The Many Deaths of Mustaj Beg of Lika
The Epic Biography of a Hero
“Opali topa, moje dite drago,
Mog zelenka gradu na bedenu,
Nek se svija Lika i Krbava!”
“Fire the cannon, my dear child,
my green canon on the city walls,
let Lika and Krbava gather together!”
Captive maidens were given the freedom to choose for themselves whether to stay or return to their own homes, which rightly enhanced Mustaj Beg’s stature as the guardian and “personification of the legal system.”  As the “great old man” of heroic song, he did not rush recklessly into battle at any cost, but rather behaved as a leader who showed concern for the lives of his soldiers.  In one situation he refused to give in to the extortion of his adversary, devising a way to avoid battle (“This steed will not go to the wedding festivities, / and no maiden will ride this steed either, / all our wedding guests will perish” Hörmann I, 36.364-366). In another, when the Ban of Zadar posted guards in the Kotar region and prohibited raiding, he ordered his own men from Lika to give up raiding and accept working their fields.
Pa udari abdest turski na se,
Pa on klanja četiri rećata,
Pa on Bogu obje diže ruke:
“Daj mi, Bože, vihar sa Palije,
Da rastjera maglu u krajeve
Da ja vidim čija gine vojska,
Čija gine, čija li dobiva!”
and he performed Turkish ablutions,
and he prostrated himself four times,
and raising both hands to God, said:
“God, send me a gale from Palija
to dispel this fog to the other regions,
so I may see which army perishes
which perishes, and which prevails!”
For following a battle from too great a distance, a spyglass (durbin) is necessary:
Kod bega se bile čadorovi,
U njeg vavik durbin u desnici,
Jer on gleda svojih uhodnika.
The tents were near the Beg,
who always had a spyglass in his right hand,
for he was watching his troops.
Dok mu vihar sa Palije puhne,
A rastjera maglu u krajeve.
Kad pogleda niz duge poljane,
Trave nema gdje ne ima glave,
Busa nema gdje ne ima trupa,
Doline se krvi nadolije.
and the wind from Palija blew,
and dispelled the fog to other regions.
When he looked along the long meadow,
no patch of grass was without a head,
no clump of dirt was without a body,
blood poured through the valley.
The tale lingers here. The lingering is motivated by the rupture of the epic/agonic essence of the song and by the desire to preserve a complete image of all that is unfolding. And thus even this lingering adds further still to the foregoing list of characteristics of the spatialization of the song.  In this way, Mustaj Beg is bound up in the process of characterization and psychologizing, as well. He acts as a complete figure, a persona who makes plans and determines tactics in battle, and not just as a hero who goes from battle to battle. He is a persona who shows feeling, grieves and cries, a persona who wants to authenticate his own existence—but in his own way, without weapons. A figure who ultimately wants to be present in the tale even when not in battle.
I would like to believe that such an oral epic poet—aware of real time and space, as well as of space that expands and time that lasts beyond the epic at hand—becomes conscious of the traditional context that gave rise to his song and the broader song tradition. In other words, the cultivation of this broader awareness of space and spatialization in Krajina epic can be understood as a site of singers’ reflexivity about the tradition as a whole and their place within that tradition. I am mindful of David Bynum’s warning that the knowledge of the researcher and of the singer are not the same,  but I would nevertheless like to believe that some fundamental connection exists between these phenomena of spatialized narration (within a song) and the tradition-at-large, inscribed in the deep structures of singers’ consciousness—a kind of unconscious knowledge, similar to the way in which the epic singer’s movements and rhythm in playing the gusle are connected with the tale itself, as discussed in this volume by Scaldaferri and Neziri. We might think of this as the same kind of knowledge that enabled Avdo Međedović to sing his epic song, The Wedding of Smailagić Meho, with its similarities in construction to the Iliad and Odyssey. This theme of the epic knowledge singers within a tradition possess has important potential for future scholarly discussion.
The Death of the Hero
Evo puno sedam godin’ dana
Kako nam je bego poginuo
Nijeste se more potežili,
Da siđete na begovu luku,
Da vidite oburvane kule
I begovu sirotinju tešku
I Bećira, Mustaj-Bega sina.
look, a full seven years have passed
since our Beg was killed.
Ah, you haven’t rushed out
to go down to the Beg’s valley
to see the fallen towers
and the Beg’s poor people
and Bećir, Mustaj Beg’s son.
Mujo and Tale then undertake a campaign for revenge and enslave the Beg’s killer, Jovan of Uzavlje, sparing his life because he expresses a desire to convert to Islam.
The Death of Mustaj Beg in the Parry Collection
No obraza cijele Krajine
I namuza cara Sulejmana.
Sade ode na Krajinu vojska.
Sade prođe vakta nekoliko …
but rather the honor of all Krajina
and the prayers of Sultan Suleiman.”
Now the army sets out for Krajina.
Now a few prayer times pass …
The first theme is developed according to the standard pattern:
Nije bolja podrasla devojka,
Nego što je Uzovlje ravno,
Mila sestra Uzovca Jovana,
E gospođa Jana Jovanova.
Koliko je u stasu visoka
I u pasu tanka i lijepa!
Tud đevojka lica gosposkoga,
Jal je vila ja li je rodila,
Jal joj vila na babine bila
Mulćim nije što joj svoje nije.
Jana ruse kose odgojila,
Bi se s rusom kosom opasala.
no better maiden had grown up
than from the plain of Uzovlje
the charming sister of Jovan Uzovac.
O, my lady Jana, sister of Jovan,
how tall she stands in stature
and how thin at the waist, and beautiful!
The maiden has a divine face,
is she a vila fairy, or the child of a vila,
or was a vila among her forebears?
No worldy possession compared to her [beauty].
Jana let her strawberry locks grow
She was adorned with strawberry locks.
Such an introduction has another function, as well: to lay the groundwork for what follows; to give reason for the Beg’s desire to take Jana to wife along with his first; but also on some level, as in the Iliad, to foreshadow the wholesale tragedy of the events.
|June 28, 1935||August 16, 1951|
|– five-verse prelude||– prelude of just one verse|
|– hymn in praise of Jana’s beauty|
|– fame of Jana’s beauty reaches the Beg||– missing|
|– Mejrić and Vrcić sent to scout||– Desnić and Nemić sent|
|– Beg’s wife asks the standard-bearers not to tell the truth||– same|
|– description of travel to Uzovlje||– missing|
|– description of Janja’s beauty||– same|
|– return and false testimony||– same|
|– again, fame of Jana’s beauty reaches the Beg||– same|
|– Beg sends Mejrić||– same|
|– at Eid, Beg tells his wife his intentions||– Beg sends Nemić|
|– Mustaj Beg’s rage at his wife||– Beg’s wife surmises that Beg in fact found out about Janja’s beauty|
|– announcing the campaign||– same|
|– writing a letter to the heroes||– same|
|– arrival of the summoned heroes||– missing|
|– special episode upon Tale’s arrival||– missing|
|– scene of tertib arrangements||– missing|
|– missing||>- missing|
|– conquest of Uzovlje and kidnapping of Janja||– Halil goes to scout|
|– Jovan’s flight to Italy||– same|
|– Mustaj Beg’s succumbing to charms of Janja’s beauty||– same|
|– Jovan’s attack||– same|
|– Tale’s warning||– same|
|– Mustaj Beg’s death||– same|
It is known that Parry conducted experiments with singers, encouraging them to perform:
On the Hero’s Death
Er je Janju rodila Latinka,
Zadojila vinom i rakijom,
A mene je rodila Turkinja,
Zadojila medom i šećerom.
Slušaj mene, beg Mustaj-beg Lički!
Ako diga na Uzorje vojsku,
Zarobijo Jovanovu Janju,
Stigao te Jovan u planinu,
Tebe, beže, pošjeko glavu!
“Why, Beg, are you behaving so disgracefully?
For Janja was born to a Christian woman,
and was nursed  on wine and brandy,
but I was born to a Turkish (Muslim) mother,
and was nursed on honey and sugar.
Listen to me, Mustaj Beg of Lika!
If you raise an army at Uzorje,
and capture Janja, the sister of Jovan,
then may Jovan catch you at the mountain,
and may he cut off your head, my Beg!”
I u svakog po dobra devojka;
Neko sestru, neko ćerku rani,
Neko, beže, od brata devojku.
Svakog ću tebe dozvoliti,
Begeniši, ja ću je prositi,
I ja ću joj jenđikada biti,
A sal Janu neću posuliti,
Jer je Jana sestra Jovanova,
I Janu je rodila Latinka,
Krmećijem mesom podhranila,
Da s vrh mene bide gospodarka,
To ti nikad halaliti neću,
Niti reći, niti dozvoliti!”
“Every city has its leader,
and each of them has a fine maiden;
some have a sister, some are raising a daughter,
some, my Beg, a niece.
I would allow you to take any one of them,
choose one you like, I will ask for her hand,
and I will stand as her bridesmaid,
but I can’t make peace with Jana,
for Jana is Jovan’s sister,
and Jana was born to a Christian woman,
she was brought up eating pork.
To rule over me as lady of the house,
I will never give that my blessing, 
I won’t speak of it nor allow it!”
And when the Beg grows angry and begins to take his wrath out on her, she curses him (ll. 730-738):
Da Bog da i Muhammed svetac,
Pošo, beže, i digo krajinu,
I otišo zdravo u Uzovlje,
Porobijo Janu Jovanovu,
Sve to zdravo došla iz Uzovlja,
A ti osto izgubijo glavu,
Ostala ti udovica Jana,
Da se priča dok j’ ovog džihana!
“Don’t lash out, may they (their hands) wither away!
May God and his saint Muhammad grant
that you go, my Beg, and raise up the Kraijna,
that you depart safely to Uzovlje
and take Jana, the sister of Jovan, as a slave,
and that she come safely from Uzovlje.
But may you lose your head,
and may Jana be left your widow,
that it may be told as long as this world remains!”
Ovo ću ti istinito kazat’
Sve ću jade moje oprostiti
Bosne grada sedamdeset ravno
A kol’ko je u te grade aga
Kol’ko aga i kol’ko begova
Svaku ću ti curu o.. ovlaziti 
Dvorove toga gospodara i u njega sestru zaiskati
Ilji sestru ili mi milu šćerku
I njojzi ću biti jenđe-kada
Oprostiti Janju nikad neću
Jeli je Ja.. Janju rodila Srpkinja
I svinjskim je mesom podranila
Da mi Janja u dvorove sudi
Boga mi je ukabulit’ neću
Pa ću se nazvat pušćenica
“By God, my Beg, so that’s how it is.
I will tell you in truth,
I will forgive you for all my sorrows.
Bosnia, with its 70 cities—
And how many agas are there in those cities
How many agas, and how many begs?
I would visit any of their daughters for you,
Going to the courts of a lord to inquire about his sister,
Either his sister or his dear daughter,
And I’ll be her bridesmaid.
[But] I will never forgive you for [taking] Janja.
Wasn’t she born to a Serbian woman?
And brought up eating pork?
If Janja orders me around in these halls,
By God, I would never accept her
And I would pronounce myself divorced.”
Đe si beže vojsku potkupijo
I spremijo Kopiljana tvoga
Kopiljana Nuka bajrektara [sic]
Te je tebe Janju uhodio
Silovitu vojsku potkupijo
Da ti tražiš Uzoračku Janu
Da pogaziš bijelu Kadunu
E Kadunu Mustaj begovicu
Jeli vakat četeres godina
Kako samti kuću pohodila
Od valjane kuće Atlagića
Nijesam ti hatar ištetila
Ni sjedenjem tebe iščekala
Nisam beže namaz propušćila
Pa moj beže direk od Krajine
Hajde beže ni donijo glavu
“O Mustaj Beg of Lika, pillar of Krajina,
How could you dare to gather the army, my Beg,
And send your bastard son,
the bastard Nuko, the standard-bearer
who found Janja for you?
You gathered that violent army
so you could seek after Jana of Uzovlje,
so you could trample on the fair woman,
yes, the wife of Mustaj Beg.
Has it been forty years
since I came to your house
from the noble house of Atlagić?
I have never betrayed your love
nor sat idly as I waited for you.
I have never missed namaz prayers.
So my Beg, pillar of Krajina,
go now, my Beg, and may [Jovan] bring us your head.
The motif of betrayal, as in the aforementioned song from the Marjanović collection, is connected to:In all four songs the Beg fails to resist Janja’s beauty and his decision to enjoy her charms leads to his death. All the causes enumerated here confirm the hypothesis about the primarily human rather than lofty ethical reasons for Mustaj Beg’s death.