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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

Zuku Captures Rusha

Provoked by Mujo, Zuku Bajraktari declares he will go and capture the king’s daughter Rusha. He first asks his mother for advice. She fears for his life, but gives him a strong courser for the journey. When Zuku reaches Rusha’s kulla, he calls out to her. She is afraid and asks him to show her his sleeve and the ring she had given him before she opens the door. The next evening, the two return to Jutbina. Mujo sends Zuku a message, saying that Rusha belongs to him. After much dispute over the maiden, the two warriors go to the cadi, whom both threaten to kill if they do not win the case. The cadi decides that the matter must be settled on the war grounds. The first on horseback to reach Rusha will have her. Mujo is faster but, through divine intervention, his horse shies away at the last moment. Zuku thus wins his Rusha.













































Thirty Agas were assembled,
And in the meadow lit a fire,
At their feast did they start drinking,
And the drink their tongues did loosen,
They were talking and conversing,
Mujo, turning to them, stated:
“Let me spice your conversation!
No lad’s been born here in Jutbina,
No sister’s ever rocked a brother,
No mare’s produced a foal for duelling,
That I could mount at night and ride on
To the Kingdom of the Christians
To go and visit Rusha’s kulla,
And with my hand approach and touch it.       
Listen to me, my companions,
Let us make a plough and ploughshare,
Go and work the land as farmers.”
Then spoke Zuku Bajraktari:
“By the God who made me, Mujo,
I was born here in Jutbina,
And my sister rocked her brother,
My mare produced a horse for duelling,
That I did mount at night and ride on
To the Kingdom of the Christians,
To go and visit Rusha’s kulla,
And three nights I slept with Rusha.”
What did Mujo say, responding?
“By the God who made me, Zuku,
If you had but seen the kulla,
You’d have been three years in fever,
For three years it wouldn’t leave you.”
Swiftly to his feet jumped Zuku,
With what fury did he speak out!
“By the Lord who made me, Mujo,
Were you not the greatest of us,
I’d not tolerate your talking,
Either I will have my Rusha
Or leave my head back in Jutbina.”
Zuku to his home proceeded,
And there he went to see his mother,
He ascended to her chamber,
There she made him sweetened coffee,
The mother swore by God to Zuku:
“I’ve never made a better coffee.”
But the lad refused to drink it,
His mother turned to him and uttered:
“Has a friend died, or blood brother,
Has a baloz come to fight you,
Are you destined for the war grounds,
What fury, son, has now assailed you?”
To his mother answered Zuku:
“By the Lord who made me, mother,
No friend’s died and no blood brother,
No baloz has now come to fight me,
I’m not destined for the war grounds,
But I’ve sworn before my comrades
Either I’ll have royal Rusha
Or leave my head back in the Kingdom.”
Hear the answer of the mother:
“By the breasts that I did give you,
By the greatness that I lent you,
Avoid, my son, vain earthly pleasures,
Avoid, my son, deceitful counsels,
God’s bestowed on us such riches.
Your mother now will write a letter,
From village to village will she send it,
From town to town will she transmit it,
A nice girl will your mother find you,
A girl of lineage and breeding,
And pay for her with bridal money.”
Then spoke Zuku Bajraktari:
“By the God who made me, mother,
Either I’ll have royal Rusha
Or leave my head back in the Kingdom.
Go to the dark cellar, mother,
And choose for me a comely courser.”
Tearful did depart the mother,
The horse turned to her and lamented:
“For seven years I’ve been a prisoner,
Never having seen the sunlight,
Never has the rain leaked in here,
But today, the cellar’s dripping.”
The mother turned to it, replying:
“The cellar has not started dripping,
It’s me, oh horse, who’s begun crying,
For Zuku’s destined for the Kingdom,
Soon, I fear, they’ll cut his head off
And you, steed, they’ll also capture,
And they’ll put a saddle on you,
Make you carry heavy luggage,
All your hooves will fall off, courser.”
The courser turned to her, replying:
“If we have luck as we used to,
We’ll get safely to Jutbina.”
The mother turned to it, replying:
“If you’ve luck and get back safely,
I’ll feed you rice instead of barley,
Give you wine instead of water.”
The mother saddled up the courser,
Set on it a golden saddle,
Tightened straps of patent leather,
Added reins of silken threading,
And led it up the stairs to Zuku.
How loudly did the courser whinny,
Neighing, deafened all Jutbina.
When the dark of night had fallen
Where was Zuku Bajraktari?
Swiftly did he mount his courser,
Behind them smoke and dust were rising,
In the night they reached the Kingdom,
Arriving then at Rusha’s kulla,
Knocking there at Rusha’s kulla:
“Open, Rusha, let me enter!”
“I can’t open up the doorway,
You might be Gjeto Basho Mujo.”
“Open up and let me enter,
For I’m not the one you mentioned.”
“I can’t open up the doorway,
You might be young Halil Aga.”
“Open up and let me enter,
For I’m not young Halil Aga,
I am Zuku Bajraktari.”
“If you’re Zuku as you’re claiming,
Raise your hand up to my window,
I will recognize your coat sleeve
I will know the ring I gave you.”
He raised his hand up to the window,
Well she recognized his coat sleeve,
Well she saw the ring she’d given,
Then she opened up the doorway,
Led his courser to the stable,
Led him up into her chamber,
Where she made him sweetened coffee.
“I’ll not drink it,” uttered Zuku,
“Til you give your word of honour
That you’ll do just as I tell you.”
Rusha gave her word of honour,
And he deigned to drink her coffee,
A day and night did Zuku stay there,
Then next evening, when the night fell,
Zuku climbed upon his courser,
Rusha donned fine shoes and garments,
With ducats did she fill her pockets,
Zuku set her on the courser,
Behind them smoke and dust were rising,
And at dawn they reached Jutbina,
When Gjeto Basho Mujo heard them,
He was filled with rage and anger.
A message did he send to Zuku,
Saying she was his possession.
Many councils for her gathered
But no one dared decide the matter,
To the cadi went the rivals.
“Do you know,” they told the cadi,
“Many councils have gathered for her,
But no one’s dared decide the matter,
God made you a man of reason,
You must make the big decision,
Or we’ll break your neck asunder.”
To their homes returned the rivals,
Mujo hatched another plot though,
And went back to see the cadi.
“Do you know,” he told the cadi,
“Do you realize, dear cadi,
It’s for me that Rusha came here.
If you give the bride to Zuku
I will break your neck asunder.”
Zuku, too, went to the cadi   
“Do you realize, dear cadi,
Back for me did I bring Rusha,
Much I suffered to obtain her,
If Gjeto Basho Mujo gets her,
I will break your neck asunder.”
The cadi was now filled with horror.
Were the matter undecided
The two would jointly cut his head off,
And if he gave the bride to Zuku,
Gjeto Basho Mujo’d slay him,
If Mujo Bylykbashi got her,
Zuku Bajraktari’d kill him.
Three days and nights the cadi puzzled,
Not a moment did he slumber,
Then God sent him the solution,
He sought and summoned the two rivals.
Turning to them, spoke the cadi:
“Go and take your Rusha with you,
Take her with you to the war grounds.
With coursers at an equal distance,
Let them gallop off together.
The one who’s fastest to the maiden,
He shall have as bride to marry.”
The heroes went back to their houses,
Brought the bride and took her with them,
Travelling upon their coursers,
Did they ride up to the war grounds,
At one end they set up Rusha,
At the other they made ready,
Set their steeds at equal distance,
And let them gallop off together.
Mujo was the first to get there,
And as he lunged out for the maiden,
God Almighty did confound him,
Taking fright was Mujo’s courser
Shied away and turned back from her.
Zuku came and caught the bride then,
Set her up onto his courser,
What of Gjeto Basho Mujo?
They heard him sing a little carol:
“What has happened, oh dear courser,
Many a baloz have we slaughtered,
Many daring deeds accomplished,
But whoe’er betrays his comrades,
He will be by God forsaken.”
That is what I heard them tell me,
For myself I was not present.

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Dedë Zefi of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 140-145; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 169-174. 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).]