Wit, common sense, ingenuousness, ridicule...and the kind of humor that reflects human psychology, exposes the shortcomings of a society, criticizes even state and religious affairs yet always settles matters amicably 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 Today, we still do not have historical documents that relate Hodja's life and his personality in depth.
The date 386 found inscribed on a grave stone 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. One of the most reliable document is the date1383 (796 in the Islamic calendar) found inscribed on the wall of his tomb in Aksehir. It indicates that Hodja died before 1393 and his tomb had been visited for years.
Our town, 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 different 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 (and how funny we can be:-))
Nasreddin Hodja miniature taken from a XVII th century hand written book (Topkapi Palace Museum Library Cat. No. 2142).
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. Nasr-ed-Din, or "Victory of the Faith", was the name given by his parents to the author of the tales, and Hodja, meaning "Master" or "Teacher" is the honorific title which he subsequently acquired. He was sent at an early age to be taught the essentials of Mohammedan religious and legal learning according to the Hanafiya school in Konya. He qualified thus to be a schoolmaster and an "Imam"; leader of public prayers in the Mosque, and he also became a "Kadi"; magistrate dispensing Mohammedan Canon Law, which was in theory the only law of the land, tempered though it might be frequently by weightier considerations of a material order.
It is obvious that Hodja was a witty man with 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. Today, these stories belong to all Turkish 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 shortcomings of social life, differences between the ruling class and the common people, famines, the thousand faces of daily life, man to man, man to object, man to animal relations are the different themes of the stories and in all of these stories Nasreddin Hodja
was almost his "twin brother" or a "competitor", and in 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 rope", "making it look like a bird", "the guilt is gone, the fight is over", "cutting the branch one is sitting on", etc.
Every year, Nasreddin Hodja Festivals are organized both in Sivrihisar; which is his birthplace; and in Aksehir where his tomb is.
After reading some of the stories of Hodja, 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 the stars!.."