So while my bread is rising in the kitchen, I am writing my blog and thinking about spring and stories. I am inviting the storytellers to once again add their links to this page for our second hop. The first one was fun, and I read blogs by my storytelling friends everywhere-many of them I didn't even know were bloggers so it was a happy discovery. So link up, friends!
We start this beautiful month of April with a day for fools! I think Mark Twain's reminder is very much to the point: "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year." Ah, yes. Mr. Twain keeps us humble, but who doesn't enjoy some foolishness once in a while? My sons were lovers of the practical joke so we had to be the lookout for things like salt in the sugar bowl, buckets of water perched over doors, saran wrap on the toilet seat and other tricks.
Fools and tricksters have always been held in high regard in stories. My favorites are the Hodja stories from the Middle East and of course the Jack tales of our Appalachian region (with their roots in Britain and Europe). Today I will share a story about the Hodja, and perhaps later this week one about Jack.
The Hodja (also known as Nasruddin) is what is known as a Wise Fool--one who seems foolish on the surface but whose wisdom is hidden by his seemingly foolish demeanor. One I enjoy telling is called Feeding His Clothes, or also The Hungry Coat (and probably many other titles). This maybe the most well-known of the tales, and the version below is my adaptation. I imagine this story taking place in spring, when the trees are budding and the creeks and rivers running full.
The Hodja was invited by a wealthy family to a great feast which was to last for several day, and where he was to be one of the guests of honor. He dressed in his finest clothing and made his way to the river, where to his dismay he found the water was quite high. He stepped carefully on each of the stepping stones but his foot slipped off of one and into the river he fell. When he climbed out on the other side, his fine clothes were wet and filthy.
"Well then, I must go as I am," he said to himself. "I am the guest of honor and to be late would be rude indeed." So wet and bedraggled he made his way to the feast. When he arrived, however, the guard at the door refused to let him in.
"But I am one of the guests of honor," the Hodja protested. "See, here is my invitation." He pulled the wet, muddy paper from his pocket and showed it to the guard.
"Very well," said the guard. "You may enter." The Hodja walked into the hall and sat down near the head of the great dining table.
"No, no!" exclaimed one of the waiters. "You must not sit there. Those places are for the finest of our guests. You must sit here, at the foot of the table where you will not be seen as readily."
The feast began, and all manner of food and drink was passed around to the guests. But when the platters and decanters reached the Hodja, only crumbs and drops remained of the rich contents.
The next day, the Hodja bought new clothes. When he arrived at the feast, he was resplendent in rich fabrics and furs.
"Welcome, fine sir, welcome!" cried the guard at the door.
"Do you not want to see my invitation?" the Hodja asked.
"It is not necessary for one so fine and important as you, sir, the guard responded.
When the Hodja entered the dining hall, the waiter took him immediately to the head of the table, to be seated at the right hand of the host. When the feast commenced, the laden platters and full decanters were passed first to the Hodja.
"Thank you," he murmured. He took food from the platters and stuffed it into his pockets and poured the drink all over his beautiful clothes. His host was astounded.
"What are you doing, my man?" he shouted. "You are ruining your clothes!"
"When I came yesterday in clothes wet and muddy from my fall in the river, I was put at the foot of the table, and the food and drink were gone when the containers reached me. Today I come dressed in fine clothing and am given the best of everything. Since I am the same person today as I was yesterday, it must be my clothing you are honoring, and so, I am feeding my clothes."
This is just one of many delightful Hodja tales. You can read and learn more about Nasruddin at the following sites:
Mulla Nasruddin FolktalesMy friend Priscilla Howe has translated many Nasruddin tales on her blog
And another friend, Jackie Baldwin, offers links to many stories and more information about this lovable character on her Story Lovers website.
A scholarly paper delivered at the first Wise Fools Conference (really!) is excellent reading with some deep background on the topic.
Tales from the heart of the Hodja's homeland, on a website originally written in Turkish, so be aware of that should you find oddities of grammar.