The Singer of Tales

  Use the following persistent identifier:

Appendix V

Example of Father-Son Transmission

Another example of transmission of a song from father to son also comes from Kolašin in Montenegro, and, as in Chapter Five, the texts were recorded years after the teaching and learning had been accomplished. The father is Mirko Danilović, 60 years old at the time of recording in 1935, and illiterate; the son is Rade Danilović, 28 years old at that time and literate. The song, “Mitrović Stojan and the Vizier of Travnik,” Mirko tells us he learned from his grandfather. (Mirko, Parry 6796; Rade, Parry 6777). In this case the song of the son is longer than that of the father; 500 lines, as compared to 342 lines. We have a third version of this song from another singer of the same general district, i.e. Montenegro in and around Kolašin, and we can use this version as a rough control (Parry 6717). It was sung by Stanko Pižurica, 65 years old, and illiterate, the best of our Montenegrin singers. His song is much longer than the other two, 757 lines.

The first theme is a kind of assembly theme in which there are, however, only two speakers. Thirty rebels are drinking. Young Stojan Mitrović is serving the wine, and when he pours it for his father, he fills the glass only half full and pours it on the green grass. The father asks the reason for this censure, and the young man explains that on his wedding night, or the day after it, his father had taken him away from home to join the rebels. That was twelve years ago, and now Stojan longs to see his wife and other members of the family. His father says that he can go in a few days, when Easter Sunday comes. (Mirko, lines 1-35, speaks only of the wife whom Stojan had left, and says nothing of other members of the family; Rade, lines 1-43, and Stanko, lines 34-129, both mention the mother, two brothers, and two sisters, in addition to the wife.

The length of Stanko’s version comes from expansion: the father asks his son if he is angry because he is lacking money, clothes, a horse, and other accoutrements, and the son answers that he is not angry because of this, nor that, since these could he corrected easily, but he is angry that… And we are reminded of the similar theme in “Smailagić Meho.” Stanko also expands the young man’s answer by having him say that his wife may marry again, that if he met his mother on the street he would not recognize her, if he met his brothers on the mountains he might kill them both, if he met his sisters, he might capture them both and sell them to Turkey. This text is of considerable interest in itself, but for our present purposes it is useful in keeping us from claiming, at this point in the song, that Rade has himself invented the place of the other members of Stojan’s family in the tale. Either Mirko’s text in this theme is not typical, or Rade picked up these details from elsewhere.

The second theme contains the preparations of Stojan for the journey to Sarajevo and his father’s instructions to him as to what he is to do and what {266|267} not to do. Mirko’s description of the preparations is brief (lines 44-59); Stojan puts on fine armor, is given a huge Bulgarian cloak by his father, which is even small for the son, and he saddles his horse in Turkish fashion. Rade’s description is somewhat longer (lines 49-78), but he covers the same main points. There are a few added details: Stojan washes before dressing; his father twists his sash for him in Turkish fashion; he looks like a Bulgarian from Sofia. In this part of the theme it is clear that Mirko was the teacher of Rade; for their texts are rather close. Our control text begins with the preparing of the horse, lines 137-150, and then proceeds to a very lengthy description of the dressing and arming of Stojan, lines 152-221.

Stojan, now disguised, must be instructed by his father in a series of recognitions and taboos. In Mirko’s text Stojan is to twist his sash in Turkish fashion when he arrives in Sarajevo, and to ride his horse like a Turk. Before the church he must dismount and tell his horse in Greek not to let anyone touch him. At the church door he will find his mother lamenting her son; he should give her fifty ducats and tell her to buy a covering and a shirt. By the altar in the church he will find two priests; they are his brothers and he should give them twenty ducats. Outside the church he will find a kolo dance of young wives, among whom the most striking will be his wife; he should give her whatever he wishes. Stojan departs singing, and his father goes back lamenting (lines 61-102), We see now that the mother and brothers are present in Mirko’s song, but the sisters are still absent.

Rade’s text (lines 82-145) adds something to Mirko’s, and it also changes the order of events slightly. Stojan will first go into the church and see his two brothers, to whom he will give thirty ducats each; next he will meet his mother at the door when he leaves the church. In front of the church he will find a kolo dance of maidens in which will be his two sisters, to whom he will give twenty ducats each. After this comes the kolo in which his wife will he found. At each encounter he is warned by his father not to pay any attention or say anything to the other people, lest “a serpent sting him” and the Turks recognize him. His father’s last admonition is not to drink from a cask of wine that he will find. In other respects Rade’s version is like his father’s. Rade stresses the taboos, whereas his father had stressed what Stojan should do.

Stanko’s text (lines 226-300) is not much longer than Rade’s here. Stanko says nothing about speaking to the horse in Greek or in any language. After the liturgy Stojan is to stay in the church and to give a gift of unspecified amount to his two brothers. Next comes the mother outside the church; then the sisters, not in a kolo dance but walking among the other people outside the church. He will recognize them because they look like him. On the other side of the church he will find his wife walking. She is distinguished by her beauty; and here, as in the other versions, she is also distinguished by the fact that she is wearing three necklaces. Stojan is warned not to show himself to be recognized by any of these people, lest “a serpent sting him.” After these meetings and gift-givings Stojan is to go to the tavern in front of the church and there to drink wine and rakija, after which he is to mount his horse and return to the mountains. These last instructions, of course, differ markedly from Rade’s text.

Stojan goes to Sarajevo, encounters the members of his family, and finally breaks the taboo about drinking wine. It might also be said that he breaks the {267|268} taboo about speaking to his kin, if the texts mean that there should be a taboo (they are not clear on this point). In Mirko’s text, Stojan forgets to speak to his horse in Greek (or, at least, Mirko forgets to tell us about it!), as he had been instructed to do. (Rade is specific here.) Stojan gives his mother the money and tells her that he has seen Stojan recently and that her son has sent her the money. She asks him to wait, because he looks much like Stojan, but he goes inside. He then gives money to his brothers, and when they see him they drop the books from their hands and weep. When asked by the deacons why they did this, the brothers say they have seen the wounds of God and weep. Stojan finds the dance and grasps one of his wife’s necklaces. She shouts that if he knew whose wife she was he would not dare even to look at her. He asks her who her husband is, and she replies, stating that he had disappeared twelve years ago. Stojan tells her that her husband died long ago and asks her to accept him. She assures him that she would rather have Stojan dead than him alive. At this Stojan gives her a gift of money; she looks closely at him, weeps, and covers her face with her handkerchief. Stojan then finds the wine and drinks it. The theme ends at line 193 in Mirko’s text.

As before, Rade has expanded on his father’s telling, or more properly, the text which we have from him is more elaborate than that from his father. He does have Stojan speak to his horse in Greek! The order of encounters is somewhat different, as it was in the instructions. First come the two brothers, to whom he gives money, telling them that it is a gift from Stojan, whom he has seen recently. It is the Turks not the deacons who ask them for an explanation of their dropping the books and weeping. Rade’s song, it can be seen, provides clearer motivation than does Mirko’s for the actions reported. After the brothers comes the mother, and Rade’s handling of this meeting is much like Mirko’s. Then Rade tells of the encounter with the sisters, which is missing in Mirko’s text. Stojan gives them a gift and tells them it is from Stojan; they weep but hide their tears in handkerchiefs. In the meeting with his wife, Stojan breaks his wife’s three necklaces and spills the beads on the ground. Otherwise Rade’s text is much like his father’s here also, as in the final episode with the drinking of the wine.

By now it is abundantly clear, I think, that we are dealing with a return story strangely like the Odyssey in its basic framework. Rade’s story seems simply to be hetter told than Mirko’s; perhaps in the days when Rade learned it from his father the old man sang it more fully. Yet it would not be amiss for us to check his telling against our control in Stanko’s text. His handling of this series of meetings is not so long as that of Rade, although the order is the same as his. He pours money onto the holy altar for the brothers, telling them it has been sent them from Stojan, and then he turns his back and leaves; there is no dropping of books or weeping here. The meeting with the mother is much the same as in the other texts. As for the sisters, although no kolo dance was spoken of in the instructions, Stojan finds them in a kolo; he gives them the money, saying it is from Stojan. They weep, and he departs. There is even greater difference in the scene with the wife. Stojan finds her again in a kolo dance, which was not mentioned in the instructions, and she is described as wearing the three necklaces; but the necklaces are not grasped by Stojan, as in the other two texts. {268|269} Stojan, in Stanko’s song, enters the kolo and steps on his wife’s foot. She pushes him away saying that if he knew who she was, he would not even dare to look at her, to say nothing of stepping on her foot. He gives her a hundred ducats saying that they are from Stojan with greetings. That is all. Stojan then goes to the tavern, drinks, gives money to the tavern keeper as a gift from Stojan to buy drinks for all the people at the fair. He departs to the plain.

The Brunhilde of the Balkans makes her appearance in the section of our song that tells of Stojan’s capture by the Turks. Mirko and Rade call her “the powerful maiden” (devletka đevojka), but Stanko specifies her as “the Arab maiden” (Harapka đevojka). All three texts relate how Stojan comes upon the Turks playing heroic games, that he joins them in hurling stones and jumping and that he bests them. In their anger they bring forth “the powerful maiden,” and she competes with Stojan and wins. He then takes off his disguise of the Bulgarian cloak, standing forth in shining gold as a mountain rebel. Thus unencumbered he out-throws and out-jumps the Amazon.

At this point two other characters are introduced, both of whom recognize Stojan, but the first is not believed by the Turks, and only when the second identifies him, do they act and capture him, finally turning him over to the vizier in Travnik, since they themselves do not know what to do with him. Mirko and Rade agree as to who these two people are. One is the smith Jovo (kujundžija Jovo) and the other is a woman called bula bumbulova, “nightingale woman.” The smith says that he recognizes Stojan because he had stolen the breastplate he wears from his smithy. The woman says she recognizes him because he had stolen from her shop the shirt of gold that he wears. Mirko and Rade differ only in the order of appearance of these two: in Mirko’s tale the woman appears first, in Rade’s the smith.

Stanko’s text, our “control,” doubles the male characters in this recognition scene, and in a way it also doubles the female personae. When she is bested by Stojan, the “Arab maiden” says that since Stojan had gone to the rebels twelve years ago, nobody has been able to overcome her, and it looks to her that Stojan has returned. At this moment young Ibrahim (occupation unspecified) arrives and recognizes Stojan because he is wearing a green coat that he had taken from Ibrahim’s back. The Turks pay no attention to this. Then the woman Bungurova (sic) comes and recognizes him by the silk shirt he is wearing, which he had taken from her back. She is not believed, but finally the smith Ramo recognizes Stojan because he is wearing the golden breastplate, taken from his back; his name is on it.

This theme, stopping at Stojan’s capture and binding, ends in Mirko at line 249; in Rade at line 374; in Stanko at line 553. In considering what has happened in transmission from Mirko to Rade, the significant point is that the order of appearance of these two characters is the only change. We have now seen a number of instances of change in the order of events in transmission. This seems to be a characteristic phenomenon.

The final large theme of the song relates Stojan’s escape from the sentence of execution imposed upon him by the vizier in Travnik. All three texts tell how the vizier asks him what he has done, how Stojan replies that he captured the vizier’s father and mother and sold them into slavery, and that he captured the {269|270} vizier’s wife and made love to her for three years and returned her to the vizier for ransom. The vizier sentences Stojan to death, but Stojan by a ruse persuades the executioners to release his arms. He then fights his way to freedom and returns to the mountains. Rade’s telling of this is somewhat longer than his father’s (lines 375-500 in Rade; 250-342 in Mirko) and he differs in the following: Mirko states that Stojan sold the vizier’s mother for thirty fuses, Rade for thirty pouches of tobacco. In both songs, the vizier’s wife intervenes for Stojan, but Mirko has her order that Stojan’s arms be freed so that they may take his shirt of gold before killing him, whereas Rade has her order that he be taken into the courtyard so as not to befoul the castle with his blood. In the courtyard Stojan then tells the executioners to take off his shirt of gold for themselves before they kill him, because the blood will spoil the gold. In both cases the executioners release his arms. In Mirko’s text Stojan kills the three executioners and then the vizier himself, together with a few men around him. In Rade’s Stojan kills the two executioners; the guards oppose him but he kills them. In both texts he escapes to Mount Romanija to find his whole family mourning for him. In Mirko’s text their wailing is turned to singing when he arrives. In Rade’s, when Stojan arrives he sings a song about a falcon that had broken its wings but had gotten them again: “Now, Mount Romanija, rejoice, here is your gray falcon, your falcon, Dmitrović Stojan!” This song is a link with other return tales, especially with the song of the Captivity of Janković Stojan; for it is by a song about a bird that the hero brings about recognition of the long-absent but returned hero.

The control text, as before, is much longer than the songs of the Danilovići (lines 554-757). There are some differences from their texts, and some points in which Stanko is closer to Rade than to Mirko. When the Turks of Sarajevo are debating what to do with Stojan, a certain Zuko the standard-bearer appears and tells them that the vizier in Travnik is seeking Stojan and offering rewards. So the men of Sarajevo in reality sell the hero to the vizier. In Stojan’s tale to the vizier, which is longer than his story in the other texts, the order is mother, father, and wife, rather than father, mother, and wife. As a kind of refrain, one finds that Stojan’s opening lines to the vizier are the same in all texts, Dorijane, travnički vezire,/Dorijane i od dorijana! (“You big chestnut horse, Vizier of Travnik, Big chestnut horse and son of a big chestnut horse!”)

In his first raid Stojan had killed three hundred, taken much money and thirty captives, including the vizier’s mother, whom he had taken to the mountains and fattened like a sow and then sold to merchants for thirty pouches of cut tobacco, which his thirty rebels smoked. The second raid was like the first, except that it was the father who was captured and fattened, and he was sold for thirty pair of sandals, which the thirty rebels wore out. In the third raid he killed five hundred, took a hundred ducats and sixty captives, among them the vizier’s wife, whom he kept for six months and then sent back.

The vizier’s wife does not intervene on Stojan’s behalf in Stanko’s story, but Stojan is taken into the streets by three executioners to be killed. Stojan himself persuades them to take off his golden clothing before they kill him. They release his arms, and he kills them, and then returns to the vizier and his wife. When the vizier sees him, he pardons everything he has done and offers him money {270|271} and even his wife, but Stojan cuts off his head, kills his two sons, and plunders his castle. Nothing further is said of the vizier’s wife. When Stojan reaches the mountains, he tells his story to his father and the rebels. Nothing is said of his family. {271|}