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OK, let’s start the episode.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is Nasreddin the Wise Man. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Wise. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Wise. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So today’s story is actually a collection of six short folk tales and they’re all about a funny character called Nasreddin.
So, Nasreddin is a character who appears in folk tales in many parts of the world. He mainly appears in stories in the Middle East and Europe, mainly Eastern Europe, and he’s known by many different names.
He might seem like a very stupid character, but actually, in some ways, he’s quite wise, in his own, sort of, special way. So what does it mean to be wise?
A wise person is someone who is clever, always acts after thinking and has good judgement. Older people are usually wiser, because life has taught them many lessons. For example, Dumbledore in Harry Potter is a very wise character.
I want to say thank you to Gianluigi, one of the listeners, because he helped me find this character. He sent me an email about some stories about Giufà, who is the version of this character in Sardinia [sorry, it’s actually Sicily, not Sardinia!], which part of Italy. In the end, I decided to go with the Nasreddin version because I couldn’t find translations of the Giufà versions that weren’t copyrighted.
But it’s very, very similar and there are hundreds of stories with this character, so this is really just a small look into the life of Nasreddin, who I guess was a real person? Or the character is based on a real person? But, the important thing is, the stories are very fun.
Anyway, I’m recording this before Christmas, so that I can relax over the Christmas period, so I’m going to say, I hope you all had nice holidays if you did celebrate Christmas, if you did celebrate Hanukkah. I hope you enjoyed them. I don’t know at the time of recording if I had a good Christmas. Hopefully, I did!
And of course, this is coming out just before New Year’s, so I want to say that it’s been a fantastic year for the podcast, and a terrible year for the world in general! So thank you all so much for listening, for reading the emails, for taking part in the Telegram group, for coming to the live streams. You’ve made this awful year a lot better!
And I’m really looking forward to a better 2021 for the whole world, and also for the podcast. Because I’m so excited to continue. Really, in many ways the podcast has made this year so much better for me. To be able to talk to you all. Ugh, I’m gonna get emotional, so I should probably stop!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
‘In that case’ is a phrase that means, ‘if that is true.’ For example, if someone says to you, ‘I’m free this evening. I have no plans,’ and you like the person, you could say, ‘In that case, do you want to go for a drink with me?’
If you have no reason to do something, then there is nothing that makes you think you should do that thing. For example, maybe someone says to you, ‘Hey, did you hear about Ariel? I heard she likes stealing candy from babies.’ But you know Ariel, and Ariel is a lovely person, and you’ve never heard of her stealing anything, so you say, ‘I have no reason to believe you.’
Truly means ‘really’ or ‘actually’. For example, if you went to the theatre with someone, and they said, ‘Did you like the play? I thought it was awful,’ and you say, ‘I loved it!’ and they say, ‘I don’t believe you! It was awful,’ then you can say, ‘I truly enjoyed it.’ You are saying ‘truly’ to make it clear that you are not lying.
Equally means ‘at the same time’ or ‘in the same way’. For example, maybe you have two friends, and you think one of them stole candy from a baby, but you’re not sure which one. You might say, ‘Well, Cindy does love stealing, but equally, Bella does hate babies.’ You’re saying ‘equally’ because you’re comparing the two options and they both seem possible.
A vineyard is a place where grapes are grown. Little trees called grapevines are planted in rows, and grapes grow on them. Often, these grapes are used to make wine. The flavour of the wine depends on the conditions of the vineyard. So the amount of sun, the average temperature and so on of the vineyard will change how the wine tastes.
A basketful of something is the amount of something that you can fit in one basket. For example, if you take a basket and go and pick apples, and you can fit thirty apples in one basket, then you give the apples to someone else, you’re giving them a basketful of apples. Of course, the amount of apples in a basketful depends on the size of the basket!
Something that is precious is very important and has a lot of value for you. For example, your children, pets and friends are usually precious to you. You care a lot about them and don’t want to lose them. Precious gems are stones such as diamonds which have a lot of value.
When you press your hand on something and move it along, you are stroking it. For example, if you have a dog who you love, you will stroke him. You will move your hand up and down his back to show that you like him. You might also stroke your partner’s face. If you have a really comfortable sofa, you might even stroke the material. When you’re thinking hard, you might stroke your chin.
Sunlight is the light that comes from the sun. Sunlight feels really good on your skin, and it is important to get sunlight, because it contains vitamin D. In the UK, we don’t get a lot of sunlight.
When you want an animal to do what you tell it to, you need to train it. When you first get a dog or a cat, it is very important to train it, so that it goes to the toilet and doesn’t destroy furniture. In the circus, people used to train lions and elephants to do tricks, but now most circuses don’t have animals anymore.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
Nasreddin the Wise Man
Once, Nasreddin had a dream. He dreamt that an old woman held out her hand and offered him nine gold coins.
‘No, thank you,’ said Nasreddin. ‘I want ten gold coins.’
He woke up from the dream, and looked at his hands. They were empty. He had no gold coins!
Quickly, he closed his eyes again and said, ‘It’s OK, I’ll take nine gold coins.’
Once, Nasreddin was asked to give a talk. He was a great teacher, and everyone wanted to hear his wise words.
He got up on the stage, and everyone looked at him, waiting to hear what he would say.
‘Do you know what I’m going to talk about?’ he asked.
The audience cried, ‘No!’
‘Oh, well in that case, I’ll leave. I have no reason to speak to people who don’t even know what I’m talking about!’
And before they could stop him, he left.
But the people truly wished to hear Nasreddin’s talk, so they invited him back the next day.
This time, he asked the same question, but the audience cried, ‘Yes!’
‘Oh, well in that case, I’ll leave. I have no reason to speak to people who already know what I’m going to talk about! I won’t waste your time.’
And before they could stop him, he left.
Now the people were really confused. They talked and argued, and finally decided to try one last time. They made a plan, and invited Nasreddin back the next week.
Again, he asked the same question, but this time the audience was prepared. Half of them cried, ‘No!’ and the other half cried, ‘Yes!’
‘Aha,’ said Nasreddin. ‘Well, in that case, there really is a simple solution. The people who know what I’m going to talk about, tell the other half.’
And with that, he left.
Who Do You Believe?
Nasreddin was sitting in the front garden relaxing. A neighbour came and talked to him.
‘Dear teacher,’ he said. ‘Would it be OK if you lent me your donkey today? I have to take some heavy goods to the next town.’
Nasreddin didn’t want to lend his donkey. The animal had worked hard all week, and deserved a rest. In fact, just then the donkey was resting in the back garden. But equally, he didn’t want to seem rude.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘but I’ve already lent him to someone else.’
And just then, the donkey brayed loudly from the back garden.
‘You haven’t lent him out at all!’ said the neighbour. ‘I can hear him clearly!’
Nasreddin smiled. ‘Then who do you believe? The donkey or your dear teacher?’
Taste the Same
Once, Nasreddin was coming home from the vineyard. He walked with his donkey, who was carrying two heavy baskets full of fresh grapes. The children ran around Nasreddin and said, ‘Please, teacher, please give us some grapes! We just want a taste!’
‘Alright then,’ said Nasreddin, and gave each child a grape.
‘You have so much,’ said the children, ‘but you give us so little.’
Nasreddin smiled. ‘Well, you said you just wanted a taste. It doesn’t matter if you have a basketful or just one. They all taste the same.’
And with that, he continued on his way.
One evening, Nasreddin lost his ring in the living room. It was a precious ring, so he knew he had to find it. He searched for a while, and when he could not find it, he went out into the front garden to look there.
A neighbour was passing by, and said, ‘What are you looking for, teacher?’
‘I lost my ring in the living room,’ said Nasreddin.
‘Then why are you looking outside?’ she asked.
Nasreddin stroked his beard. ‘It’s so dark inside, and I couldn’t see very well. I thought I would look out here, since there is still a bit of sunlight.’
How a Donkey Reads
Once, Nasreddin was talking with his friend Timur. He was very proud of his donkey, and he spent a lot of time telling Timur how great he was.
‘I think he is the smartest donkey on the planet,’ he said. ‘I could even teach him how to read.’
Timur smiled. He was also a wise man, and he liked having competitions with his friend. ‘In that case, do it. I’ll give you three months. If you can teach him to read within that time, I’ll give you a basketful of gold.’
So Nasreddin went home to teach his donkey how to read. He put a big book on the table in front of him, and put donkey food in the middle of the pages. The donkey ate the food, and then used his tongue to turn the page and find more food. Three days before the end of the three months, Nasreddin stopped giving him food.
When he took the donkey to Timur, the animal was very hungry. Nasreddin asked for a big book, and put it in front of the donkey. The animal immediately started turning the pages with his tongue, trying to find food, but he couldn’t, so he started braying loudly.
‘He’s reading aloud,’ said Nasreddin wisely.
Timur watched the donkey for a long time, and then said, ‘That is a very strange way of reading!’
Nasreddin snorted. ‘You only said that he had to learn how to read. This is how a donkey reads. What, did you think he would read like a human?’
Timur laughed. ‘Well then, I suppose I should give you your gold.’
And he gave Nasreddin the smallest basket in the world, with a single gold coin in it.
If you enjoyed the story and want to say thank you, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click the orange button that says Buy me a coffee! Then you’ll be able to send me $3 so that I can buy a coffee, but really, I’ll probably get a bubble tea. And I’ll think of you while I drink it! Thank you for listening, and until next week.