Mulla Nasreddin, as he is known the Persian speaking world, is a humorous witty character that goes by different names in different cultures. Iranians, Arabs and Turks still bicker about who he was and where he was from. Though Mulla Nasreddin originated in the Middle East half a millennia ago, the popularity of his stories is such that they have travelled and settled down in places as diverse as China, Russia, Sweden, India, Malaysia, the Balkans and Portugal. What can be said is that the Mulla is a universal character on which are framed various humorous, philosophical, moral or pedagogic anecdotes. The main players of these whimsical vignettes are the Mulla, his donkey and his wife. A Mulla Nasreddin anecdote is often used to emphasise a point. Most may read a funny story. However, in the same tale, a Sufi may see multiple strands of mystic meaning and a revolutionary will see the idea of resistance to authority. Depending on the reader and the time, Nasreddin may be more of a wise man, a jester, a rebel or a philosopher.
The stories of the Mulla have passed by word of mouth from generation to generation for centuries, during which they have been added to, polished or changed with the period and circumstances. They were probably first written down some time in the nineteenth century. Here is a collection of 181 of the funniest and best known Mulla Nasreddin stories.
Henry D Barnham