Tree stories: The Olive Trees and the Driftwood

It is an interesting anecdote from ancient times when storytelling was considered an important element of everyday life. It was considered a source of inspiration for the general public gatherings of that bygone era.

The story I am intended to share today is from the life of Mullah Nasruddin Hodja who was a contemporary scholar and wise man of his time.

Olive trees on the hill

The Olive Trees and the driftwood

This is a short story of a farmer who asked a very decent question from Nasruddin whether or not his olive trees would bear fruits in the coming season.

Oh Hodja! Would my olives 🫒 bear this year?

“They will bear,” said the wise old Mullah.

“How do you know?”

“I just know, that is all.”

Upon saying that, he went away


Sometimes later, it’s so happened that the same farmer saw Nasrudin scurrying his donkey along a seashore, looking for driftwood.

(Driftwood is a kind of wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach, lake, or river by the action of winds, tides or waves)

“There is no wood here, Mullah, I have looked,” he shouted.

Some hours later, the same man saw Nasrudin treading his way home, tired out, still without fuel.

On seeing this, the farmer addressed him mockingly.

“You are a man of knowledge, who can tell whether an olive tree will bear or not. Why can’t you tell whether there is wood on a seashore or not?”

Upon this, Nasruddin wisely replied.

“I know what must be,” confessed Nasrudin, “but I do not know what may be.”

Final thoughts:

The term driftwood is used for a person who has difficulty making decisions quickly and firmly. The one who hesitates to take decisions on time. On the other hand, olive tree stands firm and grounded. It symbolize the eternal link between man and the earth.

Driftwood on a beach on a misty day

The driftwood also symbolizes the eternal connection of man with the ocean.

This is the contrast difference between an alive tree versus a dead traveling tree that is just going on with the flow. Finding driftwood depends on many factors as they mostly rely on winds and storms to be swept away on the beaches and shores.

Olive trees mean longevity because they are renowned for living for thousands of years.

On the other hand, driftwood reminds us that they are just woody remnants of dead trees that wind up progressing through rivers, lakes, or oceans.

The phrase I know what must signify a classic example of whatever is meant or predestined to happen will happen as indicated by bearing olives.

But I do not what may indicate uncertainty when you are not sure about something that may happen in the future as in the case of not discovering driftwoods along a seashore on that hot summer day.


Nasreddin Hodja is considered a philosopher, Sufi, and wise old man. He is remembered throughout the Middle East for his witty stories and anecdotes. Usually, there is the joke, followed by a moral message which brings the consciousness on the road to realization.


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