The Missing DonkeyTurkish Tale
One morning whenNasreddin Hoja
went to fetch his donkey, he found it missing. The old rope that had tied the animal up was pulled apart, and the donkey was gone. When his neighbors heard of their Hoja's loss, they came to help find the beast. They knew that, like their own, Nasreddin Hoja's livelihood depended on the donkey's work. Some searched in nearby fields, while others checked empty buildings and other places the donkey might have strayed.
When it became apparent that the animal was nowhere in or around the village, some of the younger neighbors took it on themselves to search the nearby hills in their quest.
Toward sunset, the exhausted searchers returned to the village. To their surprise, they found Nasreddin Hoja sitting in the coffee-house, sipping a glass of tea and smiling benignly.
"Have you found your donkey, Hoja?" one of them asked.
"As a matter of fact, no," replied Nasreddin Hoja.
One man, more outspoken or perhaps more tired than the others, snapped at the Hoja. "Then why the devil are you smiling? It's your donkey, and how are you going to make your living without it?"
Still smiling, Nasreddin Hoja placed the tulip-shaped glass on its saucer, and replied, "My boy, all places where the donkey could possibly be have been searched, without success—except
that high hill to the west. Now, let me assure you, if that hill is also found to be without my donkey, then you'll hear some real moaning!"
- Nasreddin Hoja (hocameans "teacher" in Turkish) is crafty and naive, wise and foolish, a trickster and the butt of tricks. And not only Turks in coffeehouses and caravanserais throughout the Ottoman Empire, and from there along the Silk Roads to China and India, stories about him were told; they spread among the Turkish tribes and into Persian and Arabian cultures, and across North Africa from Egypt to Algeria.
Many of the Nasreddin Hoja stories were adopted into the folk-tale repertoires of other cultures. The Arabian tales of Juha, for example, tell of jokes and pranks almost interchangeable with the Hoja's, and he was also assimilated into the characters of Bahlul, the wise fool of the Middle East, the German peasant character Till Eulenspiegel, the Finnish Antti Puuhaara, Birbal in India and Bertholdi of Serbo-Croatian humor.