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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse


  Webdesign J. Groß

Songs of the Frontier Warriors

INTRODUCTION  8. Mujo’s Courser 16. Mujo and Jevrenija
 1. Mujo’s Strength  9. Young Omeri 17. Halili Avenges Mujo
 2. Marriage of Mujo 10. Zuku Bajraktar 18. Omer, Son of Mujo
 3. Mujo’s Oras 11. Osmani and Radoica 19. Death of Omer
 4. Mujo Visits the Sultan 12. Ali Bajraktari 20. Ajkuna Mourns Omer
 5. Marriage of Halili 13. Arnaut Osmani 21. Death of Halili
 6. Gjergj Elez Alia 14. Zuku Captures Rusha 22. Mujo Wounded
 7. Mujo and Behuri 15. Mujo’s Wife Kidnapped 23. After Mujo’s Death

The Source of Mujo’s Strength

Young Mujo is sent to work as a cowherd in the high mountain pastures. There in the night, he comes across two infants in cradles. He rocks the cradles to comfort the children. Two zanas appear before him and grant him a wish for having cared for the infants. Mujo wishes for strength to overcome the other cowherds who tease him. The zanas give Mujo milk from their breasts until he is strong enough to raise a heavy boulder to his shoulders. Mujo then returns home to teach the other cowherds a lesson.
























Blessed we are, thanks to the Almighty!
For nothing we were until God did create us.
When Mujo was little, when he was a youngster,
His father dispatched him to work for a rich man.
The rich man did give him a job as a cowherd.
Day after day Mujo roamed the high pastures,
Day after day he would drink at the fountains,
Day after day in the shade took his leisure,
Not a trail or a pathway did he leave untrodden
To lead his herd onwards to new mountain meadows.
But one night the cowherd lost sight of his cattle.
As he was unable to go home without them,
At the foot of a cliff he was forced to take refuge.
Here the young lad fell asleep for the nighttime.
Not far from the lad there were two cradles lying,
From both of the cradles emitted a whining.
Mujo approached to see what was inside them,
Mujo approached now to comfort the infants,
To comfort the infants by rocking their cradles
And lulling the little ones back into slumber.
Shining like lights stood before him two zanas.
“What are you doing?” they said, asking Mujo,
“Whatever compelled you to take this direction?”
Mujo then turned and to them gave his answer:
“I make my living up here as a cowherd,
Roaming for days on the high mountain pastures,
But this very day there occurred a misfortune,
My cattle have vanished and I cannot find them.
When darkness descended, I lay down to sleep here
But my eyes never closed because of the whining,
It was the whining I heard of two infants,
No peace of mind did their whimpering leave me,
Touched as I was, I got up to console them,
And giving them comfort, I got them to sleep.
But who are you beings in all of your splendour?”
“We are the zanas, Mujo, on our journey,
Giving to mankind our help and assistance.
And what favour do you ask of us, oh Mujo,
For rocking our infants to sleep in their cradles?
Do you want strength, Mujo, to put up resistance?
Do you want might, Mujo, to fight in pitched battle?
Or do you, Mujo, desire goods and possessions?
Or do you want wisdom, to speak foreign tongues?
Tell us your wish and to you we will grant it.”
Listen how Mujo then turned and responded:
“The shepherds on many occasions have teased me,
For me they have only shown ire and derision,
Just give me strength so that I can outdo them.”
The zanas took counsel at this and decided:
“Some milk from our breasts will we give unto Mujo.”
And milk of their breasts they did give him to drink of,
Three drops were sufficient to nourish the young lad.
Such was the strength that the Lord did accord him
That he had the force to make lofty cliffs tremble.
“Take hold of that boulder,” commanded the zanas,
A boulder that weighed more than one thousand okas.
Taking hold of the boulder of one thousand okas,
With his hands did he seize it and lift it a little,
Up to his ankles, no more could he raise it.
The zanas took counsel at this and decided:
“More of our milk we will offer to Mujo.”
Mujo was given more milk and did drink it,
Again with his arms did he tackle the boulder,
And up to his knees this time managed to raise it,
And then to the ground for a rest let it plummet.
Listen how nobly the zanas then offered:
“Let us again give our breasts unto Mujo.”
Again from their breasts did they give milk to Mujo.
Such was the strength that the Lord did accord him
That the boulder once more with his arms he did grapple
And up to his waist did he manage to raise it.
The zanas were studying him and observing,
Again they took counsel at this and decided:
“Once more must we offer our breasts unto Mujo.”
Mujo was offered their breasts and took milk there.
And such was the strength that the Lord gave him this time
That he seemed to acquire the strength of a dragua.
Mujo again with his arms seized the boulder,
And up to his shoulders did manage to raise it,
Holding suspended the one thousand okas.
And what did the zanas then say to each other?
“No more shall we give of our breasts unto Mujo.
For if we once more should accord them to Mujo
He’d likely take hold of the planet and squash it.”
The zanas began to converse then with Mujo,
Speaking to him in their voices so gentle,
While over their heads shone the moon who observed them,
And shadows were lengthening under the rock cliffs.
In cordial tones did the zanas address him,
Hear what the zanas did say unto Mujo:
“We wish you, oh Mujo, to be our blood brother,
Speak up now, oh Mujo, and give us your answer.”
“Whenever I need you, oh zanas, assist me!”
The Lord brought about the return of the daylight,
And Mujo awakened from out of his slumber,
And, finding his cattle, he drove the beasts homewards.
When Mujo got back to the Plain of Jutbina,
He noticed the shepherds had gathered together,
Preparing as always, as they were accustomed,
To make sport of Mujo by using their muscles.
Listen this time to how Mujo reacted.
Himself he began to make sport of the shepherds,
The mightiest one by the hand did he tackle
And into the air five good lengths did he hurl him.
None of them ventured to utter a protest,
For had he but touched them with his little finger,
They’d have been smashed to the ground and have perished.
Mujo abandoned the charge of his master
And, leaving his master, he turned and departed.
To his home he then travelled to visit his mother.
There, so they say, did Mujo start working,
There, so they say, did Mujo start fighting,
And from every battle that Mujo was part of,
He always emerged as a hero victorious.

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Mëhill Prêka of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 63-66; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 104-106. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck, and first published in English in Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Këngë Kreshnikësh): Albanian Epic Verse in a Bilingual English-Albanian Edition (Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2004).]