Preface to Extraordinary Adventures, part 2

Preface, part 2

An excerpt from Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin

XNS frcoverLamfinalsealby Ron J. Suresha

Concluded from previous week

While researching the topic of taboo humor I discovered, in The Horn Book by folklore and humor scholar Gershon Legman, his stark condemnation of folk story and joke collections with all the bawdy or “objectionable” material expunged, which he calls “fakelore.” Despite my earnest efforts to locate such risqué stories with limited success, I naturally cringed at the implication that I had unwittingly committed some sort of literary and folkloric misdeed by excluding the naughty and nasty tales of my old friend, Mullah Nasruddin.
Given the immense volume of this character’s folklore, I was perplexed by the conspicuous absence of adult-themed stories among the hundreds I had indexed. The dearth of racy, earthy, profane, or ethnic material in the existing published folklore available to me seemed due in part to its exclusion from popular children’s presentations of the often-moralizing Mullah. My theory was that these “naughty Nasreddin” narratives were expurgated from popular representations of Nasreddin in an effort to “reform” the character, according to the moral codes imposed by both Islamist and Turkish nationalistic influences.
German Nasreddin scholar Ulrich Marzolph’s 1998 analysis, “What Is Folklore Good For?” asserts that “Early Turkish manuscripts comprised a large amount of sexual, scatological, and otherwise disputable material” about the “vigorous and vulgar” Mullah (1998, p. 7). With that concept in mind, I delved even deeper into scholarly texts in search of this taboo material.
Though the character’s Ottoman-Turkish name is Nasreddin Hoca, cognates such as Mullah or Sheikh Nasruddin, Djuha, Joha, Hodja, Abu Nuwas, and so on populate the folklore of many Asian, African, European, and other lands worldwide and share their narratives, so there are diverse cultural sources contributing to this collection. I refer to the character throughout the text as Mullah Nasruddin because that is how I first came to know him.
The most readily accessible bawdy Nasreddin stories employ scatological, ethnic, racial, and sexist humor. Tales involving Nasreddin’s wife and marital affairs are most prevalent, and many feature her as the sexual aggressor. The “young Nasruddin” tales often portray his pubescent sexual explorations and cunning sexual exploitation of women. Sexual stories involving Nasreddin’s donkey make up a third recurring theme. Oddly, storylines with overtly homosexual themes were most difficult to unearth: even putting out a call for such jokes among today’s Istanbul’s gay and bisexual men’s “bear” community yielded no results.
Other critical essays affirmed that these stories existed, although apparently not in contemporary English texts. Turkish scholar Seyfi Karabas observed that “erotic elements in Nasreddin Hoca narratives fulfill several important functions. To begin with, they point to various early stages in the development of Nasreddin Hoca as a trickster figure. Secondly, they serve to create humor in several ways” (p. 303). Aside from the issue of the trickster archetype, it is clear that examples of racy tales existed in the Nasreddin folklore corpus: the question was where.
A breakthrough in my research occurred with a fortunate connection early in 2014 with Hakkı Gűrkaş, a Nasreddin Hoca and Turkish Studies scholar teaching at Kennesaw College in Georgia, U.S.A. In his brilliant, wide-ranging dissertation, he refutes the characterization of Nasreddin as a trickster figure, namely due to the lack of any sort of shape-shifting powers ascribed to him. That point aside, Karabas sagely concludes that “awareness of the importance of sexuality in the life of human beings is one of the more persistent themes that help unify the whole corpus of the Nasreddin Hoca narratives. Hence, Nasreddin Hoca should not be laundered” (p. 305).
But changing social forces of eight hundred years has taken Nasreddin Hoca’s dirty laundry to the river and thrown it religiously against the rocks. This character purification began with linguistic and cultural changes brought in the transition from the Islamic Ottoman era to modern secular Turkish nationalism, and continued through the advent of printing and selective exclusion of objectionable material from published story collections. Over the centuries, Nasreddin “transformed into a charming and subtle philosopher,” according to Marzolph, “whose major preoccupation would be to confront his surroundings with apparently strange questions or unconventional solutions to common problems” (p. 7).
Gűrkaş explains the significance of the censored material: “These stories bring back into discourse what the official culture has marginalized and repressed. These stories are anti-hegemonic. The grotesque imagery deployed in these stories mocks and ridicules the absolutist morality and degrades the official culture that relies on it” (p. 178).
In the spirit of intellectual freedom and restoration of the adulterated folklore, presented here are more than 265 authentic Nasreddin Hoca stories, many of which appear here in an English trade publication for the first time. From the first volume, I rewrote over a dozen tales, according to verified alternate sources: for instance, the long tale “Four brays of the donkey” here is “Four farts”; this version of “God’s arrears to Nasruddin” has a Jewish protagonist; the sexual overtones in “The hens in the hammam” here are stated more fully. Some stories are not particularly naughty, but come from reliable sources newly available and are worth including here among the first and final sections of the Mullah’s adventures.
All narratives herein are based on published texts listed in the Sources; none of the tales presented in this or the first collection are my original or creative invention. Whenever multiple tellings of a joke or anecdote were available, they were incorporated into this work. However, for some stories I had to rely on a translation of one or two versions and my ability to interpret its cultural context and narrative arc. I have tried to convey the bawdy wit and folk wisdom of the Mullah as may have been presented and received, centuries ago, halfway around the world, by the original storytellers and listeners.
As in the previous collection, here I employ the literary device of naming the Mullah’s family, friends, neighbors, and donkey as a way to situate him in his community. Readers may take issue with the intensity and frequency of the colloquial profanity and slang invective in some dialogue; the foul language, however, is comparable to that as translated from authentic sources, albeit adapted to contemporary usage.
As exhaustive as this work may have been, this sequel and its predecessor do not represent the entire Nasreddin corpus. There are dozens of stories untranslatable from Turkish, German, Arabic, and other languages that remain inaccessible in English. Additionally, a handful of stories effectively translated, but requiring overlong cultural, religious, or wordplay explanations, must be left for another’s work.
This collection leads with “The learned and the ignorant,” a tale that proclaims its moral imperative, “Those who know should teach those who don’t know,” which represents a common creed of folklore and literature. In researching, collecting, translating, and publishing these stories, I have acquired not only the authority to disseminate the work but also a keen sense of duty. For far too long the social forces that repress sexual and other “undesirable” story elements have hidden this cache of some of the most amusing, witty, and outrageous folklore in the world.
I close this introduction with the words of the great American poet, Walt Whitman: “The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.” Doubtless the Mullah would agree.

doublestar-crescent smile

Works cited
Gűrkaş, Hakkı. Nasreddin Hodja and the Akşehir Festival: Invention of a Festive Tradition and Transfigurations of a Trickster, from Bukhara to Brussels. Ph.D dissertation. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University, 2008.
Karabas, Seyfi. “The Use of Eroticism in Nasreddin Hoca Anecdotes.” Western Folklore 49: 3 (July 1990), pp. 299–305. Long Beach, Calif.: Western States Folklore Society.
Legman, Gershon. The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964.
Marzolph, Ulrich. What Is Folklore Good For? On dealing with undesirable cultural expression. Journal of Folklore Research, 35: 1 (Jan.–Apr. 1998), pp. 5–16.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York: New American Library, 1980.

Preface to Extraordinary Adventures, excerpt 1

Preface, part 1

An excerpt from Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin

XNS frcoverLamfinalsealby Ron J. Suresha

Coming from an ethnically diverse family with strong oral and literary folklore traditions, I became well acquainted early on with the stories of the famous Turkish folk character, Mullah Nasruddin; a simple man of renowned humor and inscrutable wisdom, known for more than eight centuries in his native land as Nasreddin Hoca.
Sometimes my mother would tell a joke or story about the “wise fool” Mulla Nasaruddin (as he is called in Jewish folklore), usually to make a point about my contrary behavior. She would often ask, for instance, “Why do you always answer a question with another question?” to which I could be reliably predicted to retort, “Oh really, do I‽”
In my twenties, while living in several ashram (residential yoga center) communities in the U.S.A. and India, my teachers would often tell, with great relish and humor, Sheikh Nasruddin “wisdom stories” as part of their regular lessons and lectures on spiritual life.
For more than two decades, Sufi writer Idries Shah’s collections of Mullah Nasruddin stories were my only sources in English. Then, in 1999, while on my first trip to Istanbul, I acquired five Turkish-published volumes of Mullah stories in English, which were illustrated with cartoon tableaux depicting the adulterated punch-line moments from the most popular stories. Shortly after, I began to discover additional Nasreddin Hoca folklore sources online.
While compiling the first book, The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin, I volunteered to help reorganize the storybook collection of the Connecticut Storytelling Center in New London, where I encountered several antiquarian Nasreddin volumes in various languages. Since then I have continued to gather and collate printed books and manuscripts in English, Hebrew, Spanish, German, French, Turkish, and Hindi, as well as material published online, all of which are included in the Sources following the text of this work.
The revised 2013 edition of Uncommon Sense is an anthology of more than 365 authentic individual stories, anecdotes, jokes, jests, and quips arranged biographically into seven parts with seven sections of seven stories each. While certainly many pieces could be considered bawdy, abusive, or ethnic, the material was generally suitable for a collegiate adult readership, including hundreds of stories entirely appropriate for children. Sgott Mackensie’s watercolor cover illustration of the bewhiskered, turbaned Mullah, happily riding his beloved donkey backward in a rural setting, reflected the book’s broad appeal and presented it as a “PG-13” collection appropriate for teenagers with parental guidance. The positive critical reviews to the first book made it absolutely clear, however, that a second volume featuring the X-rated material would be a welcome addition to world literature.
While researching the topic of taboo humor I discovered, in The Horn Book by folklore and humor scholar Gershon Legman, his stark condemnation of folk story and joke collections with all the bawdy or “objectionable” material expunged, which he calls “fakelore.” Despite my earnest efforts to locate such risqué stories with limited success, I naturally cringed at the implication that I had unwittingly committed some sort of literary and folkloric misdeed by excluding the naughty and nasty tales of my old friend, Mullah Nasruddin.
Given the immense volume of this character’s folklore, I was perplexed by the conspicuous absence of adult-themed stories among the hundreds I had indexed. The dearth of racy, earthy, profane, or ethnic material in the existing published folklore available to me seemed due in part to its exclusion from popular children’s presentations of the often-moralizing Mullah. My theory was that these “naughty Nasreddin” narratives were expurgated from popular representations of Nasreddin in an effort to “reform” the character, according to the moral codes imposed by both Islamist and Turkish nationalistic influences.
German Nasreddin scholar Ulrich Marzolph’s 1998 analysis, “What Is Folklore Good For?” asserts that “Early Turkish manuscripts comprised a large amount of sexual, scatological, and otherwise disputable material” about the “vigorous and vulgar” Mullah (1998, p. 7). With that concept in mind, I delved even deeper into scholarly texts in search of this taboo material.
Though the character’s Ottoman-Turkish name is Nasreddin Hoca, cognates such as Mullah or Sheikh Nasruddin, Djuha, Joha, Hodja, Abu Nuwas, and so on populate the folklore of many Asian, African, European, and other lands worldwide and share their narratives, so there are diverse cultural sources contributing to this collection. I refer to the character throughout the text as Mullah Nasruddin because that is how I first came to know him.
The most readily accessible bawdy Nasreddin stories employ scatological, ethnic, racial, and sexist humor. Tales involving Nasreddin’s wife and marital affairs are most prevalent, and many feature her as the sexual aggressor. The “young Nasruddin” tales often portray his pubescent sexual explorations and cunning sexual exploitation of women. Sexual stories involving Nasreddin’s donkey make up a third recurring theme. Oddly, storylines with overtly homosexual themes were most difficult to unearth: even putting out a call for such jokes among today’s Istanbul’s gay and bisexual men’s “bear” community yielded no results.

 

Concluded next week

Works cited
Gűrkaş, Hakkı. Nasreddin Hodja and the Akşehir Festival: Invention of a Festive Tradition and Transfigurations of a Trickster, from Bukhara to Brussels. Ph.D dissertation. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University, 2008.
Karabas, Seyfi. “The Use of Eroticism in Nasreddin Hoca Anecdotes.” Western Folklore 49: 3 (July 1990), pp. 299–305. Long Beach, Calif.: Western States Folklore Society.
Legman, Gershon. The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964.
Marzolph, Ulrich. What Is Folklore Good For? On dealing with undesirable cultural expression. Journal of Folklore Research, 35: 1 (Jan.–Apr. 1998), pp. 5–16.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York: New American Library, 1980.

Forewarning, from Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin

by rjs
Comments: Comments Off
Published on: April 30, 2015

Forewarning

doublestar-crescent smileFrom Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah NasruddinXNS frcoverLamfinalseal

As in my first collection of Nasreddin Hoca folklore, The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin, every single story included in its sequel, Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin, is completely authentic, taken from published works listed in the Sources.
That said, the adult reader is hereby warned that taboo topics of tales within this collection include: bestiality, animal cruelty, scatology, ethnic prejudice, racism, sexism, domestic abuse, marital infidelity, bigamy, homosexuality / bisexuality, sodomy, pederasty, pedophilia, incest, blasphemy, apostasy, treason, violence, torture, homicide, and war.
   Readers are cautioned of the inappropriateness of this book for children.
Rule of thumb for parents and librarians: if the child can understand the meaning of the word unexpurgated, as in the subtitle to this book — Naughty, unexpurgated stories of the beloved wise fool from the Middle and Far East — the child is certainly mature enough to read on. Otherwise, strict parental supervision is strongly advised.

doublestar-crescent smile

Extraordinary Adventures Named Lammy Finalist

Lambda Literary Awards give nod to Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin

March 4, 2015 — The prestigious Lambda Literary Awards has honored Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin, authored by Ron J. Suresha and published last year by Lethe Press, a Finalist for Best Bisexual Fiction.

LammyfinalistIn a Facebook post, author Ron J. Suresha wrote:

Praise Mullah! I’m quite thrilled to announce that my book of bawdy Turkish folklore, Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin was named a Finalist in the Bisexual Fiction category of this year’s Lambda Literary Foundation Awards. (The book was submitted in Bi Nonfiction but was switched over …)
I’d especially like to thank Steve Berman for his support of this long-running project for a book I doubt anyone else would have taken a chance on publishing.
As well, the Bear Bones Books novel Salvation, by Jeff Mann and the BBB anthology The Bears of Winter, edited by Jerry L. Wheeler, were named Finalists in the Gay Romance and Gay Erotica categories. I’m so very proud to have had a hand in the publication of these two excellent books.
Mazel tov also to my friends, colleagues, and associates who were also honored. See you in May!

Additionally, the author wishes to thank his husband, Rocco, for his unending support of this peculiar work.

When asked for a comment, Mullah Nasruddin said, “I owe this honor to my beloved little gray donkey, Karakacan, without which I would have just been considered another old wise fool.”

The book is the sequel to The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin, by the same author and publisher, which was given two national storytelling awards.

The awards will be announced June 1st in a gala ceremony in New York City.

XNS frcoverfinalmedRead the complete LLF announcement here.

Swimming instructor

A Mullah Nasruddin / Nasreddin Hoca story

 

Swimming Instructor

Mullah Nasruddin
Mullah Nasruddin

One day Mullah Nasruddin was walking along a riverbank when he decided to do a necessity.

Once he’d cleaned himself, he stood up and watched his buoyant pile float away by itself, meandering down the stream.

Nasruddin gasped with disbelief, and exclaimed, “Ai vai! Undoubtedly the end of the world is nigh! Surely Judgment Day has come upon us! For this unclean thing teaches us how to swim and stay afloat in the water!”

 

Excerpted from

Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin
by Ron J. Suresha

now in print from Lethe Press

doublestar-crescent smileOrder the book from Amazon here.

Why the sky has no poles

A Mullah Nasruddin / Nasreddin Hoca story

 

Why the sky has no poles

Mullah Nasruddin
Mullah Nasruddin

One day as Nasruddin was preaching on the rostrum, he declared, “O true believers! We must give thanks to Allah for His infinite wisdom. For example, praise be to God that He created the sky without poles.”
The congregation was confused.
Nasruddin explained, “If He had, imagine what it would be like. In order to make a pole stand sturdy enough to hold up the entire sky, all the trees and rocks in
the world would not be sufficient.”

Excerpted from

Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin
by Ron J. Suresha

now in print from Lethe Press

~

Accept and adjust

A Mullah Nasruddin / Nasreddin Hoca story

 

Accept and adjust

Mullah Nasruddin
Mullah Nasruddin

One day while walking near Lake Aksehir, Mullah Nasruddin encountered a huge turtle. Seeing the Mullah, the turtle tried to beat a hasty retreat. However, Nasruddin noticed how agilely the creature moved and exclaimed, “What a strong and sturdy steed you would be for me, if only such an ugly and wild beast such as you can be tamed!”

Acting decisively, he leapt at the turtle, seized its shell and sat down on its back. The turtle, however, struggled mightily to throw him off.

Nasruddin yelled, “You can shake all you want in a vain attempt to dislodge me, but mark my words: sooner or later, you’ll get accustomed to carrying your new master!”

 

Excerpted from

Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin
by Ron J. Suresha

now in print from Lethe Press

~

White halvah

A Mullah Nasruddin / Nasreddin Hoca story

 

White halvah

Mullah Nasruddin
Mullah Nasruddin

One day, Nasruddin was walking in the market with his son, Ahmet, when he pointed to a white halvah and asked, “Boy, do you know what that is?”

Ahmet answered, “That is a pot with white onions.”

The Mullah said, “If I taught that to God, surely He would deny me His grace!”

Excerpted from

Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin
by Ron J. Suresha

now in print from Lethe Press

~

Third thief’s a charm

A Mullah Nasruddin / Nasreddin Hoca story

 

Third thief’s a charm

One day, three thieves broke into Mullah Nasruddin’s house. They grabbed him and demanded, “Tell us where you hide your money.”
Nasruddin denied having any cash hidden, but the crooks didn’t believe him. “Until you confess the location of your treasure, you will stand on one leg.”
So they made the Mullah stand on one leg. After several hours, the thieves became sleepy, so they decided to take turns keeping watch over Nasruddin. Two of the men fell asleep while the third stayed awake with Nasruddin, threatening him with a large knife from escaping.
Halfway through the night, the third thief felt a wave of compassion for the Mullah and whispered to him, “Okay, my friend, you can switch legs. Just don’t tell the other guys.”
Relieved, the Mullah thanked the third thief and told him quietly, “My son, you seem like a decent fellow. So I’ll tell you this: my money is buried in the backyard behind the mulberry tree. Without waking your friends, quickly go now and take the money all for yourself. Then scram and don’t look back.”

Mullah Nasruddin and his donkey, Karakacan. Portrait by Jaxinto.
Mullah Nasruddin and his donkey, Karakacan. Portrait by Jaxinto.

 

Excerpted from

Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin
by Ron J. Suresha

now in print from Lethe Press

~

My regular turban

A Mullah Nasruddin / Nasreddin Hoca story

 

My regular turban

As the vicious despot Tamerlane and his troops approached the town in which Nasruddin lived, a group of village elders came to Nasruddin’s house and awoke him, terrified.

The Mullah sleepily answered the door, and the townspeople implored him to quickly do something to stop the tyrant from marching through and rampaging in Akşehir.

Immediately Nasruddin took his bedsheets and wrapped them around his nearly bald head. When he finished, it looked like a turban as big as a wheel. Then, naked except for the turban, he mounted his little gray donkey and rode out to meet Tamerlane.

Mullah Nasruddin and his donkey, Karakacan. Portrait by Jaxinto.
Mullah Nasruddin and his donkey, Karakacan. Portrait by Jaxinto.

When Nasruddin approached Tamerlane, the shah exclaimed, “Mullah! What in the world are you wearing for a turban‽”

“Please pardon me for wearing it, your Highness,” replied Nasruddin, yawning, “but this is actually just my nightcap. I wanted to be sure to welcome you early, so I have rushed from my bed wearing this instead of my regular turban. The turban that I usually wear during the day is even bigger and requires another cart to follow after me.”

Tamerlane was so shocked at the strange outsized clothes of the townspeople that he decided to keep moving on. After the tyrant left, Nasruddin unwrapped his turban, wrapped the sheet around himself, mounted his little grey donkey, and returned home to get some sleep.

Excerpted from

Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin
by Ron J. Suresha

now in print from Lethe Press

~

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