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17th century depiction of Nasreddin

Nasreddin (variously Nasrudin, Nasrettin, etc.) is a legendary folk character in the Middle East and Central Asia, portrayed as a wise fool, clever simpleton, or instructive prankster.

Nothing is conclusively known about the person who originally inspired the stories, but popular tradition considers him a minor cleric from Anatolia in the 13th or early 14th century. The oldest surviving manuscripts containing tales of Nasreddin date from 16th century, and are Turkish. By the 19th century, tales of the older Arabic trickster character Juha became amalgamated into the lore of Nasreddin.


  • Nasreddin Khodja commanded his disciples, when he sneezed, to salute him by clapping their hands and crying out: "Haïr Ollah, Khodja," that is "Prosperity to thee, O Master!" Now it came to pass that on one of the days the bucket fell into the well [...] he descended, caught the bucket, and the boys were already pulling him up, when, just as he was drawing near the edge of the well, he chanced to sneeze. Whereupon they, mindful of the master's behest, let go the rope and, clapping their hands in high glee, cried out in chorus: "Haïr Ollah, Khodja," Nasreddin was precipitated violently into the well, bruising himself against the sides. [...] "Well, boys, it was not your fault, but mine: too much honour is no good thing for man."

  • "Nasrudin, your donkey has been lost."
    "Thank goodness I was not on the donkey at the time, or I would be lost too."
    • Paul Blenkiron, Stories and Analogies in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (2010), ISBN 047005896X, p. 43

  • Nasrudin walked into a house and exclaimed, "The moon is more useful than the sun."
    "Why?" he was asked.
    "Because at night we need the light more."
    • Paul Blenkiron, Stories and Analogies in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (2010), ISBN 047005896X, p. 43

  • Nesretten Hoca's Wife: In our society, they treat us as if women have no names of their own—you are always so-and-so's wife. I mentioned this to my husband once—and, believe me, I didn't do it to blame or scold anyone. He was deeply touched and saddened. He said to me: "You are right, my dear wife. From now on, whenever they ask me what my name is, I'll say 'I'm the husband of the wife of Nasrettin Hoca.' "

  • Nasrudin used to take a donkey across a frontier every day, with the panniers loaded with straw. Since he admitted to being a smuggler when he trudged home every night, the frontier guards searched him again and again. They searched his person, staffed the straw, steeped it in water, even burned it from time to time. [...] One of the customs officers met him years later.
    "You can tell me now, Nasrudin," he said. "Whatever was it that you were smuggling, when we could never catch you out?"
    "Donkeys," said Nasrudin.
    • N. Hanif (ed.), Biographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis: Central Asia and Middle East (2002), ISBN 8176252662, p. 335

  • "I can see in the dark."
    "That may be so, Mulla. But if it is true, why do you sometimes carry a candle at night?"
    "To prevent other people from bumping into me."
    • N. Hanif (ed.), Biographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis: Central Asia and Middle East (2002), ISBN 8176252662, p. 343

  • "Well, Nasreddin. I know you lose your only donkey. Life may be difficult without it. But, don't be too sad brother," the man tried to cheer him up.
    "Do I look sad?"
    "Yes, you look very sad. You looked much sadder than you did when your wife died." [...]
    "At that time you all tried to cheer me up by saying 'Don't be too sad, my brother Nasreddin. We'll get you a new wife.' But now you see, nobody offers me a donkey to replace my lost one."

  • [Nasreddin had to don his finest clothes in order to be admitted to a fancy dinner party.]
    He reached over, took a piece of meat and stuffed it in his shirt. He poked the next piece into his cummerbund. Then he jammed one into each pocket of his pants. All eyes were on Nasreddin as he gathered the long sleeves of his cloak and soaked them in the bowl of hot gravy.

    A stunned guest jumped to his feet and demanded, Effendi! [Sir!] What is the meaning of your outrageous behavior?"

    "Well," said Nasreddin Odjah, "when you find yourself in a place where clothes are more welcome than the person wearing them, you must feed the clothes first and the person afterward!"

    • Flora Joy, Treasures from Europe: stories and classroom activities (2003), "Nasreddin Odjah's Clothes (Macedonia)", ISBN 1563089637, p. 104

  • Knowledge is like the carrot, few know by looking at the green top that the best part, the orange part, is there. Like the carrot, if you don't work for it, it will wither away and rot. And finally, like the carrot, there are a great many donkeys and jackasses that are associated with it.
    • Dan Keding, Elder Tales: stories of wisdom and courage from around the world (2008), ISBN 1591585945, p. 151

  • Once Nasreddin was invited to deliver a sermon. When he got on the pulpit, he asked, Do you know what I am going to say? The audience replied "no", so he announced, I have no desire to speak to people who don't even know what I will be talking about! and left.
    The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time, when he asked the same question, the people replied yes. So Nasreddin said, Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won't waste any more of your time! and left.
    Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mulla to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question – Do you know what I am going to say? Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered "yes" while the other half replied "no". So Nasreddin said Let the half who know what I am going to say, tell it to the half who don't, and left.

  • He was deeply impressed by the eloquence of the plaintiff, and after hearing his evidence he exclaimed, "I believe you are right!"
    The clerk of the court explained that he should make no such comment until he had heard the case for the defence. Having done so, Nasruddin cried out, "I believe you are right!"
    "But they can't both be right," expostulated the clerk.
    "I believe you are right," said the Mulla.

  • "Nasruddin, four years ago you were here, and I asked that time also what is your age, and you told me forty years. Now this is absolutely inconsistent – how can you still be forty?"
    Nasruddin said, "I am a man of consistency. Once forty, I remain forty always. When I have answered once, I have answered forever! You cannot lead me astray. I am forty, and whenever you ask you will get the same answer."

  • At dinner time, Nasreddin finds no meat on the table. He asks his wife, "What happened to the meat?"
    His wife replies, "The cat ate it."
    Nasreddin breezes into the kitchen, puts the cat on the scales, and discovers the cat to be weighing three pounds. Nasreddin quizzically questions the result, "If the meat I brought home weighed three pounds, then, where is the cat? And, if this happens to be the cat, then what happened to the meat?"

  • "Mulla, I want to borrow your donkey."
    "I am sorry," said the Mulla, "but I have already lent it out."
    As soon as he had spoken, the donkey brayed. The sound came from Nasrudin's stable.
    "But Mulla, I can hear the donkey, in there!"
    As he shut the door in the man's face, Nasrudin said, with dignity, "A man who believes the word of a donkey in preference to my word does not deserve to be lent anything."

  • A man called, wanting to borrow a rope.
    "You cannot have it," said Nasrudin.
    "Why not?"
    "Because it is in use."
    "But I can see it just lying there, on the ground."
    "That's right: that's its use."

  • "Mulla, Mulla, my son has written from the Abode of Learning to say that he has completely finished his studies!"
    "Console yourself, madam, with the thought that God will no doubt send him more."

  • Some children saw Nasreddin coming from the vineyard with two baskets full of grapes loaded on his donkey. They gathered around him and asked him to give them a taste.
    Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and gave each child a grape.
    "You have so much, but you gave us so little," the children whined.
    "There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same," Nasreddin answered, and continued on his way,

  • One of the neighbors found Nasreddin scattering crumbs all around his house.
    "Why are you doing that?" he asked.
    "I'm keeping the tigers away," replied Nasreddin.
    "But there aren't any tigers around here," said the neighbor.
    "That's right," said Nasreddin. "You see how well it works?"
    • Engelbert Thaler, Teaching English Literature (2008), ISBN 3825229971, p. 82

  • [Nasreddin Hoca is being shaved by an inexperienced barber.]
    "One moment, Sir!" said the barber, and he stuck a bit of cotton on the wound. In the next pass of the razor, another bit of the Hoca's cheek went with it. "One moment, sir!" and he stuck a bit of cotton on the second wound. With each stroke of the razor, another bit of cotton joined the crop sprouting on the Hoca's left cheek. "Now," said the barber, "I'll do the other side."

    "One moment, young man!" said the Hoca as he studied the bits of cotton that dotted his left cheek. "Stop right there! I believe I'll plant wheat on the other side."

    • Barbara K. Walker and Helen Siegl, The Art of the Turkish Tale (1990), Vol. 1, ISBN 0896722287, p. 57

  • Mulla had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: “Mulla, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?” Mulla stroked his beard and said: “The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here.”
    • Diane L. Wilcox, Classic Tales of Mulla Nasreddin, Retold by Houman Farzad (1989), ISBN 0939214598, p. 26

Quotes about Nasruddin

  • Many say: I wanted to learn, but here I have found only madness. Yet, should they seek deep wisdom elsewhere, they may not find it.
    • Ablahi Mutlaq (pseudonym meaning Utter Idiot), Teachings of Nasrudin, Bokharan manuscript of 1617; as cited in Idries Shah, The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin (1966), ISBN 0525473394, epigraph