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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 Wife is Kidnapped

The Captain King boasts of his wealth and possessions, but his wife tells him he is nothing compared to Mujo. The king then trains three hundred roughnecks and with them, he burns down Mujo’s kulla, captures his wife, the Turkish Mehreme, and seizes all of his possessions. Returning home, he marries Mujo’s wife and makes a servant of the first wife, who had offended him. The Agas offer to build Mujo a new kulla, but for him it is a matter of honour. He sets off for the Kingdom, but is betrayed there by Mehreme, who gets him drunk and ties him up. The king grants Mujo one last request before execution - time to play his lahuta. The mountain zanas hear his song and inform Halili. Halili sets off for the Kingdom, slays the king and frees his brother. Mujo slays the wife who betrayed him and returns to Jutbina.























































































We worship you, oh God Almighty!
For we were nothing ‘til you made us.
Look what the Captain King was doing,
A good man did the Lord make of him,
The king constructed a fair kulla,
Had twelve master masons build it,
Twelve years gave them for the building,
Oh, how spacious was the kulla,
In it were three hundred chambers,
All with gold did he adorn them,
Of steel made the doors and ceilings,
Twelve floors high did he construct it,
The king made it a work of beauty,
In an upper room he rested,
With royal sofas was it furnished,
His coffeepot hung in the fireplace,
Loudly to his wife he called out:
“Come up quickly to my chamber!”
The wife came quickly to his chamber,
Hear now what the king said to her:
“Among men I have no equal,
And you’ve no peer ‘mongst the women,
No one has an equal kulla,
Nor like mine is there a sabre,
None possess a steed like I have.”
Hear now how his wife responded:
“Give me leave, oh king, to answer!”
The king allowed her leave to answer,
And so the woman turned and stated:
“No one is without an equal,
If you saw Gjeto Basho Mujo,
You’d be happy as his cowherd,
Two black rams wide are his whiskers,
His arms are like two trees with branches,
To see Mehreme, his Turkish woman,
To be her maid I’d be unworthy.
If you were to see his sabre,
Yours would look more like a breadknife,
And if you were to see his warhorse,
Yours would look more like a donkey,
If you saw his kulla and palace,
Yours would look more like a pantry,
If you met him on a hillside,
You’d have your arms and legs all broken.”
How these words the king afflicted,
For an hour he was silent.
When he turned and set to speaking,
Did he swear an oath and utter:
“By the God who did create me,
I’d slay you, were there not my subjects,
When the spring comes, may it blossom,
I will search through my three kingdoms,
Three hundred roughnecks will I rally,
None possessing land or pastures,
None with father or with mother,
None with brother or with sister,
None with nephews or with uncles,
None of them engaged or married,
With pity none for Turk or Christian,
With no family, no dependants.
I will give them shoes and garments,
I will shave them, change their clothing,
I will feed three hundred of them
Steer meat for a hundred days and
Then they’ll harry Mujo’s kulla,
Destroy his kulla and his palace,
To the ground they’ll raze his kulla,
Leaving but a withered tree trunk,
On it there will sing a cuckoo,
I’ll take Mehreme, his Turkish woman,
Take his sister and his daughter,
And I’ll capture Mujo’s sabre,
And his throne of golden ducats,
And I’ll seize his copper vessels.”
At this the lady did retire.
Then the spring came and did blossom,
With leaves and grass he fed the courser,
The king then searched through his three kingdoms
And assembled all the people,
Three hundred roughnecks did he gather,
None with father or with mother,
None with brother or with sister,
None with nephews or with uncles,
None of them engaged or married,
With no family, no dependants,
With pity none for Turk or Christian.
The king brought each one to his kulla,
Fed them and he changed their clothing,
How well did the king then arm them,
A hundred days long did he keep them,
And with steer meat did he feed them,
Meat and wine he gave them daily,
They praised the strength of one another,
The king did give them shoes and garments,
Gave them further arms and weapons,
Then he jumped onto his courser,
Taking all three hundred with him,
And did lead them to Jutbina.
It was Mujo’s great misfortune
To be staying with his uncles,
Leaving all alone his kulla.
The king destroyed and burnt the kulla,
To the ground did he then raze it,
Leaving but a withered tree trunk,
On it there did sing a cuckoo,
He took Mehreme, the Turkish woman,
Seized his sister and his daughter,
And his throne of golden ducats,
And captured his copper vessels.
He took the road back to the Kingdom,
Safe and sound did he reach home and
Then prepared a celebration.
Having gathered all his people,
Did he welcome them and feed them.
For his safe return they praised him
And for taking Mujo’s woman:
“Long live the Captain King,” they shouted.
What now was the king preparing?
He had gone back to his palace,
Loudly to his wife he called out:
“Come up quickly to my chamber!
Remember what you told me last year?
What proved true is what I told you,
As Captain King, I kept my word well.
The Lord bestowed on me strong fighters,
Does Mujo know what I’ve done to him?
My housemaid I’m resolved to make you.
You must rise and wash my feet now,
And then I’ll have you drink the water,
Whenever we sit down to dinner,
Between your teeth you’ll hold the firebrand,
To provide illumination.”
The king then married Mujo’s woman,
And of his own did make a housemaid.
It was Mujo’s great misfortune
To’ve been staying with his uncles.
Mujo got up in the morning,
Mujo still was very sleepy,
He called out loudly to Halili:
“Rise, Halili, now or never,
Halili, I have had a nightmare,
A big wolf pack came down the mountain,
And it devoured our two coursers,
Boy, we’ve left alone the kulla,
I fear the king has burnt and razed it.”
Halili turned to him, protesting:
“It’s too cold out in the mountains
Now that all the leaves have fallen,
Perhaps the nightmare has no meaning.”
Mujo turned to him, responding:
“If this nightmare has no meaning,
I’ll believe my dreams no longer.”
The kreshniks washed their hands and faces
And, jumping then onto their coursers,
Took the road off to Jutbina.
When they’d covered half the journey,
They could smell the burning kulla.
Hear what Mujo told Halili:
“A smell of smoke is in the air now.”
What did Halili say to Mujo:
“Yes, I smelled that smell beforehand
But I dared not talk about it.”
Behind them smoke and dust were rising.
The steeds were at the point of bursting,
Both the horses’ mouths were foaming,
Both their hides with sweat were soaking.
Then, by God, there was a wonder,
Opening its mouth, the steed spoke:
“I will burst, it’s pointless, Mujo,
That you keep me at this gallop,
For the shkja’s attacked your kulla
And to ashes has he burnt it,
And your wife has he now captured.”
When they stood before the kulla
They saw it had been burnt to ashes.
Such despair now befell Mujo!
Thirty Agas did assemble,
Coming forth, they spoke to Mujo:
“Welcome, Gjeto Basho Mujo,”
The thirty Agas did salute him
And good health they wished the heroes.
“Don’t despair or be discouraged,
We’ll build an even better kulla,
And a better wife we’ll find you,
A better throne for you to sit on,
New copper vessels will we buy you
And give you new herds and possessions.”
What said Gjeto Basho Mujo?
“Honour to you, oh my Agas,
You may build a better kulla,
May prepare a better wedding,
Get a better throne to sit on.
But even if you build my palace
And return my copper vessels,
How will you restore my honour?”
The Agas bowed their heads before him,
And around him stood in silence,
For with his words Mujo had shamed them.
Embarrassed that they hadn’t helped him,
They were angry now with Mujo,
And all departed for Jutbina.
Mujo then addressed Halili:
“Curse you, young lad, Halil Aga,
I must leave you back at home now.”
To Halili’s home he brought him,
Though a broken man, he set out.
The weary kreshnik’s only thought was
How to kill himself by poison,
Ne’er enduring all the insult.
He took along his warhorse with him,
How well the courser had been armoured,
Took with him his fighting sabre,
Took his cannon and his flintlock.
Hear what he said to his courser:
“Damn the mast food that I gave you,
Damn the fodder that I fed you,
If you should fail me in the Kingdom!”
Then he climbed onto his courser,
Behind it smoke and dust were rising,
Mujo rode into the Kingdom,
To the Captain King he ventured.
The king was in the mountain pastures,
The king himself had set out hunting,
Three hundred shkjas did he take with him,
And many bears alive he captured,
And much game did the king slaughter.
To his palace did come Mujo,
Mujo’s wife laid eyes upon him,
She was thrilled with joy to see him.
But look and see how she betrayed him!
Down her face the tears were streaming
As she met and talked with Mujo,
Wanting only to betray him,
Nine-year-old raki did she bring him,
Mujo fell asleep from drinking,
From his sleep he could not waken,
Every time the hero breathed out,
Shot from him a blazing firework,
Making quake the very palace.
Every time the hero breathed in,
Were the palace doors blown open.
See now what his wife was doing!
Mujo’s arms she put in irons,
To his feet she added shackles,
How well did she bind and tie him,
In steel padlocks she confined him.
To her eyes she put the field glass,
Gazed up to the mountain pastures,
Seeing that the king was coming.
When the king got to the palace,
“Welcome, king,” she cried out to him,
“What game did you hunt and capture?”
“Five bears all alive I’ve captured,
Thirty wild goats have I slaughtered,
Ten wild roebucks have I snapped up.”
“What a lot of game you’ve captured,”
Said the woman, laughing loudly,
“But I’ve caught some game that’s bigger!”
Hear now how the king responded:
“May God damn you, Turkish woman,
Shameless are the words you’ve spoken,
I’d slay you, were there not my subjects,
When have women caught game indoors?”
Turkish Mehreme then answered:
“I caught Gjeto Basho Mujo!”
“Damn you, woman, for your prattle,
Do you even know who’s Mujo?
Nowhere’s there a man who’s stronger,
Never could I take him hostage,
You could never capture Mujo
Unless you managed to deceive him.”
“Come, oh king, into my chamber,
Mujo’s hands and feet are fastened,
Do with him what you desire now.”
The king then went into her chamber,
To her bedroom did he venture,
In the bedroom he found Mujo,
With his hands and feet all fastened,
Sound asleep had Mujo fallen,
The king called loudly out to Mujo,
But the hero went on sleeping.
How then did the king continue?
A heavy kick he gave to Mujo,
Mujo woke up from his slumber,
To him did the king give notice:
“Do you know what’s happened, Mujo?
Do you even know who I am?
I’m the Captain King before you!
I’m the one who razed your kulla,
And to ashes did I burn it,
I’ve Mehreme, your Turkish woman,
I’ve your sister and your daughter,
I’ve your throne of golden ducats,
I have all your copper vessels.”
The king called Mujo’s wife to come forth:
“Come in quickly to the chamber!”
The king now put his arms around her,
On her eyes did he then kiss her,
Love play did they start before him.
Mujo clenched his teeth so tightly
That the very palace trembled.
Then what did the king say to him?
“Mujo, shall I chop your head off,
Or would you rather have me hang you?”
Mujo, when he heard the challenge,
Was envenomed like a viper,
To his feet the hero struggled
But was held back by the shackles.
Then spoke Gjeto Basho Mujo:
“God damn you, king,” the hero shouted,
“I am not some cow you’ve stolen,
I am Gjeto Basho Mujo,
I want to die upon the war grounds
Where Seven Kingdoms fight the sultan,
For God made me a man of justice,
The planet knows my reputation.
How can I die without witness?”
The king was stricken and started fuming,
Rolled his eyeballs round in circles,
But he knew not what to answer.
Hear what Mujo then said to him,
When he asked a favour of him:
“My great desire is the lahuta.”
The king invited in the people,
Gave, the hero’s hands untying,
Him a maple-wood lahuta
In a donkey hide enveloped,
Its bow was of cornelian cherry,
Its string was from a horsetail taken.
Mujo took up the lahuta,
Took and tuned the string to play it,
How nimbly did his fingers scale it,
And with a fair voice to go with it,
For three hours did he sing out.
So loud and clear was Mujo’s singing
That the mountain zanas heard him.
Hear what Mujo told the zanas:
“I’ve been captured, sister zanas,
Never in a worse position,
My hands and feet are all in shackles,
Tomorrow I’ll die on the war grounds,
Where Seven Kingdoms fight the sultan,
I beg you, take word to Halili.”
Listen to what the zanas did then,
They went off to see Halili,
Knocking at his door at midnight,
And they called out to Halili,
But from him they got no answer,
Though they had been shouting loudly.
The zanas then began to worry,
Hear now what the zanas wondered:
“Could it be Halili’s gone out,
Could it be he’s out a-whoring?
May God make his night a failure!
Or could it be he’s out a-thieving?
May God make his night a failure!
But if to God he’s busy praying,
May Halili’s prayers be answered.”
How well Halili heard them talking,
And when with praying he was finished,
Did he run down to the doorway.
The zanas gave word to Halili:
“Tomorrow he’ll die on the war grounds,
Where Seven Kingdoms fight the sultan.”
Listen to what Halili did then,
The lad put on his shoes and garments,
Took with him his fighting sabre,
Took his cannon and his flintlock,
Took and readied Mujo’s courser,
Then he set off for the Kingdom,
Behind him smoke and dust were rising.
In the mountains of the Kingdom
With the Captain King he met up,
Swiftly did they start their battle,
What a din and what an uproar!
Well Halili led the battle,
Being helped by Mujo’s courser.
See what Mujo’s courser did then,
With its teeth it ate a soldier,
And behind it, kicked out wildly,
Left the king with many corpses,
Halili slew the king’s whole army,
The king then fled in trepidation.
And Mehreme, the Turkish woman?
She ran up swiftly to the tower,
Took the field glass and did look out,
To the king’s first wife she uttered:
“May God damn you, my companion,
Do you want to see a white dove
With a raven right behind it?”
To her then the wife responded:
“May God damn you, Turkish woman,
Don’t you know or don’t you want to?
That is not a dove you’re seeing,
Nor a raven right behind it,
What you see’s Sokol Halili
And the Captain King he’s chasing,
At him now to chop his head off,
God has sent forth bolts of lightning!”
The two were in the palace gardens,
By the arm the king he seized and
Chopped his head off with the sabre.
See how Mujo now reacted,
His steed was at the palace gateway,
Mujo shouted in a loud voice,
The courser, hearing, recognized it,
With its legs it kicked the doorway,
Though the door of steel was fashioned,
With ease was it torn asunder.
Halili then climbed off the courser
And to Mujo did he hasten,
Finding Mujo bound in shackles,
Swiftly did he untie Mujo.
See how Mujo’s steed reacted,
How loudly did the courser whinny,
For its master was it worried.
What was Mujo’s next reaction?
He slew Mehreme, the Turkish woman,
Slew his sister and his daughter,
Took the king’s wife for himself now,
And his throne of golden ducats,
Took with him his fighting sabre,
Burnt the kulla and the palace,
To the ground he razed the kulla.
Safely they rode to Jutbina,
And all Jutbina feasted with them.
God bless those who’ve heard this story,
So they say, I was not present.

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Mëhill Prêka of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Hylli i dritës, Shkodra, 7 (1931), p. 621-634; Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 159-169; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 188-198. 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).]