Nasruddin Hodja—a master of the negative way

by Oscar Brenifier


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More Hodja-stories proposed and adapted by Oscar Brenifier

The toothache

Nasruddin suffers atrociously from a toothache. But being rather soft, he is too scared to go the barber that would take care of him. A neighbor, impressed by his red and inflated mouth asks him to open his mouth. "By Allah! What an abscess! If your tooth was in my mouth, I would have it pulled out right away." "So would I!" answers Nasruddin.

The guest

Once more, Nasruddin has managed to enter a feast where he was not invited. But this time, the host has noticed his presence. "What are you doing here, Nasruddin? As far as I know I did not invite you!" "Well, Omar, it is not because you fail on your essential duties that it will deter me from the right path!"

The poet

A man of the town who indulges in poetic pretensions asks Nasruddin to listen to some of his poems. After patiently listening the long declamation, Nasruddin renders a very frank judgment: the work is turgid, pompous and vain. At those words, the author becomes red with anger, and for five good minutes, he insults Nasruddin, throwing at him all the possible names. When the man calms down, Nasruddin comments: "Your poetry is atrocious, but your prose is really excellent!"


A man was jealous of Nasruddin's reputation as a man of knowledge. In order to challenge him and proves he is much wiser, he sends a list of forty very difficult questions. The Hodja takes them, and one by one, answers "I don't know". His wife Khadidja, a practical woman, seeing this, tells him: "Since you cannot answer any of them, why don't you write just once "I don't know", instead of repeating all the time." To which Nasruddin answers: "Oh, ungrateful woman! Don't you see this poor man has spent all his efforts trying to spread his knowledge for me. The least I can do, with my answers, by sheer politeness is to spread my ignorance for him."

A good deal

Nasruddin has a job helping people cross the river on his back. Five blind men hire him and ask for the price. "Five coins", says he. He carries four of them on the other shore without any problem, but the fifth one is heavier and our man is getting tired. The blind man falls, gets carried away by the stream, and drowns. The others had heard his screams and ask if there is any problem. "Not at all!", answers Nasruddin, "on the contrary you have now a much better deal: it will cost you only four coins!"

The first one

In the middle of the afternoon, when everyone is taking a nap behind closed shutters, Nasruddin stays in the middle of the town square under a terrible sun. A neighbor sees him and asks him what he is doing there, risking a sunstroke when nothing is going on around there. Nasruddin answers: "Yes, but in case something happens, I want to be the first one!"


Ali wants to borrow Nasruddin's donkey. "My donkey is not here", answers Nasruddin. But Ali hears from behind the house the bray of the donkey. Ali gets mad: "What kind of friend are you, you who claim your donkey is not there when it is in your garden!". Nasruddin answers: "And you, what kind of friend are you, who prefer to believe my donkey than believe me!"

Page created: 12.10.05. Page last modified: 18.11.09 14:36.