Monday, May 14, 2018

Sun, Moon, and Nasruddin (Following folktales around the world 65. - Albania)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

A Föld Szépe - Albán népmesék
Európa Kiadó, 1957.

This book is among the earliest in our Tales of Nations series. It's a translation of a 1954 volume that was published by the Albanian Science Institute, as a representative sample from their huge collection of folktales. It contains 44 stories, but no additional information; there are some footnotes, and a short Afterword. Translator claims the sample is pretty well-rounded in representing Albanian folktales, with the exception of stories about rebirth.
For reading Albanian folktales in English, I highly recommend this collection.


Albanian sun and moon symbols
I really loved the tale of Sun and Moon visiting - Sun wanted to bring a dress for Moon, but could not make it to measure because Moon constantly changes. Therefore Sun offered up its light instead, for Moon to dress in. Similarly pretty was the tale of Ahmet the Generous. In this one, a princess locked up by her overly protective father fell in love with Ahmet without ever meeting him. Eventually she set out to find him on her own; Ahmet's aunt helped her win his love.
I laughed a lot at the tale of Her brother took her. A girl is kidnapped by a wolf, and rescued by her brother. When the wolf comes home and asks objects where she'd gone, only a broken cup tattles on her - but it has such a lips that the wolf can't understand what it is trying to say...
I was reminded of a Greek folktale by the tale of The three brothers and Beauty of the World (Beauty of the World is the generic magical bride who shows up in many of these tales). A hero called Saber made friends with Star and Sea. They helped him when he was in danger, and in exchange he helped Star get a wife, and helped Sea become king. In another Beauty of the World tale a swarm of bees helped the hero pick out the real bride from among women who looked the same (similarly to Grimm's Queen Bee). This tale had a similar structure to my favorite Greek story The Son of the Hunter - and so did another one in the book, Letter to the Afterlife. In this one, instead of building a castle from ivory, the hero had to build one from gemstones. Beauty helped him by crying a lot; her tears turned stones into gems.
The tale of The young woman and the Four-Eyed Woman was similar to Hansel and Gretel - but without a Hansel. The young woman rescued herself from a mysterious cannibalistic woman who had two extra eyes on the back of her head.
The story of Samakadi began with a princess falling in love with a colt, and insisting of marrying it. Eventually, of course, the colt turned out to be a prince... but he was kidnapped by a dragon, and then the girl (!) had to set out to rescue him. The story turned into a Magic Flight type tale, except in this case it was the husband who was helping his wife complete impossible tasks.
How the devil was killed had the common motif of the hidden death (like Koschei the Deathless, or the Crystal Ball), but in this case, the hero himself was a shapeshifter. He received his powers from the Parcae, the three matrons of destiny: He could turn into an ant, a hawk, or... a winged man with superhuman strength. Definitely an upgrade compared to other variants.


Once again I encountered a variant of one of my favorite tales, known from the Pentamerone as The Flea. A princess doesn't want to marry so she sets an impossible task - but the devil solves it, and takes her. Seven Brothers set out to rescue her, each with his own special superpower. I especially liked it that at the end of this version, she got to pick which one she wanted to marry. A similar "superhero team" appeared in the tale of Bilmeni, and I was especially excited about it because it contained a hero whose power was to cause earthquakes. I have never seen one in any variant other than the one from Greece.
There was a trickster hero in a Treasures of the Ogre type tale - except here instead of an ogre or dragon, the enemy was a cyclops. At the end of the story they blinded him the same way Odysseus blinded the other one (we are close to Greece here). The tale of The Mermaid, on the other hand, was reminiscent of northern Selkie stories. It was a cruel variant, where two brothers trapped a mermaid and forced her into human marriage; they even threatened the life of her child to make her talk. Eventually, she fled back to the waters.
The tale of Fenichka was an interesting mix of the Frog Princess and Daughter of the Sun. Beauty of the World here appeared as a snake and married the youngest brother; then she did all kinds of magical things, tricking her sisters-in-law to try to copy her (e.g. she cut her own breasts off and cooked them, but they grew back). This (very Mediterranean) motif also showed up in Daughter of Sun and Moon. A woman went to Sun and Moon to ask for a soul for a girl she made of clay (and did the whole "series of questions" thing along the way). The girl got a soul, and also magic powers, which she used to trick the brides of her true love into trying to copy her.
There were tales of a princess turning into a prince (The magic mare), a princess disguised as a prince (Silent One), a Clever Girl, and even one about a Glass Mountain, which turned out to be very similar to the Gemstone Mountain tale of the Greeks.
The local trickster is Nasruddin (Nastardin) hodja. I was excited to find a tale about him that I only knew from the Nart sagas so far (Nastardin's cow and the end of the world).

Where to next?


  1. I know I'm fickle, always changing my opinion, but for now I think Sun and Moon visiting might be my very favorite. Such sweet love - who can resist?!

  2. The Sun and Moon visiting sounds like a pretty tale.

  3. Samakadi kinda reminds me of turkish tales like The Horse-Dew and the Witch and The Horse Who Was In Love.

    By the way I'd love to hear your opinion about the Albanian Snow White, Marigo of the Forty Dragons.