13. Central Asiatic and Balkan Epic*

A musical instrument, a story, a hero and his horse, horse culture, these and other items of narrative and social context unite the epics of the Balkans with some of those of Central Asia. It is possible that certain particulars actually came into Balkan epic from Central Asia, following the migrations of peoples as well as the caravan routes north of the Caspian and either skirting the northern shores of the Black Sea or crossing Asia Minor. Those are the logical ways, but there could have been others, depending perhaps on the kind of influence. A story and a musical instrument do not necessarily travel by the same path, although they might. In this paper I wish mainly to discuss some of the items of resemblance. I shall not pretend to do more than speculate on the reasons for the likenesses.
Let me begin with the musical instrument. The four instruments that are used in the Balkans to accompany story song are the gusle, the g’dulka / lira, which I class together as one, the tambura, and the violin. Of these, the instrument par excellence for the accompaniment of epic song {211|212} is the one-stringed gusle. It is not properly used for any other purpose, whereas the other three are used for other types of song as well.
In the musical Atlas (by Vertkov et al.) I found only one bowed monochord in any way like the gusle, namely the dúč'k' from the Panajci people, which is said to be like the two-stringed hučir of the Buryats. [1] According to the pictures, however, these do not look very much like the gusle, because the resonance bowl is a small round drum with a long neck. It is clear, on the other hand, that many of the two-stringed bowed instruments look more like the gusle than does the dúč'k'. I noted more than twenty such instruments in the Atlas. They are found the Caucasus, along the southern regions of the Soviet Union from the Turkmen to the Buryats, and in the northern areas from Mari to the Nenets, the Hanti-Mansi, and even as far as the Čukči of the far northeast. The spread of these instruments covers Asiatic Russia, but they are concentrated in the Caucasus and the southern areas. In many regions these instruments are mentioned specifically as being used to accompany oral-traditional narrative song. Since it seems unlikely that the gusle traveled eastward from the Balkans, because the migrations of peoples were in the opposite direction, we may conclude that the gusle came from Asia. The word gusle is apparently Slavic, and this fact may indicate that the instrument was adopted by the Slavs, presumably fairly early, since the name is found in Russian as well, gulsli, for a musical instrument of the zither type, similar to the Finnish kantele.
When one passes from extensive reading in the South Slavic epic including the Moslem cycles from South Serbia, Bosnia, and Hercegovina, to a perusal of the epics of Central Asia, such as The Book of Dede Korkut, Er Töshtük, Alpamyš, The Memorial Feast for Kökötöy-Khan, or the various parts of the Gesar cycle from Mongolia and Tibet, one finds oneself in a familiar world—except that there seems to be more of the shamanistic, the fantastic, and of otherworldliness in many of the Asiatic stories than in those in the Balkans. As someone has remarked, in the South Slavic epics the heroes do not change shape, they change clothes. Changing clothes actually takes place in both epic traditions as matter of disguise, which is of importance in the return stories, as we know from the Odyssey. It is perfectly true, also, that there are some South Slavic songs in which the hero changes shape! One is entitled {212|213} "Zmija mladoženja" (The Serpent Bridegroom), which is admittedly a ballad rather than an epic. [2] The other is "Sekula se u zmaja pretvorio" (Sekula Transformed Himself into a Serpent). [3] The element of the shamanic and fantastic, I suggest, may be beneath the surface in some of the Balkan Slavic narratives. The epic stories of the two areas do indeed have a great deal in common and I shall attempt to illustrate that fact in what follows.

Return Songs

Much of the history of the "return song" embodied in Alpamyš and in "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse" in The Book of Dede Korkut, which I mentioned in the beginning of this paper, has already been written by Viktor Žirmunskij, and only its Balkan relatives need to be brought into connection with it. In addition to those two epic tales, I shall consider three South Slavic epics, "The Captivity of Janković Stojan," "Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostur," and "The Captivity of Đulić Ibrahim.” [4]
The first feature that strikes one in comparing the South Slavic songs with Alpamyš and with "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse" is that the Central Asiatic tales begin before the birth of the hero and tell the story of his life through his marriage. On the other hand, it is at the time of, or shortly after, the wedding of the hero that the South Slavic narratives pick up his adventures. [5]
This does not mean that there are no South Slavic accounts of the birth and early deeds of heroes. Although a number of songs recount early deeds, there are not many songs of birth, and they are not always associated with the heroes of return songs. The beginning of the first part of Alpamyš, for instance, in which two brothers are childless and ask for divine intervention to correct the situation, reminds one of the story of Smailagić Meho's birth in The Wedding of Smailagić Meho. {213|214} Meho's uncle explains to him in the first assembly, when the young man is sad because he is not allowed to undertake great things:
Your father married three times and your uncle four. God gave issue to neither of us, not even to your father, Hadji Smail—God preserve him!—except you alone. I, my son, have none … We can scarcely wait to see that fulfillment of our desires, that we give the command over to you, that you take your place at the head of the thirty captains. We have been waiting to find a wife for you. We pray God that we both may see this, dear son, with our own eyes. [6]
There are many songs about weddings as well as about returns, yet I do not know of any return songs of which Smailagić Meho is the hero nor do I know of any separate songs telling of the birth or, indeed, the early deeds or wedding of Đulić Ibrahim. On the other hand, there are separate songs in South Slavic of the birth of Marko Kraljević, of his early deeds, and even of his marriage, although they are not of the same kind as the other wedding songs in the South Slavic tradition.
I am acquainted with birth stories of two Christian heroes, Marko Kraljević and Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk, but I do not recall any concerning the birth of any of the Moslem heroes, other than the information just given about the birth of Smailagić Meho. This lack is strange, because of the strength of the Central Asiatic Turkic tradition. In one song, Marko's father, King Vukašin, marries a vila, a supernatural winged female, who lives in or near mountain lakes, and Marko was their child. [7] This gives him magical strength. That great strength is also accounted for in other songs by saying that he was suckled by a vila. In this way Marko's superhuman characteristics are explained.
The birth of Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk is also recounted in song. [8] He was born with the day-star on his forehead, the shining moon on his chest, a sword depicted on his arm, and, according to some versions, a tuft of wolf's fur on his shoulder. He grew rapidly, and when he was twelve he was taller than a young man of twenty. In the case of both Marko and Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk there are also traditional songs of their weddings but the songs of birth and wedding were never joined together, as was apparently the case with Alpamyš and "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey {214|215} Horse.” [9] A Bulgarian song tells of the life of Marko from his birth to the fulfillment of a prophecy at that time that he would "crush his father's bones," but this is in reality a story of his early deeds, not of his birth itself, and it ends with recognition between father and son, not with wedding. It is an integrated song, not the concatenation of separate songs. [10]
There is little need here to give further illustrations of the many wedding songs in both the Christian and the Moslem traditions. This group of songs is undoubtedly the largest and best-developed category in the tradition.
In some Central Asiatic traditions, I believe, there are also separate songs of birth and wedding, which have an independent existence outside of any long epic poem. This matter has been discussed convincingly by A. T. Hatto in respect to the Kirghiz epic. He writes:
Generalisations as to the essentially "biographical" pattern of hero-tales anywhere from Turkey to the Chinese frontier narrating from the hero's birth, or even conception, to his achievement of earthly felicity, conflict with the facts of earlier Kirghiz tradition, which deals in self-contained actions excerpted mostly from the youth or maturity not of a hero or pair of heroes but of a whole group of heroes from both sides of a divide … Indeed, Radlov especially notes that his recording of "The birth of Manas" rests on an improvisation undertaken at his request. The births of Manas's son and grandson, Semetey and Seytek, though narrated in the two Semetey poems, do not launch these poems, nor are the careers of these two heroes co-extensive with the two poems. [11]
The presence of independent birth songs and wedding songs in both the Balkan and the Central Asiatic traditions raises the question in my mind, therefore, as to whether the first parts of Alpamyš and of "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse" are in reality made up of one or more separate songs that have been put together, perhaps by the singing tradition itself, that is, by the traditional singers themselves, or by collectors and/or editors. "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse" may be in a {215|216} different category because of its position in The Book of Dede Korkut, but I wonder whether the length of the Alpamyš epic may be the result of the concatenation of separate oral-traditional songs, in a manner similar to that in which the Finnish Kalevala came into existence.
The wedding song proper, that is, the second part of the Central Asiatic epics, with which we are concerned here, and the first part of the South Slavic epics, contain the following items.
1. The hero is captured with a companion, or companions, at the time of his wedding, or soon thereafter. The only exception is the song of "Marko and Mina of Kostur," in which nothing is said of how long Marko has been married. Moreover, Marko was not captured. He went away to war at the summons of the sultan. It is true also that Alpamyš is not captured immediately after his wedding.
2. The hero is in prison for a long time and is presumed dead. Prison is not a proper term for the situation of Janković Stojan and Smiljanić Ilija in "The Captivity of Janković Stojan." In "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse" the presumption of death is aided by Yaltajuk's presenting of false evidence of Beyrek's death.
3. The hero receives news that his wife is about to be married again. The only exception is "The Captivity of Janković Stojan." In "Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostur" Marko's wife has been captured and his old mother trampled on; later Mina asks Marko, disguised as a monk, to marry Marko to the captured wife.
4. The jailer's daughter helps the hero to escape. The exceptions are "The Captivity of Janković Stojan," and "Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostur," that is, the South Slavic Christian tradition as represented by those songs. In "The Captivity of Đulić Ibrahim" the hero is actually released by the governor of Zadar, but at the instigation of the governor's wife. For that, perhaps not very cogent, reason I have classified it in this respect with the Central Asiatic versions.
5. The hero encounters several people before reaching home. Sometimes they are at the border, sometimes they are near his house. Only in "Đulić" is he accosted by border guards, whom he kills if they do not respect the passport given him by the governor. Such border guards are important in the story, because they represent boundaries between the world of the enemy and one's home world, perhaps even boundaries between a world of death and the real world. In "Janković Stojan" and in "Marko" the hero meets no one until he is close to home, where Stojan meets his mother in the vineyard, and Marko his wife at a spring. {216|217} Beyrek meets first a minstrel with whom he exchanges clothes and lute for his horse(!), and then he encounters shepherds making piles of stones to throw at the usurping bridegroom, These two incidents are within Oghuz territory but are not near his own tent. It is worth noting that in one version of Ugljanin's "Đulić Ibrahim" the singer represents Đulić as killing the third border guard who challenges him and as changing clothes with the dead man. When Bamsi Beyrek reaches his tents, he meets first his little sister at a spring and then his older sisters. Alpamyš meets his enemy Ultan's caravan drivers, who tell him of the usurper's actions, and he kills them. In the Alpamyš epic these men are not guarding the border, as are the men in Đulić's song, but there may be some correspondence here. Alpamyš then meets his sister with the camels, one of which recognizes its returned master, and she almost recognizes him. And after that he meets up with Kultaj, his old servant, with whom he changes clothes. This reminds us, of course, of Beyrek and of Đulić in one version, as just mentioned. The changing of clothes is significant for disguise, as I have mentioned earlier. Without disguise of some sort there would be no testing or recognition. Alpamyš finally meets some simple women just before getting to the feast and he plays a trick on them. I do not really understand this incident, but it is in the same position in the return pattern as Marko's wife at the spring, Stojan's mother in the vineyard, and Beyrek's sisters, young and old.
6. In the hero's house, or at the wedding feast, he meets an old retainer, his mother, his sister, his horse (or other animal), his wife, and the usurping bridegroom and his company of wedding guests.
a. Only in "Đulić" does the hero meet an old retainer, Huso the steward, who answers the gate when Đulić knocks, and with whom he has his first conversation upon reaching home. In Alpamyš, the hero meets Kultaj, who would fit the pattern, but this was on the way home, not actually in the house itself or at a feast. One is, of course, reminded of Eumaeus in the Odyssey.
b. The hero's mother is met first outside in the vineyard in "Stojan," but she comes into the house later, recognizes her son and dies. In "Đulić" mother and sister together listen to the hero's song during which recognition takes place, and the mother dies. In "Beyrek" the mother is not singled out from "Beyrek's parents" on his return, although his father is. In Alpamyš, the hero sees his mother, his father, and little Jadgar doing menial tasks or being mistreated when he returns, but no recognition takes place. Strangely enough, the mother plays no great {217|218} role in the scenes with the returning hero in the Turkic (that is, Uzbek and Oghuz) songs considered here, but she plays a large role in both "Stojan" and "Đulić." The Marko song is somewhat different from the others that we have been looking at, and the hero's return is not to his own house but to Mina's, where his wife is being held captive.
c. The sister in "Stojan" plays an intermediary role. When Stojan's wife recognizes her returned husband from the song he sings, she tells his sister, who greets her brother. In "Đulić" the wife's role is very important. Together with his mother she recognizes the returned hero when he sings his song, and she helps him in arranging other events. In the Central Asiatic epics the sisters are not met in the house, it seems, and they have been considered in the previous section.
d. One of the most interesting characters in the recognition scene is an animal. Only in "Đulić:" does the hero's recognition by his horse occur during the series of recognitions at home. Marko's Šarac comes home from the army with him, but it is the horse who is recognized by the hero's captive wife. This is a different, although perhaps related, motif. In "Beyrek" the gray horse recognizes its master after the hero has escaped with the help of the jailer's daughter. Alpamyš is recognized by an old camel herded by the hero's sister Kaldyrgač, but this occurs on the way home and not in the main recognition scene; and the sister's near recognition of her brother is not encouraged by Alpamyš. Recognition by an animal, whether at home, or on the way home, or at the time of escape, is present in three of the five songs considered here, and recognition of the animal itself, is present in one other. The two Central Asiatic texts and the Moslem South Slavic text contain it. This may be significant, especially in view of other evidence for the importance of the hero's horse in the traditional cultures of Central Asia and the South Slavic regions, as I shall soon demonstrate.
e. Recognition by the wife is crucial to the story, and is found in all five of our texts, and, of course, in the Odyssey.
7. The returned hero mingles with the wedding guests and takes part in activities with them before recognition. In "Stojan" he sings his song to them, and his wife overhears it. Marko goes to Mina's tower, drinks with him, and cuts off his head. Đulić, disguised as a prisoner, asks alms to be used for ransom, and after various recognitions, he puts on his best clothes and appears to the wedding guests. He insults Mujo and Halil, who is about to attack Đulić, when Tale intervenes and reconciles them. Disguised as a minstrel Beyrek joins the wedding feast, sings, and picks {218|219} out Lady Chichek from other ladies. Alpamyš too joins the feast in disguise, observes the woes of his family and friends, and engages in a contest with the bow, which he wins using his grandfather's bow. This item is, of course, very much present in the Odyssey.
8. The suitor receives the hero's sister for his bride, or receives justice. The former is true in "Stojan" and "Đulić," the latter in "Marko," "Beyrek," Alpamyš, and the Odyssey.
9. The hero returns to the place where he was held prisoner, rescues his companions who are still there, and destroys the city. This does not apply to Stojan, because his fellow captives escaped with him, and they were not really in prison to begin with. It does not apply to Marko either, because it was his wife who was captured, not he. It does apply to Đulić, who returns with Halil—who was part of the ransom price—to Zadar. They kill the governor, and rescue the other prisoners. It applies also to Beyrek, who, with the Oghuz, killed the leaders of the Infidel, stormed Bayburt Castle, and destroyed the church. They also freed the other prisoners who had been with Beyrek. In Alpamyš, after full recognition of the hero Alpamyš, and the meting out of justice to Ultan and his supporters, Bajsary returns from the land of the Kalmyks. This return might well be considered as the return of prisoners. But the clearest correspondences are between Đulić and Beyrek, as one might have expected.
Although many correspondences exist between the South Slavic traditional return songs and Homer's Odyssey, there are also more than a few similarities between them and epics from Central Asia. Both the capture of the hero and the timing of it, namely on the occasion of his wedding, are shared with Central Asiatic epic rather than with Homer. The presence of the hero's sister in the epic, and the role that she plays, are not Homeric. The horse as the animal in the story is Central Asiatic, although the camel in Alpamyš, which has been lying around for seven years and jumps up to circle around the hero, is faintly reminiscent of the dog Argos in the Odyssey, who, however, can do nothing more than wag his tail. One must study the texts more carefully before coming to anything like a conclusion, but one might suggest that in the Slavic Balkans there took place a meeting of stories and story elements telling about the return of a hero as old as the Homeric poems with newer arrivals in the peninsula, probably also of great age. "What I have tried to stress in my consideration of return songs in this paper is the existence of a cultural continuum, of which these tales and the {219|220} manner of their telling are a part, stretching from Mongolia to the Balkans and beyond.

Bride Capture and Rescue Songs

The return song is by no means the only type of story shared by both central Asiatic and Balkan epics. Another notable tale concerns obtaining a bride. This is, as we have seen, related to the return songs, of which it may be a part, but it also has a life of its own. In reading Ostjakische Heldenlieder I was struck by several of its stories of bride capture. [12] The Book of Dede Korkut has three tales of the capture of a father who is rescued by his son, one of the capture of son, mother, and wife who are rescued by their father, a wedding song, and the famous return song of "Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse," which we have already discussed. All these types are common in the Balkan Slavic epic traditions. Rescue songs form a very large group in both Christian and Moslem traditions in the Balkans. [13]
In the Uzbek epic of Rawšan (which belongs to the Kurroglou cycle, since Rawšan is Kurroglou's grandson) the first part of the story tells of Rawšan's wedding and the second part relates how his father rescued him and his comrades from captivity just at the moment when Rawšan is about to be executed because he will not change his faith. [14] In this epic a song of gaining a bride has been merged with a song of rescue. The motif of execution when a Moslem will not become a Christian is common also in the Moslem Balkan songs. In the song that tells of Bojičić Alija rescuing the children of Alibey, the two sons are to be {220|221} impaled because their sister will not become a Christian. [15] Bojičić Alija arrives just in time to prevent the execution, and he is aided by the timely arrival of an army from the Bosnian Border.

Catalogues in Central Asiatic and Balkan Slavic Epic

Catalogues are characteristic of oral-traditional epic, although they may be found elsewhere also. One of the most common forms of them is the catalogue of people invited to a meeting of some sort. In its fullest form it has three parts. In the first, the summoner gives the message to a messenger; in the second, the messenger delivers the message to each of the designated recipients; in the third part, the invited people arrive at the scene of assembly.
In Međedović's The Wedding of Smailagić Meho, Hasan pasha Tiro writes (or dictates) invitations to a series of leaders of the Bosnian Border to come to Kanidža for the wedding of Smailaga's son. A section at the end of this part of the catalogue is devoted to the inviting of a special person, Tale of the Lika. The second part of the theme, the delivering of the messages, is missing, but the distribution of the letters had been taken care of at the beginning of the letter writing as follows: "Then the twelve imperial scribes knelt at the tables among the beys … And the pasha ordered his fifty warriors to prepare their fifty Bedouin mares and the imperial captains to distribute the letters.” [16]
In the third part of the sequence of elements in the catalogue, the chief men arrive with their contingents, and they are described in great detail as they descend from the surrounding mountains. At last all are gathered except for Tale of the Lika. The leaders decide to wait for him, and special treatment is given to his arrival.
A similar type of catalogue series occurs in the Kirghiz epic about the memorial feast for Kökötöy-Khan. [17] First, Bok-murun gives instructions to Jaš-aydar as to whom to seek and what to say to each of the heroes being invited to the memorial feast. There are special instructions on how to approach the next to the last hero named in the catalogue, Er {221|222} Manas: "Lest he put you to death and slaughter Maniker [Manas's steed], be sure to greet him on foot, taking care to dismount before approaching him, and salute him with a lowered voice!"
In the second part, we see Jaš-aydar go to each of the chieftains and deliver the message, beginning with Er Košoy and ending with Er Manas, although there are lacunae in the manuscript in this second list. The encounter of Jaš-aydar with Manas is special, since Manas's retinue is about to kill the messenger at the hero's bidding, when Jaš-aydar tells him: "From the nest on the thundering cliff I was the Only One—why are you going to kill me, why do you press on your mark? Do not cut my body to pieces, spare my fair life, fragile as a hair! If you slay me, my wrong will stab your eyes! From the nest I was a One-and-only One, whiter than an egg!" Manas replies: "Of late, when I overpowered the ten sons of Urus-khan and made them captive I was reminded of what it means to be an Only One. Never slay Only Ones, never put out their fires!"
The third part of the series of catalogues, namely the arrival of the guests, is shortened in the Kirghiz text, as follows:
They were announcing the beginning of milking, and with the coming of the dappled snow-and-thaw of early Spring, all-sorts-of-heroes and all-sorts-of-steeds were arriving in an unbroken stream. The Infidel numerous as hairs in a cow's coat, followed by the Faithful, arrived at the trot. Bok-murun there was thinking "How could Manas not come?" and stood there with downcast gaze. "Will not Manas in his rage come and make my children cry, come and make my mares run wild? I'll go out and meet Manas, I'll waylay him with gifts of honour!"
There follows a lengthy description of the meeting with Manas. These series of catalogues, in spite of their cultural differences, are built on the same frame, including the special treatment of the most significant of the heroes invited.

The Hero and His Horse

At the beginning of this paper I mentioned that one of the items that would take our attention consisted of a hero and his horse. I was thinking of Marko Kraljević and his horse Šarac, who could fly and talk, and {222|223} who was in reality the alter ego of the hero. Marko is a Christian hero, although he is in the service of the sultan, but he has a counterpart in the Moslem tradition, Mujo Hrnjičić of Kladuša, the sirdar (commander-in-chief) of the Border, who has a winged white horse (a đogat), which also has the power of speech but does not have a special name. These two horses, as you have already surmised, have a number of illustrious counterparts in Central Asiatic epic.
In her study of the subject, Veronika Veit considers the concept of the hero-horse-as-alter-ego on three levels, (1) the economic, or the real level; (2) the poetic, or the literary level; and (3) the religious, or the cultic level. [18] Marko's steed has existence on both the poetic and the cultic level, in that the horse Šarac not only inhabits the oral-traditional poetry, but also plays a role in Marko's life which, to my mind, has cultic overtones. For example, when the time came for Marko to die, his death was foretold by his horse's stumbling, and Šarac was with him when he died. [19]
One of the characteristics mentioned by Veit, the simultaneous birth of hero and horse, does not seem to hold for the South Slavic horses with which I am acquainted. [20] She also adduces the praises of the horse, which are a topos in the Central Asiatic epic, and which do not, to the best of my memory, exist in the South Slavic traditional poetry. The closest to them in the Balkan Slavic songs is the description of the horse at the time of its being prepared for the hero, or when it is led forth for him to mount.
Perhaps the closest parallel to Marko is the Turkic hero Kurroglou. Marko's bushy eyebrows, his long black moustaches, his prodigious appetite for food and drink, his enormous strength, his mace, all remind us of Kurroglou, and Šarac makes us think of Kurroglou's chestnut horse Kyrat. Another hero and horse pair that immediately comes to mind is Alpamyš and his winged Bajčibar, like Šarac, piebald. Both Kyrat and Bajčibar were unpromising foals. Kyrat's extraordinary qualities were understood by Kurroglou's father. One cannot forget the scene in the Uzbek version of Alpamyš in which the hero, under the direction of Kultaj, chooses, against his better judgment, the horse which fate had three times indicated to be his. It was his sister, Kaldyrgač, {223|224} who confirmed the excellence of the unlikely Bajčibar. Great Meherr, the father of David of Sassoun, in the Armenian epic, also chose an unpromising foal who was later to become the great horse Jalali. In South Slavic epic the horses of Marko and Mujo Hrnjičić belong in the same category, and their tales are similar to those of some of the most famous Central Asiatic steeds.
Another South Slavic Moslem hero with a winged chestnut horse (a dorat) is Đerđelez Alija of Sarajevo. I note, by the way, that Geser's horse in all parts of the Mongolian Geser cycle is—to quote Walther Heissig—a "magischer Rotbraune" (a magic chestnut). [21] The story is told that when Đerđelez Alija was a youth, he had saved the young ·οf a vila from the heat of the sun (a similar story is told of Marko Kraljević), and she had rewarded him by telling him to buy a certain mare with an unpromising looking chestnut foal on the next market-day. This he did and kept it in the stable with his master's stallion. When the foal was one year old it looked like a three-year-old. As the foal grew bigger and stronger, the master's stallion grew weaker. One night Alija watched in the stable and saw that his foal had wings, one of which he would rest on the back of the stallion, which could not stand the weight. The next day Alija moved his horse to another place, and the stallion regained its former strength. [22]
Other stories and songs tell how Marko Kraljević and Đerđelez Alija met and became blood-brothers; these stories emphasize a lasting similarity between the two heroes. As one might have expected, similar stories are told of the provenance of Marko's horse Šarac. In a Bulgarian epic a samodiva, the equivalent in Bulgarian lore to a vila in Serbian and Croatian, tells Marko to climb a leafless tree and when a mangy horse comes and scratches its sores on the tree, he is to mount him. The horse takes Marko flying in an effort to unseat him, but finally tells Marko that he (the horse) is a hero but that Marko is a greater hero and he will obey him as his master. This was the horse Šarkolija. [23]

Horses and Horse Culture

The Memorial Feast for Kökötöy-Khan provides also excellent descriptions of horses and of groups of horses, because the main event of the {224|225} feast is to be a horse race, or horse races. [24] Although South Slavic really has nothing quite comparable to the accounts in that extraordinary document, horse races occur in the South Slavic Moslem epics. Nevertheless, one song collected by David Bynum and myself in 1964 from Avdo Kevelj in Odžak, Hercegovina, is devoted entirely to an elaborate horse race for the hands of two captive maidens. [25] It has 1,434 lines. A. T. Hatto has published an article about horses in the Kirghiz epic and in the Iliad. [26]
Horses play a large role in the South Slavic epic and reflect a horse culture that is not native to the Balkans. This can be seen very clearly from the fact that most of the words for the several kinds of horses are of Turkic, Arabic, or Persian origin. For example, in addition to šarac (piebald), from Slavic šar (spotted) plus the Slavic ending -ac, or possibly combined with Turkish at (horse), there are dorat (chestnut), from Turkish doru (brown) and Turkish at (horse), đogat (white), from Turkish gök (light blue, azure, bright) and Turkish at (horse), kulaš (mouse gray, ash gray, color of lead), from Turkish kula (brown, reddish, dun, sorrel) and Turkish at (horse), alat (strawberry roan), from Turkish al (light red, rose colored) from Persian al (light red, rose colored) and Turkish at (horse), bedevija (Bedouin mare), from Turkish bedevi (Bedouin, nomad), from Arabic badawiyy, badawi (desert, wilderness, Bedouin), menzilski konj (post-horse), (Turkish menzil-beygiri), from Turkish menzil (halting-place), from Arabic manzil (place where one dismounts, unsaddles), or simply menzil (post-horse), and so forth.
Karl Reichl quotes Chodzko's comments on Kurroglou's relationship to his horse, Kyrat, and points to the model description of Rawšan's horse, Džijranquš, in the fifth set of verse passages in the epic. [27] The passage is too long to quote in its entirety, but here is a sample, in Rieichl's German translation:
          Höre die vielstimmige Musik!
          Schwere Tage stehen dem Jungling jetzt bevor.
          Seht den Helden Rawšan-Chan,
          Kraftvoll geht er in den Pferdestall. {225|226}

5        Die Liebe ist Bek Rawšan ins Herz gedrungen,
          Sein Kragen ist nass von den Tränen, die ihm aus den Augen fliessen.
          Seht jetzt den Helden Bek Rawšan,
          Kraftvoll geht er zum Pferd.

          Schaut jetzt auf Rawšan, das unerfahrene Kind;
10      Es möge dem jungen Knaben kein Unglück zustossen.
          Betrachtet den Helden Bek Rawšan,
          Er fuhrt Džijranquš ins Freie.

          Er glaubt, dass die vergängliche Welt vergehen wird,
          Ein kleines Kind spricht vielerei.
15      Er führt Džijranquš ins Freie,
          Nimmt ihn und bindet ihn an einem Holzpflock fest.

          Jetzt füllen sich dem Kind beide Augen mit Tränen,
          Der Jüngling entblösst das geflügelte Ross.
          Den Sattelgurt und die Decke des schnellfüssigen Pferds knüpft er auf.
20      Über die Ohren zieht er die goldbestickte Pferdedecke.

          Der Gärtner pflückt die reine Rose des Gartens;
          Die Helden bahnen sich an schweren Tagen eine Bahn.
          Den Sattelgurt und die Decke des schnellfüssigen Pferds knüpft er auf.
          Er nimmt geschwind von oben die Pferdedecke weg.

25      Die Gläubigen setzen ihr Vertrauen nicht allein in das Leben;
          Rot färbt sich im Tod der Glaubenszeuge in seinem Blut.
          Mit einem Besen aus Rosenholz, einem Striegel aus Gold in der Hand
          Scheuert er den Körper von Džijran.

          Wer fern der Heimat reitet, erduldet Leid;
30      Der Jigit, der den Renner bestiegen hat, vollbringt Heldentaten.
          Bek Rawšan legt dem Pferd auf die Kruppe
          Die weiche, dicke Schabracke aus reiner Seide.

          Weit von der Heimat blicken die Beks durchs Fernrohr.
          Die Meister betätigen die Axt, die Klinge.
35      Auf das Pferd legt Bek Rawšan,
          Wirft geschwind die samtene Schabracke. {226|227}

          In seinem Tun zeigt Bek Rawšan Standhaftigkeit,
          Als Lieblingskind aufgewachsen, fehlt es ihm nicht an Starrköpfigkeit.
          Betrachtete jetzt den Helden Bek Rawšan-Chan,
40      Auf die Schabracke legt er den Sattelgurt.

          Auf Čambii schlägt Bek Rawšan das Herz in der Brust,
          Seht jetzt, wie er von dem Helden Awaz gekränkt wurde.
          Schaut den Herrn Bek Rawšan an,
          Er legt die Schabracke aus Biberpelz auf.

45      Die Mullas lesen das 'i' und das 'a',
          Die Meister betätigen die Axt, das Beil.
          Auf den Falken legt Bek Rawšan
          Den goldenen Sattelbogen, den silbernen Sattel. [28]
The song has 99 lines. After the saddle, Bek Rawšan places the two golden stirrups at Džijranquš's side and fastens the silken saddle-girth. There follows the horse-blanket with golden fringe; the blanket reaches to Džijranquš's fetlocks. Next comes the crupper of rhinoceros leather, folded twelve times. On the horse's flanks Rawšan places the reins, which reach to his hoofs, and on his breast a golden plastron. He puts a neck ornament on Džijranquš's long neck, and over his head he places a bridle with forty decorative spheres. Finally Rawšan girds on his sword, mounts, and departs. Such a passage is indeed difficult to match!
Some of the most elaborate descriptions of a horse in the South Slavic epic songs show a similar type of expansion of detail. For example, here is a passage from Avdo Međedović's The Wedding of Smailagić Meho in the Milman Parry Collection. [29] Meho's uncle is telling him in the opening assembly of the favor with which the sultan had held him since the boy's birth:
When your thirteenth year dawned, my son, the imperial chamberlain came from the halls of Sultan Sulejman, bringing an Egyptian chestnut horse for you, one that had been bought from the Shah of Egypt. Golden-winged, its mane reached to its hoofs. Then a two-year-old, it was like a horse of seven. The trappings were fashioned in Afghanistan especially for the chestnut steed when it grew up. The saddle was decorated with coral; the upper portion was woven of pure gold. Beneath the saddle an {227|228} Osmanli cloth, not like any other, my son, but of Syrian damask silk, that it should not chafe the horse's back. The saddle of gold, the trappings of gold. On the Egyptian chestnut horse next to his skin are silken girths, soft silk that they may not chafe his flesh. The upper part of them is ornamented with pearl. If God grants, my son, you shall see them when you become the alajbey of the Border. It is now nineteen years, my dear son, since that day when you were born, and this is the ninth year since the chestnut steed with its trappings came to you as a gift. Whatever the sultan could think of by way of trappings for the steed was prepared for him. [30]
After the assembly has decided to send Meho on a mission to Buda, Meho returns home, and eventually his father has this wonderful steed prepared for his son's journey. The following description of the trappings as they are placed on Meho 's horse merits comparison with that of the caparisoning of Rawšan's horse Džijranquš quoted earlier:
First they took a Hungarian saddlecloth and placed it on the chestnut steed. On this they set the coral saddle, which was adorned round about with gold. The coral was decorated with Egyptian agates of various colors, one of which was worth a golden florin. The gold was yellow, white was the pearl. Among the pearls were agates, some blue, some green, some yellow, and some red. On the background of gold and pearl the colors of the agates were enhanced. On the front of the saddle instead of a pommel there was a sphere of gold worth a chest of ducats. The holsters for his pistols were of Syrian silk, embroidered with white pearl. In them they put his two Venetian guns, covered with gold. Their cover was adorned with so many golden sequins that you could scarcely see the Venetian cloth; around them was a border of Venetian ducats. Over the saddle were four girths and a fifth beneath to protect the horse's flesh, whenever the steed jumped or galloped. All four were woven of silk and the one next to the horse's body was of black marten fur, while the outer ones were adorned with pearl. The stewards tightened and buckled the girths and adjusted the crupper on his back; the crupper of silk was ornamented with ducats and a moon-plate made of gold glittered on it. The two shabracques were of gold and down the horse's breast hung shining bosses. On them diamonds flashed. He fastened the martingales {228|229} from the girths to the double-ring snaffles; all the fastenings were of gold. Next came the golden breast-strap. Over his mane from ears to shoulder they cast a piece of embroidered mesh from Egypt, fastening it under the pommel of the saddle. The embroidery was of gold. Through it the dark mane hung, shining through the gold like the moon through the branches of a pine tree. They brought then a golden bridle and attached the Egyptian reins to the four chains on the bit that fitted over the horse's teeth and were fastened under its neck. All four were ornamented with pearl and the bridle beside them was of gold. Down each cheek flashed a band of pure gold, the two fastened by a clasp between the ears. Atop the clasp shone the morning star and in its center a diamond. There is no darkness before the horse, but midnight is as bright as midday.
My God, thanks be to thee for all things. When they had harnessed his mighty steed with golden saddle and golden shabracques, with girths and martingales and shining bosses on its chest, a golden mesh over its mane and the golden breast-straps, the bridle, and bands covering him from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his cheeks, no hair was visible except a bit of tail, no mane at all. The yellow gold confined and covered it.
The passage concludes with the following:
The horse was like a mountain vila, and people say that it had wings. It knew not how to speak and yet it knew the way to go. When he flared his nostrils and snorted, he was so strong and fiery that from them burst forth smoke and blue flame. [31]
The smoke and flame are found also in the description of the horse ridden by the captain of the contingent assigned to escort Fatima in a coach as she is being taken away to be wed to General Peter:
He was leader of a hundred men and rode a chestnut stallion, with imperial Osmanli saddle, studded shabraques on either side, shining bosses down his chest, and martingales from the snaffle beneath his neck. His reins were decorated with wild animals, especially a wolf and a fox. What a cloud of smoke surrounded the steed! From his nostrils spouted smoke and blue flame, as though fires were burning within him. They lighted up the coats of the fox and the gray wolf. Great was the noise of the horses' hoofs, still greater the rumbling of the wondrous coach, and greatest of all was that of the imperial captain! [32] {229|230}
The fire-breathing horse is also found in Mongolian Geser epics, and elsewhere. From Heissig's Geser-Studien I quote:
Aus den vier Hufen des bläulichgrauen Rosses, das sie ritt,
Quoll der Rauch, und beim Laufen blitzte
Aus seinem Maul und seinen Nüstern Feuer. [33]

From the four hoofs of the light gray horse that she was riding
Welled forth smoke, and as it ran there flashed
Fire from its mouth and nostrils.
Thus was described the mount of Alu Mergen in the Peking manuscript.
It behooves us to make a few comments on the two descriptions from Uzbek and from Serbo-Croatian which were just quoted. Clearly, some elements in the South Slavic passage belong to the Balkans. At least I believe that references to a "Hungarian saddlecloth," to "two Venetian guns," "Venetian cloth," and "Venetian ducats" seem to belong more properly to the Balkans than to Central Asia. "Egyptian agates," "Syrian silk," "mesh from Egypt," and "Egyptian reins" might also be peculiar to the eastern Mediterranean area.
It is clear as well that some elements in Rawšan are peculiar to the style of Uzbek epic, such as the general character of the first two lines of each stanza, which give a very special atmosphere to the poetry. More specifically, references, for example, to Čagataj, the son of Dschingis Chan, in line 73, or to Nu in line 96, and to Čambii in lines 89 and 99, are appropriate only in Central Asia, but would be strange in the Balkans.
Other similarities between the two descriptions, however, call for comment. The shabracque of pure silk (but not that of beaver), the tightening of the saddle girths, the horse-blankets, including the covering that reaches to the horse's fetlocks, the plastron on the horse's breast, with its ornaments, all these and more are familiar in the Balkan epic. The trappings are the same in both traditions, and on the whole the order of putting them on the horse is the same. We are dealing with a basic common tradition, adapted to different cultural backgrounds. Moreover, a device of narrative in which the teller speaks to the audience and invites them to listen, or to see the hero's action is shared by both traditions. In Reichl's German (line 3), for example, we have: {230|231} "Seht den Helden Rawšan-Chan!" (See the heathen Rawšan-Chan!); in line 7, "Seht jetzt den Helden Bek Rawšan!" (Now see the hero Bek Rawšan!); in line 9, "Schaut jetzt auf Rawšan, das unerfahrene Kind!" (Now look upon Rawšan, the inexperienced boy!); in line 11, "Betrachtet den Helden Bek Rawšan!" (Now observe the hero Bek Rawšan!); and in line 39, "Betrachtete jetzt den Helden Bek Rawšan-Chan!" (Now observe the hero Bek Rawšan-Chan!). This construction is found frequently also in South Slavic epic.

The Nurture of Horses

In the South Slavic songs the description of the way in which horses are nurtured is reminiscent of Central Asiatic epic. For example, in the Moslem epics among the South Slavs horses are kept in the dark for long periods of time. This reminds one of the manner in which Kurroglou's horse was treated at the beginning by Kurroglou's father, as described in Meeting I of Chodzko's "Adventures and Improvisations of Kurroglou.” [34] The reason for such treatment was to allow the wondrous horse to grow wings, as we know from that tale.
South Slavic examples can be found in Salih Ugljanin's "Ropstvo Đulić Ibrahima" (The Captivity of Đulić Ibrahim) of which there are three versions. [35] The story begins with the capture of a Bosnian named Radovan, who is placed in a dungeon with other prisoners from Bosnia, among whom is Đulić Ibrahim, who asks Radovan for news of home, since he has been in prison for many years. In one of Salih's three texts, no. 6, Radovan asks Đulić how he was captured and he relates how he was called out of the marriage chamber to join the fighting with the governor on the Border. When he left, he said to his wife that she should take care of his mother and sister and his horse (lines 59-61):
"I čuva' mi kanali dorata! "Take care of my hennaed chestnut horse!
Hran'te konja u mračne podrume, Feed him in the dark stable,
Hel ja hoću peše na nogama!" For I am going on foot!"
Later Đulić asks Radovan how things are at home, including a question about his horse (lines 167-168): {231|232}
"A sedi l’ mi dorat u podrume? "Is my horse in the stable?
Da ga njesu čete zajagmili?" Raiders have not taken him?"
To which Radovan replies (lines 207-222):
"A sedi ti dorat u podrume; "Your horse is in the stable;
Hranu konja, bolje bit' ne more. They feed your horse, it could not be better.
Te se dora hasi učinijo. The horse has become wild.
Ne da nikom sebe prilaziti; He lets no one approach him;
Zubom griže, čivtetima bije. He bites and kicks.
Na čustek je na noge četiri; His four feet are hobbled;
Na čusteke veljiki sinđiri. Great chains are in the hobbles.
Zapučili halke za jaslima. They have attached the chains to the stalls.
Sam prilazi Huso kahveđija, Only Huso the steward approaches,
Te timari konja Đulićeva, And grooms Đulić's horse,
I tura mu zobi i sijena. And gives him barley and hay.
Donosi mu vodu na nogama. He brings him water as he stands.
Mlaku vodu sve daju doratu, They give tepid water to the horse,
Da se ne bi dorat ištetijo, That he might not become ill,
Ištetijo, pa se požegao; Become ill, and catch cold;
Od studene požegnut' se more." One can catch cold from a chill."
In another of Salih's versions, no. 5, Đulić asks the newly arrived prisoner, Radovan (lines 65-70):
"A sedi lj' mi dorat u podrumu; "Is my horse in the stable?
Sedi lj' dorat u toplom podrumu? Is my horse in the warm stable?
Hranu lj' dora konja mojega, Do they feed my horse?
A goru lj' mu četiri svijeće? Do four candles burn for him?
Sve mu goru danjem i po noći, Burn day and night,
Ka' što ga je Đulić naučijo?" As Đulić taught him to expect?" {232|233}
There is here, of course, a contradiction to the concept of keeping a horse in the darkness! As other passages show, however, it is the light of the sun or moon that must be avoided; perhaps candle light, or, as we shall see shortly, the light of torches, did not count. At any rate, Radovan replies to the newly arrived prisoner (lines 72-78):
"Sedi dorat u topla podruma; "Your horse is in the warm stable.
Hranu konja, bolje bit' ne more. They feed the horse, it could not be better.
Tek se dorat hasi učinijo. The horse has become wild.
Niti daje kome prilaziti; He lets no one approach him.
Na čusteku na noge četiri, His four feet are hobbled.
Zubom griže, čiftetima bije. He bites and kicks.
Ne da nikom, Đulić, prilaziti." He lets no one approach him, Đulić!"
In Međedović's The Wedding of Smailagić Meho, after telling Meho about the horse that the sultan had sent him at the time of his birth, Meho's uncle tells him how they had taken care of the horse while they waited for Meho to grow up:
We hid the horse from you and made a special stall for him in the side of the stable. There is no other horse with him. Two servants are in the stable, and four torches burn the whole night long beside your horse. They exercise him within the stable. They groom him four times every twenty-four hours; not as any other horse is groomed, but with a scarf of silk. You should see how well cared for the horse has been; he has seen neither sun nor moon, my dear son, for nine years.
When the horse is later prepared for Meho to ride with the standard-bearer Osman to Buda, the preparation is described as follows (lines 1870-84):
And when the steward heard, he went down to the manger where the chestnut horse was. He unfastened the twelve buckles forged of silver and took from the horse his twelve blankets. Then he called for the groom Ibrahim, and they brought a cauldron of warm water and a piece of perfumed soap. They washed the horse's coat as they had trained him to expect. With a sponge they dried him and they smoothed his coat with a {233|234} towel. Then with a key they opened a hamper ornamented with gold and brought forth the horse's trappings.
Up to this point we have been thinking of similarities and differences between Central Asiatic and Balkan epics, primarily with the implication that many elements in the latter derive from the former. This has been intended as an ongoing concern with the history of oral-traditional epic in the Balkan peninsula. The pages of Walther Heissig's work on Mongolian epic, especially his Geser-Studien mentioned earlier, as well as the many valuable monographs that he has edited in Asiatische Forschungen, including Nekljudov and Tomorceren's Mongolische Erzählungen über Geser, provide excellent material for further comparative research. [36]

Practice and Performance of Balkan and Central Asiatic Epic

We have reviewed a number of ways in which the narratives and motifs of Balkan epic tradition are similar to those in several epic traditions in Central Asia. There are also similarities in the practice and performance of the poetries in the two general areas insofar as one can judge from the field reports of Reichl and his predecessors in the Central Asiatic regions. Radloff's descriptions of the methods of composition, transmission, and performance of Kara-Kirghiz epic singing in the last century are justly famous. [37] They bear close resemblance to the methods of composition and performance in the Balkans. Reichl, in his works mentioned earlier, has elaborated on the practice in other areas, which are different in the twentieth century from those recounted by Radloff, and Reichl has indicated the possible usefulness of these latter Central Asiatic epics in studying European medieval epics. His field work suggests that there have been similar developments in the Balkans, which have only recently begun to be described and evaluated.
According to Reichl, it seems that there are in general two ways in which oral-traditional epic and romance in Central Asia are composed and transmitted, the one by "improvisation," the other by "memorization. " The first type, the improvisational, is the same as that described {234|235} by Radloff, and it is roughly equivalent to the normal practice of oral-traditional epic in the Balkans, as described in Part I of The Singer of Tales.
It is important to clarify what is meant by "improvisation, " because "composition in performance," the term I prefer, has at least two meanings. The first would be what might be called "pure improvisation," if there is such a thing, a story or a song, or poem, thought up on the spur of the moment. Some of the African praise poems appear to be "pure improvisations." Such texts are usually short and nontraditional, and often of a topical nature. The second kind of "composition in performance" includes those traditional and inherited items composed in the oral-formulaic and thematic technique described by Parry for Homer and for the South Slavic epic songs. Although we already know a fair amount about this technique, it needs further study—and perhaps a more precise definition and certainly greater elaboration—but it is a recognizable and known process. It is exactly this method of composition in performance, rather than the "spur of the moment" type, with which we are concerned, I believe, in most oral-traditional epic studies.
The practice of performing memorized texts also has its counterpart in the Balkans in the twentieth century. There are performers—I do not call them oral-traditional singers—who memorize written fixed texts and perform them. [38] In some cases the written texts that they memorize are oral-traditional texts someone has dictated for a scribe to write down. In other instances the memorized texts are poems or songs written in the style of oral-traditional texts, and still others are straight written literature. It does not matter which of these types of texts the performer memorizes. The performer is like an actor reciting from memory, or reading, lines that a dramatist has written. Such performers should not, I believe, be termed oral-traditional singers, any more than the present-day "folk singer" who memorizes "folk" ballads is a real folk singer. The poetry or songs that they perform should not be considered to be oral poetry or song, except in the most literal sense, unless the texts memorized were oral-traditional texts to begin with.
Moreover, and this is a key point, in such cases the performance is of no lasting significance; it is, indeed, irrelevant. The only question that is worthwhile is to ask whether the text is oral-traditional poetry, produced during performance by an oral-traditional singer, or poet. On the {235|236} other hand, in considering the performance of the oral-traditional singer, the performance (be it the normal one before an audience or that of dictation) which produced that text, is important, and it is the only one of importance, so far as oral-traditional literature is concerned. Homer's dictation of his songs as we know them, and his normal singing of them to his normal traditional audience, are the only events of significance so far as the poems themselves are concerned. What happened to them once recorded, whether they were preserved or not, how they were sung by other people, and so on are entirely different matters. They concern the "use" of Homer's text, or the history of his text, not the text itself.
Reichl has presented brief sections of both Chorezmian and Karakalpak poems, noting the variations in other versions of them by the same singer. Reichl notes five points (I abbreviate them): (1) "The closeness of the texts to one another suggests a basically memorized transmission of the poem as opposed to an improvised transmission. " (2) "We find an ever-changing correspondence between the various versions, making the construction of a stemma impossible." (3) "We find that the rhymes are more stable than the beginning of the lines; here the variants often lie within the same semantic range." (4) "There are a number of positional variants: interchange of stanzas (but typically stability of the first stanza), lines, words, and phrases." (5) "Variants are often phonetically/graphemically so close that they look like reading of aural mistakes." He concludes: "The interweaving of a written and an oral textual transmission, the predominance of memorization and the metrical structure of the dastans in the Chorezmian tradition furnish a close parallel to at least a portion of medieval epics, which merits further study. " [39]
I have quoted Reichl at length because the points in his summary and his conclusion are worthy of our attention, and he has noted important elements in his parallel texts. I hesitate mostly in regard to memorization. It is true that the variations are not great, and yet, I wonder if they are really consonant with memorization. Even as Reichl summarizes them, the variations seem greater than he implies they are. I have seen the same phenomenon with parallel passages from the Pabuji epic collected by John D. Smith from western India, and with passages from praise poetry collected by Trevor Cope among the Zulu in South Africa. [40] {236|237} Ruth Finnegan has quoted two versions of the Mandinka epic Sunjata by the same singer as examples of texts in which "memorisation is to some extent involved.” [41] She quotes passages from Gordon Innes's article, "Stability and Change in Griots' Narrations." [42] Smith concluded that his material from Pabuji epic was memorized. If one looks in detail, as I have done with all three of those cases, one finds that something other than conscious memorization has been taking place. An analysis of the syntactic, acoustic, and metric, or rhythmic structures of the individual groups of lines, couplets, triplets, and so forth, shows that they are easily remembered. They are memorable, and they are frequently repeated. Singers have not memorized them; they have remembered them.
Moreover, most of the "minor variations," as noted by Smith, Cope, Innes, and Finnegan, are substitutions within common, repeated structures. Variations are not mere synonyms; they are not always predictable or readily anticipated. Reichl has in essence noted the same characteristics in his five points. In short, these common, repeated structures operate in very much the same way in which formulas operate in the "improvisational" technique. I have analyzed such structures in Latvian dainas and in South Slavic lyric and epic songs. [43] The difference between this type of so-called memorial composition and "improvisation" is really one of degree, not of basic technique. In my article on Latvian dainas I suggested that behind both methods of composition is the remembering of a basic core of lines, themselves variable, which may then be further varied to suit context. This applies well enough to shorter forms. If one considers the "themes" of longer epics as being made up of short segments constructed as I have just described, then it may be that longer epics too are composed in this way. Yet, one must add, in long epics larger patterns, such as ring-composition, emerge from the shorter segments and hold them together. A long epic is not just a series of short pieces. Perhaps what we are doing is refining the concept of "composition by formula and theme. " This phenomenon requires much further detailed study, and the Chorezmian and Karakalpak texts can provide {237|238} useful material for further analysis by experts in the languages and cultures involved.
The Central Asiatic epic traditions can be invaluable in reaching a full appreciation of the history of some of the stories and story elements in South Slavic epic and lyric song, and of the techniques of their composition and transmission. This would include possible vestiges of shamanic motifs, which would explain some puzzling situations in Balkan epic and ballad. Much remains to be done as we continue to increase our knowledge of this extraordinarily rich cultural continuum.

Appendix 1


The first part of Alpamyš relates to the birth of a son and daughter to Bajburi and a daughter to his brother Bajsary. Bajburi's son's name was Hakim, his daughter was Kaldyrgač and Bajsary's daughter's name was Barčin. When Hakim was seven years old, he strung his grandfather Alpinbic's bow and received the new name Alpamyš. The two brothers quarreled and Bajsary moved to the land of the Kalmyks. The Kalmyk Surhajnil’ sought to marry Barčin to his son Karadžan. When Alpamyš heard of this, he set out for the land of the Kalmyks on his wondrous, winged horse, Bajčibar, against the advice of all. He met Karadžan, they became friends, and Karadžan became a Moslem. Barčin declared that she would marry the one whose horse could win a certain race, who could string a given bow, and shoot a coin at a distance of 1,000 "shags," and overcome a host of the enemy. Bajčibar won the race, and Alpamyš won the stringing of the bow, the shooting of the coin, and the battle with the opposing champions. On the way home after the wedding, Alpamyš, Barčin, Karadžan, and their Kungrat friends repulsed the attack by the Kalmyks who had pursued them under the Kalmyk shah Tajča-han and Surhajnil’. Barčin's father, Bajsary, still remained among the Kalmyks.
The second part begins by telling how Tajča-han took away all of Bajsary's possessions. When Alpamyš heard of that, he again went with his forty comrades to the land of the Kalmyks, where he was overpowered and imprisoned. Another son of Bajburi, Ultan-taz, took over the rule of the Kungrats when he heard of Alpamyš's fate, since Bajburi {238|239} was now aged, and Ultan exiled Karadžan. Alpamyš wrote a letter in blood and sent it by a bird, who delivered it to Alpamyš's sister Kaldyrgač. She sent Karadžan to rescue him, but the attempt failed. The daughter of the Kalmyk shah, Tavka-aim, fell in love with Alpamyš. With her help he escaped and Bajčibar also freed himself. They overcame the Kalmyks and killed the shah, and Alpamyš set out for home.
On the way he met some of Ultan's caravan drivers, and they told him of what had happened at home after the news came that Alpamyš was dead. Alpamyš killed them. His horse, Bajčibar, neighed when he saw his native land and Bajčibar's mother came to join him. The young herder of the caravan told what had passed in Alpamyš's family after his death. He next met his sister, barefooted and in rags, tending a herd of camels. An old camel that had not stirred for seven years suddenly arose to greet its master and to run seven times around him. It seemed to his sister Kaldyrgač that she recognized her brother, but he went past without revealing who he was. Next he met old Kultaj with a herd of Bajburi's rams. Alpamyš told him who he was, but the old man had lost all hope and did not believe him, and Alpamyš did not disclose the mark on his shoulders that the old man had put there when Alpamyš was a boy.
Alpamyš exchanged clothes with Kultaj so that he would not be recognized when he reached home. The hero observed the treatment that Ultan had meted out to his family, namely to his mother, his father, the boy Jadgar, and Barčin. There followed then a competition with the bow. Alpamyš broke the bow that was given him and called for his grandfather's bow, which none of Ultan's people was able to string, but young Jadgar had the power to do so. Alpamyš strung it without difficulty and hit the target. In the evening Alpamyš participated in the singing and exchanged songs with Barčin, from which he was convinced of her faithfulness. By this time many of the guests had come to realize that this Kultaj was actually the returned Alpamyš, and he acknowledged it to be true. Justice was rendered upon Ultan and his followers. Bajsary returned from the land of the Kalmyks, and Alpamyš reestablished his rule over the Kungrats.

Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse

The tale of Bamsi Beyrek begins with the birth of a son to Bay Bure and of a daughter to Bay Bijan, who eventually have the names of {239|240} Bamsi Beyrek and Lady Chichek. Bamsi overcame Lady Chichek's crazy brother, who killed all seeking to marry her, and they were betrothed. She gave him a red caftan as a wedding gift. The night before their marriage, he and his thirty-nine friends were captured by the Infidel while they were feasting.
Sixteen years later Yaltajuk brought a shirt of Beyrek's that Beyrek had once given him, which Yaltajuk had dipped in blood. They all thought Bamsi Beyrek was dead, and preparations were made to wed Lady Chichek to Yaltajuk. Beyrek's father sent merchants to seek his son. They eventually came to the castle where Beyrek was kept and where a feast was in progress, at which Beyrek had been brought to sing to the lute. He saw the merchants, and in his song asked them for news of the Oghuz, including Lady Chichek. When he learned that she was betrothed, he asked the Infidel's daughter to help him escape, promising to marry her.
When Beyrek, disguised as a minstrel, reached his father's encampment he met his little sister weeping at a spring and speaking her brother's name. He next met his older sisters, the eldest of whom thought he looked much like her brother. He put on ragged clothing then and continued to the wedding feast. At it, he shot with Beyrek's bow, and recognized Lady Chichek among other women by the ring that he had given her. When he was brought to his father, who had become blind with weeping, he cured his blindness with blood from his finger. Yaltajuk was forgiven. Beyrek returned to the castle where he had been kept, released his thirty-nine companions, and brought back the Infidel's daughter. The tale ends with multiple weddings.
The South Slavic epics with the generic return pattern fall into two traditions: Christian and Moslem. The two best known of the classic texts in the Christian tradition are "The Captivity of Janković Stojan" (Ropstvo Janković Stojana), and "Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostur" (Marko Kraljević i Mina od Kostura). [44]

The Captivity of Janković Stojan

The story of Janković Stojan begins with the capture of Janković Stojan and Smiljanić Ilija by the Turks. "Ilija left behind a young wife of {240|241} fifteen days; Stojan left a younger wife of a week of days." In short, our hero had just been married. The Turks gave the two friends to the sultan; they became Moslems and stayed in Stambol for nine years and seven months. After all that time, they decided to go home. They stole two horses and fled. When they were close to their home in Kotar, Ilija parted from Stojan, and Stojan continued to his vineyard, where he found his mother pruning and binding up the vines, weeping and speaking her son's name. Stojan asked if she had nobody to help her in her old age, and she said that she had none but the son whom the Turks had captured. She tells Stojan that his wife had waited for him for nine years, but she was about to be married again that very day! The scene is somewhat reminiscent, of course, of Odysseus and his father Laertes, which occurs, it is to be noted, after recognition with Penelope and everyone else and after the slaughter of the suitors. Stojan joined the wedding guests and asked permission to sing a little. In his song, he told about a swallow which had built its nest for nine years, but was undoing it that very morning. The wedding guests paid no attention to the song, but Stojan's wife called his sister and told her that her brother had returned. She ran downstairs and embraced her brother. The wedding guests asked what they should do, and Stojan gave the bridegroom his sister. These are not evil suitors, as in the Odyssey. When Stojan's mother came home from the vineyard, her daughter ran to meet her and told her that Stojan had returned. When she saw her son, she fell down dead. Stojan buried her in a fitting manner.
I do not know whether Žirmunskij knew this song or not, although it is perfectly possible that he did. But, if so, it is not surprising that he did not find it particularly germane to his study of Alpamyš!

Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostur

In the song about Marko Kraljević, he is already married—nothing said of how long. He receives a letter from the sultan asking him to come to aid him in fighting with the Arabs. When he leaves home he advises his mother to guard well against Mina of Kostur, with whom Marko has quarreled. He departs with his servant Goluban. (Note that the heroes in both these songs have companions.) After defeating the Arabs for the sultan, Marko receives news that his wife has been abducted by Mina of Kostur, and he makes his way to Mina's tower with a number of janisseries disguised as monks. Marko drinks with Mina, and {241|242}his wife serves them. Mina asks him where he got the piebald horse, and Marko tells him that he had been given the horse for burying Marko Kraljević after he had died in Arabia. Mina asks him to perform the marriage ceremony for him and Marko's wife, and he does so. Mina sends her to fetch some ducats, and she brings them together with Marko's rusty sword, which she gives to the monk! Marko asks permission to dance a little in monkish fashion, and in the course of the dance he cuts off Mina's head. The janisseries raze Mina's tower, and Marko takes his wife and Mina's treasures home to Prilip.
In the foregoing description I have followed the version of "Marko and Mina" in the Karadžić collection. In other versions, such as those in the Milman Parry Collection from Petar Vidić of Stolac, Marko meets his wife as she is drawing water from a spring near Mina's tower, and she asks about the horse Šarac, and is told the same deceptive story. [45]

The Captivity of Dulić Ibrahim

There are many versions of the generic song of return in the Moslem tradition. I have taken as a model "The Captivity of Đulić Ibrahim" by Salih Ugljanin of Novi Pazar. [46] In this case the story opens with the hero in prison for many years. A new prisoner from his town is put into the prison and Đulić asks how things are at home. The prisoner tells him all is well, but his wife is about to marry again. Đulić shouts to get the attention of his jailer. The jailer's wife asks that the prisoner be brought before the jailer and after some negotiation he is released for ransom. He is challenged at the border, but overcomes the opposition. At home he meets an old family retainer, who does not recognize him and asks for news of Đulić. The hero says that Đulić is dead, and he is taken to see Đulić's mother and sister, who also ask about Đulić and are told the same deceptive story. Đulić's request to see his tambura and to play it is granted, and he sings that he does not wonder that his mother and sister did not recognize him, but he does wonder that Huso did not. At the news of her son's return his mother dies. Đulić asks his sister not to tell his wife that he has returned, and they bury his mother. He goes to see his wife, who asks about Đulić. When she hears his deceptive story of the death of Đulić, she weeps and says that she would never find a husband like him again. The hero then reveals his identity. {242|243}
At this point the wedding guests arrive and Đulić tells them his deceptive story. He then goes to his chestnut horse, which recognizes him and weeps! His master saddles him and leads him into the courtyard, after which, with the assistance of his sister, he dresses in his best clothing. He mounts his horse and joins the wedding guests. He eventually agrees to give his sister to the disappointed bridegroom. The rest of the song is taken up with the return of Đulić with Halil, the disappointed bridegroom, and the rescuing of Đulić's imprisoned comrades.

Appendix 2

Continuation of Song 5 in Rawšan

          Er hatte sich in der Nacht vor dem Grab der Heiligen verbeugt.
50      In seine verliebten Narzissenaugen waren die Tränen gestiegen.
          Zwei Steigbügel, beide aus Gold,
          Poliert, bringt er an beiden Seiten an.

          Die Mähne des Džijranquš, sein Schweif sind fein.
          Über die Taten des Helden begeistern sich alle.
55      Ein Verlangen nach Ehre beseelt den jungen Helden Rawšan,
          Fest zieht er den Sattelgurt aus feiner Seide.

          Perlengleich sind die Zähne einer Schönheit.
          Er geht auf die Suche nach der schönen Zulchumar.
          Er wirft auf den Pferderücken, breitet aus
60      Die wertvolle, mit goldenen Fransen verzierte Pferdedecke.

          Die Nachtigall ist mit dem Paradiesgarten befreundet.
          Der Tod möge zugrunde gehen! Wer wäre dann noch betrübt?
          Die Decke, die Bek Rawšan aufgelegt hatte,
          Reicht Džijran bis zu den Fesseln.

65      Das Tier schmückt er vom Kopf bis zu den Fesseln,
          Das vom Pir gesegnete Fohlen, jünger als drei Jahre alt.
          An dem Schweif des Pferdes befestigt Bek Rawšan
          Einen zwölfmal gefalteten Schwanzriemen aus Nashornleder.

          Eine jede Zierkugel ist grösser als ein Tarkaš.
70      Das Tier macht beim Passgang keinen Fehler.
          Wenn er 'Hü!' sagt, lässt er den geflügelten Vogel los. {243|244}
          An die Flanke legt Bek Rawšan dem Pferd
          Die bis zu den Hufen reichended čaġatajischen Zügel.

          Betrachtet das Tun des Rawšan-Bek—
75      Sein Kragen ist nass von den Tränen, die ihm aus den Augen quellen—:
          Wie er einen goldenen Brustlatz an die Brust heftet,
          Einen Halsschmuck Džijran an seinem langen Hals befestigt,
          Einen Zaum mit vierzig Zierkugeln ihm über den Kopf wirft.

          Das Pferd des Bek beisst in ein stählernes Mundstück,
80      In Rot gekleidet strahlt es wie eine Rose.
          Den schlangenzüngigen, blitzgleichen Chandžar
          Bindet er sich, um Ehre zu erlangen, an die schmale Hüfte.

          Betrachtet den Chan, den Recken Rawšan,
          Er strebt nach dem Land Širwan.
85      Rawšan steigt Džijranquš auf die Kruppe,
          Furcht verbreitet der Jigit zu seiner Rechten und zu seiner Linken.
          Vom Volk seines Vaters, den Taka-Jawmit,
          Strebt er, seht, zu Širwans Volk.

          Betrachtet den Jagdfalken Čambils,
90      Es besteigt der Jigit das Pferd Džijranquš.
          Er macht weinen seinen Vater, den Helden Hasan,
          Blut macht er weinen die schöne Chan Dalli,
          Rawšan strebt nach dem Land Širwan.

          Seht den Sohn Hasans,
95      Den unerfahrenen Liebling Chan Dallis.
          Im Nu steigt der Jigit aufs Pferd,
          Er spornt sein Ross an und verlässt den Hof:
          Das Land Čambii macht er zum Trauerhaus. {244|245}


[ back ] * Published in Fragen der mongolischen Heldendichtung, Part 4, Vorträge des 5. Epensymposiums des Sonderforschungsbereichs 12, Bonn 1985, edited by Walther Heissig, Asiatische Forschungen: Monographien zur Geschichte, Kultur und Sprache der Völker Ost- und Zentralasiens, published by the Seminar für Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft Zentralasiens der Universität Bonn, edited by Walther Heissig, Klaus Sagaster, Veronika Veit, Michael Weiers et al., Band 101 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1987), 288-320. Reprinted by permission of Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden.
[ back ] 1. Atlas, 1963: dúč'k', 148, IIll. no. 746; hučir, 144., Ill. nos. 728-730.
[ back ] 2. E.g., Karadžić, 1958, nos. 11-12.
[ back ] 3. Broz and Bosanac, 1896, no. 74.
[ back ] 4. Alpamyš, 1949; Dede Korkut, 1974; Žirmunskij, 1960. I have included in Appendix 1 of this chapter synopses of these five return songs.
[ back ] 5. Sometimes the narrative begins when the hero has been absent from home for many years, but the story of his departure at the time of his wedding is told in flashback. For a fuller study of the biographical pattern in Turkic and Central Asiatic epics see Laude-Circautas, 1979, 113-126.
[ back ] 6. Međedović, 1974a, 88.
[ back ] 7. Bosanac, 1897, no. 1, "Rođenje Marka Kraljevića" (The Birth of Marko Kraljević).
[ back ] 8. Broz and Bosanac, 1896, no. 66.
[ back ] 9. For songs of Marko's wedding see, e.g., Bosanac, 1897, nos. 19-21, and Karadžić, 1958, no. 55; for the wedding of Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk see Karadžić, 1932-36, vol. 6 (1935), no. 35.
[ back ] 10. BNT, vol. I, 1961, "Krali Marko i tri narečnici," "King Marko and the Three Soothsayers," 116-123.
[ back ] 11. Hatto, 1979, 95-96.
[ back ] 12. Erdelyi, 1972.
[ back ] 13. I have written elsewhere of rescue songs in the Bulgarian tradition, and there is a listing, with synopses, in Appendixes III and IV of Lord, 1960, of return and return-rescue songs in the Parry Collection. One of the best of the songs in which a son and nephew rescues his father and uncle is "Omer Hrnjičić Rescues His Father and Uncle." For a study of the relationship of this song to medieval and modern Greek ballads see my article "La poésie orale des peuples du sud-est européen entre le passé et le présent," which was read at the Fifth International Congress for the Study of Southeastern Europe, Belgrade, September 11-17, 1984.
[ back ] 14. Reichl, 1985a; see especially 23-29; he mentions the work of Matija Murko and South Slavic epic on page 27. Reichl has pointed out that many of the motifs in Rawšan have parallels not only in other Asiatic epics and in folklore, but also in medieval European epic and romance. Walther Heissig of the Seminar für Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft Zentralasiens der Universität Bonn, in an earlier article, has indicated parallels between central Asiatic epic and medieval Germanic epic. See Heissig, 1983b, 17.
[ back ] 15. Parry, 1954, no. 24, "Bojičić Alija Rescues Alibey's Children," Parry Text no. 670, recorded November 22, 1934, in Novi Pazar (Milman Parry Collection, Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.).
[ back ] 16. Međedović, 1974a, 166-167.
[ back ] 17. Hatto, 1977, 17-35.
[ back ] 18. Veit, 1985.
[ back ] 19. Karadžić, 1958, no. 73, "Smrt Marka Kraljevića" (The Death of Marko Kraljević).
[ back ] 20. There is something similar, however, in Old Welsh tradition. See Ford, 1977, 52-56, concerning the birth of Gwri Golden-Hair, son of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed.
[ back ] 21. Heissig, 1983a, 461.
[ back ] 22. Hörmann, 1933, 1:589-591.
[ back ] 23. BNT, vol. I, 1961.
[ back ] 24. More on the horse, horse culture, and related subjects can be found in Lord, A., 1972, especially 301-307.
[ back ] 25. "Halil izbavlja na košiji dvije šćeri Osman Alibega" (Halil in a Horse Race Rescues the Two Daughters of Osman Alibey), Lord and Bynum, 1964, 10. This collection is presently with the Milman Parry Collection in Widener Library, Harvard University.
[ back ] 26. Hatto, 1980, 179-281.
[ back ] 27. Reichl, 1985a, 56-59.
[ back ] 28. Ibid., 56-57. For the remainder of the song see Appendix 2 at the end of this chapter.
[ back ] 29. Međedović, 1974a and 1974b.
[ back ] 30. Međedović, 1974a, 89-90; 1974b, lines 783-814. This passage has been quoted also in "Avdo Međedović, Guslar," Chapter 4 in this volume; it and the following passages from "The Wedding of Smailagić Meho" are repeated here so that they may the more easily be compared with the quotations from Rawšan.
[ back ] 31. Međedović, 1974a, 105-106; 1974b, lines 1885-1974.
[ back ] 32. Međedović, 1974a, 119; 1974b, lines 2956-2972.
[ back ] 33. Heissig, 1983a, 456-457.
[ back ] 34. Chodzko, 1842, 3-4.
[ back ] 35. Parry, 1953 and 1954, nos. 4, 5, and 6.
[ back ] 36. Nekljudov and Tomorceren, 1985.
[ back ] 37. Radloff, 1885, Part V, Introduction, i-xxviii, especially xv-xxvii.
[ back ] 38. See my discussion of "The Memorizing Oral Poet" in Lord, A., 1985b.
[ back ] 39. Reichl, 1985b, 628-632 and 638-640.
[ back ] 40. Smith, 1977. My discussion of Smith's article can be found in my article "Characteristics of Orality," Lord, A., 1987, 65-67. Cope, 1968, especially 35-38. My discussion of these pages can be found in Lord, A., 1985b.
[ back ] 41. Finnegan, 1977, 75-78.
[ back ] 42. Innes, 1973. I have discussed these passages also in Lord, A., 1985b.
[ back ] 43. See Lord, A., 1989.
[ back ] 44. Karadžić, 1958, vol. 3, no. 25 (151 lines), and vol. 2, no. 61 (336 lines).
[ back ] 45. See Lord, A., 1960, Appendix II, 236-241.
[ back ] 46. Parry, M., 1954, no. 4.