Hodja’s Fine Coat (A Tale From Turkey)
Long ago Nasreddin Hodja, the famous preacher, was beloved by everyone in Turkey, especially the people of Akshehir. Everyone spoke of his wisdom and kindness. Whenever the people held a feast or festival, they invited Hodja.
One day the muhtar, the most important man in Akshehir, invited Hodja to a banquet. Hodja looked forward to the marvelous food he would feast upon and the good conversation he would have at the mukhtar’s home.
On the morning of the feast, he set out to work in his vineyard. It was a fine summer day, and Hodja enjoyed his work. Alas, he misjudged the time. As the sun sank lower in the sky, Hodja realized he would have no time to change his clothes.
“What shall I do?” he asked himself. “If I take the time to wash and dress, I will be late for the feast.” Hodja did not like to keep people waiting, and so he hurried off to the muhtar’s home dressed in his working clothes, his hands and face still soiled from the day’s labors.
When he arrived, the servants turned away from him. Hodja made his own way into the house. The other guests were gathered, and he saw them laughing and talking enthusiastically with each other. But when Hodja walked into the room, the others ignored him. Whenever Hodja approached and spoke, they looked away, ignoring his words. Usually, people came to Hodja to ask his advice and opinions, but this evening no one spoke to him at all. Even the muhtar ignored his guest.
When the time came for the guests to be seated for supper, the muhtar placed Hodja in the farthest corner of the room, as far from him as possible.
After several minutes, Hodja excused himself and hurried out of the house. He walked as quickly as he could back home.
Once at home, he took off his work clothes and soaped and scrubbed himself until he seemed to shine. Then he dressed in the finest clothes he owned. He wore his flowing trousers and his most elegant silk shirt and wrapped his most exquisite turban around his head. Then he wrapped his new fur coat around his shoulders, for though it was a warm evening, he knew the coat was dazzling and would be the talk of the town.
He looked down at himself and smiled, for he knew he looked handsome than all the other men in Akshehir.
Now he walked calmly and with an air of importance back down the road to the muhtar’s door. When he walked inside, the servants bowed and led him to his host.
When the muhtar saw Hodja, he rose at once and greeted his guest. He led him straight to the place of honor at the table, right beside his own place. Throughout the meal, the muhtar asked one question after another of the learned Hodja.
“You are the wisest man I know,” the muhtar said, and all the others agreed and began to ask Hodja’s advice and opinions on every subject under the sun. The servants rushed to bring Hodja the finest foods.
And then, to everyone’s astonishment, Hodja began to stuff his pockets with food. Each time he tucked a piece of fruit or bread into his pocket, he would look down at the coat, rub his hand along its sleeve and say, “Eat, eat, my fine coat.”
The muhtar stared. Everyone else stared. At last, the muhtar could not contain his curiosity. “Hodja, tell us,” he said, “what are you doing?”
Hodja leaned back in his seat and smiled. “Ahh, that should be obvious,” he said to the muhtar. “When I came earlier this evening, dressed in my work clothes, no one noticed me at all, but when I returned, you treated me as an honored guest. I have not changed. I am and always have been Nasreddin Hodja. And so I know it is my coat that you honor and adores. Since my coat is your guest of honor, I thought it only fair that it receives the largest portion of your feast.”