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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 Courser

A splendid foal is born to Mujo’s mare. The Captain King is jealous and offers a reward for its capture. Arnaut Osmani betrays Mujo for the money, and the courser is spirited off to the Kingdom of the Christians. In his search for the courser, Mujo comes upon the Slavic shepherd Raspodini, whom he slays. Dressed up in the shepherd’s clothes, he receives the king’s permission to train the wild courser. Thus Mujo manages to steal his horse back. On his way home, he reflects on the injustice of the theft he has committed and returns the courser to the king. The king then commands the shepherd to escort his daughter to her wedding. During the journey, Mujo removes his disguise, captures the three hundred other escorts and the king’s daughter, and takes them back to Jutbina. The king, waiting alone in his palace, receives a letter from Mujo, and resigns himself to having a new son-in-law.




















































































Night was passing, moon not risen,
Mujo in his sleep was dreaming,
Dreaming that his mare was foaling,
And this foal was white as snowflakes,
A star God left upon its forehead,
Like the mountain crest its nape was,
Like a deer its legs were slender,
Woollen yarn its mane resembled.
Mujo then spoke to Ajkuna:
“Rise, Ajkuna, quickly go down
To the stable, I’ve been dreaming,
Dreaming that the mare is foaling,
And the foal’s as white as snowflakes,
A star God left upon its forehead.”
To her feet did rise Ajkuna,
Quickly taking a torch with her,
For that night the oras wandered.
When she set foot in the stable,
A foal was neighing there inside it,
When the light fell on its body,
The foal shone like the mountain snowflakes,
A star was shining on its forehead.
“Thanks to Allah,” cried Ajkuna,
Then she turned and left the stable,
Locked the stable door behind her,
And returned to Mujo’s chamber.
“I’ll be damned,” she said to Mujo,
“It’s true, the vision you saw dreaming,
Go and see it with your own eyes!”
To his feet then jumped up Mujo,
Down he hastened to the stable,
There he saw the foal in splendour,
With what pleasure did he stroke it!
Then he locked the door behind him,
And went back to see Ajkuna,
To his wife he turned and spoke out:
“Take good care of it, I beg you,
Give it wheat instead of barley,
And give it wine instead of water,
You must feed it three times daily,
For three years must keep it inside,
For three years to see no sunlight.”
Good care of it took Ajkuna,
She loved the foal and well did treat it,
The foal accepted all its fodder,
Soon thereafter was it grown up.
But in the end it grew uneasy,
And when the three full years were over,
One fine day did Mujo get up,
And go to set the saddle on it.
Talking to it in the stable:
“Come along, foal, come out with me,
And let us stroll down to the fountain,
Across the fields, across the meadows,
And over to the Christian Kingdom,
Leading Agas from Jutbina.”
Then he took the horse’s bridle,
But on the head he couldn’t get it,
The bridle was too small to fit it,
Then he took the horse’s saddle,
But on the back he couldn’t get it,
The saddle was too small to fit it.
Mujo stood there and reflected,
But very soon found the solution.
With his hand he led the foal out,
To the market did he take it,
A bridle there was made to fit it,
And for its back a fitted saddle,
The bridle was of patent leather,
Of silky threading was the saddle,
All of it was diamond-studded,
Nine belts of fine Italian metal,
Made of gold were all the horseshoes,
And all with nails of steel were fitted,
But the steed would hold no rider.
“God be with me,” he cried, mounting,
But the foal was not for taming,
Through the town it galloped wildly,
Raising dust and stones behind it,
All the townsmen were in panic,
They slammed their doors and bolted latches.
But in the end he broke the foal in,
Up the mountain paths he rode it,
Thereby tearing up the paving,
To the valley did he lead it,
In order there to better tame it,
To lie upon the ground he taught it
And then into the air to leap up,
At once to skip five ropes he taught it,
Three full hours went the lesson.
When Mujo had then finished teaching,
The foal could even saunter sideways.
To the Kingdom did he take it,
The shkjas did see them and were frightened,
Since the horse was trained and skilful,
Six feet high it jumped the hedges,
And in two leaps crossed the river.
The Captain King was told about it
And with a war cry called his people,
Turning to them, he addressed them:
“To the war ground’s come a fighter,
On a mad but comely courser,
Is there any lad among you,
Who will deign to fight a duel?”
Then spoke Galiqe Galani:
“Majesty, he is no fighter,
Mujo’s only tamed his pony,
We will easily take him prisoner.”
What was now the king’s decision?
With his army in a circle,
Did he close in upon Mujo,
Saying:”I alive will catch him.”
Mujo saw through his intention,
And started calming down his courser,
Stemming all its flame and frolic.
When the courser had stopped playing,
He turned its head towards Jutbina,
And set the foal off in a gallop,
Leaving smoke and dust behind them,
All the shkjas were in a panic,
All their traps did they abandon,
Safe and sound he reached Jutbina.
What was it the king now wanted?
“Who among you’ll catch that pony?
Three hundred purses do I offer!”
God curse him, Arnaut Osmani,
When he heard the proclamation,
Slipped at night into the Kingdom,
To the king’s door did go knocking,
Lying prostrate did he greet him,
And looking at the king, addressed him:
“I’m humbled by your reputation,
A great reward they say you’ve offered,
To him who catches Mujo’s pony.
If you offer me the money,
I’ll show you how to catch the pony.”
What was it the king now answered?
“Yes, I’ll offer you the money,
If you catch me Mujo’s pony!”
Then replied Arnaut Osmani:
“A week from now I’ll cut my son’s hair,
In front of Mujo, his godfather,
Mujo’ll canter to the courtyard,
I’ll go out as host to hail him,
I’ll take the pony by the bridle,
And lead it down into the stable,
Leaving on it reins and saddle,
Ajar will be the stable doorway.
You, oh king, must too be present,
But take good care that no one sees you.
When Mujo lifts and holds his godchild,
I will break out into laughter,
You, oh king, will rise and steal forth,
And the stable you will enter,
Seize the pony by its bridle
And take it with you from the courtyard,
Turn its head down towards the Kingdom,
And set the foal off in a gallop,
Safe and sound you’ll reach the Kingdom,
Should even all Jutbina follow,
None of them will ever catch you,
Farewell, Captain King, I wish you!”
“And you, farewell, Arnaut Osmani!”
When seven days had passed thereafter,
The king then donned his robes and footwear,
And took the road up to Jutbina,
To Arnaut Osmani, hiding.
At early dawn before the sunrise
Mujo rose from bed that morning,
The foal he saddled and got ready,
And when done, the foal he mounted,
Departing for Arnaut Osmani.
Arnaut went out to greet him,
And took the pony by the bridle,
How he loved it, how he stroked it,
And led it down into the stable,
Leaving on it reins and saddle,
And ajar the stable doorway,
Then they sat down on the matting,
Had their coffee and tobacco,
Then spoke up Arnaut Osmani:
“Oh, great Bylykbashi Mujo,
Won’t you come and hold your godchild?”
Mujo turned to him, responding:
“As you wish, I’m at your service,”
And Mujo took and held the godchild,
Then laughed out Arnaut Osmani,
The Captain King could hear him clearly,
And rising, went down to the stable,
There he found the pony saddled
And led it out into the courtyard,
With a leap the king did mount it,
And turning, set off for the Kingdom,
Leaving smoke and dust behind him.
The pony set off at a gallop,
Mujo saw what viper’d bit him,
From the room he’d noticed noises,
And laying on the floor the godchild,
Mujo looked out of the window,
But not a thing did Mujo see there,
The pony leaping had long bolted,
Leaving smoke and dust behind it,
Dust which covered hills and valleys,
Whitening them as does a snowstorm.
In panic was Arnaut Osmani,
Mujo hastened to the stable,
And searched through it for the pony,
Was distressed to find it missing.
Mujo set out for his courser,
Calling to it in the valleys,
Calling to it in the mountains.
He climbed to the mountain pastures,
And there he came across a shepherd,
He was shepherd Raspodini,
“Greetings to you,” spoke out Mujo,
“Greetings,” replied Raspodini,
Then the men sat down together,
Mujo turned to him, remarking:
“I’ve long heard of you now, Raspo,
They say we look like one another,
Will you lend me now your shishak?”
The shkja to Mujo gave the shishak,
In return got Mujo’s headpiece,
Now he looked like Raspodini.
Mujo then took out his sabre,
He struck the shkja and chopped his head off,
Then he grabbed from him his garments,
Taking them, he dressed up in them,
How well they fitted him, the garments!
Mujo looked like Raspodini,
Taking up the staff and crook now,
He went off, the king to visit.
Lying prostrate did he greet him,
Looking down, the king addressed him:
“Why’ve you left your herd, oh Raspo?”
What is it that Mujo answered?
“I’ve heard, oh king, of your great exploit,
You stole the foal away from Mujo,
And I have come to praise, commend you.”
What was it the king now answered?
“The pony is of no use to me,
But I wonder how he does without it,
Ever since the day I seized it,
It’s been kept down in the stable,
No one is allowed to enter,
For the pony has been raging,
With its hooves it kicks out wildly,
And with its teeth its gnaws and gnashes,
We throw fodder through the window.”
What is it that Mujo uttered?
“Give me, oh king, your permission,
To go down and to see the courser,
With star and moon upon its forehead.”
The king did grant him his permission,
Mujo opened up the stable,
And slapped the pony on its buttocks,
“Patience, or the wolf will get you!”
He put his arms around the foal’s mane,
And led the pony to the courtyard,
To the king he turned and uttered:
“In the name of God Almighty,
Give me, king, the reins and saddle,
So that I can tame your pony.”
The king was in agreement, saying:
“Let him saddle up the pony.”
Mujo jumped onto the pony,
But fearing he’d fly to Jutbina,
The king went out and locked the gateway,
Placing bodyguards before them.
But his care did not avail him,
Mujo forthwith spurred his courser,
And with a leap, they scaled the courtyard,
Escaping into the wide valley,
He set the foal off in a gallop,
Leaving smoke and dust behind them.
What was now the king’s reaction?
To the tower roof he climbed up,
Took in hand his field glass with him,
And with it searched the wide valley,
Intent he was on finding Mujo.
How the king was now regretting
That he’d given him the pony.
On what was Mujo now reflecting
When he reached Jutbina’s borders?
His actions, he thought, had been shameful,
“I stole the foal, it was dishonest.”
Once again the horse he guided,
And to the king did he remit it,
To the king he turned and stated:
“You’ll ne’er find a better pony,
Now it’s yours, may you enjoy it,
To my herd will I now hasten.”
The king inclined to him and uttered:
“To your herd you’ll not return now,
May the wolf devour them, Raspo.
You know my daughter’s to be married,
And we maintain an ancient custom
To find the best man as an escort,
I’ve the shepherd Raspodini,
A man who’s skilled in words and fighting.”
The shepherds wrote their king a letter,
But first of all did Mujo get it,
Mujo took it and he read it,
What was written in the letter?
“Oh Captain King, we send our greetings,
Watch out for Gjeto Basho Mujo,
For he is in disguise and dressed up,
Wearing Raspodini’s garments,
And Raspodini did he slaughter,
Now he’s off to steal your courser
And perchance to chop your head off.”
With what care he read the letter!
And after reading it, he burnt it.
The shepherds then wrote other letters,
Which Mujo once more intercepted,
Read and threw into the fireplace.
The wedding day was now approaching,
With heralds did they call the people,
Three hundred guests they hand selected,
Got three hundred saddled horses,
Got three hundred martial sabres,
All had now made themselves ready.
What did the king then say to Mujo?
“Stand up, shepherd Raspodini,
Gird on your armour and make ready,
Put on other, finer garments,
Put on Mujo’s steed a saddle.”
In an instant jumped up Mujo
And set a saddle on the courser.
The king did give him arms and sabre,
Mujo seized them with his right hand,
And for his size did he adjust them,
Then among the shkjas he swaggered.
The king now spoke out to his daughter:
“Arise, my Rusha, family’s honour,
Arise and don your bridal garments,
And swiftly come out to your escorts.”
Rusha did obey her father,
Going in, she donned her bride gown,
And swiftly did she join the escorts.
Forthwith set out the procession,
Mujo Gjeto Basho led it,
Right beside him the king’s daughter,
On the road straight to the bridegroom.
There they sat down on the matting,
And with food and drink were welcomed,
Mujo slowly sipped his coffee,
Closely watched by the shkja mother.
Sitting, she observed the party,
And to the escorts turned, proclaiming:
“God damn it, men, do you not see him?
Don’t you know Gjeto Basho Mujo?
Much dispute have we had with him
And with him you now eat dinner,
Sitting right beside him, escorts?”
The escorts turned to her and answered:
“Come on now, you silly woman,
Of a shkja you make a Muslim?
He’s no Turk of Turkish mother,
He’s a shkja of Slavic mother,
He’s the shepherd Raspodini,
Who tomorrow’ll wed your daughter.”
The Slavic woman then desisted.
They took to eating, took to drinking,
Struck a song up, started singing,
Rose to dance and started dancing,
Took to games and started gaming,
Making merry till the sun rose.
The escorts girded on their armour,
370      At the lead Bylykbashi Mujo,
Hand in hand with the king’s daughter.
When they reached an ample meadow,
There did Mujo turn and halt them,
With his spurs he spun the courser,
And stood before the Slavic fighters,
Scanning them, did he address them:
“Oh three hundred Slavic fighters,
The day has come to show your courage,
Either fight me on the war grounds,
Or I’ll force you to Jutbina,
For I’m not the goatherd Raspo,
I am Gjeto Basho Mujo!”
The shkjas all bowed their heads in silence,
None of them did dare to speak out,
None did dare accept the challenge,  
None was willing to do battle.
Mujo had them march before him,
Three hundred escorts taken prisoner,
And two maidens had he captured,
For himself was the king’s daughter,
The other maiden for Halili,
Off he took them to Jutbina.
The king was waiting in his palace
For the arrival of the escorts,
Dark and gloomy was that feast night,
Not one escort did arrive there.
In Jutbina was the wedding,
And all Jutbina was invited,
Nine days and nine nights the feasting,
Once nine days and nights were over,
What was Mujo contemplating?
Cunningly he wrote a letter,
To the king’s hand did he send it,
The king, receiving it, did read it,
And what indeed was in the letter?
“Oh Captain King, I send my greetings,
Three hundred shkjas I’ve taken prisoner,
And two maidens have I captured,
I wasn’t Raspo of the Kingdom,
I was Mujo of Jutbina.”
“I’ll never have,” the king said sighing,
“A son-in-law more sly than this one.”

shqip / Albanian


[Recorded in Shala (District of Shkodra). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 70-80; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 109-118. 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).]