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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

Omer, Son of Mujo

Young Omer is destined for heroic deeds. Fearing for his safety, his mother tells him that his father and uncle are dead, but the Agas reveal to him that the two have been held prisoner by the king for seven years. Omer dresses up as a Christian and rides over to the Kingdom. At a fountain, while playing his sharki, he meets the king’s daughter Rusha, who is in love with him. In accordance with a plot she devises for him, Omer kidnaps the king’s twin sons and holds them for ransom. The king accedes, releasing Mujo and Halili and complying with all of Mujo’s demands. On his return, Mujo pretends to want to slay the twins in order to test Omer’s reaction. Omer opposes Mujo, as the twins are under his protection, and from this reaction Mujo knows Omer is indeed his son. The twins are returned to the king, and father and son celebrate their reunion.
























































It’s you we worship, God Almighty!
The day had dawned, but little light shone,            
The sun came up, no warmth provided,
Better had the light not come out,
Better had the sun not risen,
The two best Agas were made prisoner,
Caught were Mujo and Halili,
At their fireplace they’d left no one,
Only Mujo’s pregnant wife there,
God bestowed a son upon her,
And a fair name did they give him,
Called him Omer, son of Mujo.
When at the mere age of seven
Did he tower seven ells high,
On the scales weighed seventy okas,
And still the boy had not left home yet.
When he was seven, did his mother
Send him off to tend the goat kids,
That day he spent chasing a rabbit,
At night he hid it in the kulla.
Turning to his mother, he said:
“That grey goat kid, may God damn it,
Would not give me peace and quiet,
Come and light the pine torch, mother,
For God has maybe slain the goat kid,
Let’s check and see it in the cellar.”
The mother went down to the goat kids
And there she saw a mountain rabbit,
The mother well knew what had happened,
Turning to the boy, she uttered:
“That, my son, is no grey goat kid,
That’s a rabbit from the mountains!
But no matter, boy, I see that
It’s your fate to be a hero!”
Omer one day told his mother:
“By the God who made me, mother,
No father have I and no uncle?
Did you find me in the bushes?”
The mother swore to him, replying:
“You had a father and an uncle,
But perished both of them of smallpox,
They are buried in the garden.”
The boy then swore to her, replying:
“Bring Halili’s field glass, mother,
For I’ll climb up to the tower,
And look out o’er field and meadow.”
The mother brought Halili’s field glass
And he climbed up to the tower,
Looked out to the distant hillocks,
Studied all the fields and meadows,
And gazed at the plains around him.
Turning to his mother, he said:
“By the God who made you, mother,
What’s that white thing on the meadows?
Could it be a snow-white landslide,
A ravine with rocks and gravel,
Or a flock of lambs with shepherds,
Or the shkjas with tent pavilions?”
The mother swore to him, replying:
“It’s not the shkjas with tent pavilions,
It’s the Agas of Jutbina,
Daily there do they assemble.”
Facing then his mother, he said:
“Bring Halili’s garments, mother,
Bring the sabre for the war grounds,
Bring me also Mujo’s courser,
For I’d like to meet the Agas.”
Hear his mother’s words in answer:
“You are young, boy, and I’m frightened
That the Agas will insult you,
Mujo’d often made them angry.”
But Omer would just not listen,
She gave him armour which he girded,
Snatched the sabre for the war grounds,
Got the garments of Halili,
Perfectly the clothes did fit him.
Then she brought forth Mujo’s courser,
When he tried to mount the courser,
He couldn’t reach up to the crupper.
Then the steed he told in Turkish:
“A mighty courser they have called you,
Fall down on your knees before me
So that I can reach your crupper.
Down the road ride to Jutbina.”
Like a storm the courser set off,
The Agas of Jutbina heard it,
“What are all those peals of thunder?
Is a thunderstorm approaching?”
Then said Arnaut Osmani:
“It sounds like Mujo and Halili.”
To his feet he rose to look out,
Saw but smoke and dust before him,
And in it Omer, son of Mujo.
Osmani glimpsed him with displeasure,
And turning to the Agas swore out:
“It’s the bastard son of Mujo,
Let none of us wish him welcome,
Let no one give word of greeting,
And no one put his horse to pasture.”
When the lad got to the Agas,
He bid them with a selam greetings,
But they gave no word of welcome,
No one offered that he sit down,
No one put his horse to pasture.
Only Zuku Bajraktari
Who was Mujo’s true blood brother,
Gave the boy a word of greeting,
Had him sit among the others,
Put his fine horse out to pasture.
Omer then spoke to the meeting:
“Damn you,” he addressed the Agas,
“Why’ve you given me no greeting?
Nor a seat for me to sit on,
Nor put out my horse to pasture?
All of you well recognize me,
I’m son of Gjeto Basho Mujo,
Mujo’s often made you angry,
But all the wars were won by Mujo,
Mujo’s given you great honour,
Many of the shkjas he’s slaughtered,
Protected you against great danger,
And not a bit of thanks you’ve shown him,
All you show him is your envy.”
The Agas murmured and took counsel,
Then they started their complaining:
“From the sea has come a baloz,
None of us will dare combat it,
Though it’s claiming our possessions.”
What said Omer, son of Mujo?
“Send a message to the baloz
To be early on the war grounds.”
What did Osman Aga utter?
“If it’s true you’re really Omer,
Your father and uncle are in prison,
And from the prison you must free them
The king has held them seven years now,
Down in Kotor are they captive,
Their hair has grown long to the floorboards,
For seven years they’ve seen no sunlight,
For seven years no change of clothing,
For seven years no way of shaving.”
At this, the boy could wait no longer,
He turned and jumped onto his courser,
And took the road that led him homewards.
Before the gateway of the kulla
He stopped and cried out to his mother:
“Stick your tit out of the window,
Because I need your breast, good mother!”
She stuck her tit out of the window,
With his left hand did he seize it,
With his right hand took his sabre,
And swore by God unto his mother:
“Tell me where’re my father and uncle,
Or I’ll cut your tit to pieces.”
The mother told her son in answer:
“The Agas have been talking nonsense,
You’re too young and they insult you.
You had a father and good uncle,
Both the king has taken prisoner,
Down in Kotor are they captive,
Their hair has grown long to the floorboards,
They’re kept unwashed, no change of clothing,
I was too afraid to tell you,
For seven years I have not seen them.”
What said Omer, son of Mujo?
“Bring Hungarian garments, mother.”
Hungarian garments did she bring him,
Sewed upon them Christian crosses.
Then he took his sharki with him,
Up he jumped onto his courser,
And he set off for the Kingdom,
And the Kingdom did he enter.
When he reached a village fountain,
He took his sharki and did play it,
Played with skill and sang out fairly.
Rusha heard him, the king’s daughter,
What did Omer now say to her?
“A cup of water, give me, Rusha,
From far and wide have I come travelling
In search of father and my uncle.”
The maiden swore to him, responding:
“To no one will I offer water,
Save to Omer, son of Mujo,
Whom the Lord made seven years hence,
Well the Seven Kingdoms know him.”
The boy now, putting down his sharki,
Started asking Rusha questions,
Then did he reveal to Rusha:
“By the Lord on high who made me,
I am Omer, son of Mujo,
Here to free the two from prison,
Or I’ll perish in the Kingdom,
Tell me, maiden, how to do it!”
Rusha was in love with Omer
And proposed a plan to help him,
Of her plan did she tell Omer:
“Of twin sons the king is father,
They are fair lads who’ve no equals.
‘Twould be easy to deceive them
And to bring them to the fountain,
Let them play here in the water.
If you from the king could catch them,
He’d free your father and your uncle.”
Omer with this plan was happy,
From the king he seized the twin sons,
Took them with him on his courser.
With them travelled the king’s daughter,
Singing as she journeyed with them,
The twins, however, travelled weeping.
With skill did Omer play his sharki,
Safe and sound they reached Jutbina,
All Jutbina feasted with them.
See what Omer then decided.
To the king he sent a warning:
“You who are king in your Kingdom,
If you’re missing any children,
Don’t waste time to try and find them,
For they’re held in Omer’s prison.
Free my father and my uncle
Or I’ll tear your twins to pieces.”
The king then saw he was in trouble,
Forthwith to his feet he sprang up,
And to the prison door he hastened:
“Come out, Mujo, may God damn you,
For my twins your son has captured,
They lie day and night in prison,
He says he might chop their heads off.”
“By the God who did create me,
I will only leave this prison
When I’m kempt and when I’m shaven.”
Swiftly were the barbers summoned
And just as swiftly did they shave him.
“Come out, Mujo, may God damn you.”
“By the God who did create me,
I will only leave this prison
When I get well-folded fabrics,
And three donkeys with gold laden.”
Swiftly did the king give orders,
On two mares he piled red fabrics,
On three donkeys loaded money,
Burdened were they full of gold coins,
“Come out, Mujo,” did he cry out,
“Alive I’ll not come out,” said Mujo,
“Unless you give my son your Rusha,
And me a tray of golden ducats!”
What was it the king responded?
“You both today will be my in-laws,
The boy shall take as bride my Rusha!”
Then the heroes left their prison,
And departed for Jutbina.
When they finally reached their kulla,
Hear what Mujo told Halili:
“When I go into the kulla
Will I seize the twins to slay them,
For today I’ll meet my Omer.
Should the lad be my son really,
He’ll not let me slay the twin boys.”
With one hand he seized the twin sons,
With the other seized his sabre,
When he was about to slay them,
His son jumped to his feet, protesting,
Arming himself for a battle,
That his guests should not be slaughtered.
The two men set upon each other,
But in harmony they parted,
Throwing arms around each other,
“Hail, my boy, that I now see you,
And you really are my true son.”
To the king they sent the twin boys,
And then held a celebration
That they’d lived to be united.

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Mëhill Prêka of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Hylli i dritës, Shkodra, 7 (1931), p. 685-693; Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 203-210; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 229-235. 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).]