Përralla

Mujo and Halil visit the Sultan

Mujo and Halil were the greatest of heroes. Their spectacular deeds were known throughout the Krahina and the Kingdom of the Christians. They had never let a Baloz escape alive, they had never allowed a Christian king to invade Jutbina, or any warriors, guerrilla fighters or pandours to cross over the mountains from the Kingdom of the Christians. The two had invaded New Kotor with their band of thirty warriors, had done battle with the king, torn down his fortresses and set fire to his palaces. They had carried off maidens and always returned to Jutbina victorious with a song on their lips. When Mujo’s son Omer was treacherously slain, the two invaded Zahar with their friends and put everything to the torch. Naturally their companions often fell on the battlefield or were wounded in sword fights. Such is the nature of war. Gjeto Basho Mujo had lost seven sons up in the mountains, all seven of them as young men. His beloved sons now lay under the grass among the beech trees and were mourned for by their mother Ajkunja, by the birds and by the Zanas of the mountain pastures. They mourned for them, and all Jutbina sang of their heroic deeds, for Mujo’s sons had fought as heroes and died as heroes.

And what happened thereafter? Messengers had been sent to Istanbul to seek the support of the Sultan. They had taken gifts with them and had fallen on their knees before the Sultan, adoring and praising him. “Sultan,” they said slyly, “you are mighty and reign over land and sea. Why do you not reign over Jutbina? Mujo and Halil hold sway there and do whatever they wish. They block the roads and highways, rob travellers and even murder little children. We beg of you, Sultan, vanquish Mujo and Halil as you have vanquished the whole world. Seize the two of them, behead them and hang them from the walls so that all of Istanbul can see that they are common thieves.” 

The Sultan accepted the gifts which the messengers had brought and listened to what they had to say. He pondered a while and then clapped his hands. “What are your orders, oh Sultan?” his attendants asked, ready to fulfil his wishes. “Give me paper and a quill so that I can write a letter to Gjeto Basho Mujo of Jutbina.” They brought him some fine white paper, black ink and a sharpened quill. The Sultan sat on a pillow on the floor and began to write his letter. When he had finished, he folded the letter, sealed it with black sealing wax and handed it to a Tatar. “Take this letter to Mujo of Jutbina in the Krahina. He is to appear before me immediately, otherwise I will send my army there and dismantle his fortress stone by stone. I will pursue him up into the mountains and hang him with a rope.” The Tatar took the letter, mounted his steed and rode like the wind to Jutbina where he arrived sweating and covered in dust. There, he went straight to the fortress of Mujo, knocked on the door, gave Mujo the letter and returned immediately whence he had come. 

Gjeto Basho Mujo opened the letter and read it. He knit his brow and scowled. Halil, on seeing him, exclaimed, “Mujo, I’ve seen you read many a letter but I’ve never seen you look so grim. Has a good friend or blood brother died? Has another Baloz arisen from the sea and challenged you to battle? Or has the King of the Christians set off with all his warriors, commanders and pandours to invade Jutbina? Don’t worry, Mujo! Jutbina and the whole Krahina are behind us.” “Be quiet or be damned, Halil. No one has died, no Baloz has arisen, no foreign king with his warriors, commanders and pandours has invaded Jutbina. But someone has made accusations about us to the Sultan, saying that we are blocking the roads, robbing travellers and even murdering little children. I don’t know what to do, Halil! The Sultan has written that I should appear before him, otherwise he will invade us. It is a dreadful situation indeed. We cannot fight the King of the Christians and the Sultan at the same time. Should we barricade ourselves in our fortress and fight until we fall? Or should we take to the mountains and fight there until the Sultan and the King encircle us together. We could fight as long as we are able and then throw ourselves from the cliffs so that we don’t fall into their hands alive.” “Do you know what we should do, Mujo?” said Halil. “Let us ask our mother. She will give us her advice.” “Good, Halil, let’s ask her.”

They went to their mother and told her what the Sultan had written, saying they did not know what to do. The mother laughed, saying, “You will neither barricade yourselves in the fortress nor take to the mountains, but ready yourselves, saddle your steeds and ride directly to the Sultan who is waiting for you. Tell him that what others have told him is not true, that you do not block the roads, rob travellers and murder little children. You are true warriors and only fight with men on the battlefield.” “The Sultan won’t ask any questions, mother. He will simply execute us. He will call his moor and have him behead us right away.” “No he won’t, because you haven’t done the things he has accused you of. You are not common thieves, but warriors. The Sultan ought to know this, and if he doesn’t, you must tell him so. Saddle your steeds my sons and be off!”

At the crack of dawn Mujo and Halil shoed and saddled their steeds, dressed and put on their armour. They covered their heads in cloaks and let the tips of their moustaches droop so that no one would recognize them as they passed through the Kingdom of the Christians. They bandaged the legs of their steeds so that they would limp. Everyone who saw them pass was surprised. “Who are those Gypsies as big as oak trees, with cloaks covering their heads and drooping moustaches?” “Never seen them before,” said the people. Everyone watched them at a distance, but no one dared to approach. “Mujo,” Halil asked, “why are we putting ourselves to such shame? This is worse than death. Have we reached the battlefield yet?” “Yes, we have, Halil.” They dismounted, unbandaged their legs of their steeds, threw off the cloaks and twirled their moustaches. The people standing nearby suddenly recognized who they were and fled, screaming, “It’s Mujo and Halil, Mujo and Halil!” They locked themselves in their cellars. Now the two could continue their journey unhindered. They were off in a flash of lightning, leaving a cloud of dust and smoke behind them. The mouths of their steeds frothed and emitted a yellowish smoke from which the mountain oaks caught fire. The flames spread and masked the mountain pastures in their smoke. 

Thus the brothers sped through the Kingdom of the Christians and through the Sultan’s empire on to Istanbul. The Sultan’s sons were awestruck at the sound of their approach, saying, “What is that roar? Is it thunder or cannon fire from the Kingdom of the Christians?” The Sultan replied, “It is neither the heavens nor cannon fire. Mujo and Halil are on their way. I have summoned them.”

The two brothers rode straight into the palace and dismounted. The guards were startled to see them and wondered if they were human beings or oak trees, but let them pass. Mujo said to Halil, “Wait here, brother, and keep watch. If the Sultan calls the moor, you slay him first and call me. The blood in Istanbul and in the Sultan’s palace will then be knee deep, for I am armed.” As Mujo climbed the steps, the whole staircase creeked and sagged under his weight. The carpenters had to be called to repair and reinforce it. When Mujo tried entering the hall, he found the door too small. Again the carpenters had to be called to enlarge it. 

Finally Mujo entered. The Sultan was sitting on a pillow on the floor and looking at him in awe. “Is it a human being or a mountain?” he wondered. Mujo’s head touched the ceiling, his thighs were as thick as the Sultan himself. He greeted the Sultan courteously: “Greetings, oh Sultan! I am Gjeto Basho Mujo of Jutbina. You have summoned me and I have come. How are you faring, Sultan? How are your sons?” The Sultan offered him a seat and asked him about Jutbina and the Krahina, about his battles in the Kingdom of the Christians and about the Sea Baloz. Mujo answered his questions, then grinned and asked, “Sultan, are you going to call your moor now to have me beheaded?” The Sultan stroked his beard and looked quite surprised. “No, Mujo,” he said, “why should I call the moor? I had heard much about you and wanted to meet you.” Mujo sat a little while longer and chatted with the Sultan. Then he said, “Allow me now to take my leave, Sultan, for my brother Halil is waiting for me downstairs.” 

A hook on Mujo’s trousers, however, caught on the pillow on which the mighty Sultan was sitting. When Mujo rose to leave, he dragged the pillow and the Sultan after him right to the top of the stairs, without noticing a thing. At the staircase he extricated the hook, left the Sultan sitting there and descended. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he and Halil mounted their steeds and rode back to Jutbina.

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