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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Literature  |  Legends



Baba Tomor

Baba Tomor or Father Tomor is the personification of Mount Tomor, a mountain range which includes the highest peak in central Albania at an altitude of 2416 m. Mount Tomor is considered the home of the gods in central Albanian popular belief. The peasants of the region swear by Father Tomor, Alb. "për Baba Tomor," an oath considered stronger than any sworn on the Bible or the Koran. Mount Tomor is sacred both to the Christians, who used to climb it on August 15, Assumption Day, in honour of the Virgin Mary and to the Bektashi, who honour Abbas Ali during an annual pilgrimage on August 20-25. The legendary figure of Baba Tomor is envisaged as an old man with a long white beard flowing down to his belt. Around him hover four long-beaked female eagles, which perch on his snowy slopes. According to Maximilian Lambertz (1882-1963), he is the remnant of some ancient Illyrian god. Here is the essence of the legend:

Baba Tomor has taken the Earthly Beauty to be his bride. She spends her days with her sister, the Sea Beauty, but when evening comes, the wind, faithful servant of Baba Tomor, carries her back up the mountainside to him. Mount Tomor overlooks the town of Berat, which the old man jealously guards as his favourite city. Across the valley is Mount Shpirag with furrow-like torrents of water running down its slopes. While Baba Tomor was dallying in bed with the Earthly Beauty one day, Shpirag took advantage of the moment and advanced to take over Berat. The four guardian eagles duly awakened Baba Tomor from his dreams. When told of Shpirag's surreptitious plans, Baba Tomor arose from his bed. His first concern was for the safety of the Earthly Beauty and so he ordered the East Wind to carry her back to the home of her sister. Mounting his mule, Tomor then set off to do battle with Shpirag. With his scythe, Tomor lashed into Shpirag, inflicting upon him many a wound which can be seen today as the furrows running down the mountainside. A trace of the hoof of Baba Tomor's mule can, it is said, be seen near the village of Sinja. Shpirag, for his part, pounded Tomor with his cudgel and left many a wound on the lofty mountain, but was overcome. The two giants ultimately slew one another and the maiden drowned in her tears, which became the Osum river.


[from Maximilian Lambertz: Die Mythologie der Albaner. in: Wörterbuch der Mythologie (Stuttgart 1973), p. 504 505. Translated from the German by Robert Elsie.]