Pages 102-103

Molla Nasreddin is a character well-known throughout the Turkic world – and beyond – although his name has many permutations; sometimes he is ’Hodja’ Nasreddin. Generally thought to be of medieval origin, some say he is based on a real person and at least one Turkish town claims to be his final resting place. Whatever the truth, stories about the Molla are still exchanged and an equally popular satirical magazine, published in Azerbaijan during the tumultuous early 20th century, carried his name.

In our May-June edition we told a tale of gentle revenge, this time we see the Molla dispensing savoury justice.

One day a beggar was walking through the town and he was very hungry. Someone had given him a piece of bread, but it was quite old and very dry. He needed something to soften it and make it taste better.

He noticed that the window of a nearby restaurant was open, and the cook had put a pot of soup on the ledge to cool. The beggar crept up to the window and held the piece of bread in the steam rising from the soup. He bit into the bread and was very happy that the steam had given it a bit of flavour.

Unfortunately the restaurant’s owner was enjoying his own lunch and had seen what the beggar had done; he ran out of the door, caught the poor man by his collar and dragged him off to Molla Nasreddin, who was the town magistrate at that time.

The owner explained what he had seen and demanded that the beggar be made to pay for using his soup. The beggar admitted that he had held the bread in the steam, but said that he had no money to pay.

Molla Nasreddin though for a while and then took some coins from his purse. He held them up to the restaurant owner’s ear and shook them so that they jingled.

“What’s that for?” said the restaurant owner.

“The sound of the money is payment for the smell of the soup. Now, please, go back to your restaurant and finish your lunch.”