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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 Marriage of Gjeto Basho Mujo

Mujo sends wedding attendants to the Realm of the Christians to pick up his bride, warning them not to stop and make merry on the high mountain pastures, these being the home of the zanas. On their return journey, the attendants do stop and make merry, and are turned to stone by the zanas, who kidnap and enslave the bride. Mujo manages to find the bride at a fountain and tells her to ask the zanas about the source of their power. The zanas reveal to the bride that their power lies in three wild he-goats in the Green Valleys. Mujo and his hunters capture the animals. When the zanas arrive in Jutbina to beg for the return of their goats, they not only give back the wedding attendants, but also promise to serve Mujo in the future whenever he should be in need.











































































Blessed we are, thanks to the Almighty!
For nothing we were until God did create us.
Daylight arrived and the sun began shining.
What was Gjeto Basho Mujo now doing?
Mujo had been to the Realm of the Christians
And there for himself a bride he’d selected,
It was the king’s daughter whom Mujo had chosen.
When Mujo thereafter returned to Jutbina,
Three hundred wedding attendants he gathered,
With swords all glowing and with gilded garments,
With arrows and lances, in gold they were glinting,
Dapple-grey gleaming were all of their horses,
The attendants themselves were all youthful Agas,
With one exception, the old man who led them,
Called by the name of Dizdar Osman Aga.
“Hear what I say now, oh wedding attendants,”
Mujo arose and did speak to them, saying:
“When you get up to the high mountain pastures,
There you will find three broad shady meadows,
You must take care on them not to make merry,
You must take care not to strike up a carol,
You must take care not to lie down upon them,
For this is the home of the three fearsome zanas
Who surely have come to repose in the shade there,
To lie at their leisure amongst the cool breezes.
Well and alive they will let no one pass them!”
The light of the sun did come out the next morning,
The wedding attendants did saddle their stallions,
And getting up onto them, struck up a carol,
And they did make merry, while riding their horses,
There on their journey did sing and did revel,
Taking the road to the Realm of the Christians.
And when they got up to the high mountain pastures,
There they fell silent and held back their singing,
Gripped the reins firmly and guided their horses,
Nowhere did they stop but continued their journey,
None of them ventured to drink the spring water,
Nor did they rest in the shade of the meadows.
On to their host did they hasten their journey.
How warmly and heartily did the king greet them,
Food and drink did he bring forth so to feed them.
They struck up a carol and revelled till midnight.
When, once again, as the dawn came upon them,
They put on their boots and they put on their buckles,
The bride with them now, they set off on their journey,
Departing once more on the road to Jutbina.
Nowhere on their way did they silence their singing,
Nowhere on their way did they pause in their prancing,
Until they got up to the broad shady meadows,
There the old man to them spoke out, addressing:
“Hear what I say now, oh wedding attendants.
For many a bride have I been an attendant,
And with all the brides have we always come hither
And taken our rest on these broad shady meadows,
The steeds every time we have put out to pasture,
And here in the shade have we struck up a carol,
And in these cool springs have we sought our refreshment,
Not once has a man of ours suffered misfortune!”
Then they altogether dismounted their horses,
No longer sallying forth on their journey.
There did they stretch themselves out on the meadows,
There they made ready and struck up a carol,
There they began to make merry and revel,
There did they churn up and muddy the waters,
And all of their lances did launch at the targets.
Blessed we are, thanks to the Almighty!
While round about them the mountain peaks thundered,
The wind now did wail, through the beech trees it whistled,
And all of a sudden, in less than a second
Appeared there before them the three fearsome zanas,
Showing their teeth, they were snapping and snarling,
And out of their mouths there spewed fire and brimstone.
Then catching sight of the scene on the meadows,
At once did they turn to stone all of the revellers,
And all of their horses were turned into tree trunks,
All were transformed, just the bride was uninjured.
Grasping her arm did the zanas abduct her,
And seizing her, off to their cavern did steal her.
Nevermore was she able to sit or to rest there,
She cooked all their meals and fetched them their water.
Then of her plight heard Gjeto Basho Mujo,
Great was the fury that took hold of Mujo,
Onto the back of his courser jumped Mujo
And set off at once for the high mountain pastures.
When he arrived and was up on the meadows,
Thirty men frozen were what he discovered,
Turned there to stone were all thirty Agas
And all of the steeds had been turned into tree trunks.
What pain and affliction now overcame Mujo!
Wasting no time, he then turned and departed,
Giving his courser no rest on the journey.
All by himself on the high mountain pastures,
Up at the springs did he search for the zanas,
Seeking and searching all over the meadows,
But nowhere was Mujo there able to find them.
Finally he looked in a forest of beech trees,
Where darkness holds sway and the light never enters,
Where no beam of sunlight is ever encountered,
There he discovered a fountain of water,
Sparkling and clear it was just like a teardrop,
Stopping there so he could find some refreshment,
Mujo jumped off of the back of his courser,
Casting his eyes at the grove all around him,
Nowhere was there a pathway to advance on,
Over the forest rose only the bare cliffs,
Below it were strewn naught but boulders and rubble,
So thick were the beech trees with all of their branches,
That no ray of sunlight had ever intruded.
Mujo then turned and did speak out, proclaiming:
“This surely must be the home of the zanas.”
Putting his steed in the grove out to pasture,
He sat himself down by the fountain and tarried,
Waiting to see when the zanas fetched water.
Later, when three days had passed and were over,
There journeyed a woman, a jug she did carry.
Mujo then pondered: Why, who is this woman,
And what is she doing in this lonely place here?
“Good day to you,” did she then say to Mujo,
“Good day to you, too,” did Mujo give answer.
“What are you doing with the water?”
Inquired Mujo of the maiden.
“I don’t know how to tell you, young man.
The wedding attendants came to fetch me,
And at a pleasant site we rested,
When there appeared three fearsome zanas.
For we’d been sitting at their tables,
Or from their sleep the Agas woke them.
God knows what happened. I know only
The mountain peaks began to thunder,
The wind howled through the beechwood forest,
And three fearsome zanas stood before us.
In the shade they breathed upon the Agas,
And made the horses into tree trunks,
All were turned to stone abruptly.
Seizing me, they took me with them
To make their meals and fetch their water!”
“To whom, oh maiden, were you promised?
What’s the name they use to call him?”
“I left my father, I left my mother,
I left my sisters, I left my brothers
To take as husband a great hero,
His name is Gjeto Basho Mujo!”
Straight-faced, Mujo then responded:
“If you saw him, would you know him?”
The maid replied again to Mujo:
“Wretched me, I would not know him,
For with my eyes I’ve never seen him,
From what I’ve heard, though, of the gossip,
You look like Gjeto Basho Mujo!”
How loudly Mujo burst out laughing:
“It’s me, oh bride, who’s here before you,
How easily you recognized me.
But, if you are a noble woman,
You’ll listen now to what I tell you.”
“By God, o’er sun and moon presiding,
I swear by the Lord of earth and heaven,
By him who brings us clouds and sunshine,
I will obey your words, oh Mujo,
Though well I know they’d chop my head off!”
Mujo then began instructing:
“When you go back home this evening,
Approach, inquire of the zanas:
‘By the meadows where you linger,
Where is it you get your power?’”
“Of their power will they tell me?”
Said the bride to Mujo, asking.
Mujo turned to her, responding:
“Do exactly as I’ve told you.
Behind the peaks the sun is setting,
The moon is shining through the beech trees,
In the moonlight will the zanas
Gather by the spring for dinner.
At the table they’ll assemble,
But you must refrain from dinner.
The zanas will take pity on you.
Without you how could they eat dinner?
Use your wiles now and address them
And of their power they will tell you!
‘By this meal,’ you tell the zanas,
‘By the peaks where you spend summer,
By the meadows where you linger,
By the fountains in your languor,
So much time I’ve spent now with you,
Won’t you tell me of your power?’
If you survive, if they don’t freeze you,
By your oaths, they’re bound to answer.
You’ll find me at the spring tomorrow.”
The bride returned home through the forest,
Mujo left for the Green Valleys,
The maiden went back to the zanas,
“Where’ve you been so long?” they asked her.
“The waters at the spring were muddled,”
Murmured the maiden to the zanas.
They set the table, started eating,
The drinks were brought, they set to drinking.
She sliced them bread and brought them water,
But the bride refused to join them.
The little zana asked: “Oh sister,
Why are you not supping with us?
Are you ill and thus not hungry?”
“I shan’t join you, little zana,
Nor will I share dinner with you
Unless you tell me of your power.
For an oath I now swear to you,
Though I’m a slave and you’re the zanas,
And you can freeze me if you wish to:
By the peaks where you spend summer,
By the meadows where you linger,
By the fountains in your languor,
Tell me where you get your power.”
Springing to their feet, the zanas
Pointed to the bride to freeze her.
Swiftly rose the little zana
And between them did she venture:
“May God damn you, oh great zana,
Let us rather tell the maiden.
How could she do any damage?
Listen to me, human maiden,”
To the bride she turned, revealing:
“We rule over three wild he-goats,
On their heads are horns of ducats,
They inhabit the Green Valleys.
No one’s ever caught the he-goats,
If they were to, would the power
We dispose of swiftly vanish!”
Down to dinner sat the maiden.
Sunlight did disperse the darkness,
The maiden set off for the fountain,
At the fountain she found Mujo.
Mujo gave a hearty chuckle:
“I see that you survived unfrozen.”
“I survived, but all for nothing,
‘Twas in vain you sent me to them,
From our dispute you’ve no profit,
They thus stated: ‘We’ve three he-goats,
On their heads are horns of ducats,
They inhabit the Green Valleys,
No one’s ever caught the he-goats.
If they were to, would the powers
We dispose of swiftly vanish!’”
Mujo turned to her, responding:
“You must go back to the zanas,
And pretend that nothing’s happened.
Safe and sound will Mujo take you
Home with all the frozen Agas!”       
Up onto his steed he clambered,
Turning, set off for Jutbina,
Coming to Jutbina market,
He proclaimed to the krahina:
“All men here who count as hunters,
Take your hounds and get them ready,
Hasten to my house this evening,
Food and drink I’ll furnish for you
And tomorrow we’ll go hunting.”
Three hundred hunters soon assembled,
With seven hundred hounds and further,
Three hundred hunting dogs were with them,
They all arrived at Mujo’s doorway.
Mujo welcomed them and fed them.
When the light of dawn rejoined them,
Mujo turned to them, proclaiming:
“Listen to my words, oh hunters,
We must take alive the he-goats.
There must be no mistake about it,
For if they’re hunted down and slaughtered,
Will no one ever see Jutbina!”
With Mujo leading, they departed,
Journeyed up to the Green Valleys,
Round the valleys did they circle.
So Mujo was the first to enter
Three hundred hunting dogs were with him
As were the hounds, as were the hunters,
The other men arrayed in ambush.
Three full days and nights they hunted.
And when three days and nights were over,
The animals alive they’d captured.
Returning with them to Jutbina,
In a pen did Mujo keep them,
And he gave the hunters presents.
Thus vanished was the zanas’ power,
They’d sought the goats but could not find them,
To the valleys they lamented,
To rocky cliffs loudly they cried out,
But nowhere could they hear their bleating.
Thereupon surmised a zana:
“Someone’s robbed us of our he-goats!”
“Listen to me, mountain zana,”
Spoke the maid to the great zana:
“Mujo sends his greetings, saying:
For the bride you’ve stolen from me,
For the wedding guests you’ve frozen,
Search no more for your wild he-goats,
Mujo’s holding them as hostage!”
When the zanas heard this message,
They departed for Jutbina,
Right to Mujo’s door they journeyed.
“Have you taken our goats, Mujo?”
“I’m indeed the one who took them,
And in my pen have I confined them!”
The mountain zana now addressed him:
“We give up, Gjeto Basho Mujo,
Either in your home now slay us,
Or return to us the he-goats,
For we cannot live without them.
We’ll unfreeze all the attendants,
We’ll remit to you the horses,
Your bride we’ll send to you by carriage.”
Mujo cut them short, responding:
“The attendants that you mention
Do not really matter to me,
Nor do I long for the maiden,
In no time I’ll find another,
But the goats I cannot give you
For such beasts I’ve never captured!”
At this they set about lamenting,
Gnashed their teeth and started weeping,
The very trees and rocks took pity.
But Mujo did remain undaunted.
To them turned the little zana
And with the hair upon her forehead
Wiped her tears and then touched Mujo.
A solemn oath she made him, swearing:
“Whenever you should go bride-hunting,
Whenever you should fight a baloz,
When you set off with your fighters,
When you revel on our pastures,
When you wish to sing a song there,
When you shoot there at a target,
And use our springs for your refreshment,
Reposing in our shady meadows,
A solemn pledge do we now give you,
We’ll say nothing to oppose you.”
Such a promise melted Mujo.
Wasting no more time to ponder,
Mujo gave them formal answer:
“You are zanas, you’ll be zanas,
Words are words and pledges, pledges.
I’ll return you your wild he-goats.
Pluck them from the pen, Halili,”
Ordered Mujo of the youngster.
How the zanas changed expression
When they saw him free their he-goats!
In a twinkling they had vanished
Back up to the mountain pastures,
Finding there in the Green Valleys
All the petrified attendants,
And the horses turned to tree trunks.
Then they turned back the attendants,
Brought to life again the horses.
The maiden they put in a carriage,
And returned her to Jutbina.
When they reached the Plain, Jutbina,
All the maidens started singing,
The attendants started dancing,
All the mountain peaks resounded.
From cliff to cliff proclaimed the zanas:
“We are zanas, we’ll be zanas,
Words are words and pledges, pledges,
We’ve brought back your bride and Agas.”
From one cliff sang the great zana,
Little zana from another,
Hand in hand proclaimed the zanas:
“We are zanas, we’ll be zanas,
Words are words and pledges, pledges,
A woman’s a woman and a zana’s a zana,
A zana’s the sun and a woman’s the moon.
Woe to the one who puts faith in a woman!”

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Mëhill Prêka of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Hylli i Dritës, Shkodra, 1924, p. 414 sq.; Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 1-10, and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 51-59. 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).]