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Story 1: Mullah Nasruddin Feeds His Coat

Adapted from a Middle Eastern Islamic folk tale which is attributed to different countries, including Turkey and Syria.

Mullah Nasruddin had been working in the fields all day long. He was tired and sweaty and his clothes and shoes were covered with mud and stains. Because he had been fasting all day long, for Ramadan, he was also quite hungry. But finally, it was almost sundown and Nasruddin knew that he would soon be able to eat.

The wealthiest man in town had invited everyone to come break their fasts in his home that evening with a huge feast. Nasruddin knew that he would be late if he went home to change his clothes before heading into town. He decided it was better to arrive in dirty clothes than to be late. Oh, what a party it would be! What a feast! As he walked to the wealthy man's home, Nasruddin imagined the delicious foods that he would soon be eating: dates, lentils and chickpeas, olives and bread, hummus, falafel, chicken and beef — and best of all — the desserts — halvah, date rolls, figs and baklava!

When Nasruddin arrived, the wealthy man opened the door and looked Nasruddin up and down scornfully, from his worn, ragged clothes down to his muddy shoes. Without a word of welcome, he gestured for Nasruddin to come in and walked abruptly away.

(Leader — Say, "I wonder what the wealthy man was thinking or feeling," and briefly take a few answers. Return to the story by saying, "Let's hear what happens next.")

Nasruddin joined the throngs of people, who were all dressed in their finest clothing. The tables were laden with all sorts of delicious foods: dates, lentils and chickpeas, olives and bread, hummus, falafel, chicken and beef — and best of all — the desserts — halvah, date rolls, figs and baklava!

Despite his efforts to hurry, the seats were all taken and nobody tried to move over or make a space for Nasruddin. In fact, nobody offered him food. He had to reach over and around people to get any food for his plate. Nobody spoke to him. It was as if he wasn't even there.

(Leader — Pause and say, "I wonder how Nasruddin was feeling about this." Briefly take a few answers.)

The other guests ignored him so completely that Nasruddin could not enjoy the food on his plate, no matter how finely prepared and how tasty it was. In fact, after only a few bites, Nasruddin was so uncomfortable that he decided to leave.

He hurried home and changed into his finest clothing, including a beautiful coat.
(Leader — Take off worn, ragged clothing and put on the coat or shawl.)

Nasruddin returned to the feast and this time the host welcomed him with a huge smile. "Come in, come in," greeted the host. As Nasruddin entered, people waved and called to him from all corners of the room as they invited him to sit near them and offered him food.

(Leader — Ask, "I wonder what the host and the other guests were thinking now?" and accept a few answers. Then ask, "I wonder what Nasruddin was feeling," for brief responses before you continue.)

Nasruddin sat down quietly. Picking up a plump fig, he carefully placed it into a coat pocket, saying, "Eat, coat, eat." (Leader — If you have brought fake food, act this out.) Next he took a handful of nuts and put them into the pocket, saying, "Eat, coat, eat." Now he began to feed his coat in earnest, grabbing all sorts of foods. (Leader — Pause here and invite the children to try to name some foods Nasruddin might have fed to his coat. Use their suggestions: "Nasruddin put ___ in his pocket, saying, 'Eat, coat, eat!')

He fed the coat lentils and chickpeas, olives and bread, hummus, falafel, chicken and beef — and best of all — the desserts — halvah, date rolls, figs and baklava!

Nasruddin became silent as they watched this strange behavior. Soon everyone in the room was staring at Nasruddin, wondering what he was doing. The host hurried over. "Nasruddin, whatever are you doing? Why are you feeding your coat in this manner?"

"Well," replied Nasruddin, "when I first came to this feast in my old farming clothes, I was not welcome. No one would speak with me. But when I changed into this coat, suddenly I was greeted warmly. So I realized it was not me that was welcome at this party, but my clothing. And so I am feeding my coat."

(Leader — Use the sound instrument to signify that the story has ended. Briefly ask children how they think the host and the other guests might have been feeling when Nasruddin told them why he was feeding his coat. After they have offered a few answers, ask them whether they think it was fair or kind when the people wouldn’t talk to Nasruddin.)

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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