Apparatus Fabulosus

What follows is an introduction to the highly specialized, traditional register of language that HB employed in performing the ŽBM. As opposed to a conventional critical apparatus, or apparatus criticus, that glosses a text by reference to other texts, this story-based apparatus, or apparatus fabulosus (hereafter AF), seeks to explain one performance by reference to others and, ultimately, to the tradition that informs them all. Since any instance of South Slavic oral epic (and of parallel performances in other traditions) involves both the individual bard and the shared traditional language that all singers use as the designated vehicle for this well-defined speech-act, it seems imperative to offer at least a brief overview of the structure and idiomatic meaning of that language.(1)

The structural units and patterns – the guslar’s “words” – glossed in the AF below have emerged from my reading and auditing this and many other instances of South Slavic epic over the past 27 years. The analogues have been drawn chiefly from the Moslem subgenre and, within that category, principally from performances by the singers of Stolac whose unpublished repertoires were assigned to me for edition and translation by the late Albert Lord (that is, Bajgorić, Ibro Bašić, Mujo Kukuruzović, and Salko Morić)(2) and from Avdo Medjedović’s magisterial The Wedding of Smailagić Meho (SCHS, 3-4; hereafter SM); to a lesser extent, I have also consulted performances by the guslari from Novi Pazar (SCHS, 1-2) and the Christian songs collected and published by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1841-62). Although these other sources have collectively helped to make me a better audience, that is, increased my fluency in the traditional register, I have chosen to document the “words” identified herein chiefly by reference to those Stolac songs that I have analyzed via computer concordance – HB’s ŽBM (MPC no. 6699) and Halil Hrnjica Rescues Bojičić Alija from the Prison of the Ban of Kotar (MPC no. 6703; see Kay 1995: 232), along with three performances by Mujo Kukuruzović: two versions of The Captivity of Ograšćić Alija (MPC nos. 1287a and 6617; see Kay 1995: 195, 222) and one version of The Captivity of Alagić Alija (MPC no. 1868; see Kay 1995: 197)(3) – as well as Medjedović’s SM. Occasional references to other performances and texts are included when especially useful. As a policy, my intention is certainly not to provide an exhaustive list of structural correspondences but simply to isolate and gloss some of the traditional tectonic bytes in HB’s performance of the ŽBM.

Correspondingly, I have derived the idiomatic meaning of these singers’ “words” by consulting the same sources. Compilation of such a “traditional lexicography” has involved collating multiple instances of the units and patterns, both from the ŽBM and from other performances, with a focus on recurrent webs of meaning. By comparing multiple instances, it becomes possible to look beyond literal, dictionary-derived signification and to ask what, if any, additional connotation a given unit or pattern may carry. Thus, for instance, at line 19 the verse-long phrase “The young man jumped to his light feet” conveys far more than a sudden physical action; it portrays the present situation – whatever its specifics may be – as inherently threatening and forecasts the generic, predictable response of heroic action. In short, this simple-seeming phrase projects an idiomatic frame of reference that helps the reader or auditor more thoroughly understand the particular scene at hand by embedding its momentary, idiosyncratic details in a recurrent traditional context. Nothing in conventional dictionaries will adumbrate this level of traditional meaning, since all available lexical resources house and gloss increments of the everyday language, and these single words are but fragments – “syllables,” as it were – that combine to constitute singers’ “words”.(4) For traditional lexicography, we need a resource that both tracks the true increments and faithfully reports their more-than-literal meanings.

Naturally, the broader and deeper the referent, the greater the semantic yield and the clearer the lexical picture. Theoretically, more and more experience with a larger and larger array of related performances will improve any reader’s or auditor’s fluency in the register, up to a point.(5) As with structure, however, there is no attempt made here to furnish an exhaustive analysis of the ŽBM’s traditional idiom; my aim is simply to gloss some of the more important units and patterns, to underline the importance of reading and listening within the applicable register, and to suggest the AF as a new kind of linguistic resource that may serve as a useful companion for “reading oral poetry”.(6) I hope that future studies will expand on these beginnings.

The following table presents the data in an economical format, with line references in boldface, the phrase or pattern-name in italics, a record of occurrence(s) where appropriate, and a thumbnail sketch of the idiomatic connotations accompanying each “word”. The Commentary elsewhere in this eEdition provides further analysis of many of the “words” listed below.


  1. Of course, the shared traditional register is hardly a monolith; like any language, it ramifies into geographical dialects and individual singers’ idiolects (see further Foley 1990: 171-200, 288-328). Becoming aware of how a particular guslar deploys the collective register is an effective curative for concentrating too exclusively on either the poet (simplistically construed as a unique artist who “overcomes” the burden of his medium) or the tradition (reductively understood as a ready-made whole that leaves the poet merely a transmitter). In fact, South Slavic oral epic requires both contributions. Aphoristically put, “Without a tradition there is no language; without a speaker there is only silence” (Foley 2002: 185).
  2. This volume and eCompanion represent a first step in fulfilling that assignment; also underway is a collective edition and translation of performances by all four Stolac guslari, to be published as a volume in the SCHS series. These same songs have provided much of the basis for the studies of South Slavic oral epic in Foley 1990, 1991, 1995a, 1999a, and 2002.
  3. For further structural analysis of these and other Stolac performances, see Foley 1990: 85-106, 158-200, 278-328, and 359-87.
  4. For more on this notion of “word,” which derives from the South Slavic singers’ own concept of a reč u pjesmi (“word in a song”), see espec. Foley 2002: 11-21 and 1999a: 66-88.
  5. Naturally, the outside investigator cannot ever approach the fluency of the original audience member, never mind of the guslar. But some improvement in understanding the register on its own terms is far superior to continuing to default to irrelevant linguistic criteria that are often at odds with the logic of the traditional language. For further studies of the idiomatic meaning of traditional structures in the Stolac songs, see Foley 1991: 61-95, 1999a: 89-111.
  6. See further How to Read an Oral Poem (Foley 2002), especially the homemade proverb advising that “The best companion for reading oral poetry is an unpublished dictionary” (134-36).

1ff. Wedding Song story-pattern. The ŽBM follows a pattern known as the Wedding Song, a distinct subgenre of South Slavic oral epic with its own ordered and expectable cast of (generic) characters and series of events. The mere fact of Djerdelez Alija’s seeking out Mustajbey may serve as a cue that this set of actions is in progress, but with Mustajbey’s complaint about his son’s fiancée at lines 252-77 the story-pattern map begins unambiguously to unfold itself. See further the gloss to lines 252-77 on The fiancée problem.
1-2. Line-initial expletives such as Oj! and Ej! are common signals that mark the onset of performance in South Slavic oral epic, and, more rarely, important narrative junctures within performances. They function rhetorically as attention-getting devices and idiomatically as announcements of significant beginnings, whether of the song as a whole or an important section within the song. See further the Commentary.
1. Arose early. The ubiquitous formula “Rano rani [character X],” or “[character X] arose early,” has only nominally to do with the named person’s actual awakening at a given hour. Like the Line-initial expletives (lines 1-2, with gloss) and the Dawn marker, its idiomatic role is to start up a tale or a prominent section within a tale. See further Getting up early (549-50, with gloss) and Dawn marker (lines 4-7, 580, and 745, with glosses).
4-7. Dawn marker. The announcement of a new day, another initiatory signal (see further the Commentary), can take numerous forms in the South Slavic oral epic tradition, some of them brief and others, like this one, more elaborately configured. On available evidence, the verse describing the morning star’s face (line 7) is idiolectal within the Stolac dialect; I have found no recurrence outside HB’s repertoire. See further lines 580 and 745 (with glosses), and compare Homer’s famous “rosy-fingered dawn” line, which likewise serves not just as a recurrent portrait of daybreak but also as a rhetorical introduction of a new narrative segment.
8-15. Coffee capsule. Among the many measures of a hero’s surpassing strength and ability, one of the more charming is HB’s description of his (here Djerdelez Alija’s) capacity for coffee-drinking, again an apparently idiolectal “word.” Note that the same signal recurs in abbreviated form at lines 222-24 (with gloss), where Mustajbey of the Lika pours the recently arrived Djerdelez Alija a total of four (rather than eight) cups before the ćejif (“spark”) seizes him. As always, the indexical prevails over the literal: it is not the absolute number of cups that matters, but rather the idiomatic disparity between the hero’s tolerance and that typical of lesser figures. This “word” essentially means “hero.”
16. Proverb. HB and other guslari occasionally use proverbs and proverbial expressions to round off a narrative “word” before the start of the next action or section. Given that the idiomatic force of “words” in the traditional register is itself proverbial, this is an expectable strategy. Here the proverb, its expatiation (lines 17-18), and another resonant “word” (line 19, with gloss) mediate between the Coffee capsule and Alija’s Readying the Hero’s Horse (lines 21-49, with gloss), both of them traditional units. At line 100 the same proverb serves as a boundary between the typical scene of Arming the Hero (lines 53-99, with gloss) and Alija’s closing doors before departing, again both of them traditional patterns (the latter much less structured than the former). On the use of proverbs and proverbial expressions in South Slavic oral epic, see Foley 1994.
19. "The young man jumped to his light feet." This phrase idiomatically marks “an honorable response to an unexpected or threatening turn of events that demands the principal’s immediate attention” (Foley 1991: 85). Here it keys Djerdelez Alija’s preparations of his horse and himself for the journey to Mustajbey and eventual fight for Bećirbey’s kidnapped fiancée. Interestingly, this idiomatic marker announces Alija’s subsequent actions as a heroic response to a threatening situation long before any reason for his journey is specified. Motivation is cued not by the immediate narrative logic but by traditional implication. See further the other instances of this “word” at lines 413, 484, and 603, with glosses, below, as well as the note to line 484 in the Commentary.
20. Position change. One of many possible realizations that need include only the protagonist (who may be the same or a new character) and some notation of a geographical shift (whether locally, as within a building, or from one place to another), this verse-type provides HB and other guslari with an idiomatic transition device. By invoking its proverbial connotation as a transition device, singers knit together the additive, paratactic segments of narrative, imposing a traditional unity on the various “pieces” without resorting to a (textual and hypotactic) strategy such as “After [X] finished with this, he/she shifted position and began that.” See further the glosses to lines 50, 214, 287, 759, and 999. For addtional examples of the Position change, see Foley 1990: 295-96.
21-49. Readying the Hero’s Horse. One of the most frequently recurrent of typical scenes in South Slavic epic, this multiform “word” describes a hero’s preparation of his mount for an imminent adventure. Individual realizations may be terse or extended, often beginning with the hero running to the stable and grooming the horse before proceeding to what may prove an elaborate description of each stage, from throwing on the saddleblanket to releasing the animal to prance around the courtyard. In harmony with other traditional signals (see the glosses to lines 8-15 and 20, e.g.), this pattern forecasts heroic action on the horizon for Djerdelez Alija – although once again we do not yet know the exact nature of that action. For more discussion of this typical scene and its indexical force (including an ironic instance of reversal associated with a hero’s demise), see Foley 1991: 124-33.
40-42. Horse’s riderless prancing. HB uses this same brief capsule at 6703: 262-64, where it is applied to the maiden Zlata’s steed, which she dismounts and lets prance about near the tavern while she enters in order to seek out the hero Mujo. On the basis of these two instances it becomes clear that the three-line “word” functions as a freestanding item in HB’s idiolect; that is, it can be attached to the Readying the Hero’s Horse or not. In either case it essentially carries the collective force of an adjective, identifying the animal in question as remarkable enough not to need direction. This quality of independence and special talents is ascribed to horses throughout the tradition, who serve as close companions and even guides for their masters. The case of Kraljević Marko and his mount Šarac is especially instructive in this regard (in addition to Foley 1991: 130-33, see further Foley 1995: 36, n. 14; 1999a: 300, n. 32; and, more generally, Lord 1991: 222-24).
44-49. Simile. Full-blown similes like this one are rare in South Slavic epic, but similes of all lengths regularly provide a link between the otherwise disparate worlds of nature and heroic, particularly martial, achievement. In that respect they operate like the similes one finds in Homeric epic, especially the Iliad. This is certainly the case here, as the “word” describing a careless young shepherdess intensifies the image of Djerdelez Alija’s horse as the proud, vibrant, and independent creature he is. Cp. line 917 below, with gloss, as well as the shorter similes in SM, approximately lines 2115-49 (English trans. at SCHS 3: 108; original-language lines omitted from SCHS 4).
50. Position change. Like line 20 (cf. also 214, 287, 759, and 999, with glosses), this verse idiomatically mediates between two adjacent narrative segments: in this case, between the Simile that rounds off the typical scene of Readying the Hero’s Horse and the typical scene of Arming the Hero that follows. As elsewhere, its traditional implications as a scene-switching device are much more important than its literal sense.
51-99. Arming the Hero. This typical scene recurs throughout the South Slavic oral epic tradition with high frequency and takes myriad different forms, depending not only on the singer’s dialect and idiolect but also on the variables of the given character’s gender and ethnicity and the particular strain of epic (Moslem or Christian), not to mention the vagaries of individual performance situations. The description may be relatively short or, as here, quite expansive, but whatever its length and complexity it idiomatically conveys impending heroic action. It is thus regularly found in proximity to many other similarly connotative signals, such as those at lines 19 and 21-49 above. Additionally, this traditional “word” bears another distinct idiomatic implication (Foley 1999a: 96): “the hero so carefully dressed and armed departs on a journey, and a specific kind of journey: he will ride his horse not into immediate combat but to a distant, foreign locale where he will eventually embark on a dangerous mission. Furthermore, as part of the mission he will always have to deal with a duplicitous character with divided loyalties.” We can see how this conventional pattern plays out in HB’s performance; Djerdelez Alija will soon embark on just such a journey, leading eventually but not immediately to combat, and in the process he will have to deal with Mustajbey of the Lika, a Turkish champion famous for his deception and outright treason (the tradition formulaically ascribes the Lika, or liminal, borderland territory, to Mustajbey, and in some songs portrays him as a commander who heartlessly locks one of his heroes outside the safety of the city, effectively relinquishing the abandoned comrade-in-arms to the enemy; see further Foley 1987: 496-98). For examples and discussion of Arming the Hero based on instances from diverse sources, see Foley 1999a: 94-98 and Lord 1960: 86-89. For studies of the corresponding typical scene in other epic traditions, see Edwards 1992: section 2.4 (ancient Greek) and Olsen 1986: 577-88 (Old English).
100. Proverb. See the gloss to line 16 above.
106. Two spirited greyhounds/wolves. Here and at lines 114, 203, and 207 HB employs the formulaic “word” dva hrta zelena (“two spirited greyhounds”) as a kind of adjectival addition to the characterization of Djerdelez Alija. The traditional idea conveyed by this commonplace echoes the special relationship between the horse and hero (see further the glosses to lines 40-42 and 127-38): Alija (or whatever hero is identified via this idiom) enjoys the loyalty of other high-strung animals very difficult to tame, just as he has made his steed a close, even irreplaceable companion. Lines 203-13 as a whole begin to flesh out some of these traditional implications, as the greyhounds demonstrate their remarkable training by taking the horse’s reins in their teeth and leading it here and there about the courtyard. The variant formula at line 169, dva zelena vuka (“two spirited wolves”), both illustrates the morphology of this “word” (for a comparative structural profile of these phrases, see further the Commentary, note to line 106) and reveals another side of the “tamed wildness” trope that underlies this traditional idea.
114. Two spirited greyhounds/wolves. See the gloss to line 106.
126. “He weighed all the options and made up his mind.” This whole-line “word” occurs elsewhere in HB’s repertoire (6703.506) as well as in a song-performance by his Stolac colleague, Mujo Kukuruzović (line 365 of The Captivity of Ograšćić Alija, MPC no. 1287a). The formulaic verse thus shows itself to be dialectal in the Stolac region (rather than exclusive to any single guslar), and versions of it are found widely in the South Slavic oral epic tradition. In the three Stolac instances, the “word” keys a recognizable, recurrent situation: a hero is momentarily puzzled by the challenge that confronts him, then resolves the quandary by undertaking a journey that leads to success. Within this generic frame of reference, however, the contents vary widely. Here at line 126 of the ŽBM it is Djerdelez Alija who, confronted with the seemingly impassable river Drina, relinquishes control of the situation to his horse, asking the animal to carry him safely across the swollen, rapidly moving river; as the formula idiomatically warrants, his horse successfully accomplishes the task. In HB’s 6703, Mujagin Halil is temporarily stymied in his quest to free Bojičić Alija, but then he “weighs all the options and makes up his mind,” spurs his horse down the mountain, and encounters a shepherd (actually the highwayman Malenica) who for one hundred dukats provides him a way to enter the enemy city of Kotar incognito. Finally, in Kukuruzović’s 1287a, the hero Ograšćić Alija finds himself at a loss as to how to avoid shame; after “weighing the options and making up his mind,” he heads for the ban in his tent to set things right. Cf. the Homeric signal of “quandary” (Foley 1999a: 247, 251, 258), involving traditional phraseology of a similar function that centers around the ancient Greek verbs hormainô or mermêrizdô.
127-38. Horse as heroic companion. The hero’s steed as a close companion in his master’s adventures is a traditional commonplace in the epic tradition. See further the gloss to lines 40-42 above.
150. ličkog Mustajbega. This is the first of 31 instances of noun-epithet formulas for Mustajbey. For a full tabulation of the morphology and occurrence of the various “words” identifying this major character, see the Commentary, note to line 804. On the nature of Mustajbey as a duplicitous character, see the gloss to lines 51-99 above.
151-56. Bey with entourage. This flexible capsule, involving Mustajbey, his standardbearers, and his musicians, recurs at lines 194-97. Within HB’s idiolect, this small description seems to have coalesced into a single “word” that serves as an idiomatic portrait of the bey and his followers. At the same time that these two instances well illustrate the structural pliability of compositional units in South Slavic oral epic, they also show how the guslar can key a familiar scene with an inherently variable (inflectable), connotative “word.” Here are the two instances in question:

Beg Mustajbeg bješe na čardaku,
Mustajbey was on his enclosed porch,
Šejir polje čini ji livode.
He gazed out over the plain and the meadows.
vOko bega sedam bajraktara.
Around the bey were seven standardbearers.
Davulhana na sedmero tuče,
Drummers were beating in sevens,
vA vud’ruju zile ji borije --
And others clashed cymbals and blew horns --
vA sviraju kako mu veziro.
And they played as if for the vizier.
“Eno bega gori na čardaku.
“Now there’s the bey up on his enclosed porch.
vOko bega sedam bajraktara;
Around the bey are seven standardbearers;
Davulhana kako mu vezira,
Drummers are playing as if for the vizier,
Davulhana na sedmero mlati.”
Drummers are beating in sevens.”

164. Tsar’s medals. Heroes described (formulaically) as wearing the tsar’s medals are invested with special heroic stature that results from their past achievements. The precise nature of those past achievements may vary from one individual to the next, but the general thrust of their contribution is to have won territory for the tsar, as noted explicitly at lines 248-51. In the ŽBM the distinction of having won medals is mentioned twice for Djerdelez Alija –

164: Na prsima carevi nikšani
On his chest the tsar’s medals
248: Vid’ u tebe carskije nikšana –
Look at the tsar’s medals on you –

and once for Osmanbey –

648: vA na njemu carski nikšanovi
And on him were the tsar’s medals.

Taken together, these instances illustrate the traditional structural morphology of this line-long “word” (Foley 1999a: 204ff.), which shows typical “right justification,” remaining more stable in the latter part of the line and “inflecting” in the earlier section of the verse (cf. further Foley 1990: 94-106).
169. Two spirited greyhounds/wolves. See the gloss to line 106.
173. [X] began to shout. HB uses this formulaic “word” on 36 different occasions to introduce speeches by Mustajbey, Djerdelez Alija, the servant Djulić, Tale of Orašac, Osmanbey, Mujo, the Kanidža champion, Baturić ban, the blind beggar (Baturić ban in disguise), and Vide the standardbearer, some of whom are identified by more than one noun-epithet phrase. The illocutionary force of the “word” is simple enough: it marks the onset of direct discourse. As part of that function, the line as a larger, composite unit suppresses the microstructural, out-of-register meaning of zavika (“began to shout”) in favor of the macrostructural, lexicalized meaning of the entire “word” as a speech-introducer. Thus, although I translate consistently as “began to shout,” the individuals involved in the action are often not yelling or raising their voices; the intra-register, whole-line sense supersedes the dictionary meaning of any of its constituents. This is a crucially important feature of traditional phraseology in South Slavic oral epic (and elsewhere in oral poetry as well), which relies on larger “words” and their idiomatic values for its focused expressivity. For the other instances of the [X] began to shout within this performance, see 188, 206, 208, 244, 252, 278, 294, 407, 431, 437, 477, 490, 581, 586, 594, 601, 649, 652, 658, 670, 679, 689, 694, 698, 702, 735, 801, 804, 811, 822, 849, 928, 932, 951, and 972. Cf. lines 467 and 766, where the verb bears its nonformulaic, out-of-register, microstructural force; also the 3rd plural aorist form (zavikaše at lines 480 and 872), which occurs within a different formulaic phrase and also carries its literal rather than any idiomatic meaning.
186-87. Giving and receiving a selam. The bestowal and receipt of a selam amounts to a ritualized form of greeting still prevalent today in various parts of the Middle East. HB and his tradition use a group of formulaic “words” to convey these actions. One of these experiences idiomatically marks the entrance of a character into a new situation and a subsequent meeting between him/her and other principal characters; the agenda for that conversation regularly begins with questions about identity:

Kako pade turski selam dade,
As he came down he gave a Turkish selam,
A beg njemu selam prifatijo.
And the bey received his selam. (186-87)
[Djerdelez Alija enters the courtyard, asks whether this is Mustajbey’s tower.]

Kak’ upade vaga’ selam dade.
As he came in he gave the agas a selam. (216)
[Djerdelez Alija enters Mustajbey’s room; they ask about his identity.]

Kak’ upade pa jim selam dade,
As he came in he gave them a selam,
vA beže mu selam prifatijo.
And the bey received his selam. (289-90)
[Mehmedagha enters Mustajbey’s room, asks about Djerdelez Alija’s identity.]

Compare the giving of a selam as a ritualized speech introduction (307 [with gloss], 316, and 331), which amounts structurally and idiomatically to a different “word” in the singer’s epic vocabulary. Of the two remaining instances of selam (433, 567), the former seems to bear the literal, microstructural denotation, while the latter appears to serve as a speech introduction without participating in the larger phrase described here.

188. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
194-97. Bey with entourage. See the gloss to lines 151-56 above.
203. Two spirited greyhounds/wolves. See the gloss to line 106 above.
206. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
207. Two spirited greyhounds/wolves. See the gloss to line 106 above.
208. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
214. Position change. Like line 20 (cf. also 50, 287, 759, and 999, with glosses), this verse idiomatically mediates between two adjacent narrative segments: in this case, between Djerdelez Alija’s arrival and dismounting near Mustajbey’s residence and his appearance in the bey’s room up in the tower. As elsewhere, its traditional implications as a scene-switching device are much more important than its literal sense.
216. Giving and receiving a selam. See further the gloss to lines 186-87 above.
222-24. Coffee capsule. In comparison to the earlier occurrence at lines 8-15 (see gloss), this is a short and relatively uncomplicated instance of this traditional “word.” Nonetheless, it remains a recognizable unit in the epic register. In fact, longer and shorter versions of any traditional “word,” which collectively demonstrate the morphology of the unit in question, can act as roughly equivalent signals. See further the example of the “negative comparison” in Foley 1991: 75-83.
225-43. Identity of a stranger. Although it does not recur within the ŽBM, this kind of exchange between a host and a guest/stranger is quite common in the South Slavic epic tradition. Requests for identification are customarily fulfilled directly and with reference to one’s family lineage. Once the pattern starts up, a map for the exchange is engaged by convention; to put it another way, the pattern creates a frame of reference, slotting what follows in a familiar because recurrent context. Cf. the similar practice involving the xeinos (both “guest” and “stranger”) throughout the ancient Greek Odyssey (see Reece 1993: espec. 25-28).
244. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
248-51. Tsar’s medals. See the gloss to line 164 above.
252-77. The fiancée problem. Here Mustajbey of the Lika tells the recently arrived hero, Djerdelez Alija, that Zlata, the young woman promised to Mustajbey’s son Bećirbey, is in danger of being stolen away by the Christian enemy Baturić ban, who has already slaughtered the wedding party and forced Zlata to flee to Kanidža. Much more than a plot element specific to the ŽBM, this situation presents a highly conventional and indeed defining problem in the Wedding Song subgenre of South Slavic epic as a whole. Although the individual characters may change, the generic types and generic events vary only within limits. The broad implications of the story-pattern include, for example, a young man eager to prove himself, a comrade-in-arms who assists him, a young woman eligible for marriage but sought and captured by an enemy, a wedding party invited and assembled by the young man’s father that modulates into an armed force to battle for the return of the young woman, and eventually a triumph in battle that ends with an explicit or implied wedding. This large “word” thus lays out a map for the song’s action from start to finish, establishing the expectable sequence of actions via idiomatic referral. For the finest, most elaborate Wedding Song collected from this tradition, see Avdo Medjedović’s SM. For structural analysis of this epic subgenre, see Bynum 1964, 1968.
252. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
278. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
287. Position change. Like line 20 (cf. also 50, 214, 759, and 999, with glosses), this verse idiomatically mediates between two adjacent narrative segments: in this case, between the arrival and dismounting of Mehmedagha, Mustajbey’s brother, and his appearance in the bey’s tower. As elsewhere, its traditional implications as a sceneswitching device are much more important than its literal sense.
289-90. Giving and receiving a selam. See the gloss to lines 186-87 above.
294. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
304-70. Catalogue I: Invitations to wedding/summons to battle. Catalogues such as this one are stock elements in South Slavic oral epic, especially in Moslem songs (which by virtue of their length more often feature such extensive muster-lists than do the shorter Christian songs) and, within that group, in the Wedding Song subgenre (see the glosses to lines 1ff. and 252-77 above). The sequence consists of two parts: (1) the writing of the letters, each according to a pattern that varies to accommodate the individuality of the addressee, and (2) the arrival of the invited heroes, together with their forces, again according to a pattern that allows for variation within limits. Avdo Medjedović’s SM provides an excellent example of lengthy catalogues in a Wedding Song (SCHS 3: 167-74 [invitations], 182-201 [arrivals];SCHS 4: lines 6481-7108 [invitations], 7691-9309 [arrivals]; note the discrepancy of six lines in the two volumes’ typesetting over the position of the final catalogue boundary); all together, Medjedović’s catalogues comprise more than 2200 lines, or approximately one-sixth of the entire performance. It is important to note that the list of those who actually arrive seldom corresponds precisely – that is, textually – to the list of those who were summoned; idiomatically, it is the traditional implications of this two-part “word” that matter.

The invitation letters in HB’s ŽBM are contained within a ring-structure or envelope, itself a common compositional strategy in this and other oral epic traditions, that marks the beginning and end of this initial catalogue. Matched to his observation that “[Mustajbey] wrote letters to the four compass-points” (“Knjige piše na četiri strane,” 305) is the corresponding terminal notation that the bey “Sent them off to the four compass-points” (“Rasturijo na četiri strane,” 370). Between these traditional bookends the letters unfold as pattern-based increments that consist of a notation that the bey wrote a letter (whether the first, second, or whatever), a line of speech introduction (which shows that the singer and his tradition conceive of these epistles as long-distance, face-to face communications), the individualized message and request for armed assistance, and a transition verse to the next letter (such as “He prepared that one, immediately wrote another” [“vOnu spremi, modma’ drugu piše,” 314]). Here is the list of invitees:

  • 304-5. Introduction to letter-writing
  • 306-13. Letter # 1: Pasha of Budim
  • 314-26. Letter # 2: Osmanbey
  • 327-36. Letter # 3: Bišćević Alija
  • 337-43. Letter # 4: Captain Mujo
  • 344-57. Letter # 5: King of Pokrajlo
  • 358. [False ending?]
  • 359-68. Letter # 6: Topalović Huso
  • 369-70. Closure to letter-writing (ring-composition with 305)

It appears from line 358 that HB made an in-performance adjustment, adding a sixth letter to Topalović Huso before actually sending all of the letters off. See further Catalogue II (arrivals) at lines 390-401, with gloss, a passage that describes the appearance of (most of) those summoned. On catalogues in South Slavic and central Asian oral epic, see Lord 1991: 221-22; cf. also the Catalogue of Ships and Men in Book 2 of Homer’s Iliad.

307. “And in this way he gave him a selam.” Unlike the phrase that keys the entry of a new character, a subsequent meeting, and a conversation that begins with questions about identity (see the gloss to lines 186-87 above), this “word” amounts to a ritualized speech introduction (within a “voiced” letter; see further the gloss to lines 304-70). Like the “[X] began to shout” pattern (see the gloss to line 173 above), it thus subordinates the literal meaning of the component words to the idiomatic sense of the composite “word” – namely, to introduce an immediately following speech. Deflection from literal to traditional meaning takes many forms in South Slavic oral epic tradition, as indeed in oral poetries worldwide, including the muting of characteristic semantic distinctions in favor of the functionality of larger speech-increments. See the additional examples of this idiomatic phrase at lines 316 and 331.
316. “And in this way he gave him a selam.” See the gloss to line 307 above.
331. “And in this way he gave him a selam.” See the gloss to line 307 above.
371-79, 380-89. Cannon signals. These two passages offer an example of a loosely configured traditional unit with considerable flexibility. It amounts to a “word” that can be quite differently inflected from one instance to another. Only three lines actually recur formulaically (374/381, 376/382, 377/383), but the general structure is clear: the servant runs to the hearth, fetches a brand, and ignites the cannon; the resulting signal echoes from town to town, summoning the bey’s allies. This is a familiar sequence of events in the South Slavic epic tradition at large.
380. Pivot line. “nU Djulića pogovora nema” (“From Djulić there came no objection”). Between the two instances of Cannon signals HB interposes this line, which also occurs in the repertoire of Mujo Kukuruzović, another guslar from the Stolac region. It thus has (at least) dialectal status in the traditional epic register. As a freestanding idiom this “word” can mediate between any order and the fulfillment of that order, in each case imposing an idiomatic frame of reference: a person in charge issues a command to a subordinate (defined as such politically or familially) with the expectation that it will be carried out without qualification even though it may entail danger for the subordinate. This “word” then ensures the fulfillment of the order – whatever it may be and whoever may be involved in its issuance and implementation – and points toward a narrative shift of some sort. In actual practice the Pivot line may itself serve as evidence that the task was accomplished (without that fact being stipulated subsequently) or it may lead, as in the present performance, to an iteration of the command and point-by-point narration of the action being fulfilled. Here are six additional instances from Kukuruzović’s performances followed by the line in question from the ŽBM, with the principal characters and specific command noted for each occurrence:

  Person in Charge Subordinate Action
1287a.283 Hadžibey Drinić Osmanbey Dismount his horse
1287a.1024 Bey of Ribnik Huso (servant) Deliver a letter
1868.339 Alagić Alija Fata (his sister) Don wedding attire
1868.413 Alagić Alija Fata (his sister) Prepare his horse
1868.1580 Bey of Ribnik Djulić (servant) Fetch Tale of Orašac
6617.330 Ograšćić Alija Drinić Osmanbey Dismount his horse
ŽBM.380 Mustajbey Djulić (servant) Fire the signal cannon

The lines in question are as follows:

1287a.283 U dajidže* pogovora nema From the hero there came no objection
1287a.1024 U mladjega pogovora nema From the young man there came no objection
1868.339 U djevojke pogovora nema From the maiden there came no objection
1868.413 U djevojke pogovora nema From the maiden there came no objection
1868.1580 U Djulića pogovora nema From Djulić there came no objection
6617.330 U dajidže pogovora nema From the hero there came no objection
ŽBM.380 nU Djulića pogovora nema From Djulić there came no objection

*Note that da(j)idža comes from Turkish dayı, meaning both “uncle, mother’s brother” and, more generally, “war-champion, hero” (Š). It is the latter sense that seems more appropriate in lines 1287a.283 and 6617.330.

390-401. Catalogue II: Arrival of guest-allies for wedding/battle. This capsule conventionally completes the two-part sequence begun at lines 304-70 (see further the gloss to those lines) by enumerating the arrivals of the invited heroes. According to a traditional muster-list format, HB names the arrived hero via a two-verse formulaic pattern (“Then here was [X]”) followed by specification of the number of men that hero is leading to the wedding/battle. The roster corresponds closely but not exactly to the prior list of invitees:

Arrivals Invitees
390: Introduction line 304-5
391-93: Pasha of Budim 306-13
394-95: Osmanbey 314-26
396-97: Bišćević Alija 327-36
398-99: Captain Mujo 337-43
400-01: Topalović Huso 359-68

The disparity between the two lists lies in the “omission” of the King of Pokrajlo (invited at 344-57) from the arrivals, just the kind of difference characteristically found in such situations. Compare, for example, the parallel questions and answers in the so-called “negative comparison” structure in Moslem epic (cf. Foley 1991: 75-83). Given the audience’s familiarity with the structure and content of such paradigms, a great deal is implied in their usage; in fact, under the rules for composition and reception in such situations, we may ask whether “omission” – which describes a singular and textual rather than a multiform and traditional phenomenon – isn’t the wrong term to apply.

402-78. Tale of Orašac. Because Tale is such an unusual hero, a superficially unpromising and even motley-looking figure who nonetheless proves the linchpin in all such wedding-battle undertakings, I accord him a special place. Strictly speaking, we can see his invitation and arrival as part of the catalogues, but a separate treatment seems truer to his ubiquitous and heavily coded character (see further Foley 1995: espec. 32- 41).
  • 402-12. Tale still missing. This is a conventional trope, mirrored for example at SM 9032-33, where Mustajbeg remarks that “the best of our comrades is not yet here, / even Tale Ličanin of Orašac.” Earlier, at SM 7149-51, Hasan Pasha Tiro, who dictates all of the letters, summarizes his actions as follows: “I have invited all I knew, / but I have not invited him who is the best of all, / Lički Tale of Orašac.”
  • 412. “Our journey there is impossible without him.” This is a common formula throughout the epic tradition that speaks idiomatically to the necessity for Tale to participate in the journey that in the Wedding Song pattern will culminate in a great battle and successful recapture of the host’s bride. In SM Mustajbey responds to the pashas’ wonderment over the unlikely-looking Tale with this multi-line testimony to the crucial nature of his contribution (9180-94): “O pashas, do you see Tale? / In battle up and down the empire, / along the imperial border and in Hungary, / where there are most strongholds, / where platforms have been excavated in the trenches / and great cannon placed upon the platforms, / there it falls to the lot of none to attack / the cannon and the breastworks / but to Tale alone and his three hundred men of Orašac. He cuts off heads and reads the prayers over them, / and he seizes strongholds from the Germans. / If today, as seems likely, / the vizier attacks us / and there is a battle beneath Buda, / you will see what Tale is like.” In effect, line 412 stands metonymically for this unique brand of bravery and accomplishment.
  • 414-43. Tale invited. The guslar Medjedović develops this part of the conventional summons at considerable length, with Smailaga carefully coaching the reluctant messenger Husein on how to enlist Tale’s cooperation without losing his head (cf. the gloss to line 413 below) and Husein putting that plan into action. It is hardly unusual that the conventionally irascible, self-centered Tale can be won over only by means of a cash bribe; this idiomatic facet of his character emerges in HB’s ŽBM in his happy confiscation of the alms extorted by the disguised Baturić ban (see lines 683-722 below).
  • 449-78. Tale’s arrival. Always (because idiomatically) inauspicious, Tale arrives astride a pathetic-looking mount – in contrast to the other heroes’ handsome and well-caparisoned steeds – and immediately insults his host and commander. This kind of heterodox behavior identifies him as the singular, trickster-like figure that he is, and brings to mind the rest of his implicit characterization: he is often accompanied by a standard-bearer who carries his standard upside-down and sits backwards on his horse and an Islamic cleric who drinks strong liquor and holds the Qu’ran in his left hand, while his Orašac household includes an old harridan of a mother and a mad sister who runs naked. For a lengthier (explicit) description of his ragged entrance, see SM 9088- 9153.
407. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
413. “Djulić jumped to his light feet.” A variant of the “word” that takes the form of “The young man jumped to his light feet” at line 19 (cf. 484 and 603, with glosses), this line identifies a heroic response to another kind of threatening situation. Here Mustajbey has ordered Djulić Nuhan on a very dangerous mission indeed: to fetch the unlikely-looking but crucially important trickster-hero Tale of Orašac to join their wedding party and armed force. Of course, Tale is notoriously choleric and unpredictable, and the messenger runs the risk of losing his life on the errand. Once again, a simple phrase keys a ready context of implication and enriches the narrative process. See also the notes to lines 406 and 412 in the Commentary.
431. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
437. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
477. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
484. “And the heroes jumped to their feet.” A variant of the “word” that takes the form of “The young man jumped to his light feet” at line 19 (cf. 413 and 603, with glosses), this line identifies a heroic response to another kind of threat; cf. the gloss to line 19. In this instance it characterizes the present situation and future actions of the wedding party/army about to set out on a journey that will eventually result in a great battle against Baturić ban and his force and Djerdelez Alija’s rescue of the kidnapped Zlata, Bećirbey’s fiancée. After Tale’s ironic, impatient call to get started (468-76) and Mustajbey’s terse affirmation (478), the officers shout instructions to their men (481-83); this resonant “word” then announces the troop’s idiomatic readiness for heroic action. As a result the standard-bearers take up their burdens, the bey’s appointed tabulator starts his official count of the army (490-511, itself a recurrent pattern; see the gloss below), and the march toward battle is launched. Once again traditional implications frame a unique scene, providing a map for fluent reception.
490-511. Tabulating the army. This typical scene is one of the more flexible narrative patterns in South Slavic oral epic tradition, varying broadly to meet the demands of the given song or song-type as well as the idiolectal or dialectal habits of the guslar. Its illocutionary force seems straightforward: an emphasis or underscoring of the tremendous force assembled by a leader, here fully 25,000 men under the command of Mustajbey who will modulate from wedding party to army when he seeks to recapture his son’s fiancée Zlata. At the same time, the occurrence of this “word,” especially in its most frequent position just after the Arrivals catalogue in a Wedding Song, slots the ŽBM story – in all of its specificity – within a recurrent, traditional frame of reference. This dynamic and radical contextualization at every level of the performance produces enormous connotative resonance for a fluent audience or reader.
490. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
502. Boundary line. This line-type, which conventionally follows the pattern of A da vidiš [name of character], or “But you should have seen [name of character],” serves the idiomatic function of introducing a new action and the person who is to undertake that action. It thus acts as a natural transition and interface between two scenes or parts of scenes, whatever the particular narrative context, bridging the separateness of two paratactically related moments via a recurrent, traditional strategy. See also lines 606 and 730, with glosses. For more examples of Boundary lines, see Foley 1990: 286-87, 295-96.
503. “Who knew all the seven languages.” Although which seven languages are meant is never specified in any performance of which I am aware, this byte of phraseology regularly serves to identify either a highly skilled practitioner of the arts of literacy (such as a letter-writing scribe or, as here, a tabulator) or a translator who can mediate between parties. Once again it is the whole-line “word” that bears a composite, idiomatic meaning; the actual number and specific languages involved are concerns that lie below the macrostructural level of the “word” and its traditional semantics, and are thus impertinent.
549-50. Getting up early. As with Arose early (gloss to line 1) and Dawn marker (glosses to lines 4-7, 580, and 745), this two-verse notation of Getting up early is only nominally a description of the actual moment that Mujo, Halil, and the rest of the wedding party arose. Idiomatically, this signal marks the onset of a new narrative section or event, just as Arose early did at the start of the performance. In the present case the gathered comrades are about to undertake the first leg of their journey, to the town of Kanidža, where they will stay overnight before continuing the trek to Mezevo and their martial encounter against Baturić ban. Cp. the next traditional diurnal marker for segmentation at line 580 (with gloss).
580. Dawn marker. After a night’s hospitality courtesy of the Kanidža champion, Mustajbey and his men rise the next day – idiomatically at dawn – to begin the final leg of their journey to Mezevo and Baturić ban. The fact that the signal (“When the day broke and the sun rose” [“Kad se svanu vi jogranu sunce”]) takes a shorter, slightly different form in comparison to the verses HB uses at lines 4-7 (see the accompanying gloss) only illustrates the rule-governed pliability of phraseology in service to a traditional idea. Indeed, the very momentum and upcoming narrative shift signaled by the Dawn marker implicitly predicts that Mustajbey will decline his host’s offer of another day of rest and diversion before he actually goes ahead and refuses the invitation a few lines later.
581. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
586. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
594. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
601. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
603. “Aj! The sponsors jumped to their feet.” A variant of the “word” that takes the form of “The young man jumped to his light feet” at line 19 (cf. 413 and 484, with glosses), this line identifies a heroic response to another kind of threat. Here it contextualizes the preparatory actions of Mustajbey and his company – especially the sponsors charged with the maiden Zlata’s protection (she will soon be the object of a raid by Baturić ban and they will be killed defending her) – as they ready themselves for engagement with the enemy. Most immediately, and in concert with the Dawn marker at line 580 (see gloss), this “word” harmonizes with Mustajbey’s grateful but heroically firm refusal of the Kanidža champion’s continued hospitality in favor of commencing the final stage of the march toward battle (see lines 586-602).
606. Boundary line. Here the idiomatic interface provides a transition between the description of the Turkish force’s preparations for leaving and Mustajbey’s distribution of gold to his major allies just before their departure. As usual, the line identifies the protagonist of the action to follow, unifying the ongoing narrative not by referral to immediate context but via the overarching rhetoric of recurrent convention. See also lines 502 and 730, with glosses.
616-22. Fiancée and future mother-in-law. In this relatively common scene the young man whose fiancée is lost or imperiled goes through some sort of gift exchange with the mother of his promised bride. In HB’s ŽBM this brief interlude may appear (from a textual, non-traditional perspective) to delay Bećirbey’s participation in the journey undertaken by the wedding party/armed force and the eventual battle, and thus to call into question his heroism or devotion, but in fact it serves idiomatically to cement the affinal agreement and provide an even stronger proof of and basis for the two families’ commitment to one another. Cp. the more extended development of this typical scene at SM 4926-5357, where Lady Zajim entertains young Meho in the grandest possible style, and which Avdo Medjedović begins with an idiolectal Boundary line (cf. the glosses to lines 502, 606, and 730) as a transition from the last narrative increment.
622. Proverb. While I cannot establish this line as either a freestanding proverb or a recurrent epic phrase, its gnomic character and position at the end of the foregoing scene as a summary gloss argue its proverbial function. Cp. lines 16 and 100, with glosses, above.
627-722. Blind beggar solicits the guest-allies. This scene, which constitutes nearly 10% of the epic performance, is traditional in at least two ways. First, covert begging is a frequent “word” in both the Moslem and Christian songs, taking more or less complex forms as the subgenre and situation require. As with the catalogues of invitees (304-70, with gloss) and arrivals (390-401, with gloss), there is no absolute requirement that every character be explicitly mentioned, although certain emphases are almost always apparent: here, Zlata, Bećirbey, and Tale are the figures toward whom the prior action builds. Second, the increments within the typical scene are themselves pattern-based, each consisting of an identification of the person to be petitioned, a brief description of that person, Baturić ban’s petition (as when he asks Tale at lines 700-01, “Give me something, throw me an offering, / Give me something on my cloak!” [“Daj ti meni, bači napojnicu, / Daruj meni moju kabanicu!”]), and the response of the person petitioned. In the case of every named character except the last, the response amounts to the requested donation, as the enemy ban hoodwinks each of the Turkish principals. But just as his extortion reaches an outrageous level with the cannily personalized entrapment of Zlata and Bećirbey, along comes Tale to set things straight. Here is the list of characters solicited in the order they appear:

  • 627-34. Set-up: Baturić ban in disguise
  • 635-40. # 1: Djerdelez Alija
  • 641-45. # 2: Captain Mujo
  • 646-54. # 3: Mustajbey/Osmanbey (see the Commentary note to lines 646ff.)
  • 655. # 4: Wedding attendants
  • 656-67. # 5: Zlata (with her seven sponsors)
  • 668-78. # 6: Bećirbey
  • 679-82. Vide’s warning; Baturić ban’s rashness and cupidity
  • 683-722. # 7: Tale of Orašac

The usual suspense generated at the end of such a sequence (cp. the catalogue of arrivals and, more generally, the negative comparison structure so common in Moslem epic [Foley 1991: 75-83]) is heightened by the extra attention the ban pays to the young couple’s emotional vulnerability and his ironic deflection of his own standardbearer’s urging to end their ruse and escape while they can. The well prepared audience will realize that revenge is imminent as soon as Tale appears, perhaps even as early as when they hear someone bellowing up the gorge and cursing his mother.

648. Tsar’s medals. See the gloss to line 164 above.
649. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
652. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
658. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
670. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
679. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
689. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
694. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
698. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
702. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
730. Boundary line. Here the idiomatic interface provides a transition between the Turkish force’s arrival at Mezevo (in order to battle Baturić ban and his army) and Captain Mujo’s questioning of Mustajbey about how they should protect the maiden and bride-to-be Zlata. As usual, the line identifies the protagonist of the action to follow, unifying the ongoing narrative not by referral to immediate context but via the more general rhetorical strategy of recurrent convention. See also the glosses to lines 502 and 606.
735. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
745. Dawn marker. As is its traditional function within the poetic register, the Dawn marker signal announces the end of one narrative segment and the onset of another. In the present case it mediates between Osmanbey’s orders to Captain Mujo to guard Zlata overnight and a shift of locale to Baturić ban’s tent, which will in turn give way – after a Position change (see line 759, with gloss) – to the delivery of the ban’s challenging letter to Bećirbey. Once again it is the idiomatic rather than the literal meaning of this “word” that matters most to the poetics of the performance. See further the instances of Dawn marker at lines 4-7 and 580, with glosses.
759. Position change. Like line 20 (cf. also 50, 214, 287, and 999, with glosses), this verse idiomatically mediates between two adjacent narrative segments: in this case, between the description of Baturić ban’s encampment, complete with his black mare and assembled army, on the one hand and the delivery of a letter from Baturić ban to Mustajbey’s son Bećirbey on the other. This instance of this idiomatic “word” thus provides a traditionally sanctioned transition between two segments of the story that are quite disparate in place, dramatis personae, and action; without the narrative bridge it creates, the switch of scene would seem abrupt. As elsewhere, the implications of this idiomatic device are much more important than its literal sense.
760-76, 777-82. Speaking via written letters. Throughout the South Slavic oral epic tradition written letters, often keyed by the formulaic phrase or “word” knjiga šarovita (lit., “multicolored letter”; e.g., line 760), serve as speaking substitutes for their senders. That is, the guslari, who usually do not themselves command the technology of writing and reading, deploy the letters as proxies for the characters involved; each is rehearsed vocally as if it were one side of a conversation as it is being written. If a response is required, a parallel voicing of the reply’s contents takes place at the other end of the long-distance, face-to-face exchange. Such missives always mark a turning point of some sort: in the ŽBM, for example, letters comprise the arrivals catalogue (304-70, with gloss) as well as set up the climactic single combat between Bećirbey and Baturić ban (here). While the smaller “word” knjiga šarovita does not recur in this performance, it is a frequent signal both in the Stolac region (dialectally) and elsewhere, appearing in nom. sg., accus. sg., and nom. pl. inflections as the syntax and occasion warrant. We find eighteen occurrences within the analyzed performances of two Stolac singers: HB (ŽBM.760; 6703.92, 285, 295, 628), Mujo Kukuruzović (1287a.98, 831, 957, 984, 1021, 1030, 1072, 1079, 1088; 1868.103, 123, 1554; 6617.688).
783-88. Securing a parent’s blessing. Bećirbey’s seeking and securing his father Mustajbey’s blessing before heading off to heroic combat against Baturić ban has a traditional valence. Two other instances of this scene – supported by the same core formulaic verse: “Hurry, my son, in one hundred good moments!” (“vAjde, sine, vu sto dobri’ časa!”) – occur at 6703.228ff. and 425ff. In the latter of these two additional cases it is Halil who, after a lengthy typical scene of Arming the Hero, is about to undertake a dangerous journey; in that instance his mother gives the expected blessing and the recurrent scene provides a familiar frame of reference. But the plasticity and idiomatic power of this small “word” are even more tellingly illustrated by the earlier instance, as the young woman Zlata, who has bravely committed herself to carrying a letter to Mujo of Kladuša in order to enlist his aid in freeing Bojičić Alija and who has likewise just been the subject of a suitably tailored Arming the Hero sequence, is sent on her way with the following blessing and caveat from her mother: “Hurry, girl, in one hundred good moments, / Hurry wisely and don’t perform foolishly” (“Ajde, cure, u sto dobri’ časa; / Ajde mudro i ne čini ludo,” 6703.230-31). Notwithstanding the special nature of Zlata’s errand (not to mention her gender), the traditional register provides a way to embed her unique action within a traditional, recurrent context.
801. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
804. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
810-69. Single combat. Referred to as a megdan (consistently transcribed as mejdan by NV) and expressed by composite formulaic “words” such as megdan dijeliti (“fight a duel,” lit. “share single combat”), such duels are typical scenes only in the broadest sense. That is, there is a great deal of room for adjustment to the individuality of the principal characters, the situation, and the placement of the duel within the story as a whole, not to mention the variation from one singer and/or performance to the next. Nonetheless, a few relatively frequent and focused signals do stand out, such as the formulaic phrase just cited (line 814), attempts at verbal intimidation or “trash talk” (e.g., Baturić ban’s taunt at lines 823-25, here as often juxtaposed to more honorable behavior on the hero’s part), and a cheating trick played by the enemy (lines 853, 861-62). Two additional features, not to my knowledge so frequently associated with Single combat, are the horse’s refusal of the encounter together with the hero’s encouragement at lines 836-43, and the commentary by the vila (a mountain nymph with various magical powers including prescience) at lines 855-59. The first of these motifs plays on the presumption of bravery on the part of a hero’s equine companion (see the gloss to lines 40-42 above). As so often in traditional oral poetry, an absolute reversal of an idiomatic expectation is the strongest possible amplification: the combat here is so forbidding, HB is employing the tradtional register to tell us, that the normally fearless horse initially demurs (cf. Hektor’s running from Achilles at Iliad 22.136ff.). In the second motif the vila’s wonderment at the magnitude of the encounter – and her observation that one of the combatants flees from the other—amounts to a generic “word” that intensifies the description and predicts the encounter’s outcome. For more on the role of vilas generally, see Foley 1991: 75-76, 99, 118, espec. 122-24; and Lord, SCHS 3: 252, n. 12.
810. “Closer and closer, he came near.” Although it occurs here within Single combat and fits that situation well, this verse-long “word” is actually a freestanding element that can occur in a variety of situations in any song. Its generalized force is to heighten the suspense of an impending action or recognition, postponing resolution and creating tension. The signal is at least dialectal, occurring once in the ŽBM and four times in the analyzed repertoire of Mujo Kukuruzović. At 1287a.163 and 6617.174 it portrays the escaped prisoner Ograšćić Alija approaching his long-lost son’s wedding party, at 1868.1167 it immediately precedes Tale’s recognition of the approaching hero Vrhovac Alija, and at 6617.1734 the incarcerated prisoner Halil hears and sees Velagić Selim approaching. The traditional register that HB shares with other guslari is a mixture of broad- and narrow-spectrum idioms.
811. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
822. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
829, 834, 854. Dancing the horse. See further the Commentary, notes to lines 118 and espec. 829f. In addition to paratactically segmenting this instance of the Single combat scene, this small “word” resonates with actions such as those described by lines 440-41 as well, where the messenger dances his horse not as a prelude to combat but in relief over accomplishment of a dangerous mission (see the Commentary on those lines).
849. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
872-79. Heroic martyrdom. This is another scene that demonstrates pliability, especially among different dialects of the epic register. It signals the soldier’s assignment of his fate to God (in the Moslem songs to Allah) and thus marks the ultimate act of heroism and martyrdom. Sounding its familiar resonance before battle is actually joined inserts the action to follow into a recognizable traditional network of idiomatically linked recurrences. For a sense of the morphology of Heroic martyrdom, compare the instance below from SM (lines 10,275-88; trans. by Lord from SCHS 3: 216), drawn from Tale’s speech to the troops (emphasis added):

“Ama ćemo otist’ na sudbinu.
“But we shall march forward to our destiny.
Sad kade se ’vako učinelo,
Now, since it has been done,
Sad bijele raširite ruke,
Now stretch forth your white arms,
Zagrl’te se i poljubite se.
Embrace one another and kiss one another.
Što je koji kojem učinijo
If anyone has done to anyone else
Išta krivo u vijeku svome,
Anything blameful in his life,
Halal’te se za ovoga dana!
Forgive one another this day.
Ko će danas poginuti o’dje,
He who dies here today
Neće žalit’ što je poginuo.
Will not regret having perished.
Dženetska su otvorena vrata.
The doors of paradise are open,
On će znati što je doživijo.
And he will reap the reward for his life.
Tamo blago ko će poginuti;
Blessed is he who will perish,
A blagše je ko će ostanuti;
But more blessed he who survives.
On će na se dobit’ gazaluke.”
He shall receive the name of hero.”

Although HB’s performance and the SM passage share only a single line (ŽBM 876 = SM 10,284), which recurs exactly except for the second-colon word-order (see Foley 1990: 98-99, 176-78 on “right-justification” in traditional phraseology), these two passages are clearly instances of the same traditional “word.”
880-906. Perspectives from the battlefield. In all types of South Slavic oral epic performances, whether Moslem or Christian and whatever the story-pattern or subgenre (Wedding Song, Return Song, Siege of City, etc.), stories that involve great battles frequently dwell on close-up, graphic views of action on the battlefield. Told from the point of view of a direct participant or observer, these eyewitness accounts shift the narrative gear and demand the audience member’s or reader’s most immediate attention by presenting a nonfiltered, experiential view of the grim realities of war, both the cruelty of killing and the tragic waste of human carnage that results. Here – and quite typically – a general movement into battle gives way to a vignette in which a young soldier celebrates his bloody accomplishments and urges on his comrades (lines 887-91; cp. Tale’s rejoicing over the killing and carnage at SM 10,579-612). The sights and sounds of mortal combat then lead to what medieval Germanic and English poetry know as the “man spricht” motif, in which a nameless participant speaks generically on behalf of the larger collective as well as individually. In this case it is a wounded soldier, helpless to continue the fight on others’ terms, who both asks for aid and strikes out verbally (and pathetically) – warning all enemies around him not to come near lest they lose their lives (lines 903-6). Compare an instance of the same motif at SM 10,539-52 (trans. by Lord from SCHS 3: 220):

Samo jeka stoji od junaka,
Only the groaning of heroes could be heard
Od ljutije’ rana po tijelu.
From the sore wounds about their bodies.
Neko viče: “Leleh mene, majko!”
One cried out: “Woe is me, mother!,”
Neko viče: “I otac i majko!”
And another: “My father and mother!,”
Neko viče: “Prifati me, druže!
And a third: “Take me up, comrade!
Ljute su me rane oborile.
My sore wounds have overcome me.
Kad bi mene neko prifatijo,
Were someone to lift me up
I kake me vode napoijo,
And give me some water to drink,
Čini mi se, lakše bi mi bilo.”
I think it would be easier for me.”
Neko viče: “Prigazi me, druže!
Another shouted: “Tread me down, comrade!
Pošla mi je u kotalac duša,
My spirit is in my throat,
Da bih li se razdvoijo š njome.”
And I would part from it!”
Neko viče: “Prifati mi, brate!”
Another shouted: “Take me up, brother!”
Kad je rata, onda nema brata.
But in war there are no brothers.

For an interesting deployment of the larger typical scene in the Christian subgenre of epic, see the famous Kosovska djevojka (The Kosovo Maiden; Karadžić 1841-62: vol. 2, no. 50, pp. 199-201; English trans. in Holton and Mihailovich 1997: 154-58), which juxtaposes the horror of this males-only scenario to the naive innocence of a young woman searching the battlefield and querying the wounded for news of her betrothed. Were it not for the traditional idiomatic power of the scene as a recurrent framework that slots individual moments in a familiar, resonant context, her aspirations and eventual disappointment would not seem so poignant.
908-19. Darkness/mist lifts. After a great battle has been raging for a period of time, the winning commander or major combatant (though the person is not yet acknowledged explicitly as victorious) often asks for the darkness or mist that is obscuring the battlefield to lift so that he can have a clearer view of the action and determine which force has triumphed. Idiomatically, whichever commander makes this request is conventionally certified as the victor – in advance of the actual announcement of his victory in the narrative. Cp. SM 10,557-78, where it is Tale who asks the hodža Šuvalija to pray for a wind off the Danube to drive away the mist and give him a clear view of the battle’s outcome. The prayer is answered, and even before the mist lifts the traditional idiomatic force of the scene certifies Tale’s (and Mustajbey’s) army as the victors.
917. Simile. Short similes like this one are relatively infrequent in the South Slavic oral epic tradition, but occur more often than the much rarer extended simile exemplified above (see lines 44-49, with gloss). Typically, however, this brief comparison creates a momentary, explicative linkage between the heroic and natural worlds, characterizing the wind that blows away the dark mist to reveal the result of the great battle by referral to the homely but natural tableau of wolves chasing sheep. The simile’s portrayal of such instinctual behavior, which promises to recur with absolute inevitability, reenforces the expected traditional outcome of the Darkness/mist lifts “word” that it augments (see lines 908-19, with gloss).
928. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
932. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
951. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
972. [X] began to shout. See the gloss to line 173 above.
999. Position change. Like line 20 (cf. also 50, 214, 287, and 759, with glosses), this verse idiomatically mediates between two adjacent narrative segments: in this case, between Djerdelez Alija’s defeat of Baturić ban and Bećirbey’s arrival on the scene. As elsewhere, its traditional implications as a scene-switching device are much more important than its literal sense.
1007-19. Burying the dead and gathering the wounded. Great battles in the South Slavic oral epic tradition (and here I speak of the Moslem songs primarily) conventionally close with some description of how the conquering army’s dead are buried and their wounded are gathered up and put on stretchers for transportation back to the victors’ home base. Very often some enumeration of the human cost of that victory is mentioned; here, for example, Mustajbey is said to have lost 5,000 of his original 25,000 troops (lines 1016- 19). Cp. SM 10,961-11,000, where these same two actions are described at much greater length, and where the Turkish dead and wounded are stipulated as amounting altogether to 67,000 (lines 10,978-79).
1020-29. Wedding and family coda. Many Wedding Songs end idiomatically with an actual marriage ceremony (the goal toward which both the individual story and the generic story-pattern are working), as well as some mention of the progeny that result from the union. Compare, for example, the final narrative moment in SM (lines 12,287-99, just before the Postlude; trans. by Lord from SCHS 3: 246):

Bosna kleta na ćemalu dobru
Mighty Bosnia in its prime
Oženila novog alajbega.
Found a wife for its new alaybey
Na njegove dovedoše dvore.
And brought the maiden to its courts.
Babo svako vidje radovanje,
His father lived to see all the rejoicing,
Radovanje za svojega sina.
The rejoicing over his own son.
“Sretnja, sine, za te vijernica,
“My son, may you find happiness with your truelove
Mlogo ljeta i puno godina!
For many summers and for many years!
Sa š njom, sine, sokolove leg’o;
May you breed falcons with her, my son,
Nek s’ osniva odžak od odžaka.”
And may one generation take its roots from another.”
Svadobaše cijel mesec dana.
They celebrated the wedding for a whole month.
Trka bila od mlogije’ konja,
There was a horserace with many horses;
Trka bila, svadba rasturila,
There was a horserace, and then the guests departed,
I ostade vila za sokola.
And the mountain spirit remained with her falcon.
1030. Postlude. In general, closing addresses to the audience occur much less often than the pripjevi (“proems”) that precede the story and idiomatically signal the start of performances (see further Foley 1991: 67-75; 1999a: 46-49). The ŽBM is thus quite unusual in lacking a pripjev while ending with this terminal “word,” which traditionally signals the end of the song-performance. Compare HB’s one-verse Postlude in the ŽBM to Medjedović’s much more extensive realization in SM (lines 12,304-11 [end of song]; trans. by Lord from SCHS 3: 246):

Od mene vi malo razgovora,
From me you have had brief entertainment,
A od Boga dugo i široko.
But from God may it be both long and full!
Vita jelo, pouzdigni grane
O slender fir tree, raise your branches
Svoj gospodi da su zdravo glave!
To protect the lives of all these lords!
Zelen bore, pomogni nam Bože!
O green pine, may God be our help!
Amin, Bože, hoće ako Bog da.
It shall be, O God, if God wills.
Po sad doba da se veselimo,
And now it is time for us to be merry,
Veselimo i pesme pevamo.
To be merry and to sing songs.

In both cases the singer’s envoi is both a signal of the end of the immediate song-performance and an acknowledgment of the continuity of the oral epic tradition that is its source.