An Ancient Story for Events in Egypt

The unfolding events in Egypt are fueling hopes, fears, and a large dose of uncertainty.  When (or will) Mubarak bow out for instance?  How long will it take to make a transition to a truly democratic state?

The other day storyteller and colleague Fran Stallings asked an intriguing question.  Was there a story from the wisdom tradition of the Egypt or the Middle East that might speak to the current situation?  Today as I was rearranging my books I found a collection I’d forgotten was there. Watermelons, Walnuts and the Wisdom of Allah (And Other Tales of the Hoca) by Barbara Walker. (Available through Amazon) Here’s my retelling of one of the Nasruddin Tales that almost jumped off the page for me.

Nasruddin was working in his vineyard when down the road approach a traveler.
“Excuse me sir, but how long will it take me to walk to the next village?” he asked.
Nasruddin, looked at the man, nodded a silent greeting,  but did not offer an answer.
Thinking that Nasruddin might be hard of hearing, the traveler, asked again,
“How long a walk to the next village please?”
Again, his question was greeted with silence.
Now the traveler saw Nasruddin turn in the direction of a bird that was singing on a fence post.
“Ah, so you CAN hear?  I’ll ask you one more time, how long is it going to take me to walk to the village?”
When there was still no response, the traveler departed in a state of great irritation.
Nasruddin watched him closely as he walked off with long determined strides then shouted after him,
“Dear traveler, it will take you less than 15 minutes.”
Surprised and angry, the traveler turned and asked, “Well why didn’t you tell me that before?
Nasruddin calmly replied, “How could I possibly tell before I could see how fast you would walk?”


One comment

  1. Bob–About a dozen years ago I had the honor of interviewing Barbara and Warren Walker at the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. ( It is the largest collection of Turkish folklore anywhere, including Turkey; Warren and Barbara traveled to Turkey each summer for 30 years while teaching at Tech. The ATON is their life’s work.

    All that to say this story was one of Barbara’s favorites, too. It came to her from her Turkish doctor one summer when she was sick, in the hospital there. She asked him about how long it would take her to get well, and this was his answer.–Mary Grace

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