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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Literature  |  Folktales



The Maiden who was Promised to the Sun

Once upon a time there was a queen who had no children. She prayed to the sun and begged it to give her at least a daughter. She promised that when the child turned twelve, she would give it to the sun. Soon after this, the queen gave birth to a girl. One morning, as the maiden was on her way to school, the sun said to her, "Tell your mother to give me the thing she promised me." The maiden went home and told her mother what the sun had said. The mother replied, "Tell the sun that the thing I promised him is still too small." This the maiden told to the sun the next time she was on her way to school.

But one day, after the maiden's twelfth birthday, the sun abducted her and took her home with him. The mother waited and waited, and when the maiden did not return, she knew that the sun had taken her away in fulfilment of her promise. She had the whole house painted black, locked the door, and would not open it anymore. She sat inside all by herself weeping and lamenting.

In the house of the sun lived a Kulshedra. When the Kulshedra saw the maiden, it exclaimed, "She smells like a child of royalty!" But the sun replied, "She is my child, so don't you touch her." One day the sun sent the maiden into the garden to fetch a head of cabbage. Breaking off the head of cabbage, the girl thought to herself, "My mother's heart has been broken, just like this cabbage," and she began to cry. At the sight of her tears, the sun asked, "Why in heaven's name are you weeping? Is it because you miss your mother?" The maiden replied that she missed her terribly and the sun declared, "Well, if you really want to go home, you must summon an animal to take you." When the maiden began calling for an animal, the sun summoned the Kulshedra for her and asked, "If you were hungry, what would you eat?" "I'd eat her," said the Kulshedra. "And if you were thirsty, what would you drink?" "I'd drink her blood." The sun realized that the Kulshedra was not the right animal to take the maiden home and told her to summon a stag. "Will you take this maiden back home to her house?" asked the sun. "Yes, I will." "If you were hungry, what would you eat?" "I'd eat some fresh grass." "And if you were thirsty, what would you drink?" "I'd drink some cold water," replied the stag. "But if I take the maiden home, her mother must bring me three okas of fresh hay."

The stag then carried the maiden home on its antlers. On the way, the stag became hungry and said to the maiden, "Climb up into the tree over there. If anyone tells you to climb down, don't do it until I get back." The maiden did as she was told and climbed into the tree.

A Kulshedra happened by and, looking around, it spotted the maiden in the tree. "Come on down," it said, "so that we can talk." The maiden replied, "No, I won't come down, because I'm afraid you will to eat me." "I won't eat you," the Kulshedra assured her, but the maiden retorted, "You run home first and I'll climb down when you return." So the Kulshedra departed.

The stag returned and the maiden, who saw the Kulshedra coming back, cried out, "Come quickly! There's a Kulshedra on its way to devour me." The stag took the maiden on its antlers, galloped off and told everyone it met on the way, "If you see a Kulshedra, don't tell it which road we've taken. Tell it that the maiden and the stag have taken another road."

And so they arrived safe and sound at the mother's palace and knocked at her door. When no one opened the door, the maiden knocked again and cried out, "Mother, open the door. It's me, your daughter!" Upon this the mother opened the door and was overjoyed to see her daughter again.

When the friends of the queen's daughter heard that the maiden was back, they went to her mother and asked her to let the girl come out to play. They all went off to a garden with a big gate that would not open. The girls pressed with all their might against the door, but they could not open it. The queen's daughter tried too. She took a run and the moment she touched the door it opened and let her pass, but then it immediately closed again behind her. When the other girls saw that the door would not open again and that the queen's daughter was shut inside, they went back to the maiden's mother and told her sorrowfully what had happened. On hearing this, the queen began to weep and was not to be consoled.

Behind the door, the maiden discovered a garden full of people and animals that had been turned to marble. Among them was a marble king holding a scroll in his hand that said: "I will marry any girl who can spend three days, three nights and three weeks without sleep, for she will bring me back to life." So the maiden sat down with a book and began to read. Three days, three nights and three weeks passed.

One day a merchant happened by with maidservants for sale. The maiden went to the window and asked how much a servant cost. "As much as you wish to give me," replied the merchant. She scooped up a handful of gold coins and tossed them down to him. Then she lowered a rope for the servant to cling to, and heaved her up. She told the servant, "You musn't sleep for two or three nights so that I can have some rest. As you can see from the scroll the king is holding, I haven't slept for a long time. When the king comes back to life, you must wake me up." She explained to the servant what was written on the king's scroll, and then she lay down and went to sleep.

The servant, however, dressed in the maiden's clothes so that the king would marry her instead. When three weeks were up, the king came to life and asked the servant, "Who are you?" "I am the one who has spent three days, three nights and three weeks without sleep," she replied. And so he made her his wife. "Who is that maiden sleeping over there?" he asked her. "Oh, that is my servant. I brought her along because I was frightened." When the maiden woke up, the king asked his wife, "What shall we do with the servant?" On hearing this, the maiden replied, "Let me tend the geese." So the king made the maiden his goose girl and she built herself a hut in which to live in. The maiden sat in her hut weeping and recounting her tale of woe.

But the king happened to hear her and came to ask why she was weeping. She told him everything that had happened, and the king made her his wife and had the servant executed and chopped into a thousand pieces.


[Source: Manuel de la langue chkipe ou albanaise par Auguste Dozon, consul de France. Grammaire, vocabulaire, chrestomathie (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1879), reprinted in Folklor shqiptar 1, Proza popullore (Tirana 1963). Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]