Legends of Mujo and Halili (Part 1)

Mujo’s Strength

Many years ago there lived a mountain man in Kladush in the Krahina near Jutbina. He had two sons called Mujo and Halil, and a daughter called Kunja. This mountain man was very strong and courageous, as were his two sons. Nevertheless, the father was very poor and had great difficulty making ends meet. Mujo had to go to work as soon as he was physically able and entered the service of a rich man to gain his living. He was made a cowherd. He was entrusted with a herd and sent up to the mountain pastures with it.

From then on, Mujo would get up as soon as the stars faded and the first rays of dawn began to appear, stick a crust of bread and a few grains of salt in his pocket, take his staff and set out with the cows to climb up into the mountains. There he let the animals graze all day, ate his bread and salt, drank water from a spring and rested in the noonday heat. Mujo got to know every path, leading his herd in one direction and then in the other to find the best pastures. In the evening he would take the cows home again. His master was surprised because the cows were producing so much milk that he could not find enough containers in which to store it. But still, Mujo received only bread and salt as wages.

Things went well until, one day, Mujo lost the cows up in the mountain pastures. He followed their tracks, leaving no stone unturned, and searched until it got dark, but could simply not find his cows. That night he did not return home. How could he go back without the cows? The master would be furious and the other cowherds would make fun of him. Exhausted from his searching and running around, he sat down despondently beside a boulder as the sun set behind the mountains. There, a pitch black, moonless and starless night overtook him. Mujo did not know what else to do so he decided to get a bit of sleep and wait until dawn to start searching for the cows again.

Near the boulder where Mujo was resting, he noticed two cradles with crying infants. He went over to have a look and took pity on the infants because they were still very small, rocking them in their cradles until they fell asleep. At midnight, two lights appeared on top of the boulder, bedazzling him with their glare. But in fact they were not lights, but two Zanas bathed in light. The Zanas watched Mujo gently rocking the infants’ cradles and speaking softly and gently to them. They were surprised to see him and asked, “Who are you? What are you doing here? Have you lost something here and come to look for it?” “I am a cowherd and work for bread and salt,” Mujo replied, “I wander all day long over the mountain pastures. But today something terrible happened to me. I lost my master’s cows and came in search of them. Then night fell and I wanted to get some rest, but I couldn’t sleep because of the crying of these infants. I took pity on them and rocked their cradles. They have just fallen asleep… But who are you? I cannot see your faces. Where did the light come from?”

The two Zanas recognized Mujo because they had often seen him in the meadows with his cows. “We are Zanas, Mujo,” they replied. “We go out every night on our wanderings to help the good and the righteous. We left our children here. You are a good man, Mujo, and have rocked them to sleep. May you be rewarded! Tell us what you want for having helped us, Mujo. Do you want strength? Would you like to be a mighty warrior? Do you want property or wealth? Do you wish for knowledge or to be able to speak other languages? Tell us what you want and we will give it to you.” Mujo replied to the Zanas, “Fair Zanas, the other cowherds always taunt me and make fun of me. Can you to make me so strong so that I can fight and beat them?” “Is that the only thing you want, Mujo?” “That’s all.”

One Zana then said to the other, “Shall we give Mujo some of our milk, sister, so that he will grow strong?” “Yes, let us give him some milk, sister.” The Zanas then gave Mujo their breasts and he drank three drops of milk. Immediately he felt strong enough to pull a tree out of the ground by its roots. The Zanas said to him, “Let’s see how strong you are, Mujo. Pick up this rock and raise it into the air.” The Zanas pointed to the boulder which weighed as much as three teams of oxen.

Mujo knelt, put his arms around the boulder, moved it and eventually managed to lift it as high as his ankles. But he could not get it any higher and dropped it. “We’ll have to give him some more milk,” they said. Mujo had another drink, seized the boulder and raised it as high as his knees. Since he still could not lift it any higher, the Zanas gave him their breasts a third time. His strength grew. Once again he seized the boulder and this time raised it to his waist. As he could not lift it any higher the Zanas gave him even more milk. Mujo thus had another drink and was now stronger than a Drangue. He lifted the boulder, rested it on his shoulders and then raised it over his head, standing as firm as a pillar. “Where should I throw the boulder?” he asked the Zanas. “Into the Green Valleys or down onto the Plain of Jutbina?” The Zanas grinned and replied, “We must not give him any more milk or he’ll destroy the whole world.” Then the Zanas asked Mujo all about his father and mother, about his brother and sister and about Jutbina and the Krahina.

In the meantime, a bright moon had risen and was shining down on them. The shadow of the huge boulder grew and darkened the nearby gorges. A cool evening breeze blew over the mountain pastures, the leaves of the beech trees rustled in the wind and the pure spring water murmured. When the Zanas had finished asking Mujo all about himself, they said to him, “We would like you to become our blood brother, Mujo. Will you?” “If you want me to be your blood brother, Zanas, I will,” replied Mujo, “Once we are related to one another, I can call on your help, and if anyone ever insults you, you can call on me to come and help you.” “Fine, blood brother.”

When rosy dawn announced the approach of a new day, the Zanas took their cradles, slung them over their backs and disappeared, leaving behind but a ray of light. Mujo rubbed his eyes to make out where the Zanas had gone, but could see nothing but light. He pondered to himself, “Perhaps I was only dreaming?”, and went off to a spring to wash. The cold water refreshed him. At the edge of the water was a huge boulder which twenty men could not have lifted. Mujo knelt, put his arms around the boulder and lifted it onto his shoulders. He laughed, saying, “It was certainly no dream,” and tossed the boulder away. It rolled from cliff to cliff all the way down into the valley below. Its echo resounded through the mountain pastures.

After a while, he departed in search of his cows and eventually found them with their udders full. He herded them together and took them back down into the valley. It was already day when he arrived on the Plain of Jutbina, where all the cowherds had assembled. When they saw Mujo coming, they began making fun of him, “Well, you finally got here, did you, sleepy head?” Mujo scowled at them but made no reply. “Didn’t the wolves get you and all your cows?” He gave them an even fiercer look but still said nothing. “Shall we have a wrestle?” Mujo laughed out loud and replied, “All right, I’m ready for you.” “Aren’t you afraid we’ll pin you to the ground?” “I’m not afraid of you,” he countered and hastily rolled up his sleeves. When the strongest of the cowherds approached and tried to grab Mujo by the waist to wrestle him down, Mujo seized him by the arm, lifted him up, shook him back and forth several times and hurled him into the air. The other cowherds looked on in dismay. “What has happened to Mujo?” They backed off, turned tail and fled as fast as they could. “Does anyone else want to fight with me?” Mujo shouted. But there was no reply, for they had all disappeared.

Mujo led the cows back to his master and said to him, “Here are your cows! You can start looking for another cowherd!” Then he returned to Kladush, to his father, mother, brother and sister. From then on, Mujo worked for himself. He went hunting up in the mountain pastures. The wolves trembled whenever they heard him approach. Mujo fought for his country and everyone in the Kingdom of the Christians panicked at the very mention of his name.

©️ VOTRA Magazine / Maj 2021 

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