A Parable: Hodja and the Foreigner

A Parable: Hodja and the Foreigner

Once upon a time, a foreign scholar and his entourage were passing through a town in Anatolia. The scholar asked to speak to the town’s most knowledgeable person. The townsfolk immediately called Nasreddin Hodja to come to meet the foreign scholar.

The foreigner did not speak Turkish, Persian, or Arabic, and Hodja did not speak any European languages, and so the two wise men had to communicate with signs while the townsfolk and the entourage watched in fascination.

The foreigner used a stick to draw a large circle in the sand. Hodja took the stick and divided the circle into two halves. The foreigner drew a line perpendicular to the one Hodja drew, and the circle was now split into four. He moved the stick to indicate first the three quarters of the circle, then the remaining quarter. In response, Hodja made a swirling motion with the stick on the four quarters. Then the foreigner made a bowl shape with his two hands held together side by side, palms up, and wiggled his fingers. Then, Hodja responded by cupping his hands with his palms down and wiggling his fingers.

When the meeting was over, the members of the foreigner’s entourage asked him what they had talked about. “Nasreddin Hodja is a very learned man,” he said. “I told him that the Earth was round and he told me that there was an equator slicing it in half. I told him that three-quarters of the Earth was water and one quarter of it was land. He said that there were undercurrents and winds. I told him that the waters warm up, vaporize, and move toward the sky, and to that he replied that they cool off and come down as rain.”

The people of the town were also curious about how the conversation went. They gathered around Hodja. “This stranger has very good taste,” Hodja explained. “He said that he wished there was a large tray of baklava. I said that he could only have half of it. He said that the syrup should be made with three parts sugar and one part honey. I agreed, and said that they all had to be well mixed together. Next, he suggested that we should cook it on blazing fire. And I added that we should pour crushed nuts on top of it.”

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