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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 Visits the Sultan

Mujo and Halili receive a letter from the Sultan, summoning them to the court in Istanbul. They fear they are to be executed, but their mother persuades them to obey. When Mujo arrives in Istanbul, the staircase and the doorway of the palace are too small for him and must be rebuilt to let him pass through. Mujo has an audience with the Sultan, who is simply curious to meet the hero in person. When Mujo takes his leave, a hook on his trousers snags on the imperial throne and he drags the Sultan himself across the hall to the doorway.



















Such brave young men were Mujo and Halili,
So rough-and-tumble, so brave and so young!
Never did they leave a highway unambushed,
Nor did they shrink from a baloz in duel,
Nor did they leave maids in peace to get married,
Nor did they give other lads time to grow up.
Complaints by the rayah were lodged in Istanbul,
Who, prostrate in front of the Sultan protested:
“You are the Sultan, of the whole world the father,
Your reign you’ve extended in every direction,
We beg you, reign over Mujo and Halili,
Or they will expel us from off of the planet.”
The Sultan then drafted a subtle epistle,
Which he gave to the trust of his Tartary bondsman,
For him to transmit to Mujo and Halili.
The letter received, Mujo opened and read it,
Into a frown sagged the brows on his forehead,
And tears from his eyes dripped all over the letter,
“Mujo, my brother,” Halili addressed him,
“Many a letter have I seen you reading,
But never such tears on your cheeks have I witnessed,
What? Has a friend, has a brother now perished?
Or have you been called to duel with a baloz?”
“No, hold your tongue now, Halili, God damn you!
None of our friends and no brother has perished,
Nor’ve I been called to a duel with a baloz,
You know me well, I shrink not from a challenge,
The rayah have lodged a complaint in Istanbul,
And the Sultan has summoned us in his epistle,
I know not, Halili, what fate now awaits us!
Should we head for the hills leaving no trace behind us?
Or hurl ourselves into the river and perish?
Should we climb up a cliff and then throw ourselves off it?
Or take to our kulla and hole up inside it?”
How did Halili respond then to Mujo?
“Let us go to our mother and ask for her counsel,
There will we follow whatever she tells us!”
So they met with their mother and asked for her counsel,
And sagely the mother did answer them, saying:
“You’ll not take to the hills leaving no trace behind you,
Nor hurl yourselves into the river and perish,
Nor climb up a cliff and then throw yourselves off it,
Nor take to your kulla and hole up inside it.
Gird rather the saddles upon your fine horses,
And set off, my lads, for the Sultan awaits you!”
And when the first rays of the sun began streaming,
The lads set the saddles upon their fine horses,
Their heads they did cover and hide in their raincoats,
And secretly twirled down the tips of their whiskers.
With their horses now girded, they turned and departed.
During their trip they met up with the rayah.
“Where are they off to, those gypsy-like rayah?”
Halili inquired of Mujo, his brother.
“Why should we hide on the day we’re to perish?”
Removing the raincoats which covered their bodies,
They openly twirled up the tips of their whiskers.
In the dust and the smoke their horses stampeded,
With froth at their mouths, at their feet were sparks flying,
Setting on fire the oaks in the mountains,
And veiling in smoke all the high mountain pastures.
Hear what the men of the Sultan now uttered:
“What is that thunder and what is that quaking?
Cannon balls shot from the Realm of the Christians?”
The Sultan himself swore by God and responded:
“That is no thunder from out of the heavens,
No war cry from out of the Realm of the Christians,
But instead the approach of Mujo and Halili!”
Mujo arrived at the gates of the Sultan,
He proceeded within and he mounted the staircase,
But the stairs of the Sultan they could not support him.
At once did the Sultan then call for his builder,
Who shored up the staircase with no hesitation.
When they got to the doorway and wanted to enter,
The door proved too small to let Mujo pass through it,
The builder thus altered it straightaway for him.
The Sultan gave Mujo a seat right beside him.
“Oh Sultan, oh father,” said Mujo, inquiring,
“Your Moors, are they coming to take me to prison?
Are they going to chop my head off in an instant?”
The Sultan himself, quite astounded, gave answer:
“By God I swear to you, Mujo and Halili,
To chop off your heads, this is not my intention.
I simply was told of your great reputation,
And was seized by a longing to meet you in person!”
Mujo reflected a while and responded:
“Allow me to take my leave of you, oh Sultan.”
But then on the throne snagged the hook of his trousers,
And the moment our hero stood up for departure,
He dragged to the doorway the Sultan himself!

shqip / Albanian


[Recorded in Kosova. Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 20-22; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 68-70. 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).]