Zaim Ali Bey of Glasinac in Gaol:
Failure Prerequisite to Success
for the Faithful

(See the Serbo-Croatian text)

(See the English translation)

Modulating the universally familar story of the hunter hunted, the Serbo-Croatian tradition had a multitude of ways to tell of would-be bride captors captured. The would-be captor who instead fell into captivity himself was frequently named Ali, and his unexpected capturer was often the ruler or ban (king) of Zadar.

    Murat Žunić’s captive of this sort, Za(j)im Ali Bey, has no patronymic, but is distinguishable from other Alis in two ways. First, he has as part of his name the honorific epithet zaim, which means “champion [of the Sultan],” and his home is in Glasinac. Glasinac is in reality a widely (and very anciently) inhabited high plateau east of Mount Romanija, but it was sometimes treated in the poetry as though it were only a single town.

    Žunić’s epic about Zaim Ali Bey’s captivity and rescue from Zadar by his wife Zlata is a true multiform of the tradition without any antecedent in the various songbooks of either Žunić’s own era or before. Since however the story of a bride captor captured and of his release from captivity through the agency of his (other) wife was well established in the tradition as a whole, it would have been an unusual lapse on the part of the songbook compilers had they not found and included epics of that kind too in their printed texts. And indeed, although he printed only one of them, Kosta Hörmann had at least three such poems in his collection of manuscripts. All three bear witness to the independence of Žunić’s story, and show by contrast how analogically ‘original’ it was.

    The text that Hörmann printed in 1889 as poem LIX in the second volume of his published collection is a little longer (1,758 vv.) than Žunić’s epic. Hörmann indicated the origin of his text as having been in the town of Jajce. But since the manuscript has been lost, it is not known who collected the text from Jajce, when, or from what singer. Its bride-thief is differently denominated and has his home in a different locality than Žunić’s. He is Ali Bey Čengić of the Zagorje, and when the story about him begins, he is not yet captive.

23.    Ali Bey Čengić rides down one day to the Ban of Zadar’s enclosed garden pleasance. Within its fence is an elevation surrounded with a gold-washed balustrade. This luxurious belvedere is bestrewn with pillows of silk and soft bolsters. A maiden of fifteen reposes at her leisure amongst them, resplendent in necklaces of gold coin. She is Biserka (Pearl), the Ban of Zadar’s daughter, and when Ali Bey greets her, she asks him whether the business that has brought him to Zadar is sweet dalliance with her.

    He confesses that it is, and she tells him news which his present visit—obviously not his first—suggests that he has not yet heard: since their last interview, her father has betrothed her to Matthew, the Ban of Korfu’s son, whose arrival at Zadar to take Biserka away is expected momentarily. She accordingly asks Ali to return to her the precious necklaces, bracelets, diadem, pearls, and other jewelry which she has previously given him as tokens of her love. Ali asks her whether she is really prepared to give him up and consign herself to another man in accord with her father’s wishes.

    She does not answer his question directly, but instead invites him into her garden to drink with her in order that, as she says, they may not subsequently blame each other for the present course of events. Ali enters, reclines amongst the pillows in the gazebo, and Biserka seats herself on his knee, where she proceeds to put delicacies into his mouth with her two fingers and hold a golden cup to his lips for him to drink.

    In the midst of this tender scene, Juriša tamničar (Geordie the Gaoler) bursts into the garden to claim reward as a bearer of good tidings: Matthew of Korfu has just arrived, says he, with the company of his wedding escort. Ali Bey and Pearl look forth from their belvedere to observe Matthew’s wedding party of 5,000 men as it disembarks on Zadar’s waterfront. Biserka asks Juriša to indicate which of the men is Prince Matthew, since she has never seen him before. Geordie does, and she comments to Ali Bey that Matthew is so sickly jaundiced in complexion that not even carrion crows would deign to pick his bones, much less would any maiden make love with him.

    But now bad luck overtakes Ali Bey. A certain Captain Ivan (John), whilst strolling about the gun emplacements on Zadar’s battlements, glimpses Ali billing with Biserka in the gazebo of the Ban’s pleasance, recognizes him, and announces his discovery to the gunners on the wall. They immediately bring their cannon to bear on the belvedere and put match to touch-holes. Their shots go high and wide of the mark while Ali and Biserka run to Ali’s white courser. A horserace ensues, with Ali and Biserka in the saddle behind him on Ali’s white, and Matthew with all his men in pursuit. The white easily maintains its lead to midpoint on the great plain east of Zadar, but it comes to a complete stop—exhausted by the unaccustomed weight of its second rider, Biserka—before it can cross the second half of the plain and reach the safety of the mountains beyond.

    While it stands stock-still, the men from Korfu overtake and bypass the two fugitives, occupying the mouth of the nearest mountain pass through which Ali and Biserka might have hoped to escape. Surrounded now by his enemies, Ali tells his mount that because it would not continue to run while there was still some hope of salvation, it must presently charge into an entrenched mass of foemen, even though they may probably kill it.

    It does, and they do. It falls on Ali Bey, who extricates himself however, and lodges with Biserka in a rocky fastness. There he fights off his assailants with the hundred and twenty rounds of ammunition in his kit. Biserka loads and Ali fires until it is spent; then Matthew and his men close in to grapple with Ali hand-to-hand. Matthew finally leaps upon him from behind, but Ali frees himself long enough to slay Matthew with a single stroke of his saber. This is however his last act of defiance, for even as he delivers the fatal blow, the multitude of Matthew’s men overwhelms and binds him. Poltroon that he is, from astride his horse the Ban of Zadar beats the unhorsed and bound Ali Bey until the latter, unflinching, calls him coward, and so both shames and further angers his captor.

    The Ban returns Pearl to her quarters in his palace, and assembles a panel of judges in the courtyard under her window to pass judgment on Ali Bey. The judges condemn him to death, and an executioner is about to carry out their sentence when four of Pearl’s maids-in-waiting come running to the Ban, begging him to notice their mistress’s posture in the window overhead. She is poised to stab herself in the stomach at the moment when the headman’s blade falls on Ali’s neck.

    Checked in this way from swift retaliation against Ali Bey, the Ban consigns him instead to the keeping of Geordie the Gaoler, with orders that the prisoner be thrust down into the deepest donjon, where water stands ever seething with vipers and scorpions to the height of a man’s knees, and where no ray of sun nor moon ever penetrates. There Ali Bey is to be left until he rots away and his bare, unstrung bones may be gathered up, beaten to powder in a mortar, and so scattered upon the sea for the fish to eat, lest any so terrible adversaries as he otherwise somehow be bred of him.

    Their wedding party having been brought to grief, the men of Korfu return in mourning to their own land, while for two weeks Ali Bey sits in the misery of his wet subterranean confinement. He is not disconsolate however, since he expects that Pearl will soon find means nocturnally to release him. In this he is mistaken, for the Ban keeps Biserka under a close curfew. So in the third week Ali Bey cries out to the Ban, beseeching him either to put a ransom on his head or to kill him, since he can no longer abide the intolerable pit. The Ban accordingly commands his gaoler to conduct Ali Bey to the palace courtyard, where the two men, captor and captive, negotiate the terms of a ransom.

    Ali promises to pay to the Ban his brother Hasan Čengić’s black horse and trophy-saber, the one with the Imperial Seal on it, and to give the Ban his sister Zlata Čengić as a bride for the Ban’s son Matthew. He then asks to be set free so that he may go to the Zagorje to fetch the agreed articles of ransom. But the Ban balks at this, insisting instead that Ali send a letter home explaining the ransom and remain in the donjon in Zadar until his relatives deliver it.1 So Marko, one of the Ban’s footmen, is dispatched to the Zagorje with Ali’s letter.

    Hasan Čengić receives the message from Marko and immediately shows it to his and Ali Bey’s unwed sister Zlata. She in turn carries the news of Ali’s captivity to Ali’s wife in another room of the Čengić mansion, and the latter writes to her father, Mahmut Agha Babahmetović of Cetina, begging him either to secure Ali Bey’s release or take her home again to Cetina to spend the rest of her life tending the fireplace in her father’s house. She reproaches Babahmetović bitterly for having given her as a bride to Ali Bey Čengić, who, she says, she always knew would one day go looking for a second wife amongst the infidels.

    Having written this letter, the lady puts it into the hands of the Čengićes’ footman Luke, instructing him to ride with it at the gallop on Hasan Bey’s black courser. As Luke is about to depart, Hasan angrily stops him, demanding to know where he proposes to go on Hasan’s horse without Hasan’s consent. Ali Bey’s lady intervenes, telling Hasan that it is she who has dispatched Luke, whereupon Hasan seconds the command, and Luke is off to Cetina. Meanwhile, Hasan himself writes to the Ban of Zadar, accepting the Ban’s terms of ransom for Ali Bey.

    When Luke arrives at Cetina, he is amazed to find two hundred armed horsetroopers already mounted and awaiting their marching orders at the Babahmetović mansion. Luke supposes that old Mahmut Agha Babahmetović has somehow independently heard of Ali Bey’s captivity, and has gathered the present troop for an assault on Zadar. This proves however not to be Babahmetović’s intention; the cavalry are a wedding escort about to accompany him to the Čengić house in the Zagorje to fetch Ali Bey’s and Hasan Bey’s sister Zlata as a bride for Mahmut Agha’s son Omer Bey. The Babahmetović and Čengić families are about to close the circle of intermarriage with each other.

    Luke delivers the letter from Omer Bey’s sister to her father, Mahmut Agha. Having read it, Mahmut Agha ponders for a moment which action to take: an uncertain venture to Zadar with so small a force, or the surer one of fulfilling his son Omer’s nuptials. He chooses the latter, but does it with proper ritual expressions of feeling for his daughter’s misfortune: he forbids the usual musical exercises in the wedding procession, and makes the journey to the Zagorje by night rather than in daylight. Instead of transporting Zlata to Cetina in a palanquin as first planned, he mounts her on a black horse. At the procession’s departure from the Čengić mansion, Mahmut Agha promises his weeping daughter that either her Ali Bey will return to her safely, or he himself and her eight brothers in Cetina will perish in the struggle to bring that to pass.

    When Omer and Zlata are finally alone in the bridal chamber, he invites her to the pleasures of the couch, but Zlata is too tearful with sympathy for her bereaved sister-in-law to think of love-making. Omer respects his new bride’s feelings, and promises her that there will be no further talk of connubial matters from him until her tears are at an end. True to his word, he disguises himself immediately in the panoply of an infidel chevalier and, without old Mahmut Agha’s knowledge or permission, he takes his father’s prized chestnut courser from the stable. On it he rides by night over the mountains to Zadar, where he arrives at daybreak. Meanwhile Zlata abides alone in the bridal chamber in Cetina, in the same limbo of uncertainty now as is her sister-in-law in the Zagorje: neither knows whether she is finally to be a wife or a widow.

    Instead of the tranquil scene he had expected to witness when surveying Zadar so early in the morning, Omer is surprised to see a great commotion of men and of horses, and to hear strains of music all along the seashore outside the city walls. He rides toward the busy strand and learns from passers-by that the Ban of Zadar is expecting Zlata Čengić to be delivered to him at any moment as ransom for Ali Bey. In anticipation of so gratifying a victory, the Ban has announced a great horserace to be holden on the morrow, with one of his female Turkish captives as the prize. She is the maiden Šaha, a daughter of Hasan Agha Kablić of Livno. Omer Bey decides to enter the race, relying on the speed of his father’s wonderful chestnut mount, a horse which the elder Babahmetović has won from the infidel Captain Vučan as a spoil of combat in time past.

    Omer passes the entire day amongst the Ban of Zadar’s revelers, and the entire night drinking in Angelia’s inn. His prodigious capacity suggests to Angelia that her client must in reality be a Muslim and not the Christian warrior he appears to be, though she does not recognize him by name. Next morning, Omer pays his host more liberally for the night’s entertainment than any of her guests has ever done before, then he goes to the starting line with his chestnut.

    There he is accosted by one of the Ban of Zadar’s peers, the Ban of Novi [another pagan town on the Adriatic littoral]. All the other contestants in the coming race have mounted jockeys on their entries; only Omer proposes to ride for himself. The Ban of Novi marvels at this, but he considers even so that Omer will win the race and its prize, the Muslim girl Šaha. The Ban wants the girl for himself, offers Omer a hundred ducats for her, and Omer agrees to the sale. The horses are then called to the starting wire, but Omer holds himself aloof and behind the throng of other racers both at the start and through the first half of the course. From that point on, however, he presses forward with determination, and so crosses the finish line a full half hour before the next best horse, which is the Ban of Zadar’s own entry.

    When it crosses the finish, the girl Šaha runs to Omer’s chestnut, repeatedly kisses its muzzle, and begs Omer not to sell her to anyone else, but to keep her instead as his own prize. Fearing however lest he burst into tears on her account and start a fight with her oppressors that he cannot win, Omer turns away from her without comment.

    The Ban of Zadar is not however ready in any case to surrender Šaha to Omer. He cannot believe that his superb white horse has lost to Omer’s chestnut unless Omer somehow fouled it during the race, and so he insists that Omer wait to claim Šaha until the rest of the field finishes the race. But the Ban of Zadar’s jockey bluntly tells his master that no foul has occurred, and that Omer’s chestnut is simply the better horse. The Ban of Novi is at hand to remind Omer of their bargain as the Ban of Zadar reluctantly surrenders Šaha to the winner. Omer honors their agreement, and exchanges Šaha for the Ban of Novi’s hundred ducats.

    As he walks away leading his chestnut by its bridle, it—unlike all the other, spent entries of the race—gives no indication of fatigue, frisking about and neighing merrily instead. The Ban of Zadar now recognizes the horse, and questions Omer closely as to how he came by it. Omer tells him an intricate lie.

    He says that he won it in a recent skirmish on the border when he killed its rider, Mujo of Kladuša’s younger brother Omer Hrnjica. The Ban asks how Omer Hrnjica got possession of it, and Omer Bey explains that it was a gift from Mahmut Agha Babahmetović when Omer Hrnjica escorted Mujo’s sister to Cetina as a bride for one of Babahmetović’s sons. The Ban is satisfied with this story, but demands now that Omer sell him the horse for the price of five hundred ducats and a gold-adorned tunic which is part of the Ban’s own dress at that moment. Omer hitches the horse to a tree and accepts the payment. But when the Ban’s liverymen try to untie and lead the horse away to stable, it kicks three of them to death and chews a fourth to bits. The Ban demands that Omer return the purchase price and take back his ungovernable horse, but Omer Bey declines to rescind the sale.

    The Ban of Novi happens by at this moment and advises the Ban of Zadar to take back his payment from Omer by force. Omer warns both of them that if that happens, he will fly to Vienna and indict them both to his (alleged) master, the Kaiser. Forestalled thus from a quick and easy recovery of the Ban of Zadar’s loss, the two Bans plead with Omer to make restitution voluntarily. Omer asks the Ban of Zadar why he had been so eager to purchase the chestnut horse in the first place; the Ban says that it was meant for his son Matthew, so that Matthew would always be able to run down a Muslim in combat, but never be overtaken himself.

    Omer seems mollified by the Ban’s explanation, and offers instead of keeping the horse and returning the price paid for it to teach Matthew how to ride it. He lyingly confesses to the Ban that it was initially so difficult a horse to control he himself was not able to ride it until his friend Ramo Kovačević of Kladuša taught him how.

    The Ban agrees to this proposal, and tells Matthew to mount the chestnut behind Omer Bey. But instead of instructing Matthew, Omer rides away with him toward Cetina. Watching the ostensible riding lesson from his accustomed post on the battlements of Zadar, the same Captain Ivan who earlier recognized Zajim Ali Bey (whilst the latter dallied with Pearl in the Ban’s garden) now sees through Omer Bey Babahmetović’s disguise as he recedes into the distance with the hapless Matthew. He sounds the alarm; but to Omer’s great surprise, no posse gives chase from Zadar, where instead a deafening noise of general gunfire breaks out.

    Thus, at the edge of the plain east of Zadar where Ali Bey Čengić was captured, Omer Bey Babahmetović approaches the mountains unharrassed. Instead of enemies, he encounters friends: distressed by his son’s unannounced departure alone for Zadar, Mahmut Agha has gathered a troop of cavalry and come down with it to assist Omer. When father and son meet on the verge of the plain, the elder asks the younger Babahmetović about Ali Bey Čengić. Omer tells his father that the youth in the saddle behind him is Ali Bey, or as nearly so as makes no difference; for with the Ban of Zadar’s son as hostage, it is only a matter of time until Ali Bey will be free. Mahmut Agha is so delighted that he covers Prince Matthew with kisses. Then he exchanges rôles with his son. While Mahmut Agha returns to Cetina with Prince Matthew, Omer wishes to go at the head of his father’s cavalry to learn what all the noise of gunfire at Zadar signifies.

    Omer Bey, his eight brothers, and their little band of three hundred horse discover as they approach Zadar that it is under siege by a Muslim force of 6,000. These are Hasan Bey Čengić’s men, whom Hasan has led there in a desperate frontal attempt to liberate his brother Ali Bey. But Zadar’s artillery is too daunting; it kills a hundred of Hasan’s warriors and wounds another two hundred before Omer Bey arrives and persuades him to withdraw. Safe within his battlements, the Ban of Zadar is untouchable by direct assault, and meanwhile all his Christian allies from up and down the coast rise in arms to support Zadar, threatening to envelope and annihilate Hasan Čengić’s would-be liberators of his brother Ali Bey.

    So, after some local pillaging of its neighbourhood to punish Zadar, Hasan returns otherwide empty-handed to the Zagorje, and Omer Bey goes home to Cetina to supervise the exchange of prisoners with Zadar’s king. In this matter Omer drives a hard bargain, demanding in return for Prince Matthew not only Ali Bey Čengić but also the Ban’s daughter Pearl, the girl Šaha from Livno, a dozen other, less notable Muslim prisoners from Zadar’s donjon, and a sum of five hundred ducats to pay for a feast of celebration in Cetina. The Ban accedes to all these exactions, and receives his son Matthew home again mounted on a fine black horse from the Babahmetović stables.

    In this way Ali Bey Čengić regains his liberty and brings home a second, exogamous bride to live with him and his first, endogamic wife in the Zagorje, while Omer and Zlata consummate their marriage in Cetina. The girl Šaha returns to her mother in Livno, thereafter to choose for herself whom she will wed.

    Here again weddings and sieges of cities succeed one another in a chain of cause and effect, and only those who stand to gain a marriage by their exertions can prevail against the beleaguered walls. So Hasan Bey Čengić has no effect in assailing Zadar despite his army of 6,000, while Omer Bey, whose marriage depends upon breaching the city’s defenses, does it easily by cunning. Similarly the ancient Odysseus alone could cunningly imagine a method for breaching the walls of Troy, because of all marriages his was most perfect and most worthy to be consummated.

The Price of Foolhardy Impetuosities

    Zajim Ali Bey and Ali Bey Čengić both fall into captivity because they attempt in broad daylight, singlehandedly, and by brute force to steal the Ban of Zadar’s daughter as a second, exogamous wife for themselves. The girl is willing, but Ali Bey is reckless. Impetuous, devoid of subtlety or strategem, and without seeking the advice or help of his countrymen beforehand, he fights frontally and alone against an overwhelmingly numerous enemy, who despite his initial heroic slaughter of them are still plenteous enough to subdue and bind him. His first, endogamous wife (Alibegovica) meanwhile remains at home in the house where Ali Bey has left her, ignorant both of her husband’s mishap and of the mission that occasioned it; childless too, and longing for a renewal of conjugal life with him.

    For a time, Ali silently endures a prison that is meant to destroy him by privation; but then one day he despairs and gives voice to a hopeless misery. The devilish Ban of Zadar hears his complaint, and because he is willing to sell the man his freedom at the price of embroiling Ali’s countrymen too in Ali’s disaster, he gives the prisoner an audience. During their conversation, Ali desires the Ban either to release him for ransom, or else put him to death quickly. Other epics tell of the Ban’s agreement to kill Ali without delay, but they end badly for the Ban, and so once again, as though prescient of such alternative dénouements, the Ban shuns that choice and instead names a specific price for Ali’s release.

    In its cardinal articles his stipulation consists however of property that is no longer Ali Bey’s to give, since Ali has already (with a generosity typical of the Shi‘ite Ali) given it to someone else. Thus, Zlata Čengić, Ali Bey’s sister and erstwhile ward, whom he might formerly have bestowed upon whatever husband he wished for her, has by the time the Ban of Zadar demands her already been betrothed to Omer Bey Babahmetović; and correspondingly, the treasures formerly won by Žunić’s Zajim Ali Bey as prizes of war have already been donated by him to the Sultan in Istanbul.

    Contingent upon these modulations in the details of the ransom sought by the Ban of Zadar, further modulations in the identity of the ransom’s present rightful owner determine the severity of the punishment ultimately inflicted on the Ban by that owner. For the story pattern in this group of epics specifies that when a messenger from Zadar informs Alibegovica, Ali Bey’s endogamous wife, of her husband’s plight, she will in turn appeal to the rightful owner(s) of the ransom property to secure her husband’s release from his alien captor’s donjon. Those owners—Hasan Čengić and Omer Bey Babahmetović in Hörmann’s text, and the Imperial Sultan himself in Žunić’s poem—subsequently constrain the Ban of Zadar not only to release Ali Bey, but also to pay a forfeit for disturbing them in the tranquil enjoyment of property which they have earlier received from Ali Bey.

    By demanding that particular property, the Ban of Zadar oversteps the ethical limits of male warfare, and oppresses not only his Muslim captive Ali Bey (as he has every conventional right to do), but also Ali Bey’s wife (which he has no right to do). Accordingly, those same Muslim men who might otherwise accept Ali Čengić’s captivity as a natural, unexceptionable consequence of Ali’s own concupiscence and impetuosity take pity upon the injured innocence of his wonderfully loyal wife, and punish the Ban of Zadar for it: Omer Bey Babahmetović by an extortionate ransom for Prince Matthew in Hörmann’s text from Jajce, and the Sultan of Istanbul by issuing a death warrant against the Ban in Žunić’s epic.

Women of Spirit

    Hörmann’s version of the story from Jajce features an Alibegovica—Lady Ali Bey—with strong family ties. She has a wealth of consanguineous male kin, namely the ten Babahmetović men of Cetina (Mahmut Agha and his nine sons), who are strong enough to champion her cause in securing her uncircumspect husband’s release from foreign bondage. Žunić makes his equivalent character the daughter not of Mahmut Agha Babahmetović but rather of Bey Ljubović of Hercegovina. According to prevalent legend about that famous person, he too was a man of many sons, who might through them have afforded his daughter the same kind of assistance that Mahmut Agha’s daughter enjoys in Hörmann’s text from Jajce.

    But Žunić makes his Alibegovica turn instead to Mahmut Agha Babahmetović of Cetina, giving no reason in her case why she might have expected him to help her, since according to Žunić he was no relative of hers in any way. This particular episode, comprising vv. 764-929 of Žunić’s poem, seems to have been borrowed from some other telling and infused into the Žunić version by one of Murat’s precursors. To be sure, Mahmut Agha’s assistance to Žunić’s Alibegovica is limited to provision of a second disguise for her, but even this small boon is more than his counterpart in Hörmann’s text will grant directly to Ali Bey’s wife, even when she is his own daughter.

    Cetina, where the Babahmetović demesne lies, happens to have been located precisely on the old frontier between the Turkish and Habsburg Empires, and so it is fitting that Ali’s wife should have stopped there to obtain a disguise on her way from Glasinac to Zadar. Cetina lay moreover on the most direct route from Glasinac to Zadar, and so it was the last possible friendly resting place before the lady had to cross the border into enemy territory. Had she in Žunić’s version elected instead to go to her own father’s estate, it would have been necessary to narrate for her a lengthy detour from Glasinac to Odžak in Hercegovina to the south, and then northward again from Odžak to Zadar.

    Conceivably there was some such excursion in the Žunić family’s tradition of this epic before Murat Žunić’s time; but even if there were, nothing essential was sacrificed in substituting an interview at Cetina between Lady Ali Bey and Mahmut Agha for one between the elder Bey Ljubović’s reigning heir and his daughter at Odžak, since the underlying story pattern in this group of epics called for the same result in any case. For Alibegovica’s father, no matter who he was, steadfastly shunned helping her directly with the liberation of her husband, leaving that task in every instance to interested men of Ali Bey’s and Alibegovica’s own generation.

    So even if Žunić’s Alibegovica had gone to Odžak, the senior Bey Ljubović himself would certainly not have become her champion, if for no other reason than that Žunić understood him to have deceased before the events of this epic even begin. Alibegovica’s avoidance of Odžak thus spares Murat the necessity of explaining either why her famous brothers did not help her on this occasion, or how specifically they did help her (which would of course have been inconsistent with the entire tenor of Žunić’s story about Alibegovica’s singular heroism and self-reliance in liberating her husband).

    So epics of this sort demonstrated that a woman would surely find no remedy for the disability of her husband in her father, and they displayed a rich variety of ways in which she and her interests could alternatively enter into the character of male contemporaries other than her husband to make them the instruments of her purpose. Marriage and disguise were prominent in the catalogue of such avenues, but were not the only ones.

    For Lady Ali Bey in Hörmann’s text from Jajce, the fortuitously timely marriage of her sister-in-law provided avenue enough into the character of Omer Bey Babahmetović, and it made the disguise which he wore to Zadar her disguise as well because, unlike Ali Bey Čengić before him, Omer Bey Babahmetović went to Zadar purely in the character of Lady Ali Bey’s agent. Žunić’s Alibegovica has however no such easily co-optable male surrogate, and so must herself don the likeness of a male not once but twice over.

    First, she disguises herself as a Bosnian grandee visiting Istanbul in order to obtain male surrogates at the court of the Sultan who will liberate Zajim Ali Bey from Zadar for her. Then, having accomplished that infusion of her first purpose into their male characters, she disguises herself in masculine garb a second time in order to achieve her second purpose, which is to secure for her too blunt and blundering husband the same second wife for which he was willing if need be to sacrifice his first marriage. The tradition in these epics minced no words about the uses of polygyny; a first, childless wife had no hope of keeping her husband except to the extent that she might be able to unite him in her own home with a second mate even more deftly than he himself could do.

    Thus the disguised lady’s policy is really twofold: not only to liberate Ali from an involuntary alien bondage, but also to bind him in a willing domestic attachment to her in the house where she has chosen to make her home. When she herself must assume a male character to accomplish her design, she routinely dissembles her identity twice; once in order to evade recognition by Muslims in her homeland, and a second time to conceal herself from infidels in the alien land of her husband’s captivity.

    In Hörmann’s poem, Ali Bey Čengić writes about his ransom to his brother, Hasan Bey. But when, like Žunić’s Zajim Ali Bey, the prisoner has no such able male relative at home to turn to, he writes instead to his childless wife, absolving her of a fidelity to him which he in his straitened circumstances can only suppose will do him no good and be ruinous to her should she continue in it. He may tell her in his message what the price of his ransom is, but only in order to impress upon her the impossibility of its ever being paid, and so encourage her to seek her own happiness without him.

    Typically, she accepts his lifting of the conventional restraints of marriage (which thus becomes the license for her male disguises); but instead of seeking her own fulfillment apart from him as he has recommended, she uses her peculiar new liberty to regain her own happiness by restoring his. The modulations of this story supplied her with many and ingenious ways of accomplishing such a restoration.

    One of Hörmann’s manuscripts that he never published tells of a Muslim prisoner’s wife more combative than either Bey Ljubović’s or Mahmut Agha Babahmetović’s daughter, a high-spirited woman who ultimately made herself rather than some foreigner the bride of her liberated husband’s second marriage. Her husband was a certain Alija Alagić. Riza-beg Kapetanović recorded the text for Kosta Hörmann from an unknown singer at an unknown date, apparently in the town of Konjic. It is 864 verses in length, and the story it tells begins with Ali Alagić already in the Ban of Zadar’s dungeon, for reasons that are never explained.

24.    Thirty prisoners have lain for twelve years in the Ban of Zadar’s gaol. Two of them are Ali(ja) Alagić and his sororal nephew, Ancient Nukić. Seven hours after nightfall on the day when twelve full years of their captivity have elapsed, the thirty raise an unceasing wail at the top of their voices. Their prison is near the Queen of Zadar’s apartment and the nursery of her twin children.

    Next morning, Queen Euphemia tells her husband the Ban what she thinks of a palace built overlooking a prison, and demands that he either release his thirty Muslim captives or execute them. To emphasize her determination that he do this, she carries his and her two infant sons to the palace window and stands ready to cast them out to their deaths on the pavement below. The Ban promises her that he will remove Ali Alagić and Ali’s nephew Ancient Nukić from the pit, and he sends his George the Gaoler to convey them to his audience chamber.

    There the Ban specifies the price for Ali’s ransom, demanding a thousand ducats, all Ali’s panoply and war horse, and his wife Fatima, daughter of Old Father Babahmed (Dedo Babahmed). Ali replies that his family in Otoka would never surrender the required property, and he himself will not give up Fatima to buy his own life or freedom. Irritated by this reply, the Ban commands George the Gaoler to reincarcerate Ali in a worse dungeon, one where fenny water with reeds growing in it stands to a prisoner’s knees and snakes and scorpions sting.

    Alagić’s nephew however, Ali Nukić, who is both a lesser adversary of the Ban’s people than Ali Alagić and undefiant towards the Ban personally, wins better treatment from him. The Ban offers Nukić a choice: either to remain as a citizen in Zadar, or to return to his former home on the Turkish Border. Nukić chooses the latter, the Ban releases him, and after three days’ recuperation in a Zadarian hostel, the ancient sets out on a walking journey homeward. On the way, he pauses at the window of his uncle Ali Alagić’s dungeon to receive from him a letter addressed to Alagić’s old mother.

    Nukić delivers Alagić’s message, and Dame Alagić leaves her house with it to roam about the town looking for someone to read it to her, there being no male creature of any kind remaining in her household except Ali’s chestnut stallion. Ali’s wife observes her mother-in-law’s distracted behaviour, and goes to her to learn its cause. Told that a letter has arrived from Ali, Fatima protests to the old dame that far from having been a mere shepherdess when she was a girl in the house of her father, old Babahmed of Cetina, she attended school during those years and learned to read. So she reads Ali’s letter, wherein he releases her from their marriage and dowers her for a second husband. He directs also that his brace of golden pistols be given to the brothers Đulić, and his military insignia to Mujo of Kladuša, so that they may remember him.

    Lady Alagić sends a servant, Husein, to deliver the articles named in her husband’s letter. But Husein finds neither household in any mood to receive visitors or gifts. The Đulić and Hrnjica brothers are all abed with grave wounds from recent failed attempts to liberate Ali. So Husein returns to Lady Alagić, who this time sends him to her father in Cetina with five hundred ducats and a request to old Babahmed to use the money for the hire of someone who can liberate her husband for her.

    Babahmed flies into a rage when Husein tenders this message and money to him. He demands to know what right his daughter thinks she has to waste her husband’s fortune, and sends Husein back to her in Otoka with the news that he himself will soon follow. He instructs his daughter not to wait for his arrival, but to go to the top of her house and leap off as soon as Husein returns to her, since her injuries from that fall will be less painful than those her father will inflict on her if he finds her still at home when he arrives.

    She resolves not to wait, and sends Husein by night to fetch white-bearded old Joseph (Jusuf) the Barber, who cuts her hair according to the fashion current among warriors. Then, by the light of the dawn star, she disguises herself as a Magyar officer and leaves her house, wondering as she rides away on Ali’s magnificent chestnut who the house’s next occupants will be.

    The first day of her journey takes her as far as her father’s house in Cetina. He observes her as she approaches and recognizes her by her mount. He sends his guardsmen to welcome their supposedly foreign visitor, who lodges in Babahmed’s house for the night and resumes his journey early next morning. As (s)he recedes into the distance, Babahmed asks his men whether any of them recognized the foreigner during his stay. He is relieved to hear that no one but himself saw through Fatima’s excellent disguise, because that fact bodes well for her reception by the infidels in Zadar. Nevertheless, he expects that she will probably be killed and Ali’s horse captured before she can succeed in her difficult mission, and so he weeps continuously as he watches his unfortunate daughter make her way towards the frontier.

    After a fearful passage through the upland wilderness of no-man’s land, Fatima comes to Zadar by night. The night watchman at first refuses to admit her, but she claims to be travelling on the business of a vendetta against the city's enemies Mujo and Halil Hrnjica, and so persuades him. Once inside the city walls, Fatima has no idea which way to turn; but her chestnut mount, which has often passed this way before under its master Alagić, takes the bit in its teeth and conveys the lady to an inn where Ali was wont to lodge.

    The woman who keeps the inn is sitting at dinner when Fatima arrives. Summoned to the gate, the innkeeper rises from her meal, civilly admits her late-arriving guest, and instantly recognizes the chestnut horse. As Ali Alagić’s fictive sister and his frequent hostess in times past, she knows the chestnut well. First she stables and tends the horse, then conveys Fatima to a chamber upstairs. There she settles Fatima on a comfortable cushion and stands in the doorway staring fixedly at her. Fatima manfully sends her to fetch wine and brandy, saying that she is nearly dead with thirst from her arduous and unsuccessful hunt for Mujo and Halil Hrnjica. To bolster the manliness of her demand for strong drink, Fatima swears as obscenely as any good horsetrooper might.

    But the innkeeper, manifestly undeceived, only stares at her the harder and declares that Fatima must either be a Turk in the flesh, Turkish born, or at the very least a near neighbour of Turks in their own country. Fatima replies bravely that she is neither a Turk nor Turkish born, but admits to being their neighbour on the Border. She claims that her mother was an innkeeper whose inn was much frequented by young Turkish braves, some one of whom must have been her father.

    By now the hostess has had enough of Fatima’s lies, and draws forth from her bosom a little album of portraits. From among the pictures in it she quickly picks out Fatima’s own. Confronted with this proof, Babahmed’s daughter is forced to admit who she really is, whereupon the innkeeper embraces and kisses her like a sister. She then warns Lady Alagić that the chestnut horse is too easily recognized in Zadar, and that she will be killed and the horse captured by the infidels if she and the horse are seen together in public. So for one week Lady Alagić lodges safely in the inn, keeping the chestnut out of sight.

    At week’s end, Fatima, who has visited the Ban’s palace, informs the innkeeper that she has learned of the Ban’s plan to execute a sentence of death on Ali Alagić next day by impalement. The place of execution is to be the Church of Ružorić outside the city’s walls. The mistress of the inn advises Fatima to ride after nightfall to the edge of the meadows beneath the mountain. There the festive crowd of witnesses to Ali’s execution must pass with the condemned man next day on their way to the Church of Ružorić. If she is of an heroic stamp, says the innkeeper, Fatima will be able from that position of ambush to make a sally against the infidel procession. Fatima follows these directions, but prefixes to them a precautionary action of her own devising.

    She goes by night to the church and demands of the monks within that they admit her despite their rule of not accepting nocturnal visitors (just as she did with the watchman at the city gate on the night of her first arrival at Zadar). Her trick to gain entrance is also the same now as it was then. To the watchman’s fear of being surprised by dangerous Turks she counters with the information that she is on a mission to punish Turks: in this case, bringing instructions from the Ban of Zadar about arrangements that he wants the monks to make for the execution of Ali Alagić on the morrow.

    So for the second time a watchman is persuaded to admit Fatima, although this time with instantly fatal results for himself and the other keepers of the church: as soon as Fatima is inside the gates, she slaughters all of them. Then she secures the churchyard portal and goes to her place of ambush. In this way she inverts the Ban’s intentions: where he intended to kill Muslims, she kills infidels, and then locks him out of the safety of the church (which he will soon need in her onslaught against him personally), just as he has locked Ali Alagić and his other Muslim captives in the donjon of Zadar. Thus confinement inside the Ban’s walls is ultimately no threat to Ali’s life, while being free to move about outside the Ban’s walls is deadly to the Ban.

    For as soon as the Ban’s procession appears on the road to the Church of Ružorić, Fatima attacks it and slashes the hempen bonds of her Ali. Thus unbound, Ali takes up the stake of cornel wood upon which the infidels had meant to impale him, and using it as a club, he fells every enemy within reach. Fatima meanwhile gives chase to the Ban himself, who has fled towards the refuge of his walls at the first sign of trouble. Mounted as she is on Ali’s wonderful chestnut courser, she readily wins this impromptu race, overtakes the man, and cuts him in two with a single saber-stroke. Then she turns and attacks the remaining mass of the Ban’s soldiers.

    Now from the mountainside overlooking these events a troop of Turkish horse led there by Fatima’s father spills down to join the fight. During the resultant battle, Fatima receives eleven body-wounds and withdraws to the shade of a fir tree, where she tethers the chestnut and lies down to suffer. The other Turks defeat the infidels and capture thirty Magyar maidens (a number equal exactly to the number of Turkish prisoners held by the Ban of Zadar).

    After the battle, Old Father Babahmed goes tearfully about the field examining corpses in a search for his unfortunate daughter. Finally he discovers her lying unconscious in the meadow, but even then he can do nothing for her himself. Instead he sends the servant Husein to fetch Mujo Hrnjica (one of Ali Alagić’s earlier would-be rescuers, a coeval of Ali, whom Husein found wounded nearly to death when he had hoped to enlist him as a champion for Fatima). So recently injured himself in Ali’s cause, Mujo knows how to treat such wounds as Fatima’s. He stuffs them with fuse-tow and binds them tightly with a zone, whereupon Babahmed’s daughter regains consciousness. Then the Turks mount her on Ali’s chestnut and take her home to her own country. There, after six months’ recuperation, Fatima celebrates (re)marriage with her Ali Alagić.

    For Old Father Babahmed’s daughter in this text from Konjic, for Zajim Ali Bey’s wife in Žunić’s poem, and for Lady Ali Čengić’s agent Omer Babahmetović in Hörmann LIX, a good disguise is the sine qua non of success.

    Contrastingly, frontal attacks against alien captors in which an attacker does nothing to hide his or her own identity injure the assailant at least as much as they do the assailed. So Zajim Ali Bey fought openly to gain the Ban of Zadar’s daughter Ruža, but instead of winning marriage with her by force of arms, he lost by his own captivity the marriage that he already had with Bey Ljubović’s daughter. Ali Bey Čengić’s brother Hasan fought openly to rescue Ali from captivity, but succeeded only in decimating his own troops; whereas, by virtue of a good disguise, Ali’s brother-in-law accomplished the same task singlehandedly and without any casualties. Similarly, Ali Alagić’s wife in Hörmann’s text from Konjic easily liberates her husband by keeping her identity secret; but when, after she has set him free, she rashly assaults a mass of Zadarian soldiery as its overt enemy, she is sorely wounded and nearly loses the very thing she has come to Zadar to achieve, namely her own remarriage with Ali.

    The disguises of militant wives are therefore typically not only twofold, as has previously been observed, but also twice tested: once by their own people, and then again by aliens. So Lady Zajim Ali Bey first gains an audience with the Sultan in Istanbul by deceiving Stambolis and Bosnians alike as to her identity; then she deceives the Ban and his men in order to penetrate the royal household in Zadar and enable her husband to marry from it. Omer Bey Babahmetović similarly deceives the Ban of Zadar and kidnaps the crown prince; then, when Omer and his father meet at the foot of the mountain, old Mahmut Agha himself cannot recognize his son, even though he suspects the unknown rider approaching him may have something to do with the Babahmetović family, since the horse on which he is mounted seems like one from the stable at Cetina that Omer was accustomed to ride.

    Correspondingly, Old Father Babahmed’s daughter lodges in the house of her nativity overnight, and so good is her disguise that she deceives every one of its inmates except Babahmed himself; and even he was able to detect his daughter’s true identity only because he recognized the chestnut courser of his son-in-law, the horse on which his disguised daughter presented herself to him. Nor does anyone in Zadar subsequently recognize Fatima except the surprisingly friendly mistress of the inn, who also knows the chestnut stallion, and who warns Fatima to guard the secret of her identity well by never showing the horse to anyone else in Zadar during daylight.

    The Muslim liberator’s disguise is thus admirably effective so long as no one notices the horse, which is essential to its rider’s success, but also a dangerous clue to its rider’s real identity. Good as it is however, the Muslim’s disguise in these stories is still not so excellent as that of another, alien character, in whom the art of dissimulation is truly perfected. Because this person really is an alien, no outward sign of any sort about him can alarm the captor whom he labors to undo, or can threaten him with the same captivity or death from which he would liberate a Muslim friend.

    Often there is both a male and a female representative of this most superbly disguised character, as in Žunić’s poem: Nikola the water carrier, and the Ban of Zadar’s own daughter Ruža. The two innkeeping women of Hörmann’s comparable poems from Jajce and from Konjic similarly harbor and assist the Muslim liberators whom they know very well to be Turks, but whom they will not betray. Water carriers, wine-pourers, and limininal pariahs all, these most perfectly disguised of all the captive Muslims’ sympathizers are habitually connected with drinking and with drink. This second, alien helper and purveyor of liquids is particularly vital to the militant disguised wife’s safe passage in and out of her husband’s captor’s stronghold.2

    The songbook-compilers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seem to have been embarrassed by the tales of women warriors in this tradition. Even when they had multiple manuscripts of such poems on hand, as Kosta Hörmann did, they published none or disproportionately few of them. Yet the number and variety of such epics were quite extensive. Hörmann possessed texts of at least three such poems, although he published neither of the two in which there was actually a transvestite wife disguised with the coiffure, the clothes, and the weapons of a man. The second of Hörmann’s texts in which that happened came from Sarajevo, but the name of its maker and his amanuensis are both unknown. Đenana Buturović has published both this manuscript and the one from Konjic as nos. 9 and 10 in her edition of Narodne pjesme Muslimana u Bosni i Hercegovini iz rukopisne ostavštine Koste Hörmanna, Sarajevo, 1966.

    The text from Sarajevo is 990 verses in length, and it modulates the narrative found in other epics about armed wives partly by assigning a different reason for the husband’s imprisonment. Whereas Hörmann’s text from Konjic gave no reason whatever for it, nearly the first half of the text from Sarajevo is occupied with a circumstantial account of how Alija Alagić fell into the hands of the Ban of Zadar. It was not his bungled quest for a second, exogamic bride that cost Ali his freedom in this telling, but rather his mismanaged acquisition of a first, endogamic bride...

25.    On the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment in Zadar, a certain Mujo of Gabela complains to his cellmates in the Ban’s donjon that in the days before his capture he had often sought out and liberated other such unfortunates as he now is; would that other Muslims were presently so solicitous of his freedom as formerly he was of theirs, says he. From a far corner of the cell another prisoner answers him, saying that the four years’ misery of which Mujo complains is as nothing compared with the four-and-twenty years that the speaker has lain unrescued in the same prison. Both prisoners speak of themselves as men whose very identities have been erased by their long captivities: Mujo of Gabela and Alija Alagić were once upon a time so called in their own land, but they hardly think anyone remembers any longer to speak their names at all, so abandoned are they by their own people.

    Ali says that he was a wealthy man twenty-four years ago. He owned a thousand prosperous serfs, a bridge on the Drava River with five hundred textile-producing workshops clustered about it, and mills for finishing the fabrics which they wove. In Kaniža city he possessed also three great commercial hotels, each with thirty depositories for wares and thirty stokeholes in its basement. Sustained by the income from these several enterprises, he began to build himself a mansion in Kaniža twenty storeys high, with balconies, a copper roof, an elegant courtyard, and a servants’ lodge.

    Then he wanted a wife, and public opinion in that era held Hankija (= Hanka), the daughter of the Alaj Bey of Klis, in high esteem as an eligible damoiselle. So Ali dressed himself and his horse in a suitably grand fashion and rode to the Alay Bey’s mansion by way of Cetinje and the spring thereof. He arrived in mid-afternoon, and found Hankija assisting her father’s ablutions before prayer. In this way Ali was able to survey the girl before asking her father’s permission to marry her.

    Finishing his devotions, the Bey personally stabled and tended Ali’s chestnut, then gave its rider dinner and lodging for the night. Next day Ali disclosed the reason for his visit, and the Bey deferred to his daughter’s and his wife’s wishes. They consented, and their slave-woman Kumrija came to convey Ali to the women’s apartment, presenting him a pair of embroidered slippers to wear as he entered the audience chamber of Hankija’s mother.

    After he had appropriately expressed his respects to her, the lady suggested that she ought to provide a host of escorts for his wedding party when he returned to Klis to claim his bride and convey her to Kaniža. This was because a certain infidel Captain Raven (Gavran kapetan) had already thrice interfered with Hanka’s earlier attempts to marry, intercepting her wedding processions on Hare’s Field (Zečevo Polje) and slaying her three former would-be bridegrooms. Hanka herself had however been mounted each time on a fleet horse, and so escaped out of the fray home to the Spring at Cetina.3 Ali however declared himself unintimidated by such a history, and told her mother that if Hankija were not indeed the kind of girl (kavgali djevojka) who provoked such rivalry, he himself would not be a suitor to her.

    Only then did he notice that his fiancée was also present in the room, standing silently in a corner, richly dressed, ornamented, and veiled. He begged her to remove her wimple in order that he might see what prize it was for which he had just declared to her mother that he was ready to risk his life. She complied instantly, and inspired by the vision of her beauty, Ali said his adieux, then left the ladies’ chamber. A maid met him in the courtyard with traditional engagement gifts of linen. He reciprocated with a largesse of specie, then departed for Kaniža.

    At home, Ali summoned up the requisite company of well-armed bridesmen, and sent them with his chestnut courser to fetch Hanka to him while he remained in Kaniža. They brought the girl to him without incident, and he settled her in his mansion. Then he returned to the courtyard to tend the chestnut horse that had carried the girl to him from Klis.

    But while he was about this business, a letter carrier rushed into the yard to announce that a raiding party of infidels had just struck the house at the edge of the plain, sacked and set fire to it, and taken captive Ali’s maternal uncle, old Numen Agha, amongst others. His own chestnut courser being still fully accoutred, Ali instantly mounted it and rushed to the crest of Mount Velebit, over which the infidel raiders had already retreated with their booty. There he discovered who they were: the Ban of Zadar and Captain Raven, with their respective cohorts. They had by this time tied their male captives to fir trees, and commanded their female captives to perform a ring dance for their amusement while they sat drinking cool wine.

    Alone and incompletely armed though he was, Ali nevertheless made a singlehanded attack on the marauders. But the exertion of wielding his cutlass made his arm sore, and his horse got into such a lather that he had to withdraw and rest before he was able to liberate any of the Muslim captives. He realized that he might at this point reasonably desist and save himself, but pity drove him to a second futile attack, and then a third.

    At the third attempt, he was able to slay Captain Raven and cut the Muslim men free from the fir trees. But while he was herding his own people homeward and fighting off the residue of the enemy, the Ban of Zadar instructed his men to forego their useless shooting at Ali and tumble stones and baulks of wood at him instead. By these means they succeeded in unhorsing and binding him. While Ali’s chestnut made its way back to the stable in Kaniža, the Ban conveyed Ali to his donjon in Zadar. There each spring for twenty-four years a band of Magyar maidens has thrown nosegays into the pit of his bondage to apprise him of the season, and come to apostrophize him again at the onset of each winter.

    Depressed beyond further endurance by his own story, Ali wails in the donjon cell for an entire week, demanding that the Ban transport, execute, or ransom him, since the iron fetter about his neck has at last worn its way through his flesh and rests now upon bare bone. Unable to sleep because of Ali’s perpetual outcry, the Ban’s consort prevails upon her husband to stop the noise, and he sends George the Gaoler to conduct Ali to an audience. There the Ban proposes a ransom consisting of a thousand ducats, the chestnut horse, Ali’s damascene sword, and Hankija. Ali agrees to surrender all but Hankija. Angered by this refusal, the Ban commands that Ali be taken to the public square and that a great stone weighing two hundred and eighty pounds be fixed about his neck to replace the present fetter of iron. Then Ali is to be returned to the dungeon pit, and a steady stream of water is to be directed in upon him through the bars.

    This new torment persists for a week, after which Ali again raises his wail of protest, and the Ban again imposes the same ransom that he had stipulated at their first audience. This time Ali accepts the whole of it, telling his tormentor to write announcing this fact to Ali’s people on the Turkish Border. But the Ban objects, saying that no one on the Border would be able to read his scription, and he urges Ali himself to write the letter in a manner that will be understood by Muslims. This Ali does, distorting the message however in the way a knowledgeable listener would expect: rather than stating the specific terms of his ransom, he instructs his old mother to sell his civil property for the funds necessary to sustain her in her old age, and to deliver his military possessions to Halil Hrnjica and to Talâ of the Lika.

    Conveying this message to Kaniža, the Ban’s letter carrier finds Hankija and Ali’s mother at home, but with no male person of quality in their household. Emphasizing the inadmissability of males, Hankija threatens to shoot the letter carrier dead if he attempts to pass her courtyard gate.4 She receives and reads Ali’s letter to her mother-in-law, then summons the servant Husein. To him she entrusts a purse of a thousand ducats, with instructions to ride round the forty cities of the Border and pay the purse to any man who will undertake the liberation of Ali from Zadar. A month later, Husein returns the purse to Hanka intact, having found no one to accept the commission.

    So Hankija sends Husein to fetch the barber Omer, who shortens her hair and plaits it into thirty braids with Christian crosses and clasps entwined in them, in the style presently fashionable amongst generals-of-the-sea. Thus coiffed, she dresses herself in a disguise to match, and rides away towards Zadar on Ali’s chestnut. The barber meanwhile goes to the men’s clubhouse and tells the assemblage there that, having found no one in all the land who is man enough to act on her behalf, Hankija has gone to reckon with the Ban herself. Shamed by this turn of events, the men disperse to gather their henchmen and follow her to Zadar in force.

    Hanka finds forty-four of Zadar’s highest-ranking military officers gathered with their troops under tents beneath the city walls. They have camped in the field outside the city to await the Muslim bearers of Ali’s ransom. Pretending to outrank all of them as General Duke, Hanka is deferentially received by the Ban and his men and given lodging for the night.

    Next morning, the Muslims who have followed Hanka to Zadar troop down from the eastern mountains onto the far apron of the plain. Observing them through a spyglass, the Ban remarks that they have not brought any women with them, and he says that he accordingly will not surrender Ali Alagić to them this day. Hankija, alias General Duke, asks him what woman the Ban had expected them to bring, and when he tells her that Ali’s wife Hanka is a principal article of Ali’s ransom, she draws Ali’s pistols (which she has worn to Zadar as part of her disguise), and shoots the Ban dead where he stands.

    The Muslims take the report of Hanka’s pistols as a signal for their attack, and they join battle with the infidels on the field before Zadar for two hours. Hanka meanwhile makes her way to the city gate and seizes control of it so that the citizenry of Zadar will not be able to bar entry to her countrymen. When they reach the gate, she enters the city with them, gives her chestnut mount its head, and rides forward on it until it delivers her to the Ban’s palace.

    The Ban’s daughter Rose hails her from one of the palace windows and invites her to come in. When she complies, Rose takes her by the hand and leads her (still masquerading as General Duke) to a room upstairs where she sets wine and brandy before her ‘handsome’ guest. Hanka declines to drink any of it however, protesting now, as earlier she did in the same situation with the Ban, that she once shed blood while under the influence of strong drink, was reproached for it by Mujo Hrnjica, and so has foresworn strong drink ever since.5

    Smitten with attraction to the handsome man before her, Rose offers herself to General Duke. ‘He’ promises Rose that although he will not himself take her to wife, he will make a present of her to one of the Muslim men who is more fit to be her husband. At just this moment the inveterate ladies’ man Halil Hrnjica appears beneath the palace window, and ‘General Duke’ summons him to dally with Rose and drink her wine and brandy.

    Having brought the two together and seeing them content with each other, Hankija instructs Rose to fetch the keys to the dungeon and release all the Muslim prisoners, and to provide each of them with a mount and panoply. A hundred prisoners emerge from each of the first two pits of the dungeon when Rose unlocks them, and Alija Alagić issues from the reedy, snake- and scorpion-infested water that is stagnated at the bottom of the third pit. Rose arms and puts a mount under each man.

    Then all the Muslims depart together for the frontier, where Mujo Hrnjica halts the march and distributes the booty from the sack of Zadar fairly to all. Ali Alagić however asks Mujo to excuse him from his share in the spoils, and to let him go straight home to Kaniža just as he is, mounted on the late Ban’s bedouin mare. Mujo consents, and Ali sets out alone for home. Hankija soon overtakes him however, still dressed as the Magyar general, and still mounted on Ali’s own chestnut. Ali cannot recognize the rider, but knows the horse, and asks the suppositious Magyar how he came by it. Only now does Hanka reveal her identity to him, whereupon Ali rides off at the gallop, back to Mujo and the other Muslims, to invite all of them to attend a celebration of his (re)marriage in Kaniža.

    Like Zajim Ali Bey’s warrior-wife in Žunić’s poem, Hankija slays the Ban, a feat none of her male compatriots is able to perform. She accomplishes this by first beguiling the Ban and his men into acceptance of her as their ally and guest, and after the Ban has proposed an act of sexual congress with the lady in violation of her religion and her loyalty to a previous marriage. In Žunić’s narrative, the Ban correspondingly sends Alibegovica to be gratified alone with the Ban’s daughter Rose in Rose’s private chamber in every way that ‘he’ may desire; while in Hörmann’s two texts from Konjic and Sarajevo, the Ban names Ali’s wife as part of Ali’s ransom, intending to make her his concubine, although he already has a proper wife of his own religion in his palace at Zadar.

Judith by Another Name

    The Ban’s sudden death on his own territory at the hands of the militant woman whom he has so fatally misjudged initiates a general rout of his people by hers, who are assembled and led to victory in a pitched battle by their established but heretofore unsuccessful male military leader. Out of this victory comes not only liberation for her people, but also their memorable enrichment by the plunder they take from their erstwhile oppressors. Thus, by first risking her marital honour, and then murderously preserving it and the religion on which it is grounded, the lady not only saves herself and her marriage, but also liberates the other members of her people whom the Ban has immured and tormented until the time when she intervenes. In this way, the present group of modulations in the South Slavic epos has replicated and perpetuated the same pattern of story found in the narrative about Judith, Manasseh, Holofernes, Uzziah, and the mountain-dwelling people of Bethulia in the Hebrew Old Testament.

    An essential element in the pattern of story shared by the biblical Judith and Ali’s wife is accordingly the other prisoner or group of prisoners who, although not so long captive nor so severely abused in their captivity as Ali or Manasseh, nevertheless benefits even more than Ali or Manasseh does from the warrior-wife’s intervention. Thus, Mujo of Gabela in Hörmann’s manuscript from Sarajevo has no such remarkable wife as does Alagić, and so is dependent on the courageous spouse of the more miserable Ali for his own salvation coincidentally with Ali’s.

    Remarkable loyalty to her husband [even though he is dead, or as good as dead], guile, and pluck in dealing with the local commander of her people’s infidel enemy, are common characteristics of the South Slavic Alibegovica and the biblical Judith. But in the South Slavic epics Lady Ali Bey has an additional asset denied to Judith. This is her husband’s wonderful horse, which habitually escapes capture when its master is taken prisoner, returns faithfully to its accustomed stable, and later acts as a unique pathfinder for his guileful wife. Without its peculiar knowledge of the way to Ali’s hidden location in enemy territory, his wife would have no means (as Judith did not) of finding him, or of joining forces with his most deeply disguised, foreign sympathizer(s) in the alien land of his captivity. Other South Slavic epics tell of horses that are captured and of their masters left at liberty to find and rescue them; in either modulation, the cooperation of man and animal in saving each other from perdition in a far land is an element of this tradition conspicuously at one with the actions of men and horses on behalf of one another in Central Asian Turkic epos.

Baulks of Wood and Big Stones

    The occasion of Alija Alagić’s imprisonment in Hörmann’s manuscript from Sarajevo is an impetuosity of the same kind as Zajim Ali Bey’s in Žunić’s poem: both assail the Ban of Zadar’s troops alone three times, succeeding twice, but themselves overcome the third time. The poet of Hörmann’s manuscript used a pregnant little formula, drvlje i kamenje ([baulks of] wood and [big] stones) to express the underlying reason for their failure. Zajim Ali Bey and Alija Alagić alike mount their attacks on enemy soil without first propitiating other powerful persons who have an interest at stake in their attacks; the epic tradition habitually provided for the hurling of wood and stones at such rash, defectively allied attackers.

    So in Avdo Međedović’s tale about Alija Vlahinjić (v. 2543 seqq.), the Korava River tumbles boles of wood and boulders at a hero who has undertaken a singlehanded attack on a mass of aliens without the cooperation of his compatriots, and the river thereby sweeps him off his feet. Without beforehand securing the goodwill of Xanthos (either the horse or the river god), Achilles in the Iliad (21:311-14) also single-handedly attacked a multitude of Trojans in the waters of the Skamandros River, which called its brother stream, the Simoeis, to join in sweeping the assailant off his feet with a resounding tumble of boles and boulders:

                        ...ἐμπίπληθι ῥέεθρα
ὕδατος ἐκ πηγέων πάντας δ’ ὀρόθυνον ἐναύλους,
ἵστη δ μέγα κῦμα, πολὺν δ’ ὀρυμαγδὸν ὄρινε
φιτρῶν καὶ λάων, ἵνα παύσομεν ἄγριον ἄνδρα

                        ...engorge thy streams
with water from the springs, scrub all the gullies of thy course,
cast up a great wave, and raise a voluminous din
of boles and boulders, so that we may halt the uncouth man.

Without the goodwill and help of his fellow Muslims, Ali Alagić is correspondingly also battered down and subdued by a tumble of wood and stones.6

Emulation of the Sexes

    In Ibro Topić’s epic no. 32, the protagonist observes that he must accept Marko Puškarić’s challenge to a duel on neutral ground, because if he does not, Marko will surely pursue their quarrel to the protagonist’s own door in Turkish Kaniža itself, where he will do much injury to innocent Muslims. So he himself travels with the company of his bride’s escort rather than wait at home for them to deliver his bride to him.

    When singers mooted such alternatives as this, it was because the tradition entertained modulations of a present narrative in which those other possibilities were realized.

    So in Hörmann’s text of the Alija Alagić story from Sarajevo, Alija stays at home in Kaniža waiting for his bridesmen to deliver the girl from Klis to him. But the girl’s habitual tormentor, Captain Raven, carries his dispute with Ali as her would-be bridegroom into Ali’s own country, where he inflicts much injury on innocent Muslims. Without the organized assistance of his bridesmen, who have already discharged their duty to him as escorts for his bride between Klis and Kaniža, Ali must go alone to confront Captain Raven’s booty-laden raiding party on the far slope of Mount Velebit. The immediate reason for Ali’s capture by the Ban of Zadar is thus his rashness in attempting by himself to save his unfortunate countrymen; but underneath that obvious cause lies a more basic one in Ali’s bungled management of his new bride’s transportation from Klis to Kaniža, which he ought to have accompanied and defended in person together with the supporting band of his bridesmen.

    So ultimately Hörmann’s Ali Alagić in the text from Sarajevo and Žunić’s Zajim Ali Bey both come to grief for the same reason: neither of them fought for and won his bride in the field with the support of his countrymen against an alien claimant; and that claimant, catching him alone, takes him captive.

    From this captivity no one can liberate him except another, former bride: either a second bride who is literally another person (endogamic and heroically strong-minded) distinct from the bride (exogamic and girlishly alluring) whom Ali failed to win in the prescribed fashion; or else a later phase of the same bride (endogamic, formerly an alluring girl but now heroically strong-minded) in whom twenty-four years later the bloom of girlish youth has been replaced with a fortitude greater than any man’s. A stock formula in the tradition defined the finest flower of heroic young manhood as ljepši od svake djevojke (handsomer than any girl). Between these two paradoxical extremes of male and female perfection, the tradition thus discovered a common humanity, wherein the best of heroic manhood had a physique more excellent to look upon than any woman’s, and the most admirable of women had a mind more resolute and more cunning than any man’s.

    Of the two virtues therefore, the warlike and the ravissant, the present group of epics treasures the former and discounts the latter; the stories display a lively trade in females who are merely pretty, while for the man who can rightly call her his own, no price—not even a permanent loss of liberty or death—is too great for him to pay in order that he may keep his singular warrior-wife.

    So the Ban of Zadar in Žunić’s epic trades his dewy daughter Rose’s virtue for his own political survival as a satrap of the Kaiser in Vienna; Omer Agha Babahmetović unhesitatingly sells the pretty Muslim slave girl Šaha to the Ban of Novi for a hundred ducats rather than betray himself as an agent of the two more valuable, militant women in Cetina and the Zagorje; and the famous voluptuary Halil Hrnjica gets the liquid-dispensing Rose, daughter of Zadar’s king, who in Hörmann’s poem from Sarajevo is casually traded away as mere surplus by the warrior-wife herself in exchange for male assistance in the liberation of her Ali.

A Cascade of Prestations

    The pretty girl ceded to Halil is not only an expendable sex-object; she is also a modulation upon the other gifts which Ali and his strong first wife make, or attempt to make, to various powerful Muslims in the other epics of this group. Zaim Ali Bey’s several gifts to the Sultan before his capture, Ali Alagić’s instructions to his wife after he is captured to donate his golden pistols to the Đul(ag)ić brothers, and Hankija’s gift of Rose to Halil after she has liberated Ali, are all pledges made to male contemporaries and countrymen of the prisoner whose help is needed by his warrior-wife in liberating him. But the man who makes no such pledges, should he be taken captive, will be as helpless in his captivity as is the man with no warlike wife. Forms of the Alija Alagić epic that told more about Ali’s fellow prisoners than Žunić or Hörmann’s singers did dwelt particularly on the helplessness of such men.

    Such, for example, was the epic sung for Milman Parry twice by Ibro Bašić in the town of Stolac in the summer of 1934 and the following winter, 1935. Ibro Bašić was a native of Vranjevići, a village in the vicinity of Mostar, and he had learned his song there in the late 1870s. It came to him therefore out of the same region—Sarajevo and the Neretva Valley—that produced Hörmann’s two manuscripts about Alagić Alija. Parry recorded the song from Bašić twice by phonograph, and then again a third time by dictation, in order to study the textual discrepancies in a typical singer’s repeated tellings of one and the same tale.

    Composing for the American collector in what he said was his sixty-eighth year of life, Bašić correctly evaluated himself as an ordinary singer of no special excellence; he accordingly took few liberties—was not, indeed, able to take much liberty—with the content of his thrice repeated epic, and so he did not considerably elaborate parts of it from one telling to another as a more skillful singer could have done.

    Bašić’s three poems still did nevertheless diverge one from another in some details of their common narrative, occasionally even contradicting one another. All three texts tell the now familiar tale of how Ali Alagić’s wedding was interrupted by his term of imprisonment in the infidel’s donjon; but they inserted additionally into the Alagić story a lengthy framed tale, namely an excursus about a fellow-prisoner with Ali in the Ban’s gaol, one Selim Velagić.

    This inserted narrative makes Ali Alagić a feckless would-be male rescuer of Selim Velagić, an ineffectual liberator of the same kind as Hasan Čengić was with respect to his captive brother Ali Čengić in Hörmann’s poem no. LIX. And so, correspondingly, in place of the blood-brotherhood of Hasan and Ali Čengić, Bašić’s story presents a fictive, ‘sworn-brotherhood’ (pobratimstvo) between Ali Alagić and Selim Velagić. But whereas Alagić has a warlike wife and makes highly symbolic pledges and gifts to his countrymen, Velagić has a wife who is only pretty, and he makes prestations only to his enemies.

    The contrast between the two men is a study in how different characters produce different destinies, and it further illuminates how, as in Žunić’s epic, Ali captivus is able through his warrior-wife and his calculated donations to make his own captivity together with that of his less capable fellow-prisoners a captation also for such of his countrymen as are still free, enjoying liberty comfortably at home in their own land. Thus does the soterial character of Islam’s aboriginal Ali persist also in the character of his later namesakes in the present group of South Slavic epics. Here is a saviour with soterial talents sufficient to save not only his co-religionists but also himself from perdition at the hands of an alien captor—and one able to do so, moreover, without any estrangement between him and them, or any retreat on his part out of the same troubled world in which they all struggle alike to survive.

    The longest of Bašić’s texts is song no. 6597 in the Parry Collection, which numbers 1,622 verses; the other, earlier sung text was no. 291b, with 1,358 verses. The manuscript of the dictated text is 1,363 verses in length, and it is no. 1283 in the registry of the Collection. In synopsizing, I follow the fullest of the three texts, no. 6597, with specification of the divergences in 291b and 1283 where they occur.

26-28.    The Ban celebrates with a salvo of cannon in Zadar because he has captured a great prize, Alija Alagić of Udbina, and dumped him down the stone steps of his dungeon into the bottom of a shaft that is more than two hundred feet deep and only eight feet wide. There water stands to the height of a prisoner’s knees, with biting serpents and stinging scorpions teeming in it. As his vision adjusts to the darkness of the pit, Ali becomes aware of an apparition on the wall of the prison cell with hair grown down past its waist, clothed only in a cape, and with fingernails like the talons of a wingèd horse.

    Terrified, Ali asks the ghastly form whether it is daemonic, spectral, or perchance just another prisoner long resident in this dreadful place. It reassures him that despite its appearance it is human: it is Selim Velagić, tenant of this dungeon wall for lo these twelve years past, who detects the turning of the seasons only by the advent above his pit each spring of a band of Magyar maidens who cast nosegays down the shaft to him (and snowballs each winter, according to 291b).

    Selim is clamped vertically to the wall of the donjon, with a shackle of steel round his neck and chains running from it to fixtures in the four corners of the cell. Ali tells him that throughout the twelve years of Selim’s captivity he has visited every pagan city and town searching for him, but heard nothing of him anywhere. Selim replies that for as long as he has supposed Ali was free, hope has never failed in him that he would someday be rescued; but now, with Ali captive too, he despairs of ever seeing the light of day again.

    Then Selim asks Ali a series of questions to establish whether it might matter any longer to anyone whether Selim is dead or alive. He asks Ali about their homeland, the city of Udbina and its people. Is the men’s clubhouse still in its wonted place at the city gate? Do the Thirty Peers still gather there, and does the Dizdar of Udbina still preside as they pass the great common cup from man to man? And when they have all drunk from it, do they fall to boasting, and do they still mention Selim Velagić? Are their mansions still standing where formerly they stood, and still white against the sky [i.e., still unblackened by the fires which raiders would have set had they broken into the town]? Does Velagić’s own house still stand, and is his mother still living in it? Has Selim’s wife yet remarried, and is his horse still in its accustomed stall in the stable?

    Alagić affirms that all things are still as formerly they were in the public sphere of life in Udbina; but Selim’s own house is overgrown with vines, his mother has grown grey with worry over who will supply her daily crust of bread, and his wife is about to sell Selim’s horse and marry Halil Hrnjica. Velagić weeps to hear these evil tidings, but Alagić offers to comfort him with the story of his own misfortune, which he says will make even Selim forget his troubles.

    Alagić’s disaster began when he betrothed Fatima, daughter of the ninety-year-old Mumin Agha. When the customary period of engagement had elapsed and Ali had gathered his five hundred bridesmen, he sent them with his chestnut horse to bring him his bride. They accomplished their mission without incident, and after settling the girl in the keeping of his mother upstairs in the women’s quarters of his house, Ali was about to unsaddle and stable the chestnut horse, when a letter carrier whose clothes had all been burned away by gunfire rode through the gate into his courtyard.

    The courier bore an urgent letter to Ali from Mustay Bey of the Lika. Mustay Bey’s castle was under siege by General-Peter-from-The-Sea, and in his letter Mustay Bey, who had heard of Ali’s wedding band of five hundred men, begged Alagić to bring them forthwith to relieve the beleagured castle. The courier having departed again as suddenly as he came, and Alagić having read Mustay Bey’s message, he spoke to himself aloud as though he were addressing the imperiled castellan: “No, by my faith, Bey, I shan’t do it. Today’s my wedding day!”

    But all the while, Ali’s bride Fatima had been observing the scene in the courtyard from her window on the upper storey. From the courier’s appearance and Ali’s petulant remark, she easily deduced the content of the letter and spoke to Ali, telling him that she had heard him much praised in her father’s house as one so quick in battle that the enemy’s bullets could not overtake him or his mount. If he were truly a man, said she, he would go forthwith to the relief of the Bey, and take his five hundred bridesmen with him as the Bey had asked. Alagić tells Selim that he was still of no mind to do it, but Fatima shamed him into it, and so he tightened again the very girth straps which he had just loosened, mounted, and made for the bridesmen’s campsite outside his courtyard wall.

    Telling them of the Bey’s plight, he found them loath to risk their borrowed finery and their lives in such unexpected warfare, and so he rode off alone through the city gate and across the plain, going alone to the aid of Mustay Bey. But midway over the level ground outside the city, Ali felt the ground tremble with the beat of many horses’ hooves: having had second thoughts, his bridesmen came to join him in his mission to relieve the beleaguered Bey.

    They travelled all day to the Lika, where they found General Peter closely investing Mustay Bey’s castle. Ali marshalled his bridesmen for a cavalry attack, then charged with them into the thick of the enemy. He was able to beat the infidels back from the walls (as he circled the castle on horseback according to 291b), because as long as he kept the saddle he was able to move too quickly to be hit by the enemy’s firearms. But one of their number advised General Peter to command his men to cease firing and instead tumble baulks and boulders at Alagić in order perchance to unhorse him. This tactic succeeded, and while his horse escaped to its stable in Udbina, Ali continued to run around the castle on foot, defending himself as best he could with his sword.

    He hoped that Mustay Bey might open the castle’s portal and admit him to sanctuary within, but the press of infidels about Ali was so great that the Bey dared not unbar the gate for fear they would enter with Ali, and so destroy not only Ali but all the others too who were sheltered within the walls. So the unbelievers in the strength of their numbers had isolated and overwhelmed Ali, especially the seven brothers Zakarić and the nine brothers Cmiljanić. Here he is consequently, united with Selim in the depths of the Ban’s donjon. The thought that he has left a new bride at home in a still unconsummated marriage torments Ali most of all.

    The two Turks suppose that their conversation is overheard by no one, but the Ban has been eavesdropping, and he now opens the trapdoor at the mouth of the pit to address Ali Alagić. He first compliments Ali, saying that he esteems him as a hero without equal. Then he proposes a ransom-price that would not only buy Ali his freedom and consummate Ali’s interrupted union with Fatima, but also establish a lasting familial alliance between Ali and the Ban. The Ban wants Ali to give him, namely, a hundred ducats, Ali’s fancy clothes, Ali’s own sword (the trophy-saber which the Sultan himself gave Ali), the chestnut horse, and Ali’s sister Ajkuna to be the Ban’s wife.

    Alagić refuses to surrender his sword or Ajkuna, and his refusal infuriates the Ban, who raises a second trapdoor in the bottom of the two-hundred-foot shaft where Alagić and Velagić presently are, and drops Ali into a still lower cell, one that lies another two hundred feet below the first. There the Ban causes Ali to be spread-eagled face down, with chains running from each of his limbs to attachments in each corner of the chamber, and a stream of water is channeled to fall continuously from above onto Alagić’s back.

    The Ban informs Ali that as retribution for his defiance, Ali is to lie thus for a year unvisited by anyone, until, at the end of that time, the Ban himself will descend into the pit, gather up Ali’s bare bones, have them pounded to dust in a mortar, mix the dust with gunpowder, and fire it from a cannon so that no progeny may ever issue from so unsubmissive an enemy. Then the Ban goes away into his castle, leaving Alagić to ponder the paradoxical cause of his evident perdition. For Ali’s refusal, although he owns numerous coveted goods, to make prestations involving either his kin or his militant religion to an infidel who has asked to live in friendship with him precipitates the bitterest imaginable degree of enmity between them, and plunges Alagić into an absolute isolation and sterility among aliens that is completely antithetical to the marriage with its fertile social ties and its natural expectation of progeny among his own people in his own land which had been Ali’s original ambition.

    Contrarily therefore to what any newly married man might reasonably have hoped for, Ali’s marriage has not brought him a multitude of new social allies whom he might call upon for help in time of personal trouble, nor a steady increase of life and perpetuity; against all reasonable expectation, it has only brought him utter solitude, a steady waning of life, and a prospect of ineluctable termination.

    That night a prisoner wails so atrociously in the bowels of the dungeon that all Zadar is disturbed by the sound, and in the palace the Ban’s infant son Marijan, who is a babe still at its mother’s breast, is so terrified that he refuses to nurse. His mother tries all night to humor the child with sugar and honey, but to no avail. She goes to her husband the Ban next morning, asks him what peculiar kind of prisoner he has taken captive that would make such a fearsome noise, and threatens to throw baby Marijan out the window unless the Ban kills, sells, or returns the offending prisoner to his own land; the Ban is, she tells her husband irritably, too old a man to have any hope of begetting another son if he ignores her demand and she destroys Marijan.

    So the Ban enters the pit and asks the prisoner Velagić whether he is the one who has wailed all night; he says he is. (In 291b, Velagić here addresses the Ban as Janokliću Bane, and in that text Bašić continued to call him Ban of Janok rather than Ban of Zadar from this point onward.) Velagić tells the Ban that although the donjon is dreadful, it is not any physical privation that has made him howl, but rather a social one. He wants to see his mother and his wife again. (In 1283, a further reason is adduced: Selim explains to the Ban that his wife is about to remarry and give his horse to her new husband. In the same text, Alagić has however informed Selim only that the horse is to be sold, without any suggestion that the wife’s second husband would get possession of it.)

    Velagić asks the Ban for a furlough from confinement of a month’s duration so that he may go home and put his family affairs in order. He promises to return to the Ban’s prison voluntarily at month’s end. As a guarantee that he will in fact re-enter the dungeon at the appointed time, Velagić pledges to his captor the only thing that he still possesses in person after all these years of incarceration: his religious faith. The Ban accepts this gage and releases Selim, but with a steel shackle still afixed about his neck as a badge denoting that he is the Ban’s property.

    Selim goes from the dungeon to a wine stoop in Zadar for a draught of wine before beginning his journey on foot to Udbina. (According to 291b, Velagić has no clothing when he leaves Zadar except a cape, i.e., a bugar kabanica. The shoulders of the cape are overgrown with moss in which venomous serpents wriggle about.) Long unaccustomed to walking, Selim finds the journey across three mountain ranges to Udbina difficult, and he stops to rest on the eastern slope of the third cordillera, Jadija Planina—Mount Lamentation. From that vantage he is able to survey Udbina, and sees that it is as Alagić described it to him, with one difference. A wedding band has pitched camp on the ground outside the wall of Selim’s unkempt mansion. Mustay Bey of the Lika and Mujo Hrnjica are the leaders of the wedding party, and the bridegroom, Halil Hrnjica, conducting himself differently than Ali Alagić did in similar circumstance, is present as a member of his own wedding escort.

    Having comprehended the scene from a distance, Selim descends into it, presenting himself to Mustay Bey as an itinerant beggar who is collecting alms to pay ransom to a pagan prince. Mustay Bey asks the beggar who he is, but Selim evades the question by averring that he is a man whose identity is meaningless, since he has no living relatives nor any property anywhere. Then the Bey asks whether during his confinement and subsequent begging he has ever heard anything about Selim Velagić. He replies that he has not, and then Mustay Bey together with all his entourage give alms to Selim one by one. No member of the wedding party recognizes him.

    The bridegroom, Halil Hrnjica, and the other, younger men of the company are meanwhile disporting themselves in athletic contests: standing broad jumps and stoneshot putting. Halil surpasses all his bridesmen in these, but Selim asks permission to join the games, and when permission is given, he defeats Halil.

    Then he proposes to Halil that the two of them race from the city gate to Velagić’s house, and he assays cunningly to disarm Halil by offering a wager on the race: Halil’s breastplates against the hundred ducats of ransom money Selim has collected by begging in the bridesmen’s camp. (In text no. 1283, Selim urges Halil to mount his famous roan and ride horseback in the race while Selim runs on foot. Halil dismisses this challenge of horse against footman as an arrogant insult, and tells Velagić to begone lest he kill him.) With or without competitors, Selim wins the race, but instead of stopping at the courtyard gate he enters the courtyard, where he encounters his wife.

    She is frightened by Selim’s appearance and runs indoors. He begs alms from her, as earlier he did from Mustay Bey and the other men of the wedding party. She makes a generous donation to him, then asks where he has been gaoled. When he declares that it was in Zadar, she asks him whether from his experience in prison he has come into possession of any knowledge about her husband, Selim Velagić. He tells her a version of the same lie that Osman Bey Omerbegović tells his relatives at his son’s wedding in Nuhanović’s tale: he says that Velagić died in prison a year ago, and he himself buried the dead man. (In text no. 1283, she bursts into tears on hearing this news.) His wife then gives her still unrecognized collocutor another sum of money as a fee for his putative performance of Velagić’s funeral rites.

    Selim asks the lady whether she intends her second gift to honor the soul of the deceased Velagić, or in honour of her marriage with Halil Hrnjica. (In 291b, she replies that she means the gift “not for the health of Halil, but for the sake of ‘her Velagić.’”) She bursts into tears and retires into her private chamber. Selim follows her as far as the hearth, where he discovers his agèd mother still alive, and reveals to her his true identity. (In 1283, she is ninety years old, and is terrified of his appearance.) His wife then emerges from the inner chamber bearing Selim’s sword, which she presents to him with an invitation to behead her if he wishes (as penalty for her willingness to marry another man before she knew Selim certainly to be dead). He declines.7

    Mustay Bey hears Velagić’s old mother weeping for joy and noisily apostrophizing her returned son; deducing from this that the mendicant prisoner is really Selim Velagić, he tells Mujo Hrnjica to take his younger brother Halil and decamp immediately, else there will soon be man-meat for crows’ and vultures’ dining. The wedding party disbands in all directions.

    Indoors meanwhile, Selim puts off his prison cape and dresses in full panoply, then goes to his chestnut in the stable. He saddles and rides it to the wedding party’s encampment intending to fight Halil, but finds the Hrnjica brothers gone and the camp deserted. So he returns the horse to stable, remains at home putting his affairs in order for a month, and at the expiry of his furlough honorably returns to the Ban’s prison in Zadar to redeem the gage of his religion.8

    Meanwhile, Ali Alagić has suffered all that he can bear of the Ban’s water torture, and he shrieks in the donjon. The Ban enters it and asks whether dwelling in his gaol has occasioned the outcry. Ali replies that he is about to die and wants to write home.

    (In 291b, the reason he gives is that he wants to instruct his mother to pay his ransom. In 1283, Bašić named the Ban of Karlovo as the captor who visits Alagić in the gaol after his fit of shrieking. This Ban asks Ali whether he is ready now to pay the previously stated ransom. Ali evades a direct answer to the question, seeming to answer it implicitly by asking for paper, pen, and ink. But in the resulting letter, Ali instructs his mother to prestate his panoply to the flagbearers of Udbina, and to sell his horse. Neither she however, nor Fatima, does either of these things in any of the three texts.)

    The Ban supplies paper, pen, and ink, and undertakes to have Ali’s letter delivered to Udbina. The letter authorizes Ali’s mother to sell his property for the funds needed to provide for her support, and dowers his bride for remarriage.

    Taking the finished letter from Ali, the Ban disregards its author’s abusive parting words to him, and puts it into the hands of a Magyar courier, telling the courier that he will be able to recognize Alagić’s house in Udbina by the absence from it of any male, since Ali’s mother and wife are its only inhabitants. (Only once in the closing events of 291b is any further mention made of Ajkuna, Alagić’s putative sister, after the Ban’s original inclusion of her in his ransom demand.)

    Having travelled all night, the Magyar courier hands Ali’s letter to Fatima at the Alagić house in Udbina at daybreak. Her mother-in-law tells her to take it to Mujo of Kladuša (whose younger brother still needs a wife) to be read, but Fatima is able to avoid this danger; she declares herself literate, opens the letter, and reports its contents to the elder woman. Then Fatima writes a letter of her own to her father, Mumin Agha, asking him to go to Zadar and rescue her husband.

    She summons Alagić’s longtime henchman Husein to ride to Mumin Agha with her message, but he demurs, saying that in all twelve years of his service to Ali he has never been paid his monthly wages. Fatima pays him from her dowry, then warns him to conduct himself cautiously in Mumin Agha’s presence. After he has presented Fatima’s letter to the old agha, Husein must observe closely how he reacts to it. If Mumin Agha tucks it under his prayer rug after he has read it, all will be well; but if he throws the letter away into the room, Husein is to run for his life, because that will be a sign of the old man’s deadly wrath, and he will surely kill Husein on the spot if the latter stands his ground.9

    Having read his daughter’s letter, old Mumin Agha throws it away from him and, spryly leaping up, takes a sword in hand and gives chase to Husein. As he pursues, Mumin Agha explains his anger: his daughter should be stouthearted enought to abide her husband’s absence for at least twelve years (the length of time Selim’s wife waited), whereas Alagić has been in prison for hardly a month.10

    Husein escapes to Udbina and reports to Fatima both the reason for Mumin Agha’s rage and the old man’s threat to come to Udbina in person next Friday and behead her for the shame she has brought on her father. She takes the threat seriously, and prefers to join Ali in a pagan prison rather than await death at the hands of the irate Mumin Agha. So she sends her mother-in-law to bake flour cakes, and Husein to ready Ali’s chestnut horse for a journey. She in the meantime disguises herself in the garments and arms of a Magyar military officer.11

    Descending into the stable, Fatima surprises Husein, who says that were he to meet her in some narrow mountain pass on the frontier, he would surely take off her head for a trophy, so perfectly is she disguised in the appearance of a Magyar warrior; but she affirms that she would be quicker than he, and have his head first.

    Fatima pays Husein a sum of money to tend her mother-in-law during her absence, then sets out on the chestnut toward Zadar, passing the men’s clubhouse in Udbina as she leaves the city. The men who are gathered in the clubhouse marvel at the ferocious warlike aspect of the man mounted on Alagić’s chestnut, whom they take to be Gazi Mumin Agha himself, or else someone hired by him to rescue Ali. (In 291b, as Fatima leaves Udbina she draws Ali’s sword, throws it high in the air, and deftly catches it by its handle as it falls, to the amazement of the thirty men in the clubhouse, who recognize the horse but not the rider.)

    She travels fearlessly all night through the wild mountains of no-man’s land, and stops only to feed the chestnut on the eastern verge of the plain of Zadar at daybreak. Then she remounts and rides to the gates of the city, where Gatekeeper Matthew stops her to learn her identity. She claims to be Ensign Vitus (Vido bajraktar), pays Matthew a bribe of a hundred ducats, and so gains admission to the city. There she gives her chestnut its head and tells it to carry her to Ali’s usual lodgings.

    (In 291b, Matthew commands a detachment of a hundred soldiers at the gate. He asks Fatima for her passport, but she gives him the hundred ducats instead, which satisfy his curiosity about her identity. In 1283, when she remounts it before approaching the city, Fatima asks her horse how they can pass Matthew. As though in answer to her question, the animal makes boldly for the gate. When Matthew asks her identity, Fatima says that (s)he is Ancient Vitus from Janok, and has come to visit his fictive sister the innkeeper. Matthew admits her on the strength of this declaration alone, and Fatima then gives him ten ducats.)

    Ali’s chestnut knowingly delivers Fatima to a hostel tended by Mary the Innkeeper. Mary receives the disguised Turkish woman with perfect hospitality, setting wine and brandy before her. Fatima rejects wine as a cause of headache and brandy as a cause of heartache, whereupon the mistress of the inn asks her identity. (In 291b, Mary comments on the fact that Fatima is the first Magyar warrior she has ever entertained who has refused an offer of wine and brandy.) Fatima tells her that (s)he is from Janok city, and is one of the ancients of that town’s Ban. Mary laughs at this, and tells her to her face that she is really Fatima, daughter of Mumin Agha. Fatima indignantly denies it, but her hostess insists that she knows Fatima too well to be deceived.

    For twelve years, says Mary, she was a slave girl in Mumin Agha’s house. (In 291b, Mary says that Mumin Agha captured her during a raid on Sibinj, and put her to work as Fatima’s personal servant. Being of the same age as Fatima, Mary was raised with Fatima in the women’s quarters of Mumin Agha’s house; text no. 1283 adds that Mumin Agha dressed and kept Mary with the same care that he accorded to his own daughter.) So the two girls dwelt together, until one day the Agha’s ancient Osman proposed to lie with Mary out of wedlock. She was unwilling, and Osman then correctly sought her in marriage from Mumin Agha, who conveyed Osman’s offer to her in good form. Still she would not, and Mumin Agha therefore paid her the sum of her accumulated wages and released her. She settled in Zadar, where she used her capital to establish the present inn. She is able therefore to recognize Fatima infallibly, but assures Fatima that she will not betray her to Alagić’s enemies in Zadar city.

    (291b describes Mary’s encounter with Osman as having happened once when she went on an errand to the stable.12 Osman properly desisted when Mary refused him, but she nevertheless reported the incident to Mumin Agha. He asked her to accept Islam, and promised her that if she would, she might have any ancient in his service for her husband. When she refused this offer too, her continued membership in the household of course became impossible; the Agha supposed that she desired to return to her native hearth, so he paid her and sent her away with an escort to protect her from mishap during her journey home. She went however to Janok rather than to Sibinj, and built the present inn for outlanders. Having told her story, Mary promises not to betray Fatima, and declares that she knows Alagić’s chestnut on sight.)

    Foregoing any further attempt to conceal her identity, Fatima asks her newfound friend how she may come to Ali; but Mary tells her it is not possible. Fatima declares that if that is true she will go just as she is to the Ban’s stronghold, since she would prefer a miserable imprisonment with Ali to a comfortable separation from him.

    Recognizing the implication in Fatima’s words that appearances are crucial, Mary urges Fatima to put off her Magyar warrior’s garb, and put on instead the finery of an alluring Magyar maiden. Fatima complies in all but one particular: against Mary’s advice, she insists upon wearing Ali’s sword concealed in the folds of her dress.

    The two young women then attend a soirée in the apartment of the Ban’s daughter Angelia. (When Fatima meets Angelia in 291b, she says that until this time she has supposed there was no woman in the world lovelier than herself, but Angelia is. Angelia asks Mary who her companion is, and Mary tells her that she is a kinswoman from the country.) During the evening, Angelia detects the sword hidden in Fatima’s clothes, and threatens to hand the stranger over to her father. But Mary intercedes, and swearing Angelia to secrecy, divulges Fatima’s real identity to her. Fatima begs Angelia to secure Ali’s release, promising in return to accept Angelia as Ali’s first wife, and to content herself with a servant’s duties in the house of Ali and Angelia when they shall all have escaped to Udbina.13

    Without describing it expressly as such, Angelia now proposes an extremely dangerous strategem: to precipitate her father’s execution of a sentence of death on Ali Alagić in order to raise him from the donjon, and to place him in circumstances outside the Ban’s stronghold where it might be possible to rescue him by force of arms. She will [says Angelia] ask her father the Ban next day for the use of a coach in which to make an outing to Mandušić Cathedral, and to have Ali Alagić and Selim Velagić harnassed to the coach as draft animals.14

    But Angelia does not know how to accomplish the two Muslims’ release from their bonds and from the harnass of the coach once they are outside the city; consequently she asks Fatima whether any of Fatima’s Turkish countrymen will be on hand to help her. Fatima replies that she herself will be equal to the task of cutting the two men free (the sword presently concealed in her clothing being sufficient warrant of that), and she ventures to say too that she has some hope of other help from her father, who she believes may yet find a way to assist her.15

    Having thus agreed upon Angelia’s plan for the morrow, Mary and Fatima return to Mary’s inn for the night, where they find sleep impossible.

    Next morning the coach that is pivotal to Angelia’s plot appears in the streets of Zadar, drawn as she planned by Alagić and Velagić in the rôle of draught animals, but also heavily guarded by an armed escort consisting of the Ban himself, Captain Ivan, and nine heathen ancients, each at the head of a squadron of horse. Having resumed her disguise as a Magyar officer, Fatima says goodbye to Mary the Innkeeper, mounts her husband’s chestnut horse, leaves the inn, and follows the procession out of Zadar. She overtakes the coach in the middle of the plain outside the city. Recognizing his horse and his own panoply worn by its rider, Ali bursts into tears. Selim asks him why he weeps. He says that his misguided mother has apparently paid the Ban a ransom for him, and yet the Ban, having gotten possession of Ali’s horse and arms and passed them on to some thegn of his, is nevertheless now about to execute both his Muslim prisoners despite the payment.

    On the heights overlooking the plain from the east, Mumin Agha has meanwhile arrived with five hundred Muslim horse-troopers. They watch intently as Fatima (alias the Magyar officer) accosts the Ban, draws her saber, and swiftly beheads both him and his Captain Ivan. As the two fallen infidels’ subalterns turn on Fatima, she cuts Ali and Selim free and presents them the Ban’s and Ivan’s mounts and sabers. While the two liberated Muslims fight off the infidels, Fatima pulls Angelia out of the carriage and into the saddle behind herself on the chestnut horse. And as these events transpire, Mumin Agha’s troops gallop onto the field and put the remainder of the infidels to flight.16

    As the Muslims make their way back onto the uplands, Mumin Agha asks Alagić whether the ‘man’ on the chestnut horse who rescued him was Fatima. As Ali turns in surprise to look closely at the still-disguised rider, Halil Hrnjica steps up to the chestnut and takes hold of the reins. Fatima asks him rhetorically what gift she should give him for his help as best man in this, her second (and this time successful) wedding procession; then she hands Angelia to him as his prize. This done, she dismounts from the chestnut and presents it to Ali, throwing herself finally into the lap of her father. After resting for a time, the entire party rises and makes its way homeward into the mountains.

    (Text no. 1283 colors the ending a little differently. Mumin Agha asks Ali where his daughter Fatima is. Ali does not know. Then Velagić tells Ali to look closely at the suppositious Magyar mounted on Ali’s own horse, the one who freed them. Mumin Agha laughs, and asks Alagić whether he can now recognize the ‘Magyar.’ But Ali is still at a loss. While the others thus tease the bridegroom Ali, the ‘Magyar’ approaches; Halil rises to his feet and stops the horse, asking its rider how ‘he’ came by it. Fatima tells him truthfully who she is, and explains to him about the pretty girl who is riding in the saddle behind her. Halil asks Fatima to give Angelia to him, and she complies. A double wedding takes place when all have returned to Turkish soil: Ali and Fatima tranquilly united at last, and Halil with the more eligible Angelia rather than Lady Velagić.)

    Ibro Bašić’s story of Ali Alagić and Murat Žunić’s about Zajim Ali Bey share a common hypothesis: it is the caption of a destiny that is always providentially the opposite of what its owner expects. When Ali supposed that marriage was at hand peacefully amongst his own people, he was torn away from it by the superior cunning and strength of an alien power that cast him down doubly into a lingering subterranean perdition, alone in a far land. And when he later supposed that his own extinction was at hand violently amongst a pagan people in an alien place, he was torn away from it by the superior cunning and strength of his own people, who escorted him up again to an enduring marriage surrounded by family and friends in his own highland home. Not until he had in Zadar utterly despaired of his survival did the mechanism of his rescue begin to operate in Udbina; not until he thought his own execution was at hand at Mandušić Cathedral did a complete stranger cut him free and give him once again the means for defending himself. And when he tried solely with his own resources to bring home a bride, he could not consummate the marriage; not until the bride, relying perforce entirely upon her resources, brought him home, could their marriage become an institution.

    From all this tribulation, Ali and his valiant bride gain nothing but what any ordinary man or woman might experience except unusual hardship and the chance to salvage ordinary pleasures by extraordinary toil and risk. But others whose lives are touched by their self-sacrificing determination are saved by it [the water carrier Nikola, the Ban’s misused daughter Rose, and the two Velagićes, husband and wife], all plucked out of an endless misery, and given new lives to lead as though by a miracle.

    So by the lucky happenstance of his proximity to Ali, and although he and his own family contribute nothing to its restoration, Selim Velagić’s marriage is automatically included in a general affirmation of marriage that flows from the unique union of Ali and Fatima. Indeed even Selim Velagić’s marital competitor and most dangerous domestic enemy, Halil Hrnjica, is also incorporated into a marriage free of social rivalry by the same happy accident of nearness to Ali and Fatima when they are reunited.

    Thus, in an implicit affirmation of Islamic ideals, the inscrutable ordination of a merciful and comforting Providence works itself out in the lives of the faithful as it manipulates the disappointed hopes and the superfluous fears of the strong for the salvation of both strong and weak together. Such providence, realizing its hidden purposes by such an ordainment, demands no less monumental a generosity in its human tools than it displays itself towards them and their weaker compatriots alike.

    Those, on the other hand, who ungenerously demand what they want with an unyielding exigency, expecting immediate gratification and absolute obedience to their will, are by definition infidels, and are typically destroyed by the very fact of getting what they want when they want it. Brooking no denial and acknowledging no constraints of decency in his demands, the Ban is laid low by the very person who comes to him bringing the horse, fine clothes, and panoply which he has demanded as ransom for Ali. The heathen Ban in Žunić’s poem similarly gave no quarter to the natural mating impulse of his man Nikola, in stark contrast to Mumin Agha’s understanding negotiation in Bašić’s story with Mistress Mary on behalf of his lusty ancient Osman when Osman was moved by the same urge.

    The selfsame Nikola thereafter introduced the Ban’s nemesis into the Ban’s stronghold in Zadar—the disguised Lady Ali Bey, who would behead the Ban with her own hand while he slept, as Judith did to Holofernes. But at the same critical moment when Mumin Agha’s daughter draws her sword to behead the Ban, it is the same Ancient Osman who watches over her through his spyglass from the treetop, and so enables Mumin Agha’s troops to save her from an otherwise certain retributory death, alone as otherwise she is against whole squadrons of the enemy.

    Thus, intransigent toward his own subjects and his captive enemies alike, the Ban soon loses the advantage which superior power initially gave him, while even the deadliest peril harmlessly bypasses generous men such as Ali Alagić and his father-in-law Mumin Agha while they patiently minister to the needs of others in their own society who are both greater persons (Mustay Bey) and lesser persons (Ancient Osman) than they. Only for the month of time while the Ban with a similarly generous patience holds the gage of Selim Velagić’s sole remaining possession, his Muslim faith, and lets the poor Selim enjoy a furlough from his misery, for just so long and no longer does the Ban himself enjoy a time of respite—though in his ignorance of the true faith he does not recognize it as such—from the retribution which he surely brings down upon his own head by his failure to act with a comparable moderation in Alagić’s case. Providence favors the generous in this tradition, and as in Islam itself, Ali personifies generosity.

    The generous patience of the faithful and the crabbed impatience of heathens are contrasted not only in their different manners of dealing with other men, but also in their uses of women. The Ban of Zadar in Žunić’s poem is eager to trade his daughter’s chastity for his own personal benefit; but Bašić’s Mumin Agha will not compromise even a slave girl’s virtue in his different régime. Again, in Bašić’s narrative the wife of the Ban tells her pagan husband for the sake of his own family to remove from his dungeon the most recently captured new prisoner; but her husband stops short of his wife’s prescription of prudent mercy as he descends into the dungeon and furloughs instead only the old prisoner Velagić.

    Now Velagić is no threat to the Ban in or out of gaol, whereas (though the Ban cannot perceive it) Alagić is immeasurably more dangerous to him in gaol than out. Uncompliant as he thus is toward his wife’s advice, the Ban thinks himself a happy and successful man until suddenly the peril which his wife’s counsel would have averted destroys him.

    Alagić too hears unsolicited advice from his wife, and thinks himself much put upon by the consequences of his compliance with it. But although the results of his amenability are indeed agonizing for the space of a month, during which he thinks himself a most singular failure, it is precisely his compliance and the train of events set in motion by it that finally end his hitherto fruitless twelve-year-old quest to find and liberate his lost fictive brother Velagić.

    So the infidel who thinks himself clever and successful because he has circumvented his wife’s morality is destroyed by a sudden, unforeseen disaster; while the true believer who thinks himself foolish and ruined because he has conformed to his wife’s morality is saved by a sudden, unforeseen liberation.

    Some previous commentators have treated the framed story of Selim Velagić’s furlough as though it were a kind of echo in the South Slavic Muslim tradition of the ancient tale about Odysseus and Penelope, and indeed a number of comparable elements are present in both stories: the disguised husband’s begging his way into his own house after long absence, unrecognized by either its female inmates or his male competitors; the beggar’s lying tales about his own identity; the several athletic contests joined finally by the disguised husband, with his surprising victores in them; and so forth.

    It is however no simple legacy but rather a modulation of the ancient tale that we have in Bašić’s three poems. For however much Velagić may otherwise resemble Odysseus, Selim’s wife is no Penelope. By design she is, on the contrary, like the impatient Fatima as her father Mumin Agha mistakenly imagined her to be: untenacious and uninventive in resistance to her suitor’s plans, and ineffective in preserving her absent husband’s wealth.

    Nor are Halil and his bridesmen like Penelope’s divinely befuddled, predatory suitors who cannot perceive their own danger nor escape it; given fair warning, Mustay Bey and his party promptly disperse, as Penelope’s suitors would not. And far from wishing him ill, the suitor encamped at Velagić’s house no sooner learns that Velagić is still alive than he joins Mumin Agha’s party to assist in the liberation of his unintended rival from foreign captivity. Finally, the repeatedly emphasized contrast between Odysseus and his social superior Agamemnon in Homer’s story is not at all the contrast between Selim Velagić and his social superior Ali Alagić in Bašić’s poems. Great Agamemnon abandoned by Klytaimestra while the lesser Odysseus’ Penelope remained loyal to her marriage beyond reasonable hope for her husband’s return is quite the inverse of the relationship between Velagić’s and Alagić’s marriages, which teach on the contrary that the man (Velagić) who has not released his wife, giving her leave to marry another, is the most likely to lose her; whereas he who does release her (Alagić) is himself rescued by her.

Women Who Bear Arms

    Of course it was not his wife who rescued Odysseus from foreign captivity, nor is a wife (or fiancée) the only kind of militant female who rescues captive Muslims in the South Slavic tradition. Ali Alagić’s shadowy sister Ajkuna, who is a person in Bašić’s epic of about the same magnitude as Ktimene in the Odyssey, has however more active counterparts in other modulations of the female-liberator narrative. One particularly revealing example of her kind in more developed form is in poem no. 6 in the unpublished manuscript collection of the early twentieth-century Serbian collector Jovan Perović.

    Perović was a businessman and merchant in Bihać, where he collected a number of very long epics, seemingly all from a single singer. The singer’s identity is not recorded. The sixth poem in the Perović collection is once again about legendary citizens of Udbina, but this time they are members of the famous Dizdar of Udbina’s family, namely the Dizdar’s son Meho (= Mehmed Dizdarević) and Meho’s sister Fatima. Apart from these, many characters in the Perović poem are the same persons with the same names as found in Žunić’s tale, but they are differently articulated, and in ways that further illuminate their characters and actions as seen in the Žunić poem. Perović no. 6 is 3,600 lines long, and tells the following story.

29.    Fatima, daughter of the Dizdar of Udbina, is unwilling to marry before her elder brother Meho does. For his part, Meho Dizdarević (i.e., Meho the Dizdar’s son) is determined to marry none other than Rose, sister of the Ban of Zadar. Finally, the Ban wants only to marry Meho’s sister Fatima.

    But the Ban is as unwilling to give Rose to Meho as Fatima is to marry the Ban. Meho has attempted repeatedly in the past to steal Rose from Zadar—i.e., to elope with her—but has always failed. The story begins as Meho sets out from Udbina to Zadar to attempt bridetheft yet again. Disguised and mounted on his black horse (a weaker but safer animal than his chestnut, because the latter is, as usual, too well known in Zadar) Meho as he enters the Ban’s courtyard in Zadar finds it full of tables occupied by a multitude of Zadarian braves and worthies, all of whom have gathered there as suitors to Rose. Being to all appearances just another Magyar suitor, Meho joins the multitude of drinkers as Rose moves amongst them pouring their wine and inspecting them one by one.

    After a while the Ban bids his sister chose a husband for herself from the present company, since it is time for her to marry. She refuses to designate any of them as her fiancée definitively, on the grounds that she is still too young to wed; but she says that if she were to choose, her preference would be (the disguised) Meho.

    Hearing her pronouncement, all the other suitors depart, leaving only the Ban, Rose, and Meho in the courtyard. The Ban expresses some disappointment with Rose’s merely tentative choice, since he wants decisively to settle the question of her marriage soon. Not until she is married will he himself be free to press his suit with Meho Dizdarević’s sister Fatima. The Ban orders Rose to make a bed for Meho in their mansion, and when she has done so, the three retire each to his own chamber. But after the Ban has fallen asleep, Rose goes to Meho’s room with wine and brandy, and as they drink together the two make plans to elope. Meho wants to leave immediately, but Rose reminds him that the city gates are sealed till dawn; they two have no choice but to spend the night in sweet dalliance where they are.

    They abscond at dawn, but the clatter of their horses’ hooves wakes the Ban, who orders the city’s gatekeeper, Janko Lipušić, to close the city, and the gunner Luke to sound the alarm with a salvo of cannon. The Ban’s troops corner Meho in a gateway. He is invincible so long as he remains in the saddle, but when his opponents stop fighting him and concentrate on cutting the legs out from under his black horse, they are able to unseat him. He continues to fight on foot until his sword breaks, whereupon they bind him and convey him to the courtyard of the Ban’s palace. There the Ban causes him to be seated on a chair as though in the dock of a kind of law court, and sets an executioner over him to stand guard while a panel of holy men gathers to act as Meho’s judges in a trial.

    The Ban presents a bill of indictment to the panel, asking it to impose capital punishment on Meho for attempted bridetheft; but the panel advises him that if the girl Rose had not been in complicity with Meho, no elopement would have been attempted. They inform the Ban also of an accord concluded between the two Emperors prohibiting the imposition of marriage on women without their consent: if women are given in marriage against their wishes, they have the right to return to the homes where they were born. The only avenue that might lead to a death sentence for Meho lies therefore through Meho’s admission of some other crime for which the court could convict and sentence him.

    The Ban knows how to extract the necessary confession from Meho: he conjures him by his Muslim faith to admit his previous offenses against Christendom. Bound thus by his religion, Meho acknowledges having, before his most recent attempt to abduct Rose, killed singlehandedly three viceroys of Zadar and sacked three monasteries; killed five captains and participated with fellow Muslims in four successful bride-captures; and slain two Christian holy men. Hearing this confession, the panel of judges [who are themselves all Christian men of the cloth] immediately hand down the death sentence, which is instantly presented to the executioner for fulfillment.

    The executioner is not willing however to perform his duty straightway. He observes that Meho’s clothing is very valuable, and ought not to be defiled; he desires that Meho be stripped of it before he beheads him. But in order to achieve this, it would be necessary to unbind Meho’s arms, and Meho warns the court that he will not permit his clothing to be removed from his living body. The judges find Meho’s threat credible, and declare themselves in a quandry.

    The Ban now loses patience with the judges’ dubitations, and orders the executioner to unbind Meho; if Meho prefers a nasty death with unsubmissive struggling to the bitter end, so be it. But Meho has still not exhausted his resources: he warns the Ban that if he is killed, vengeance for his death will surely be exacted by Mustay Bey and by the Muslims’ Christian liegemen, Prince Miladin and Miladin’s seven sons, not to speak of others. From her window overlooking the courtyard, Rose also speaks to the Ban, saying that she will kill herself if any harm befalls Meho.

    These several arguments perplex even the headstrong Ban, and he calls the panel of judges into session once more. They commute their earlier sentence of death, ordering that Meho be imprisoned in the dungeon, where water stands to a man’s knees, where satans and daemons call to each other in the reeds, and snakes and scorpions—the sting of any one of which is fatal—bedrape the walls. No light burns there but the flame of a single candle to illumine the unspeakable horrors of the place. Conveyed thither at the bidding of the court, Meho declines to accept confinement in such a haunt, and calls on the Ban to set a ransom for him instead.

    Mindful of his own ambition to marry Fatima, the Ban agrees to an audience with Meho for the purpose of negotiating a ransom price. First he enjoins Meho to be subjugated and call himself the Ban’s thane. This Meho refuses. Then he demands Meho’s chestnut horse, Fatima, and a thousand ducats as ransom. Considering these exactions, Meho reflects to himself that the chestnut belongs to his father, who is in Istanbul on business for a year and a month. Moreover, there is no one at home in the absent Dizdar’s house in Udbina except Fatima, and not even she knows where Meho is or what has befallen him. For these reasons, he directs the Ban to write to Mustay Bey of the Lika rather than to Fatima, informing him rather than her of the ransom-price.

    The Ban complies, and it remains only for Meho to sign the letter. This he does, but in Turkish, which the Ban cannot read, and he includes in the form of his signature a message instructing the Bey not to pay the Ban’s price.

    Next Meho asks permission to write to his sister Fata, explaining to the Ban that if she receives no direct confirmation from Meho of the instructions which the Ban has penned to Mustay Bey, she perhaps may not cooperate with the Bey in making the ransom payment; she might, that is, refuse to surrender the chestnut horse, the thousand ducats, and herself as property payable to Zadar.

    The Ban is suitably gulled by this argument, and supplies the writing materials. What Meho actually writes however—again in Turkish—is only a reassurance to Fata that although he has fallen into captivity in Zadar, the Ban dares not harm him for fear of reprisals from Meho’s fellow Muslims, from the Muslims’ loyal raya, and from Rose. He tells Fatima to ignore the Ban’s claim on her as a part of the ransom for her brother, and to find instead a suitor for herself who will want her enough to undertake Meho’s liberation.

    These things having been done, the Ban transfers Meho to a prison cell free of water, reeds, demons, satans, vipers and scorpions, leaving him there to await the arrival at Zadar of the supposedly agreed ransom; and he dispatches his footman Sava to deliver the two letters to Muslim territory. Following a route across Mount Velebit, past Ribnik, and over Rudine to Udbina, Sava delivers the one letter to Fatima Dizdareva’s coffee-steward Huso, and the other to Mustay Bey’s tobacco-steward Omer.

    Fatima and her mother are saddened to tears by the news that Meho is in Zadar’s gaol, but Fata bravely forbids crying until they have paid Sava for his journey and dismissed him. She returns a message by him to the Ban, saying that the Ban should expect either a subsequent letter from her accepting the terms of Meho’s ransom, or else a champion who will challenge the Ban to single combat for possession of Meho.

    From the Dizdar’s house, the Ban's messenger Sava passes on to Mustay Bey’s seat of provincial government. The Bey also returns a message by him to the Ban, instructing the Ban to keep Meho comfortable, and to wait a month for payment of the ransom. As soon as Sava has departed, Mustay Bey reads Meho’s cryptic Turkish “signature” aloud to his court.

    But no sooner has he finished announcing Meho’s prohibition against the payment of ransom for his release than the piercing wail of Meho’s mother lamenting her son disrupts the assembly. They adjourn in a body to the Dizdar’s house, where Mustay Bey and the Twelve Elders enter to assure the keening woman that no harm will come to Meho, who has himself saved many another in times past from just such trouble as has now befallen him. Fatima declares in their hearing that she will send a circular letter to her three hundred suitors, offering herself as a reward to whichever of them will liberate her brother. This plan however stings the pride of Mustay Bey and his men, who recognize that they ought to be Meho’s champions rather than leave that task to some outsider; Mustay Bey therefore forbids her plan (thus countermanding Meho’s own instructions to his sister).

    However, as soon as their visitors have left them, Fata reveals to her mother that she does not really intend to sell herself for her brother’s release; she only wants Mustay Bey and the other city fathers to believe that is her intention. What she really means to do is to dress herself as a man, pose as her own suitor, and rescue Meho herself. Fatima extracts from her mother an oath of strict secrecy about all this.

    Following her plan, Fatima does indeed advertise for a champion among her suitors. All being valiant men, they one by one offer their services. Even the Christian Prince Miladin writes to the Ban, warning him to forego his ambition to marry Fatima and carefully to avoid injuring Meho. He tells the Ban that his actions will in the end cost him not only his sister Rose but also his life. The Ban’s subaltern, Captain Lazar, who is present when the Ban reads Miladin’s letter, remarks that even Christians such as Miladin are loyal to the Sultan, because he generously confers offices and stipends on his loyal subjects even if they are not Muslim.

    Fatima accepts no offer of championship from any of her suitors. Pretending nevertheless that her search has yielded its desired result, she writes to Mustay Bey, using as her nom de plume Omer Agha of Sarajevo. In her letter, (s)he asks Mustay Bey to assemble an army and be ready in fifteen days’ time to attend a single combat between himself (i.e., Omer of Sarajevo) and the Ban of Zadar. Omer explains that he will arrive in Udbina during that interval and reside as a house guest in the home of his intended mother-in-law, Mrs. Dizdar Hasan Agha, who, he says, has also agreed to lend him Meho’s chestnut horse. He comments that the chestnut is a notable gesgadžija, dobar za majdana (i.e., one that is gezginci [much travelled], a good one for single combat).

    Fatima amazes the company of men assembled in Mustay Bey’s hall by going there in person to deliver Omer Agha’s pseudepigraphical letter. Having read it, the Bey asks Fatima whether she wishes to go with the Muslim army and witness the duel; if so, he is ready to provide transportation for her. But Fatima eludes the double snare in this question: for she and the fictitious Omer Agha can never both be present in the same place at the same time; and if the Ban were to defeat her champion in single combat, Mustay Bey might surrender Fatima to the victor. She tells the Bey therefore that if Omer Agha is defeated, she will need to be at home in order immediately to designate an alternate suitor as her champion against the Ban, one who may perhaps more successfully represent her cause than the fallen Omer. Fatima thus intends to make of herself a classic kavgali djevojka rather than contemplate a possibility of matrimony with Zadar’s king in any way.

    Fatima returns home, and Mustay Bey begins to levy the troops called for in the factitious Omer Agha’s letter. He raises four contingents by mail, and a fifth column by aural proclamation. His written letters of levy reliably produce the desired results; but his aural recruitment is fraught with danger, uncertainty, and opportunity for trickery.

    In each of his four letters, Mustay Bey calls upon one of his peers in another part of the country to form a battalion, and also to pass on written word of the call-to-arms to another, more remotely situated peer in that vicinity.

    The Bey’s first letter goes to Pasha Radoslija at Hlivno, with a request to him to notify also Ibro Jakirlić at Glamoč. The second of the four pairs are Bey Labudić of Jajce and the Čengić brothers of Zagorlje and Upper Skoplje. The third pair are Pasha Uštuglija of Knin, and Babahmetović of Cetina (who is to recruit at Vrljika, Skradin, Klis, Vrana, and Drnjiš). The fourth pair are Omer Agha Poprženović of Bihar and Bihać, and the Lord of the Krupa (who is to secure in particular the help of Mujo Hrnjica).

    In all four of his letters, Mustay Bey instructs his fellow leaders to so balance their levies as to assure that half of each battalion will be Muslim (i.e., Turkish) and half raya (i.e., Christian). Thus the Bey gathers his army from four different directions, one battalion from each direction; and each battalion is composed in turn of four regiments, two Turkish and two Christian.

    But to gather his own fifth column of personal followers, the Bey relies on aural rather than written summonses. First, he causes his two great cannon to fire a salvo as a call to arms for the region within hearing of Udbina. Then, for more remote districts beyond earshot of his artillery, he dispatches Talâ as a herald to ride about beating a drum and crying up the levy by word of mouth.

    On the day when the four battalions from other regions are expected to convene in Udbina, Mustay Bey’s courtiers ask him whether he has written to Sarajevo and to Bey Ljubović in Glasinac recruiting contingents from that pair of places. He tells them that he has not, since Fatima’s fiancé, Omer Agha, will surely have undertaken his own recruitment in those parts. At the end of the day, Mustay Bey sends his ancient Đulić to learn from Mrs. Dizdar Hasan Agha whether the young man from Sarajevo has arrived. Fata replies that he has, but that he is so fatigued by the journey that her mother will not let him out of the house that night. She desires that Mustay Bey should not wait however for Omer Agha’s appearance; the time for the agreed rendezvous with the Ban is fast approaching (the meeting is on Sunday, the combat on Monday), and the Muslim army must accordingly depart Udbina forthwith.

    Receiving this message from Đulić, Mustay Bey observes that it is not only Fatima’s fiancé and personal champion who has not materialized; reinforcements have not come from Sarajevo to support him either. He goes on to say, with a certain asperity, that perhaps the men from Sarajevo will join the expedition later, if indeed Omer Agha has actually mustered any allies from his own region.

    But no time remains for further speculation on that point; the date set for confrontation with the Ban is at hand, and no one yet knows where precisely it is to take place. The Bey therefore commands his man Ali Seidić to go to Zadar at the gallop with a letter proposing a location for the single combat on a high plateau of Mount Velebit. According to the terms set forth in the Bey’s letter, each side is to bring its stake [Meho Dizdarević in the Ban’s party, and Fatima Dizdareva in the Bey’s]. Thus Mustay Bey commits himself to fixed terms for an armed encounter with the Ban, although he still has neither troops of his own nor any of Omer Agha’s at hand to support him.

    To correct this deficit, the Bey sends Gazi Ćejvan Agha to fire the two great cannon Stubby and Old Green a second time. (The first firing of these guns gave notice that war was at hand, and a time for arming; the second signals an actual muster of ready soldiery at the crossroads outside Udbina.) Next morning, Talâ wakes Mustay Bey, inviting him to survey the multitude of troops who have gathered in response to Talâ’s circuit ride and yesterday’s firing of the cannon.

    The cannon set Fatima in motion too. She braids her hair, dresses as a Turkish warrior, and obtains her mother’s blessing as she leaves home, just as any good male brave would do (v. 1800). Then she joins Mustay Bey and the other Muslim leaders at the seat of the provincial government, and rides with them from there to the banks of the Crvač River. She surprises the Bey and the several pashas whom he has convened by failing to kiss their hands [a gesture of respect due all such dignitaries whenever inferior or junior males approach them]. The Bey lamely apologizes to his peers for Omer Agha’s bad manners, explaining that hand-kissing is evidently not the custom in Sarajevo. Fatima thus wears her warrior-guise so well that no one suspects she is not male, even though all have seen her in Mustay Bey’s court dressed as a woman only yesterday, and even though her own unconventional behaviour today forcefully suggests that she may not be what she seems.

    Returning from his urgent mission to the Ban, Mustay Bey’s courier Ali Seidić (i.e., Ali Son of Seidija) meets the commanders’ party by the Crvač, and tells them the Ban’s response to Mustay Bey’s proposal of terms for the single combat. The Ban will, namely, meet the Muslims on Sunday and fight on Monday, but he refuses to bring the prisoner Meho with him to the duelling-ground.

    Mustay Bey’s fifth column of troops (those whom he has mustered aurally from his own province) now joins the rest of the army; but unlike the other four battalions, all of whom are from other provinces, only the Bey’s lacks the usual duplex organization. Its other half was meant to be the missing contingent from Sarajevo, and so Mustay Bey asks Omer Agha where the regiments of Bey Ljubović and of Sarajevo city are.

    (S)he replies that because (s)he knew very well that Mustay Bey would raise a substantial force—it already numbers 20,000 men—Omer Agha not only didn’t muster up any troops from his own province; he did not even bother to tell any of his own countrymen that he was going to Zadar. (In this behaviour, Fatima as Omer Agha shows herself to be a very defective endogamic bridegroom, while at the same time precisely duplicating her brother Meho’s behaviour on the occasion of his most recent attempt at exogamy.)

    The two sides meet at the appointed time and place in no-man’s land on Mount Velebit. There the Muslims discover that the Ban of Zadar has also adopted a duplex military organization: he has brought with him his peer, the Ban of Novi, and that ban’s army merged under a joint command with his own. Omer Agha, the lad (momak) from Sarajevo, now begs leave of Mustay Bey and the two pashas to commence the single combat. They give him permission, and he rides gallantly to the Bans’ tent, where he challenges both in proper warriors’ form.

    Acting in the capacity of seconds, two men from each side measure off the dueling ground (sixty by twenty-four spears’ lengths), and Ćejvan Agha’s two sons take up positions on the Turkish sideline to keep watch lest the lad from Sarajevo be tricked by his infidel opponent k’o Malata prevari Musića [‘the way Malata (Serdar) tricked Musić,’ a reference to yet another modulation of this narrative]. Following the example set by the sons of Ćejvan Agha, other Muslims and raya also press forward one after another (including all the brothers Babahmetović from Cetina) until they form a veritable wall of three hundred mounted men along the whole length of the sideline on the Muslim army’s side of the dueling field. As he observes these proceedings and surveys his obviously redoubtable foe(wo)man, the Ban of Zadar recognizes Meho Dizdarević’s chestnut horse, but not its rider.

    True to type (because, that is, he has no confidence in his own ability to prevail in combat unless he enjoys some special advantage), the Ban of Zadar asks the Ban of Novi to suggest some tactic by which he may hope to defeat the Turk. His companion instructs him to elect the part of pursuer for his opening gambit (since Turkish duelists always magnanimously allow their opponents to choose an initial posture of offence or defence, whichever is more comfortable for them). If when he attacks he cannot overtake the Turk and deal him a lethal stroke in the sixty spears’ length of the dueling field, he should use his firearms to defend himself as they turn at the end of the field and the Turk gives chase to the Ban.

    Adopting this plan, the Ban of Zadar finds his black horse too slow racing downfield in pursuit of the Dizdar’s chestnut. But when he in turn is to be pursued by his Turkish opponent, he forgets altogether about meeting the Turk’s attack with his firearms, and instead gallops away panic-stricken. Fatima immediately overtakes him. She could easily have beheaded him at this moment, but instead only struck him three times with the flat of her lance, calling on him to surrender. Even more terrified by her repeated tapping, the Ban races headlong off the field into the refuge of his massed troops. They take aim at Fatima, but dare not fire for fear of hitting their master, whom Fatima follows too closely to be a clear target.

    Seeing this turn of events, the Turkish seconds charge en masse across the field from their position on the sideline, and a general battle begins. In the confusion of the fighting, Fatima is unable to locate the two bans or their pavilion. A vila calls to her however, explaining that the Ban of Zadar has fled down the mountainside towards his city with all the best Muslims in hot pursuit of him. So a great horserace develops, with the Ban of Zadar in the lead and Fatima on the Dizdar’s chestnut handicapped as the last of all to leave the ‘gate.’

    Needing to make up for lost time, the Dizdar’s daughter fairly hurtles along the track down the mountain, niti pazi drvlja ni kamenja (v. 2532), “paying no heed to baulk or boulder.” As she races along, she meets an infidel horseman in her path and casually beheads him to clear the way. Certain of her countrymen see this happen, and insist that she go back and claim the severed head, since it is an important trophy: the pagan whom she has killed is the Ban of Novi, a conquest which any other Muslim warrior would value as a crowning achievement of his military career.

    Fata does as she is told, and is thus doubly handicapped in her still ongoing race with the Ban of Zadar. He is accompanied in his flight by a troop of a hundred horseguardsmen, who turn and fight delaying actions with their Muslim pursuers in each of the narrow passes along the track down Mount Velebit. As Fatima presses forward, she passes one group after another of wounded Turks and their raya who have been put out of action in the running fights. Each of these groups urges her to greater speed for fear that if she does not overtake and stop the Ban, he will certainly slay Meho as soon as he comes safely within his own city walls. Prince Miladin, headman of the raya, also points out to her that the many wounds of her countrymen are all her fault: if she had simply slain the Ban on the dueling field when she had him in her power, none of her own people would presently be injured.

    The last three Muslims whom Fatima meets successively in her race after the Ban attest however to the useful effect that the other, wounded ones have had. These last three—Talâ, Ali Vrhovac, and Meho Bosnić—are unhurt, since the Ban’s bodyguard have by now all fallen in the preceding series of combats in the mountain passes. The three remaining male riders’ horses lack the training of the Dizdar’s chestnut however, and so cannot keep up with it in the race to overtake the Ban. Accordingly only the Ban and Fatima remain in the running.

    Alone, but screened from view as he now is by the vegetation and roughness of the terrain, the Ban’s best hope of escape is no longer to outrun but rather to elude his pursuer. He comes to the foot of Mount Velebit, where he faces a choice of various tracks across the remaining barrier of Mount Šunjara. The tactical skill needed in this situation is to proceed so quietly along so obscure a path that no eye nor ear can follow him. But his horse is inexperienced in travel over such difficult ground, and it makes a frightful din.

    Fatima’s chestnut follows so stealthily that the Ban cannot detect its approach as it closes the distance between them. When she comes within range of him, Fatima casts her spear at the Ban butt foremost so that it will not kill him but only knock him out of the saddle. Then she recovers the lance, sits on the supine king’s chest, and commences to beat him with it till he begs her for his life. She tells him that were it a man who had thus pursued and caught him, that man would now surely slay him; fortunately for him, however, it is no man but Fatima Dizdareva who has run him down. She continues to beat him until he agrees to obey her unconditionally.

    Talâ, Ali Vrhovac, and Meho Bosnić come onto the delightful scene of Fatima’s riding the Ban in time to overhear her revelation to him of her true identity. They take charge of her prisoner, and return with her towards the rest of the Muslim force, whom they find still valiantly pressing forward in their direction despite assorted wounds. Word spreads through the Muslim army that “the lad from Sarajevo,” Fatima’s supposed suitor Omer Agha, is really Fatima herself.

    The forward elements of the army finally regroup around Mustay Bey and the two pashas, who pay Fatima a rich dowry’s worth of prize money for the Ban of Novi’s head. She inquires who the vila was that told her where to seek the Ban of Zadar during the confusion at the beginning of the battle. Mustay Bey explains to her that it was no daemon who advised her, but rather Rade Đurđević (Mali Radovan) who reported what he could see from his lookout atop a high fir tree. In gratitude for his help, Fatima donates to Rade the whole sum of the prize money that has just been given to her for the Ban of Novi’s head. As she bestows this gift on Mali Radovan, she says that she will not need it for herself, since the Ban of Zadar will soon make her rich.

    Talâ begs Fatima to give the Ban to Mustay Bey (who traditionally passes all such ‘gifts’ on to Talâ for execution). Fatima replies to this proposal that had she wanted the Ban killed, she could easily have done that herself time and again. On the contrary, she wants the Ban alive as a hostage to be exchanged for her brother. And no sooner has she said so to her own countrymen than she turns to the Ban himself and fixes her ransom price on him. It has four parts: l) the Ban’s return of her brother Meho, mounted on a good horse; 2) the Ban’s sister Rose, also on a good mount; 3) 300 ducats as compensation to Meho for his time in gaol; 4) the twelve other Turkish prisoners out of the Ban’s dungeon, delivered in new clothing of the finest quality and seated on good mounts. When he has agreed to this price, Fatima releases the Ban under oath to render payment in a week’s time.

    Four thousand of the twenty-thousand-man Muslim army have died in the battle, besides numerous other casualties. Ali Agha of Novi and Luke from Korjenički Buk present the Ban of Novi’s white horse, which they have caught, to Fatima as her property by right of conquest; but she gives it back to them. All then return to Udbina, where Fatima goes straight home to her mother.

    Next day, the foremost warriors of the expedition decide that a deposition must be sent to the Sultan in Istanbul describing to him Fatima’s exploit and her surpassing excellence in warcraft. They advise Mustay Bey that they intend to write and send it themselves, since, they assume, he and the two Imperial pashas won’t. But Mustay Bey assures them that he himself wants nothing better, writes a true account of Fatima’s remarkable deeds, and adds to the deposition a special plea of his own for the Sultan to confer privileges and accord good treatment to the raya as reward for their invaluable contribution in quelling the two Bans’ oppressive power.

    When the time comes for the Ban to pay his ransom, Fata dresses in Muslim male disguise once more and goes to Mustay Bey’s hall. Not to be fooled a second time, he recognizes her, and asks her to wait while he makes himself ready. Then with a thousand of the Bey’s guardsmen the two of them go to meet the Ban. He honorably delivers all the stipulated ransom for himself, with an additional thousand ducats as dowry for Rose. As the Turkish company returns contentedly to Udbina, Fatima reminds her brother Meho how in their younger years she used to insist that she was made of even better warrior-mettle than he; now she has proven the truth of her claim. Meho laughingly acknowledges her right to the boast.

    Mustay Bey presides over a weeklong celebration at the Dizdar’s house, at the end of which Rose accepts Islam and is renamed Umija. Mustay Bey then journeys to Istanbul to report to the Sultan personally on the felicitous conclusion of the matters set forth in his written deposition. At court he finds Meho’s and Fatima’s father, Dizdar Hasan Agha, to whom he is able to narrate the entire episode with the comforting assurance that it has all turned out for the best. The Sultan confers a high military rank on Fatima in recognition of her valorous deeds on behalf of the Empire.

    The distinction between endogamic wife and sister is exceedingly tenuous in this epic.

    Some of the captive males who are liberated by militant women in the group of modulations to which this story belongs are like Žunić’s Zajim Ali Bey: they end with two wives, one endogamous and the other exogamous. But others, like Bašić’s Ali Alagić, finally marry endogamously after a second attempt that succeeds better than the first; they nearly realize exogamous marriages too, but for them exogamy ultimately evaporates in the success of a hard-won endogamy. More specifically, their endogamies are not old ones, and hence may probably yield the desired progeny in good time. For them, therefore, exogamy is an unnecessary complication, and is happily avoided at the last moment.

    Perović’s poem no. 6 modulates the underlying pattern yet again: here it is exogamy that finally succeeds after repeated failures, while endogamy, though there is but a single detail to prevent it, is in the end not quite possible. Fatima Dizdareva is Meho’s female coeval and housemate; she refuses to contemplate any of three hundred alternative paths to achieving her own happiness in marriage apart from Meho, even after he has expressly instructed her to marry away from him. Quite to the contrary, she militantly insists upon identifying her own fulfillment with his marriage; and because her father will not help her to liberate Meho, she is forced instead to secure by cunning the assistance of other males in her own age group.

    She is, in short, everything that the militant endogamous wife of the Lady Ali Bey type is in other poems, modulated by only a single detail: she is Meho’s sister, not his wife. Thus, except for the barrier of the incest taboo, Meho Dizdarević enjoys at the end of Perović’s poem no. 6 not only a superb exogamy but an almost perfect endogamic alliance too—an endogamy prevented only by the peculiar fact that were it to occur, it would be too perfectly endogamic to be permissible. But Meho’s exogamy is not an old or sterile one; on the contrary, it is fresh and new, and so it may probably yield the desired progeny in good time. For him consequently endogamy would be an unnecessary complication, and it is happily averted in the end by Fatima’s sisterhood. 

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