Pumpkin Appreciation Society: Hodja No. 7

It’s Fall here in Washington State.

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It’s so good  to be out walking as the leaves drift from the trees and carpet the ground. It’s not just leaves dropping…

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There are pumpkins sitting everywhere in all shapes, sizes, and forms.

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Late one autumn afternoon, Hodja lay resting under a shady walnut tree. He had been working in his vegetable patch all day. He unwrapped his turban and a cool breeze sprang up to soothe his glistening bald head . He slowly breathed to the rhythm of the swaying branches above, marvelling at that majestic trunk and branches soaring above him.

“How stout and strong you are! ” he whispered to the tree. Spying the many nuts that would soon be harvested, he then wondered ” Why did God give you such paltry nuts?” Casting he eyes over his watered garden, he spied the rampant, spindly vine,  with glowing pumpkins ready for picking. “Why don’t you have large fruits like pumpkins? You could take the weight! You deserve larger bounty.”

Just then, one walnut dropped and hit him hard on the forehead. Rubbing his brow he looked up at the sky and said, ” Forgive me. Thank you for letting me know.”  He put on his turban and bent to pick from the spreading vine. Praising such a wise god, he carried the pumpkin home to his wife, shifting it from arm to arm, as he walked cheerily home.

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Photos and text by Meg. This Hodja story is adapted from the many versions I have read eg in

Downing, Charles. (1965) Tales of the Hodja.

Kelsey, Alice Geer. (1958) Once the Hodja

Walking Your Way: Hodja No. 6

Story characters often set out on a journey. Like many in Scottish folktales, they announce their departure. “Mother! Bake me a bannock and roast me a collop. I’m off to seek my fortune!” As Dick Whittington, Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs they have a task, a goal to accomplish, in the hope of a better life. Even nursery rhymes set us up for the road.

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I had a friend, a people – watcher, and on sunny Saturdays, as we sat on the beach together, we would make up stories about people as they passed by, based on the way they walked.

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Often I do the same myself when people catch my eye This man was walking away after throwing keys into the Seine. I saw them, flung from his hand, and curve in the air. The back story (now a fad, thanks to a TV program) is that lovers have their names inscribed on a padlock. They lock it onto a bridge and throw the keys in the river as a symbol of their eternal love. ( My brother tells me that they’ve had to cut all the padlocks off one particular bridge in Scotland – the weight of so many was endangering the safety of the structure … so much for the stereotype of dour Scots!)

IMG_4698 Yet, here in Paris, he was on his own. Where was his partner? And he was plodding along, not strolling. Had they argued? Was he going to catch up with them. When you love someone, you can pick them out in a crowd by the way they walk …There must be another story here. What do you think?

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Everyone walks differently. Actors know this. They can alter their body shape to add to their role. As a storyteller, I tend to gloss over the way a character walks in a story.

Let me see …  age would have to be a factor, as well as …

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what’s on their feet.

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or the ground underfoot could be tricky.

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Even the time of day can influence the way we walk our walk. When there’s no rush and you can stroll, saunter and enjoy the scenery.

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I have loved the freedom of walking since I was small. In this amazing world of ours, I am so glad I have feet and legs. Yes. Wings might have been handy. But to get from one place to the next you just step out putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, faster, softly, nimbly, steadily, appreciatively … and the world moves on as it does.

Once long ago, Nasreddin Hodja was working in his garden and a passer-by asked him, “How long will it take me to get to the next village following this road?” The Hodja didn’t answer. The stranger repeated the question but the Hodja just looked him up and down, a couple of times, and went back to his work. The man shrugged his shoulders, turned away, and continued walking. When he had gone a little way, the Hodja shouted after him, “You’ll get there in about two hours!” The man stopped in his tracks, turned and yelled back,“Why didn’t you say that before?” To which the Hodja replied “I couldn’t tell you how long it would take, until I’d seen the way you walked.” (Adapted)

PS. The last five posts have featured a Hodja story –  one more to go in my set of seven!

Source for walking tale: Özdemir, Nebi The Philosopher’s Philosopher Nasreddin Hodja.  Trans: M. Angela Roome. Ankara: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2011. Philosopher’s Philosopher: Nasreddin Hoja

All other text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License





 

Tea and Truce: Hodja No. 5

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There’s nothing nicer than catching up with a friend for tea and cake: a time for stories, news and reassurance.

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It’s been my experience that drinking tea together has been responsible for many a revitalising conversation. In times of crisis, real or unreal, putting the kettle on for a cuppa has heralded a joint confab to solve a problem, salve a ‘wound’ or have questions answered: a time of friendship.

I’d say, I inherited a genetic disposition to drinking tea from my mother. Here she is as a five-year old, dressed up, having tea with her dolls.

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Coffee just doesn’t have the same effect on me – all that pressured steam and long instructions pitched against the machine like  “Half strength cappuccino with some water on the side.” Ordinary black tea, with its ritual stirring, slow sipping and relaxed breathing has been a mainstay in my immediate family and circle of friends. Being offered the best china, or guest’s cup make’s it all the more pleasurable. (Oh no! Is that orange juice?)

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Of course, tea is not for everyone and that’s fine. We all have choice – of what we drink and who we have tea with.  I remember my mother’s anguish in her forties when her only brother told her that his religious beliefs forbad him taking tea, or socialising in any way, with those who were not a member of his sect. My widowed Gran lost much contact with her son, daughter-in-law, 5 grandchildren and their children: my mother lost contact with her only sibling: one of the two branches of my mother’s side of our small family gone!

Hard to imagine …  Tea is social and inclusive. It is a time to ponder, calm down and gather strength for what’s ahead.

Of course, I do have a choice of teas. Making such a cup last week, I was surprised to read this on the packet. Didn’t it make me daydream! Go on! Put the kettle on!

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You know, Hodja was fond of a glass of tea and good stories in the teahouse. One day a tall man entered who was not from the district. Everyone in the place stopped talking and turned to watch.

The stranger smiled when he caught sight of Hodja, nodded and came over to his table. “You probably don’t recognise me … but I remember you. I was in charge of the border guard at … .”

Everyone listened.

“Ah yes!” affirmed Hodja, looking him straight in the eye. ” It must be twenty years since I earned my living as a trader.”

Hodja invited him to sit down and called for more tea and turned to look at his guest quizzically.

“I’m retired now,” said the tall man, “but I’m glad to speak to you … I know you outwitted us everytime.  We were all convinced you were smuggling something over the border. But all your donkey ever carried was paniers of hay! We always searched and even sifted it. But we never found anything.”

Hodja smilled.

“Tell me now, after all this time,” begged the stranger,  “how did you make money trading hay?”

Hodja shook his head and replied “To tell you the truth … I was smuggling donkeys.”

At this everyone in the teahouse roared laughing, including the stranger.

All photos by Meg.

Hodja’s story adapted from one I heard Ben tell at our local TellTales story circle. (Yes, we drink tea there and the cafe opens up for coffee fans.)

Story Twigs My Imagination: blog by Meg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Character’s Clothes: Hodja No. 4

 To help the listener ‘see’ the character in a story,  it helps if I’m clear on what clothes each might be wearing : to know, at least, their shade and shape. Once upon a time, clothes were basically functional: allowed people to work in them. But the story’s setting (time, country, culture) and the character’s identity through action all come into play.

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*Early photo of Lana Turner learning to sword-fight wearing a tight corset in the movie At Sword Point (1952)

A recent exhibition in our city hall museum showed a collection of costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood. (What surprised me were how small the clothes actually were! I realised that, up on the screen, actors look enormous.) However, the workmanship, fabrics, designs and attention to detail was stunning. One of the conservators working on the exhibition said she thought this brought ‘the fairytale to life!’ Guess which actors played their part dressed like this?

A little red jacket over a long warm dress. Who do you think might have worn this? 1

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or this blue velvet jacket and jabot? 2

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Was she a sheer, femme fatale? 3

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Does the robe help show the character’s authority? 4

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Or is the dress is so plain … in order to show off how beautiful the wearer was? 5

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Or was that man devilishly handsome? 6

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Perhaps the clothes ‘made’ the lady? 7

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Here’s a story about how Nasreddin Hodja feels about clothes.

Sleeve, sup!

There was to be a great banquet in the town, and Hodja was invited. When the day came, it was such fine weather that he worked in the garden, before setting off for the palace.

Arriving in good time, he asked directions to the banqueting room. Several attendants walked past but did not help. They did look him up and down, as they went on their way.

At the huge table, when he found himself a seat, no waiter came near with refreshments.

Friends were surprised to see Hodja suddenly leave the table. He returned some time later, wearing his most elaborate robe. As platters were brought to him, he was seen to dip his sleeve into each dish, simpering “Do have some of this. How do you like that sauce, then? Mmmm.”

The other guests began to mutter that Hodja had surely gone mad.

Hearing this, Hodja laughed and said. “Oh, no, my friends. I’ve simply learned that, at this table, my robe is more important than I am.”

Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood

Actors who wore them. 1. Katherine Hepburn in Little Women (1933) 2. Cary Grant in The Howards of Virginia (1940) 3. Claudette Colbert in Cecile B. DeMille’s Cleopatra (1935) 4.Richard Burton in Cleopatra (1965) 5. Grace Kelly in The Swan. 6. Yul Bryner? Marlon Brando? 7 Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl.

All text and photos (not *)  by Meg

Sleeve, Sup! adapted from ‘Eat, my fur coat, eat!”  in  KABACALI, Alpay. Nasreddin Hodja. 1992: 32.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Characters: Question the Details! Hodja No. 2

In popular children’s tales like “The Turnip” by Aleksei Tolstoy, we’re introduced to settings and characters through the barest of details. Often the characters are nameless.

Once upon a time, an old man planted a turnip..

I wonder what he looked like and what his wife called him – “Husband,” “Dearie,” or “Thomas?”

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© Meg Philp

What was he wearing? Did he have a favourite shirt that he wore all week?

What was he good at? What did he dislike?

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What was his favourite food? Was he fond of cooking?

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Did he have a favoured pet? What was it’s name? How did he treat it?

Up until the turnip appeared, what was he most proud of in his garden?

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© Meg Philp

Did he talk to the plants, or sing to them all? (Did they talk back?) Did he have a favourite garden song? (He did? He taught it to a friend who taught it to Pete Seegar.)

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Answers to questions like these can make characters seem real. All those kinds of details add up. These invented answers don’t go into my telling of the story. While I may have them in my mind’s eye and in the way I feel towards them, I try to hold a sense of their personality as I tell. As I begin the story, they’re there, ready to participate in the tale, as large as life.

Of course, Nasreddin Hodja (A tricky character to understand, I’ve found, for he always had an answer to any question.) had heard the story of The Turnip. He liked to tell it dramatically to children in the square, extolling the virtues of vegetables, and engaging the audience in the action. The children loved acting out the tale over and over again.

One afternoon, after one such telling, he went home for a sack. Then he climbed over a neighbour’s wall, for he’d seen into their abundant garden, with its row upon row of leafy greens – beets, cabbage, kale.

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“Come to me, my beauties!” he cried, as he started quickly filling the sack. Half way up a row of kale,  his neighbour suddenly appeared at his back door shouting,  “What are you doing here!”

“That Shamal blew me here!” protested Hodja, holding his sides as he straightened up.

“I hear or see no wind! So who pulled up my vegetables?”

“Didn’t I have to grab what I could … to stop me from being blown away?”

“Oh yes? So how do you account for your sack being full of my vegetables?”

“Funny you should ask that. I was just pondering that myself … when you startled me by shouting so loudly.”

Without another word, Hodja took to his heels and vaulted over the wall – no mean feat for a man his age. He landed in a heap on the other side, unable to get up.IMG_1108

A group of children walking home from school, spied him lying there and ran up, calling, “Hodja! Here! Give us your hands. We know how to pull you up!”

[Adapted from Strange that you should ask …  In Shah, Idries. The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasreddin. Picador. 1975: 44.]

Shamal: a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf, often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. http://windlegends.org/windnames.htm

All other text and photos©MegPhilp

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Counting the Waves: Hodja No. 1

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Despite the heat, I clutched my find to my chest, as  I sauntered among Saturday market stalls. The thin book, a collection of Turkish “Hodja” stories (published in English) made me smile. Then, while I was dithering about what to buy at another stall, a clear voice cut through my indecisiveness.

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“ Ah! I see you have the Hodja with you. In Turkey, we love Hodja’s stories. Some say he was a fool but others say he was wise.“ The stallholder was an older man, amber eyes, grey moustache, wiry, my height. He shrugged his shoulders. I nodded in response.

“Yes. I love those stories too,” I mused and when I began to move off, he threw back his arms and began.

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“Did you know that Hodja was sitting like a statue at the beach one morning, facing the sea? People, passing by, became curious when he was still there hours later. Eventually a crowd gathered and one villager called out “Hodja! What are you doing?”

When there was no reply, he added “You have been here so long!” and the crowd edged forward to where Hodja sat.

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“I am counting the waves,” he announced, without looking up. The crowd laughed.
“So, Hodja, how many are there?” someone shouted from the back.

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“One”

The crowd laughed harder. Eventually a tall man asked, “How can that be? The tide is coming in and there are so many of them!”
“No,” said Hodja. “There’s only one. Look. There’s one. There’s another one, and there’s another one.”

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 We laughed together, the teller and I. He had given me a new story and I made a purchase in return.

Remembering this story helped me out of a writing block a couple of weeks ago. All I had to do was focus on “one wave” and not be swamped by a sea of ideas. There’s a lot more to Hodja stories than meets the ears!

NB. There is a protocol which says that if you tell one Hodja story you have to tell seven … so there are six more Hodja stories to come … when the time is right.

All text and photos © MegPhilp

Story Twigs the Imagination: blog by Meg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.