Friday, December 11, 2020

PDF: Witty Tales of Nasruddin and Birbal

This blog has happened a bit by accident: for National Novel Writing Month in November, I decided to create a book of Nasruddin jokes for my dad as a Christmas present. This is the result: 50,000 words (that's how NaNoWriMo works), all about Nasruddin, the famous "wise fool" of the Middle East, along with Birbal, a court jester of India. Please feel free to download and read! I'm going to do a revised version for my dad's birthday in August, and your feedback would be very welcome. 

Here's the book to download, plus a feedback form. I hope you will like it! Yes, it was done in haste for NaNoWriMo and is no doubt full of errors and things to fix/improve; I've got an errata list here, and I'll do a corrected PDF after I've accumulated a big bunch of items to correct. 

Witty Tales of Nasruddin and Birbal (PDF)

You can also get a printed copy (print on demand) from; it's $5.99 there, plus shipping. Lulu does a great job with the printing; I've used them for some self-published Latin books in the past.

In this first version, the book contains 176 stories about Nasruddin and about Birbal; it was really fun to combine the Nasruddin and Birbal traditions together like this. There are so many stories I want to add; this is just what I got done during the month of November for NaNoWriMo.

So, my goal here for this blog is to keep accumulating more stories that I might consider adding to the book, and also to work on revising and editing the stories that appear in this "first draft" of the book. 

My long-term goal is probably two books: I'll keep working on this fictional Nasruddin-Birbal project, but in a larger sense I want to do an annotated anthology of these stories where I can include notes, analyses, variants, etc. That's the kind of material that I can start to develop here!

I also want to create something like a "Story Finder" that will allow people to discover which stories appear in which books and, in particular, which stories are told about multiple characters. Instead of trying to use traditional tale types, I am coming up with my own typology system here. I'll be using those type numbers as labels here at the blog to try to help keep things organized. I've got about 600 story types so far; here is a partial listing: Story Types. You can put one of those T numbers in the search box and see if there is a blog post for it yet. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Errata (so far...)

Glossary: for some reason page  numbers did not print.
not sure why extra blank pages in back of book (there should just be one blank page)
I should replace all the straight quotation marks with smart-quotes.
I forgot to explain why I start calling Nasruddin "Mullah Nasruddin" in the final chapters of the book. Argh!

As Naruddin's reputation for wisdom spread
I did not come to your for advice.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Witty Tales. School and Swimming

During the summers, Nasruddin sometimes worked as a ferryman, taking people back and forth across a wide river in his very small boat. "Come, Birbal," he said enthusiastically, "and I will teach you about life on the river!"

One day, it was their honor to ferry an illustrious scholar across the river. The scholar's fame reached far and wide, and Nasruddin was eager to engage him in conversation, hoping to learn from the renowned gentleman. Birbal, too, had heard of this great man, and he was sure that the scholar could enlighten them both with his insight and wisdom.

"Good sir," said Nasruddin, "perhaps you could explain to my friend Birbal and I the most important lessons you have learned in your travels."

The scholar only scoffed. "To my friend Birbal and ME," he said in an exasperated tone; "me, objective form, complement of the preposition, to. In other words: to me; to my friend Birbal and ME." The scholar then gave Nasruddin a withering look. "Have you studied no grammar at all, sir?"

"No, sir, I haven't studied no grammar at all." When Nasruddin thought about school, the only thing he could remember was the taste of baklava. So much so that his mouth began to water. The honey sweetness, the delicate pastry...

The scholar's words interrupted Nasruddin's reverie. "Not any grammar at all. I see. Indeed."

Nasruddin glumly looked down at his feet, afraid to say anything to the great man lest he be rebuked once again.

"I venture to say," continued the scholar, "that your whole life has been wasted. What a pity."

And with that, the scholar turned away and gazed out at the river's expanse.

Nasruddin, now feeling quite dejected, adjusted the sails in silence, hoping to reach the other side of the river as quickly as possible. Birbal, too, felt dismayed.

Then, without warning, a great storm began to blow. The winds and waves tossed his little boat back and forth, and the boat began to fill with water. There was no hope for it: the ship was going to sink; they would have to swim for shore!

Birbal had already leaped into the water and was swimming quickly away from the sinking ship when Nasruddin turned to the scholar. "Good sir," Nasruddin shouted, struggling to make his voice heard above the wind and the waves, "I must sadly inform you that our little boat is now sinking. Have you studied how to swim?"

The scholar shouted back, "No! I haven't studied swimming at all!"

"Well then," replied Nasruddin as he jumped into the river, "I would say that your whole life is about to be wasted. What a pity."

Nasruddin and Birbal reached the shore together, wetter and wiser. As for the scholar, he was never seen again.

What a pity.

Notes: I included this story in Witty Tales, version 1 (December 2019): 58. School and Swimming.

Witty Tales. Tigers

Nasruddin was pacing in concentric circles around his house, throwing handfuls of breadcrumbs as he walked. He made one circuit around the house, and then another, and then another.

Eventually Birbal could not suppress his curiosity and had to ask, "Nasruddin, what are you doing?"

"I am scattering breadcrumbs all around our house."

"I can see that," Birbal replied. "But WHY are you scattering breadcrumbs all around our house?"

"Well," said Nasruddin, "if you wanted to know why, you should have said so. I am doing this in order to keep the tigers away."

"Tigers?" said Birbal, more than mildly alarmed. He had actually seen tigers back home in India, and he knew how dangerous they could be. "What tigers? I don't see any tigers!"

"Indeed," replied Nasruddin. "It works very well, doesn't it?"

Notes: I included this story in Witty Tales, version 1 (December 2019): 34. Tigers.