turkish was spoken. In certain countries, the Hodja character was almost his "twin brother" or a "competitor", and it other countries only the name Nasreddin Hodja was modified in the stories. Today, Nasreddin Hodja stories are told in a vast geographic area extending from East Turkmenistan to Hungary and from Southern Siberia to North Africa. The stories have been translated into many languages.
The new Nasreddin Hodja stories that emerge and the old ones that are adapted prove that these stories are immortal. On the other hand, it is stated that since these stories, products of the imagination of common people, are adaptable, it is natural that they are updated in each generation and that is why Nasreddin Hodja is still the most popular story character in Turkey. In other words, as light attracts moths, Nasreddin Hodja character attracts new stories.
Nasreddin Hodja stories are told in such succinct phrases that the last phrase of the stories which is uttered by Hodja have become popular epigrams or sayings like "laying flour on the rope", "making it look like a bird", "the quilt is gone, the fight is over", "cutting the branch while sitting on it" etc.
Every year, between July 5 to10, International Nasreddin Hodja Festival is organized in Aksehir where his tomb is. To keep Hodja character alive, Turkish writers and artists have used it in drama, in music, in cartoons, in comic strips and in paintings.
After reading his stories in these pages, we think that you, too, will believe that Hodja will be living for generations to come.. Just as Hodja did, may be you, too, will answer when asked "What do they do with the old full moons!", "They cut them up into small pieces and make stars!.."
We would like to thank Net Turistik Yayinlar A.S. for providing us with these fantastic stories from their "Nasreddin Hodja" book. You can now order this colorful and entertaining book, which has many more stories, directly from the web site of Net Turistik Yayinlar A.S. in Focus Multimedia domain.
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