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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 and Jevrenija

The maidens of the Kingdom are talking about their boyfriends. The king’s daughter Jevrenija is silent at first, but finally speaks of her love for Sokol Halili. Her mother is horrified that she is in love with a Muslim and demands that the king execute her in order to preserve his honour. As punishment, the king decides instead to give his daughter in two weeks’ time to the black gumans. Jevrenija writes a letter in blood to Mujo. Mujo and the Agas of Jutbina resolve to dress up as gumans and save the maiden before the real gumans arrive. When they arrive, the king puts them to the test, forcing them to say mass and to slice a candle in twain without making it flicker, something which only real gumans can do. They succeed and set off home with the maiden. Only when it is too late does the king realize that he has been deceived.


































We worship you, oh God Almighty!
The sun came up, the moon was golden,
What were the maids of the Kingdom doing?            
Thirty maidens had assembled,
Having left their mothers’ kulla,
Left behind their grannies’ spindles,
Left the lambs on noonday pastures,
In the shade were sleeping shepherds,
On the peaks stood guard the zanas,
The nightingales sang in the beech trees,
What is it they turned and said now?
“Where’ll we rest, oh Earthly Beauty?”
“Under the plane tree in that meadow.”
They spread out ferns and sat upon them,
Took out drinks and started drinking,
Each one talked about her lover,
Each one did commend her lover,
Jevrenija did stay silent,
With her head bowed did she sit there.
The maidens mocked and ridiculed her:
“You who are the fairest of us,
Are like a tree trunk now abandoned,
Why do we hear nothing from you?
Woebegone is your expression,
You don’t even look up at us,
Won’t you tell us of your lover,
Is your boyfriend some relation,
Is your boyfriend from your in-laws,
Is your boyfriend’s head all scurfy,
Does your honour keep you silent?”
“May God slay you, my companions,
If I had no mouth for speaking,
You’d force me through my ribs to tell you,
I’m no tree trunk now abandoned,
Far away’s Sokol Halili,
All day long he’s doing battle,
I know not if he thinks of me.
Whenever I now think about him,
If I’m eating, I stop eating,
If I’m drinking, I stop drinking,
If I’m sleeping, I go sleepless,
For three days I haven’t spoken.”
Then her mother did approach her,
Slapped the maiden’s face and uttered:
“How could you e’er love a Muslim?
Of our faith you’ve soiled the honour.”
To the king rushed off the mother:
“Which is it, king, your child or honour,
Shame or honour on your doorstep?
If you’d rather keep your honour,
Take a rope and hang her swiftly,
For your daughter loves a Muslim.”
What did the Captain King do now?
He locked his daughter in a chamber,
Sent the black gumans a message:
“I’m going to give my daughter to you,
In two weeks’ time you’re going to take her.”
Despair and horror seized the maiden,
She found paper for a letter,
But to write she had no ink, so
With her blood she wrote the letter,
The maiden prayed to the Almighty,
That the swiftly flying letter’d
Fall into the hands of Mujo.
A bird alighted at her window,
Saw the letter in blood written,
Saw the maiden there lamenting:
“Will you, bird, take pity on me
And bear this letter off to Mujo
So he can free me from my suffering?”
Quickly did the bird dispatch it,
Even quicker Mujo read it,
But he did not understand it,
So he ran up to his tower,
And with his rifle gave a warning
To call the Agas of Jutbina.
Arnaut Osmani with them
Took the letter and perused it,
Read the contents of the letter:
“This is from young Jevrenija,
Please inform Sokol Halili
I spoke of him to my companions,
My father’s locked me in a chamber,
To the black gumans he’ll give me,
In two weeks as a bride they’ll get me,
My body’ll find no rest among them,
Halili, don’t desert me. Save me!”
The Agas searched for a solution,
Then spoke Gjeto Basho Mujo:
“The black gumans, we’ll attack them,
Thirty gumans will we slaughter,
And dress ourselves in guman garments,
Teach our steeds to ride like Tatars,
Sheathe our swords as do Crusaders,
On our heads we’ll put their headgear,
Reach the king before the deadline,
And be the ones to get the maiden.”
A wise old man spoke up and countered:
“I’m afraid the king will know us
And will lead us to perdition,
For he’ll send us off to mass, and
There will make us say a blessing,
These are things we can’t do ever.
He’ll put a candle on the table,
Will not let it flame or flicker
While we slice the thing asunder,
Only gumans have this power.”
Then spoke Arnaut Osmani:
“Do not fret about the matter,
At saying mass I’m quite an expert,
And won’t let the candle flicker
While I slice the thing asunder.”
The black gumans, they attacked them,
Thirty gumans did they slaughter,
And dressed themselves in guman garments,
Taught their steeds to ride like Tatars,
Sheathed their swords as do Crusaders,
On their heads they put the headgear,
To the king did they then travel.
“God slay you, gumans,” did he utter,
“Why’ve you come before the deadline?”
Well spoke Gjeto Basho Mujo:
“We’ve come here, king, ‘fore the deadline,
For if the Agas of Jutbina
Heard the deadline you had set us,
Mujo would have tried to stop us.
He’d have got the bride and escorts,
He’d have taken us his prisoners.”
The king believed they were the gumans,
He placed a candle on the table.
What of Arnaut Osmani?
He did not let the candle flicker
While he sliced the thing asunder.
Well they drank and well they feasted,
Well they spent the night there sleeping,
When the day broke, bringing fortune,
The king to mass did send the heroes.
Mass said Arnaut Osmani,
And the Muslims said the blessing,
The heroes left when mass was over,
Taking, too, the maiden with them.
To see them off the king did follow.
When they reached the guman highway,
They took the road off to Jutbina.
“God slay you, gumans,” did he utter,
“Since you forsook the guman highway,
You took the road off to Jutbina!”
Then spoke Gjeto Basho Mujo:
“Oh Captain King, God damn and slay you,
We, my lord, are not black gumans,
We are Agas of Jutbina,
Look, we’re Mujo and Halili,
And here is Zuku Bajraktari.
By the God, oh king, who made us,
If it were not for your daughter,
I would make you one head shorter,
For you’ve caused much pain and trouble.”
To them the king lied: “Pleasant journey,
May we all be friends and allies!”
But really, he did not forgive them.

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. 170-174; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 199-202. 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).]