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  • 11/12/2005

Rescue the Moon

As he was returning home late and tired one night, Nasreddin Hoja [i] stopped at the village well to draw a drink for himself. He was horrified to see the full moon reflected in the dark water at the bottom of the well.

"Good Lord, the moon"s fallen down the well!" he muttered to himself.

"I"ve got to rescue it! What would we do without the beautiful moon?"

He grabbed the bucket and rope that lay beside the well and tossed the bucket in. Then he maneuvered it with the rope until he saw the moon reflecting safely from the water in the bucket. Bending over the well, he tried to raise the bucket. But its lip was stuck on a stone, and the more Nasreddin Hoja pulled, the less successful he was at raising the bucket and rescuing the moon. Finally he braced his foot on the edge of the well and heaved. Suddenly the bucket broke loose and the Hoja tumbled onto his back beside the well. Above him, he saw the lovely full moon floating serenely in the sky.

"Well, that"s a good job done," he said to himself as he got to his feet. "Praise God, the moon is back where it belongs!" And he went home to bed.

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[i] -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.

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