Category Archives: Folktales

This section contains folktales from the Albanian culture.

Author of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” also wrote a history of Scanderbeg

In 1850, Clement C. Moore, who wrote the much-beloved Yuletide classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas…” also wrote a history about Albania’s great, 15th century folkhero titled George Castriot, Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania.

Here is a picture of the title page:

Scan of the title page of George Castriot, Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania by Clement C. Moore.

Scan of the title page of George Castriot, Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania by Clement C. Moore. (Image Courtesy Google Books)

 

 

The Skilful Brothers

This story has wandered across the world, perhaps from the Kalmucks
to Norway; and it is as well known in Japan as it was to the Brothers Grimm. This is the Albanian telling.

Once upon a time there was a King who had a beautiful daughter. They lived happily until, one day, the Devil took it into his head to carry her away. This he did, conveying her to his dwelling-place, deep in the earth, where human beings cannot normally reach.
The King was distraught beyond measure, and announced that whoever should save the girl could have her hand in marriage, provided she agreed to accept him.
Seven intelligent, noble, and skilful youths each volunteered to rescue the Princess, and they set out together to seek the hiding-place.

Now these brothers were well equipped for their task. The first had such acute hearing that he could hear any sound, even from the most remote distances. The second had the power of making the very earth open to any depth. The third could steal anything from anyone without their knowing it. The fourth could hurl any object to the very confines of the world. The fifth was able to build a lofty and impregnable castle in an instant. The sixth was such a marksman that he could hit anything, no matter how high in the air it was, or how distant. The seventh could catch, and safely hold, anything which fell from the sky, whatever the altitude.

The seven had not gone very far when the youth with the acute hearing put his ear to the ground and heard that under that very spot was the Devil’s hideout. He said to the second young man: “Cause the earth to open at this point!!

Instantly, by the second youth’s magical power, the earth opened, and the party descended into the ground to where they saw the Devil, deeply asleep and snoring, clutching the maiden to him.

The third youth stole the Princess from the diabolical grasp by his power to abstract anything from anywhere without it being known. In her place he put a toad.
The fourth companion took off one of the Devil’s unique shoes, and hurled it so far that it descended at the other end of the earth.

Carrying the Princess, the brothers started their jouney back to her father’s palace.
Very soon, however, the Devil awoke. He roared and screamed with fury when he found the toad, the Princess gone, and his irreplaceable shoe missing. He threw himself into the air and sped to the end of the world to recover the footgear, and then started off in hot pursuit of the travellers.

As soon as they saw him coming in the distance, the fifth young man caused by his art a mighty and almost inaccessible tower to be built. The eight fugitives went inside, and the door closed, just at the moment when the Devil arrived.

Try as he might, the fiend could not get into the tower. Resorting to guile, he said: “I will go away in peace, if you will only just let me have one final look at the Princess.”
Foolishly, as it turned out, they made a very small hole in the tower for him to peep in; and in less time than it takes to tell he had pulled the girl through the aperture, and was flying away with her through the air towards his foul abode.

Now the sixth young man, taking his magical bow, sped an arrow towards the Devil, hitting him so hard and true that he dropped the Princess, from an immense height.
The seventh youth was ready and he caught her before she hit the ground.
Soon they reached the palace in safety, and the King was overjoyed at the return of his daughter. “Which of the brothers will you choose?” he asked her.

“Each one of them has done something indispensable to rescue me,” said the Princess, “yet I think that I will choose the one who caught me when I fell.”

This seventh youth was, as it happens, the youngest and most handsome, so they were married. And the King rewarded all the other young men with lavish presents and grants of land, and they all lived happily ever afterwards.

— Taken from WORLD TALES, Collected by Indries Shah Submitted by Jim Gregory

The Serpent

This story has been found extant and still flourishing in popular narrative in both taly and the Himalayan region of Asia. Choosing a version which is geographically in between, we can look at the Balkan one, collected in Albania.

There was once a hunter who, while passing by a quarry, noticed that a serpent was trapped by a large stone or rock.
The snake called out when it saw him: “Please help me, lift the stone.”
The hunter answered: ” I cannot help you because you are likely to devour me.”
The reptile asked again for aid, promising that he would not eat the man.
And so the man released the snake. It immediately made a movement towards him, as if to attack.
“Did you not promise not to eat me, if I let you go?” the man asked.
The snake said: “Hunger is hunger.”
“But,” said the hunter, “if you are doing something wrong, what has hunger to do with it?”
The man then suggested that they should put the matter to the adjudication of others.
They went into some woods where they found a hound. They asked him whether he thought that the snake should eat the man, and he replied:
“I was once owned by a man. I caught hares, and he would provide me with the very best meat to eat. But now I am old, and I cannot catch even a tortoise, so he wants to kill me. Since I have been given evil in return for good, I claim he should eat you.”
“You have heard,” said the snake to the man, “That is the judgement.”
But they decided to take three pieces of advice, not one, and continued on their way. Presently they met a horse and asked him to judge between them.
“I think that the serpent should be allowed to eat the man,” said the horse. It continued:
“I once had a master. He fed me for so long as I could travel. Now that I am feeble and cannot continue my duties, he desires to kill me.”
The serpent said to the man: “We now have the unanimity of two judgements.”
Further along, they came cross a fox. The hunter said:
“Dear friend, come to my help! I was passing a quarry and I found this huge serpent under a stone and almost dead. He asked me to release him. I got him out, and yet he now wishes to eat me.”
The fox answered:
“If I have to give a decision, let us return to the place where you met. I have to see the actual situation.”
They went back to the quarry, and the fox asked for the rock to be placed over the serpent, to reconstruct the situation. This was done. He asked:
“Is this how it was?”
“Yes,” said the serpent.
“Very well,” the fox told him, “You shall now stay there until the end of your days.”

— Taken from WORLD TALES, Collected by Indries Shah Submitted by Jim Gregory

The Tale of the Eagle

The Eagle

The Eagle

A youth was hunting in the mountains. An eagle flying above him set down on top of a crag. The eagle was especially large and had in its beak a snake. After a while, the eagle flew away from the crag where it had its nest. The youth then climbed to the top of the crag where he saw, in the nest, an eaglet playing with the dead snake. But the snake wasn’t really dead! Suddenly it stirred, revealed its fangs and was ready to pierce the eaglet with its deadly venom. Quickly, the youth took out his bow and arrow and killed the snake. Then he took the eaglet and started for his home. Suddenly the youth heard above him the loud whirring sound of the large eagle’s wings.

“Why do you kidnap my child?” cried out the eagle.

“The child is mine because I saved it from the snake which you didn’t kill, ” answered the youth.

“Give me back my child, and I will give you as a reward the sharpness of my eyes and the powerful strength of my wings. You well become invincible, and you well be called by my name!”

Thus the youth handed over the eaglet. After the eaglet grew, it would always fly above the head of the youth, now a full-grown man, who, with his bow and arrows, killed many wild beasts of the forest, and who, with his sword, slew many enemies of the land. During all of these feats, the eagle faithfully watched over and guided him.

Amazed by the valiant hunter’s deeds, the people of the land elected him king and called him “Albanian” which is to say “Son of the Eagle.” And his kingdom became known as Albania or Land of the Eagles.

(Translated tnto English by Fehime Pipa and Van Christo. Artwork by Paul Doyle)