Monday, February 19, 2007

Mullah Nasiruddin

Mullah Nasiruddin is a popular character in folk tales throughout the Middle East and south and central Asia, including in Iran, Turkey and the Arab countries. He is at once a fool and a wise man, at turns absurd and down-to-earth. I'm not sure what character in Western culture is a close approximation of Mullah Nasiruddin, but I think of Charlie Chaplin's "Tramp".

Many of the Mullah Nasiruddin stories have to do with his donkey. Here are two short pieces:

"One day the mullah's neighbor came to borrow his donkey.
The mullah said, 'My donkey isn't here.'
At that moment there was the long bray.
The neighbor said, 'You told me the donkey wasn't at home. Where did that braying come from?'
The mullah became angry and said, 'How strange people are. Will they believe a donkey before they will believe me?"

The mullah put some wood on his back and got on his donkey.
The neighborhood children asked, "'Why don't you put the wood on the donkey's back?"
The mullah said, "It would displease God if the donkey had to carry both myself and the wood."