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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

Mujo’s Oras

The Slavic warrior Paji Harambashi sets out to do battle with Mujo. Searching for him in the mountains, he comes across three white oras who present themselves as Mujo’s protectors. In his fury, Paji mishandles the oras, who later go and ask Mujo to avenge the deed. Mujo sets off, refusing the request of his young brother Halili to accompany him. Halili is insulted and departs on his courser to see his blood brother in the Realm of the Christians. An ora appears and tells Halili how to overcome Paji. Using magic herbs, he gets into Paji’s mansion, where he captures the warrior’s father and the fair maid Januka. Paji returns home with Mujo and the thirty Agas as his prisoners. Halili lays in waiting and slays him. When he leaves the mansion, Halili sees his brother and the thirty Agas in chains, and triumphs in the knowledge that he has saved them. All return victoriously to Jutbina.


































































Blessed we are, thanks to the Almighty!
For nothing we were until God did create us.
The darkness of night had now bathed the beech forest,
Only the moonlight did shine through the beech trees,
Giving them colour with their golden shimmer,
Turning to silver the high mountain pastures,
Leaving the chasm walls veiled in darkness,
An awesome sight such it was to be witnessed.
Never by night may your road bring you hither.
For on such a night did Paji Harambashi
Seek to meet Mujo on the high mountain pastures,
To chop off his head in a duel at nighttime.
The shkja in his helmet and steel-plated armour,
Mounted the back of Curani, his courser,
And turning, set off for the high mountain meadows,
But nowhere upon them was he to find Mujo.
Anger and rage of the shkja took possession.
There in the moonlight at the edge of a fountain
Did he encounter the three snow-white oras.
In the light of the moon did they seem to be playing.
He then approached and inquired of the oras:
“Who are you creatures who revel and frolic?”
“We are the ones called the Blithe of the Nighttime.”
“May the Lord give to your frolic his blessing!
Oh oras, to whom do you render assistance?”
One then strolled near him and spoke to him, saying:
“The oras we are of the great earthly hero,
We give our aid to Gjeto Basho Mujo!”
Great was the rage that the shkja felt for Mujo!
Seizing the arm of one of the oras,
He clenched it and squeezed it and crushed it to pieces.
All of the oras at this were dumbfounded.
“What man is this who thus handles the oras?”
Enraged at the shkja, hissed the oras like vipers:
“To this very day we’ve not seen such a person!
We’d turn you to stone on the spot if we wished to,
But instead, to Jutbina we’ll now make our journey
And tell of our woes to dear Mujo, and ask him:
‘Are you, oh Mujo, prepared to avenge us?’”
On a beech tree reclining, weighed down by his armour,
In obvious pleasure the shkja then responded:
“You may have Mujo for you to do battle,
But from nowhere on earth will he ever escape me.”
The oras departed, set off down the mountain,
Another day dawned and the night had descended,
Nowhere did they stop on the course of their journey
Except at the fountains to drink of the water.
On the Plain of Jutbina did night overtake them,
In the midst of the plain did they spend the dark hours,
In the shade of a linden, in rays of the moonlight,
In the shafts of the moonlight they laid down to slumber,
Two of them slept, one kept guard by the water
Till morning approached with the first sign of sunlight.
Mujo was early to get up that morning,
He put on his boots and his belt and his buckle,
And then in the fireplace a fire did he kindle.
Placing his coffee pot over the flames and
Lighting his pipe with the help of a firebrand,
He turned to one side and he opened the window,
Casting his eyes to the plain down below him.
There in its midst he espied three white oras.
Two had now started a game and were playing,
The other one, sick, lay beside them observing.
Mujo was startled at what his eyes showed him,
Taking no time now to savour his coffee,
Leaving behind him his steed and his sabre,
Mujo then turned and set out through the doorway,
Crossing the length of the plain he proceeded,
Marching along till he came to the oras,
“To you I bid welcome,” he greeted the oras.
“Welcome and greetings we bid to you also,”
Responded to Mujo the two healthy oras.
But what did the sick one reply then to Mujo?
“Never could worse have befallen me, Mujo,
When last night on our pastures the shkja did approach us,
There did he find us and there did affront us,
And, having approached, he then of us inquired:
‘Oh oras, to whom do you render assistance?’
I alone ventured to give him an answer:
‘We only give aid to Gjeto Basho Mujo!’
Great was the rage he displayed for you, Mujo!
With the grasp of a brute, my arm he then grappled,
Unyielding, with what brutal force did he hold it,
And as he was clenching it, crushed it to pieces.
Confronting the shkja, spoke to him, saying:
‘We could turn you to stone on the spot if we wished to,
But for the moment we won’t try to touch you,
Instead, our complaint we’ll deliver to Mujo,’
Will you, oh Mujo, thus take up the challenge?
Will you, oh Mujo, now take for us vengeance?
Your honour has never been damaged so badly.”
Mujo did moan and in great lamentation
He turned to the oras and gave them his answer:
“Were I to let this deed pass without vengeance,
I’d forfeit my right to exist any longer!”
Mujo then turned and moved back to his mansion,
He saddled and mounted his steed, hence proclaiming:
“Abide with me now, will you, high mountain oras!”
“Hail to you, Mujo, and where are you off to?”
Sokol Halili inquired of him saying.
Mujo began to recount what had happened:
“Paji Harambashi has set out a-wandering,
Appearing at night on the high mountain pastures,
And, meeting the Blithe of the Night, he assailed them.
Themselves, the white oras, arrived to inform me.
My thirty great Agas I’m off to assemble,
To meet with the shkja on the high mountain meadows.
And there to take vengeance for all the white oras.”
How did Halili respond then to Mujo?
“Mujo, I too will set off with your çeta!”
Rallying his steed round, thus Mujo responded,
And this was the answer he gave to Halili:
“I don’t want to take you with me on the çeta,
If I sent you with goats, in the hills you would lose them.
You’d have no idea, if sent with the çeta,
What a band of brave fighters for you’d be implying.
Much gruesome fighting will likely take place there,
In pools full of blood will there be bodies floating,
In blood will the horses be drenched to their bellies.
The fighters will grapple and choke one another,
A man young as you are is bound to go crazy!”
With no further ado Mujo whirled and departed,
Leaving Halili embittered behind him.
With his hands on his hips, he mounted the staircase,
Back up in the shade of the mansion to linger.
There at the hearth he hunched down in a fury.
To him turned his mother and asked him a question:
“Why such a rage? What is wrong, my Halili?”
Halili then gave his reply to her, saying:
“Mujo has left with his çeta of fighters,
Refusing my quest to let me go with him,
Mujo offended me when he addressed me:
‘If I sent you with goats, in the hills you would lose them.
And with Paji Harambashi you want to do battle?’
Mujo’s thirty Agas, the ones he took with him,
I’m certain, oh mother, are weaker than I am.”
The mother then turned to her son and addressed him:
“Check your anger, my son, for I don’t want to lose you,
Your father, you know, has bequeathed you his courser,
And with it, his sharp-bladed sabre has left you.
But listen now first to the words of your mother,
You must not depart thus to ride after Mujo,
Mount rather your courser and take to the highway
That carries you off to the Realm of the Christians.
Once over the mountains, the Realm you will enter,
Release, when you get there, the reins of your courser,
For the courser itself will now know the direction,
Your father’s the one who had taught it the way there,
For your father selected for you a blood brother,
A rayah who lives in the Realm of the Christians,
Begu Ymer Beg is the name that they call him,
And this man will teach you to deal with the shkja men.”
His mother stood by and the steed did make ready.
Halili received and took hold of the sabre,
Halili climbed onto the back of the courser.
“A safe journey to you,” did wish him his mother.
With his steed at a gallop he spun and departed,
And took to the road of the Realm of the Christians.
Only at Zogaj in the Realm when arriving
Did he let slacken the speed of his courser,
Which led him straight forth to the house of this brother.
When the hero got near to his blood brother’s doorstep,
His host hurried out and took charge of the courser.
He led it away, ‘cross the length of the courtyard,
And down at the stable he tied up the courser.
He welcomed Halili into his stone mansion.
There did they speak and begin to palaver:
“Have you ever been here in this land, oh Halili?”
“Not to the Realm have I been since the cradle.”
Halili continued then to his blood brother:
“Great is the need that has brought me here, brother,
I have come hither, with you to take counsel,
Do not leave me alone, whatever should happen,
For I am resolved to slay Paji Harambashi.
You must please tell me where he has his kullas,
That I, not delaying, can burn and destroy them!”
Swearing by God, did the blood brother answer:
“I cannot go with you, oh brother Halili,
For nine years ago did Paji take me prisoner,
And only three years ago did he release me!
If ever were Paji to find out about me,
He would never release me again from his prison!”
Halili was hurt and irate at this answer,
A solemn oath did he take by God, swearing:
“I can permit you no other salvation,
For either you promise that you will come with me,
Or we must do battle and fight on the war grounds!”
What fear and what anguish then seized the blood brother!
Because of the shkja he could not depart with him,
But nor could he set out to duel with Halili.
“We may never, Halili, do battle as brothers,
And so you’re compelling me now to go with you,
But may you well know, if the shkja ever takes us,
We will not survive it or see again sunlight!”
“Do not be afraid,” did Halili then answer.
They flew to their feet and they mounted their coursers
And, taking their leave, cantered off down the highway.
In front of Halili appeared then an ora,
And when she approached him, she turned to him, saying:
“Take on your journey these herbs that I give you
And, on your route, you must do as I tell you.
When you arrive at the shkja’s stone-clad mansion,
Towers of nine hues and colours he has there,
The shkja, you will find, has set off to go raiding,
Leaving the mansion alone to his father,
A man they call Trashi, the son of Marjani,
A most aged man, living long years, nine hundred!
Take there these herbs and leave them at the doorway.
Before you know it, the door will fly open.
Then you advance and proceed through the doorway,
But you must take care to let no one else enter!
Once inside the room, lock the door well behind you,
And take up position yourself by the doorway.
When Paji Harambashi thereafter comes homewards,
He will approach and cry out to his father:
‘Rise to your feet, come and open the door now!’
But no one will venture to give him an answer.
Then will the shkja break into a great fury,
He’ll take off his helmet and steel-plated armour,
With a blow from his foot he will kick in the doorway.
In one thousand pieces the door will be shattered,
And then at that moment he’ll come forth and enter.
You must be seated and armed with your cudgel,
Besetting the shkja just as soon as you’re able,
You must deal death to him without hesitation!”
The lad went his way when the ora had vanished.
Before the shkja’s mansion he soon reached the doorway.
And there did deposit the herbs at the entrance.
All of a sudden the doorway flung open.
The father, nine hundred years old, he discovered,
“How do you do?” he then greeted the old man.
Amazed at his presence, the old man inquired:
“How did you manage to get yourselves in here?
You must not remain with me here in the mansion,
For if ever my son should discover you with me,
Finely chopped mincemeat he’ll then fashion of you.”
Hear what Halili then said to the old man:
“Stand up, old man, now and open the chambers.”
Swearing by God now, the old man responded:
“I have for myself not the slightest intention
Of opening up for you all of the chambers!”
Halili, then taking off one of his sandals,
Hit the elder man’s head and gave him a thrashing,
“Open the chambers now quickly, I tell you!”
How nimbly the old man then rose to obey him.
And started to open up all of the chambers.
There they encountered three tools used for minting,
Used for the stamping of much golden coinage.
“Now, old man, open the last of the chambers!”
“Oh, God forbid you should ever go in there!
I cannot unlock this one chamber door for you,
For in it’s residing the fair maid Januka
Whom, when she was three, my son had abducted.
Never, ever has she been outside of her chamber,
Nor all of this time has a man ever seen her!”
Halili again beat the man with his sandal:
“Either you straightaway get that door open
Or the light in your eyes will grow dim and grow sombre!”
Sorely pressed now, the old man acceded.
The moment Halili walked into the chamber,
Possession he took of the fair maid Januka,
Possession he took of the three tools for minting,
And placed them all onto the back of the old man.
“Keep ahead of me now,” did he say to the old man,
And moving them, did he withdraw from the mansion,
The maiden wept tears and the old man lamented,
Far into the heart of a beech grove he took them,
Leaving them there in a cave in the forest.
Thereupon turning, Halili departed,
Leaving Januka there with his blood brother.
Taking the nine-hundred-year-old man with him,
Halili set off and returned to the mansion.
Ranting and raving, the old man protested,
Up to the parapet dragged him Halili,
A slight, gentle push did he give to the old man,
Who plunged down the wall and crashed onto the pavement.
Halili descended and blocked up the doorway.
Behind the doorway he waited in ambush.
When Paji Harambashi arrived at his home there,
With Mujo and all thirty Agas his prisoners,
All covered and loaded in chains, like the horses,
He called in a loud voice, addressing his father:
“Open up at once, Trashi, son of Marjani!”
But no one from inside would give him an answer.
“Come and open the door, oh you fair maid Januka,
Or I’ll take off my helmet and steel-plated armour,
In one thousand pieces I vow I will chop you!”
But no one from inside would give him an answer.
He took off his helmet and steel-plated armour,
He then gave a powerful kick to the doorway,
Hurling it, broken in two, through the chamber.
Inside, there lay Sokol Halili awaiting.
Upon the shkja he came down with his cudgel,
Smashing him lifeless onto the bare floorboards.
Halili then left, walking out of the mansion.
Taking a glance at the Agas thus loaded,
Halili by God took an vow then, proclaiming:
“Never again will I go out a-duelling,
I think driving wagons for work would be better,
For who else could ever possess such fine palfreys?”
He turned to the Agas and then he released them,
But took no great notice of Mujo, his brother.
He turned to the road now to make his departure
For the fair maid Januka and for his blood brother.
Mujo then fell at the feet of his brother,
Begging:”Halili, come back and release me.”
Shaking his head, turned back Sokol Halili
And offered this answer, so knavish, to Mujo:
“May God never leave you bereft of your brother!”
And then only from his chains did he release him.
Thus for Jutbina they made their departure,
Crossing back as they did o’er the high mountain pastures.
There the white oras descended to greet them,
The most aged ora did shake their hands kindly:
“Listen to me now, Mujo and Halili,
Brothers you are and will be so forever.
May neither alone ever set out for battle.
Forlorn will the one be, bereft of a brother.”
When in the end they arrived in Jutbina,
For three long weeks did they feast at the wedding.
So we are told, for we could not be present,
So we are told, for much time has gone by now.
And so may the grace of our God be upon us.

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Lulash Zefi of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 11-19; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 60-67. 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).]