The Hodja and the Poisoned Baklava

Once, when the Hodja was standing in for the village schoolmaster, he was sent a large box of baklava by the parents of one of his students. His mouth watered at the thought of eating them, but he put them away in the drawer of his desk. Shortly afterwards he was called out on urgent business.

He set his students a lot of work to do.

"And I shall expect you to get everything right," he said, "or there will be trouble." He glared at them. "Big trouble."

"One thing more," he said as he made for the door. "I have enemies. Many enemies. I keep being sent poisoned meats and poisoned sweets. Even," he added fiercely, "poisoned baklava. I have to test everything before I eat it. So be warned. If you hope for a long life, don't touch anything that has been sent to me. Especially baklava."

As soon as he was gone, his nephew, who was one of his students, went to the desk and took out the baklava.

"Don't!" his friends shouted. "They may be poisoned!"

The boy grinned at them.

Of course they aren't," he said. "He just wants to keep them for himself." And he started in on the baklava. "They really are very good," he said. He ate another one.

When his friends saw that he didn't fall to the floor in a writhing heap, they gathered round the Hodja's desk and shared out the baklava.

"But what will we tell him when he finds they've all gone?" one of them said, wiping the crumbs from his mouth.

The Hodja's nephew just smiled.

When the Hodja returned, he went straight to his desk and looked in his drawer. He glared at his students.

"Someone," he said, "someone has been at my desk."

There was silence.

"Someone has been in my drawer."


"And someone has eaten the baklava."

"I have," said his nephew.

" You have! After what I told you?"


"Perhaps you have some explanation. If so I would like to hear it before you die."

"Well," said his nephew, "the work you set was far too hard for me. I couldn't do any of it. Everything I've done is wrong. I knew you would be very angry and my parents would be very disappointed. I felt so ashamed I decided that the only thing to do was put an end to my life. So I ate your poisoned baklava. It was the only way I could think of on the spur of the moment. But the funny thing is, nothing's happened yet. I wonder why that is."

The Hodja examined his nephew's innocent expression minutely.

"Perhaps," he said, "it's just a punishment postponed. In which case I ought to have a look at work you have done."