Portrait of the Singer

According to his own testimony, Halil Bajgorić (hereafter HB) was thirty-nine years old when Milman Parry and Albert Lord’s native assistant Nikola Vujnović interviewed him and the research team recorded several of his epic songs on June 12-13, 1935. (1) In his relatively remote village of Dabrica, at the far end of the Stolac district that was Vujnović’s home territory as well, HB worked primarily at various kinds of farm labor, specializing in the rearing and sale of livestock, including oxen, horses, sheep, and goats. Dabrica may have been far removed from more populated regions, accessible only by paths for horses and foot traffic, HB explains, but it provided excellent support for the raising of livestock by virtue of its multiple “living waters” (žive vode) or springs. Clearly, the singer took genuine pride in his place and in his everyday profession.

From the beginning of his interview, however, he also described himself as a practicing guslar, a singer of tales, and the facts bear him out. Although still short of middle age, very unusual for a guslar of any accomplishment, HB could boast a repertoire of no fewer than thirty songs, as enumerated below from the singer’s own account. (2) Within that list, those actually collected by the Parry-Lord-Vujnović team are identified with the archival numbers assigned to them within the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard University, with italic codes marking sung performances and Roman codes marking those written down from dictation. Performances collected during Lord’s follow-up trip in 1950-51 are preceded by the letter L. (3)

Song title MPC no(s).
1. Marko Kraljević and Nina of Koštun 6693, 6695a; L84
2. Miloš Obilić in prison in Ledjene (2)  
3. Mustajbey in captivity in Izmir and Mujo’s brother Halil frees him  
4. Albanian Osman goes to Kotar with his company  
5. The Battle at Osjek 6702; L81
6. Pauper Alija and Pavle with Braided Hair  
7. Velagić Selim spied on Janok, and then carried off Albanian Agha Ibro’s sister, Ibro and Halil freed her  
8. Luka from Croatia frees the horse of Omer Blažević from Kosijerevo  
9. Baturić ban kidnaps Mustajbey’s son’s fiancée, and Djerdjelez Alija defends her 6699
10. Bojičić Alija in captivity, and Mujo’s brother Halil freed him 6702
11. Hrnjica’s seven brothers in captivity in Janok and Mujo freed them  
12. Commander Osmanagha steals Mujo’s horse and sells it in Kotar  
13. Janković Stojan strikes Djerdjelez Alija’s grave with his mace, and Hrnjica Mujo kills him for it  
14. Buljubaša Mujo and Brekulja Šimun  
15. His sister freed Bajagić Alija from captivity in Karlovo  
16. Grga Antunić attacks Raduč  
17. Vrcić Ibrahim kidnapped the Ban of Janok’s Ana (5)  
18. Fool Tale’s Dream (?) (6)  
19. Smiljanić Ilija leads off Hrnjica’s sister  
20. Marko Kraljević and Musa the Beheader  
21. The border heroes kidnapped girls in Beč  
22. The pasha of Budim’s spy in Lehut (7)  
23. Hrnjičić Omer frees his father from Lenger  
[24.] The Wedding of Serbian Tsar Stjepan (8)  
25. King Vukašin builds Skadar  
26. The King of Malta seeks Djerdjelez’s head  
27. Buljubaša Mujo won a race in Mostar  
28. The sickness of Stočević Alija in Stolac 6697; L83
29. Pivljanin Bojo and Bey Ljubović  
30. Old Ćejvanagha in captivity in Janok, and Pauper Alija freed hi  

It should be emphasized that these are HB’s own “working titles", furnished in response to Vujnović’s request for a listing of his repertoire, and that they reflect the singer’s particular perspective on his performances. That is, many of them are one-sentence descriptions of the core action of the epic, couched in either the past tense (“His sister freed Bajagić Alija from captivity in Karlovo”) or – what amounts to the same thing within the epic register used for the performance itself – the historical present tense (“Hrnjičić Omer frees his father from Lenger”). Relatively few of the titles identify the song as the kind of finite, warehousable items we print in anthologies; rather they customarily betoken a series of actions, a living panoply of narrative activity. Indeed, that is very much the case with the performance to which this volume is devoted: the singer HB describes what we are calling The Wedding of Mustajbey’s Son Bećirbey as “Baturić ban kidnaps Mustajbey’s son’s fiancée, and Djerdjelez Alija defends her", focusing not on a discrete, indexable label but rather on what actually happens in the story. Generally speaking, we can deduce that he conceives of epic songs more as dynamic processes than as static products.

And how did HB learn how to tap into such processes? One clue is the fact that throughout the repertoire and interview he repeatedly attributes all of his songs except one to his father, Mujo Bajgorić. Of course, singers’ attributions are notoriously unstable (how many twenty-first-century citizens remember who told them each entry in their personal repertoire of jokes?), but HB ascribed only “Marko Kraljević and Nina of Koštun” to a certain Ilija Bradurić from Bijenje in Bosnia. Pressed by Vujnović to explain why he didn’t learn from other guslari as well, HB replies that he stayed home until age fourteen, at which point he joined the army and traveled more widely; in short, he simply wasn’t exposed to an array of models.(9) The remoteness of Dabrica may also have been a factor in the relative narrowness of his training, but the apparent paucity of models and sources is offset by the loyal son’s claim that his father was an extremely well-respected (if, as was common enough, unpaid) practitioner of the craft they shared:

NV: So your father was a guslar?
HB: He was a great guslar, the people even said he had no equal in three districts.
NV: Aha. And at what did he work?
HB: He worked at the same job as I do.
NV: With the gusle?
HB: With the gusle.
NV: Did he work at anything else?
HB: Yes, at farm labor, as much as was necessary.
NV: Then tell me about when he occupied himself with the gusle. Did he sing for pay when he chose to be a guslar?
HB: Well, in those times there wasn’t any pay, because in those times there wasn’t enough to go around.
NV: Yes, and so?
HB: And so it was mostly the old men who wanted him to sing, so he sang a little for them based on their interest.
NV: Nothing else?
HB: Nothing else.

Interestingly, HB also cites the social prestige accorded a guslar by the larger community at various gatherings, a distinction the young boy clearly prized and wanted to earn for himself:

NV: Eh, now tell me something. How did you learn to sing and play the gusle when you were a young boy?
HB: Well, in this way – everything little by little. At times I sneaked the gusle away from my father, then I went off into another room; when he was sleeping I could sing a little.
NV: But why did you feel the need to sneak the gusle away from him?
HB: Because I wanted to know how [to play], I saw there was a place for him among the people because he knew how to sing. He’d come there, when there were gatherings among us, when there were weddings, some celebrations, and I’d accompany him. And he’d come there, and there would be a lot of people, and the people all made room and said, “Singer, come on up to the front and sit by the man brewing coffee.”
NV: Aha.
HB: Then, by God, I too wanted to learn to play the gusle.

Although HB was certified as illiterate (nepismen) by the Parry-Lord-Vujnović team, a printed songbook did play a small role in the acquisition of his repertoire. Presumably through the agency of some person who read aloud to him, he seems to have accessed this published record of Christian (Serbian) songs for at least two entries in his avowed repertoire:

NV: Did you learn many songs from a songbook?
HB: Yes, I did, I learned a few of these songs from a songbook, like this “Wedding of the Serbian tsar Stjepan” and this “Three bloodbrothers were drinking wine” (“Vino pila do tri pobratima”),(10) so.
Professor Parry: Which one was that – was it Miloš Obilić?
HB: Yes.
NV: Was that somewhere in Ledjane?
HB: Yes.
NV: In which songbook was that?
HB: Well, I had this old songbook at my house. It was published a long time ago, it must have been many, many years.
NV: Is it a big songbook?
HB: Yes, it’s big, I imagine it has 150 pages.
NV: Aha. And which other songs did you learn from the songbook?
HB: Well, I didn’t learn any more, not a single one. I didn’t acquire anything for a long time, it’s more than a half year, and now it would be a big job; I don’t have any interest in it.
NV: Were they Serbian songs, or were they Moslem?
HB: All of them were Serbian, all were Serbian for the most part, all Serbian victories.
NV: But were there border songs in it?
HB: There weren’t any Moslem songs there.
NV: Aha.

This description of a substantial songbook (pjesmarica) sounds very much like one of the famous volumes of “folk songs” (narodne pjesme) published by Vuk Karadžić in the mid-nineteenth century, far the best-known and most ubiquitous textual source in HB’s era and afterward.(11) Also, as he explicitly notes, the singer acquired no Moslem songs whatever from published sources. This is an important comment, not least because it indicates that virtually his entire repertoire stemmed from an active oral tradition. Nor should we forget that it was primarily the rich tradition of longer, more elaborate Moslem narratives that Parry straightforwardly sought for his comparisons with Homer and to which The Wedding of Mustajbey’s Son Bećirbey very much belongs.(12) To the best of our knowledge, then, published texts were not implicated in 28 of HB’s claimed 30 songs; more to the point, none of the nine performances recorded by the Parry-Lord-Vujnović team were in any way mediated by songbooks.

The guslar’s comments on his sources are instructive both in themselves and for the light they shed on how he conceives of the transmission of epic songs. Like many bards in this and other traditions who know about the existence of writing-reading technology without actively using it themselves, HB had a special respect for the world of literacy and what he believed – on faith alone – could be managed via its foreign technology. That belief emerges in his attempt to explain how Ilija Bradurić’s version of “Marko Kraljević and Nina of Koštun” was superior to his father’s:

NV: And where did you hear this song that I wrote down from you yesterday [MPC no. 6693]?
HB: I heard it from my father.
NV: From your father?
HB: Yes, from my father – no, no, from Ilija Bradurić, Ilija Bradurić from Bijenje [in Bosnia].
NV: And did your father sing it?
HB: Yes, he too, but his version was different. His version was shorter.
NV: All right, but then how could you have [learned another version], let’s say, when your father was alive and always singing this song?
HB: Eh, I saw that the other version was more surely fashioned [sigurnija] and better constructed [skladnija].
NV: Ilija’s?
HB: Yes, because he was a literate man, and so he took it from a songbook. NV: So he took it from a songbook?
HB: Yes, and I saw that it was more surely fashioned and better [bolje].
NV: And where did you hear him?(13)
HB: A better constructed song, more beautiful; it was more beautifully, more beautifully composed.
NV: That’s how it was, more beautiful and better constructed?
HB: Just so. Nowadays the old men don’t know how to enumerate these various towns because they’ve let them slip from their minds, but that one who’s culled it from a songbook, he tells me accurately.

HB seems willing to cede authority to the written word, and formulates an emic or ethnic notion of aesthetics on the basis of a technology that remains outside his personal experience.(14) However we construe his motivation (explanations might include the unintentional influence of the research team and their background, an endemic cultural deferral to the mysterious written word, or other reasons), two evaluative concepts emerge from his brief observations: the notions of well organized composition and of precision in the enumeration of details. Clearly, HB places value on internal structure and fullness of exposition.

Such insights into the singer’s thinking are attributable not only to Parry’s behind-the-scenes prodding, the outlines of which are ascertainable in his field notes entitled “Ćor Huso",(15) but also to Vujnović’s consummate skill and unique authority in interviewing. Because he straddled the worlds of oral epic tradition and Western scholarship – being a guslar himself as well as having personal access to the arts of literacy – Vujnović could frame his questions to suit both his employers’ concerns and the world view of the singers who were both his interview subjects and his colleagues.(16) Not incidentally, Vujnović’s truly unique position also allowed him to broach potentially uncomfortable queries for the sake of learning more about the peculiar dynamism of the singer’s method, as when he pursued HB on the disparities between his version of “Kraljević Marko and Nina of Koštun” and the songbook version the singer claimed as his ultimate source:

NV: But I read that songbook, and therefore that same song within the songbook, and it didn’t have these names you’ve mentioned, for instance this Markovac, one of the places that you spoke of yesterday. This Markovac, where is this Markovac?
HB: Markovac is that little high spot on that mountain over there, that’s just where Markovac is.
NV: And why is it called Markovac?
HB: Because [Kraljević] Marko was nursed under it.
NV: And before that it wasn’t called Markovac?
HB: It wasn’t called Markovac before, not until afterwards.
NV: And why do they say in a song “Then there he was under accursed Markovac” (“Pa eto ga niz Markovac kleti”)?
HB: Because it has to be said that way.
NV: But it wasn’t Markovac until he came there.
HB: Nowadays they say that it’s called by the name Markovac, but one says “There he was under Markovac” (“Eto ga niz Markovac”).

What this exchange establishes is not simply an interesting correspondence between an epic locus and the real-life landscape of the Stolac area as the link exists in HB’s mind,(17) but also the acknowledged difference in register or “way of speaking” in a performed epic song as opposed to everyday conversation. When Vujnović inquires why guslari use a ten-syllable verse complete with an apparently pejorative adjective (kleti, “accursed” or “damned”) to refer to this nearby mountain peak, named for one of the greatest of Serbian heroes, HB’s answer is “because it has to be said that way” (“Pa eto mora da se rekne”). He is explaining that the decasyllable verse is the appropriate “word” for this purpose in the epic lexicon; although people say (but do not sing) the more straightforward sentence “There he was under Markovac," using the same sentence within the performance arena of oral epic composition would amount to employing the wrong expressive code.(18) Given what the South Slavic singers say about the indivisibility and idiomatic meaning of the sound-bytes they call “words” (reči) – nothing smaller than a phrase can qualify as a speech-act, and whole scenes and even songs are called single “words” – HB is merely thinking inside the expressive system of oral epic performance.(19) His distinction here, mirrored elsewhere in conversations with other guslari, shows him to be an excellent linguist, more sophisticated in his awareness of the innate diversity between epic and everyday registers of speech than many highly trained Western scholars.

The singer’s own internal sense of his tradition emerges again when Vujnović confronts HB about a marked structural disparity between his two performances of “Kraljević Marko and Nina of Koštun”. From our external, etic perspective the difference amounts to the guslar’s having omitted the typical scenes of Arming the Hero and Caparisoning the Horse from the second performance, producing the kind of variability that Lord studied and exemplified so thoroughly in The Singer of Tales (1960). HB, however, chooses to explain the omission (if in fact we can call it that, given the dynamic pliability of epic performance and the implied aspects of a song-story that may or may not reach explicit expression in any given performance) in another, more colorful way:

NV: Yesterday you narrated that song, but today when you sang it you skipped over one whole part where it’s sung, for example, how Marko prepared himself and his horse for a journey.
HB: And [his horse] Šarac.
NV: Yes, and Šarac. Earlier you narrated that.
HB: Possibly that’s due to a great fever here, a temperature if you will. A great fever took hold of me, my mind boiled over.
NV: And so you abbreviated?
HB: So it’s possible that I abbreviated a few words.
NV: Yes, yes. Did you do that deliberately?
HB: I didn’t, only in ignorance caused by a great fever.

Convinced that his interviewer must be right about the disparity and its seriousness, and showing allegiance at least for the moment to what is finally a textual measurement outside his personal experience, HB ascribes to a nondescript fever what is presented to him as a flaw. In fact, we may well inquire whether Vujnović’s question becomes relevant only after a living series of performances within an ongoing, emergent tradition is reduced to a museum-like exhibition of artifacts, only after language is frozen into text. The singer did not notice the alleged discrepancy himself, no more than we track minute incongruencies in our own idiomatic performance pursuits, across recurrent instances of story-telling, joke-telling, or personal narratives. What is finally most interesting about this small discussion is that Vujnović is pursuing an irrelevant line of inquiry, identifying a distinction from one world that resists translation to the other. HB, persuaded that he has committed an error exposed by the research team, pleads a fever; we would do well to understand that the malady is not his.

Another illustration of the “cognitive dissonance” between the world views of the singer and the research team appears as a result of Vujnović’s pursuit of an issue that has long troubled scholars involved with traditional oral epics: to what extent does the tale reflect true events, characters, and situations? How does the story square with reality? After probing HB on the actual geographical location of Prilip (a town closely associated with the hero Prince Marko), the practical likelihood of making such a lengthy journey in a short period, and other “fact versus fiction” aspects of the story told in his “Marko Kraljević and Nina of Koštun", Vujnović poses a series of questions that finally lie outside the singer’s concerns:

NV: Is it possible that this song is true?
HB: I heard it, but I don’t know.
NV: What do you think – is it true?
HB: I don’t know, by God.
NV: So you aren’t sure?
HB: Eh, what do I know? I wouldn’t dare swear that it isn’t, that it’s not. There’s something there.

For the singer, historical truth and factual accuracy are part of the same world as textual discrepancies. While these may be viable and important concepts for the research team, they are not a part of the way he himself construes his craft.

HB and Vujnović then turn to an exchange about the comparative ease of full-speed singing in performance versus the much slower, stop-and-start process of dictating for written transcription. Interestingly, the conversation again reveals a cognitive mismatch, as HB concentrates more on the advantages of using his own gusle (as opposed to someone else’s) than on the suggested comparison between modes of composition. If he were forced to use an unfamiliar instrument, says HB, he “could more easily narrate [dictate] a song than sing it to the gusle.” As for evaluating one mode versus the other in any absolute sense, however, that kind of contrast seems beyond the informant’s perspective. In general, those of the Stolac singers whose recordings, transcribed performances, and interviews I have examined show a preference for sung over dictated delivery.(20)

Toward the end of the interview, after more discussion about local history and an embedded performance of “Nina of Koštun and Vidak the Shepherd",(21) HB offers a penetrating insight into the genealogy of epic singers and the powerful concept of a master guslar:

NV: And where did your father learn his songs?
HB: In Blagaje, he grew up there.
NV: Do you know from whom?
HB: I don’t know, by God.
NV: Did he learn them all in Blagaje, or in some other place too?
HB: Ah well, who knows? He traveled everywhere with the army; it must be that he heard them everywhere, but mainly in Blagaje. He learned enough of them that he told me were from Hasan Ćoso, Captain Hasan as he was called, who lived one hundred twenty years, Captain Hasan Ćoso.
NV: And where did he live?
HB: In Dabrica. He traveled everywhere throughout the world, and occupied himself chiefly with the gusle. He knew, they say, a great many songs. And one hundred twenty years he lived and when he was one hundred... he died in his one hundred twentieth year, and a half-year before he died he could still jump, they say, twelve steps from his starting-point, so nimble was this old man. And people say that he never dug or plowed, never rode a horse, but always carried a rifle and a few staples on a pack animal; along with his beast and a small burden he enjoyed himself and played the gusle. (If a person rides a horse a lot, he loses the use of his legs.)
NV: And when did this old man die?
HB: By God, this old man died long ago, some seventy years back as they tell it. He wasn’t [even] my father’s father.
NV: Was your father related to him?
HB: Not at all.
NV: Not at all?
HB: There wasn’t any kin relation.
NV: And so they were just neighbors?
HB: So they were just neighbors, and then only in the near vicinity – their houses were a kilometer apart.
NV: Then your father was able to learn a good amount from him?
HB: Yes, indeed.

Crucially, this story itself is traditional.(22) Singers in this region and in others told a cognate tale, with systematic variation in such details as the master-bard’s name (Isak, Huso, Ćor Huso, Hasan Ćoso, and so on), his parentage, his native village, his repertoire (always large and made up of “the best songs", but differing in actual contents from one account to another), and his trademark accomplishments. In some versions this Guslar – I use the uppercase letter to distinguish him from his lesser, real-life colleagues – performed so well that males and females were allowed to mix at a Moslem wedding (dissolving a religious prohibition), while in other cases the Guslar registered a surprising and remarkable victory in an epic-singing competition (against all expectation because he was dressed so humbly and acted so modestly) or sang all night without a break to rest his voice (a physical impossibility) or boasted a repertoire of 300 songs (many times the maximum ever verified). It is thus no accident that HB’s version of this paragon – Hasan Ćoso – lived 120 years, or that he could leap twelve paces less than a year before his death, or that he traveled “everywhere in the world”. Correspondingly, it is an essential part of the story that the singer describing the Guslar should never have actually met him personally; the master-bard is always a generation or two removed, or a couple of villages away, or currently traveling somewhere else.

Indeed, everything about this idealized figure is legendary, the stuff of tradition, and quite necessarily so. By creating a legendary genealogy traceable to the Guslar, each guslar certifies his own personal position in the informal guild; he identifies himself as descended – through their shared songs – from the best of singers, someone whose abilities and achievements cannot be called into question, precisely because he exists in another frame of reference, beyond the confines of any single guslar’s time and place. In effect, the Guslar is a way for individual singers to conceptualize the tradition at large, to tag what we conceive of as an abstraction – “the South Slavic oral epic tradition” – by idiomatic referral to an anthropomorphic figure. HB’s Hasan Ćoso fits this mold, not merely as a “historical” progenitor but as a bardic credential and a coded appeal to tradition. Although HB explicitly disavows any real kinship with this legend (as the convention demands), his identity as a guslar depends centrally on an epic-singing pedigree that begins with the Guslar.


  1. This brief biography, which concentrates on HB’s identity as a guslar, is based on the interview of the singer conducted by Nikola Vujnović on June 13, 1935 (MPC no. 6698; see Kay 1995: 231). All translations of excerpts from that interview, intentionally rendered in a free and colloquial idiom, are my own.
  2. The oral-dictated text of the repertoire is MPC no. 6694; see Kay 1995: 231.
  3. This system mirrors that employed by Lord in the SCHS volumes. For performance data on all such songs and interviews from the field trips of the 1930’s, see Kay 1995. Note that there is some instability in the given titles of songs; for example, NV transcribed the first song as concerning “Nina” rather than the conventional “Mina” of Koštun (mirroring, incidentally, a common nasal exchange, [m]>[n], in the singing register). Since the repertoire was dictated and written down rather than acoustically recorded, this variance cannot be checked. Preferring to report what the guslar (on best evidence) actually said rather than “correct” the received text, I have maintained what NV wrote in all cases, even when that spelling is contradicted in other sources. Compare the section on Nikola Vujnović’s Resinging, elsewhere in this volume, which documents the traditional and systematic variation between the acoustic record of the song’s performance and NV’s remaking during his transcription. In translating the titles I have rendered tenses literally, since I take the historical present tense to be a feature of the singing register rather than of the everyday speech of the interview.
  4. During the conversation Nikola cites this place-name as Ledjane, a typical kind of minor variation; see further note 3 above.
  5. One expects the name Vrčić, but NV has transcribed without the initial diacritic (probably lapsus calami).
  6. As happens many times with proper names and especially with the trickster hero Tale, the inflections are not grammatical and the sense must be construed otherwise.
  7. The orthography makes this place-name unclear.
  8. NV omits the numeral in his accounting.
  9. In this respect HB’s learning process may have been somewhat unusual in comparison to that of other singers recorded by Parry, Lord, and Vujnović. See further Lord 2000: 13-29.
  10. Here as commonly enough elsewhere within the epic register–and this “title” is in fact the opening line to the song listed in HB’s repertoire as “Miloš Obilić in prison in Ledjene”–HB misinflects a verb form, perhaps under the influence of the common poetic figure of in-line rhyme (sila with pobratima). For more instances of this kind of lapsus linguae, see the Performance and Commentary elsewhere in this eEdition. Note that Parry poses a question about which song is meant in the next sentence. Although he intervenes only rarely in the actual interviewing, the observations made in his field notes (see “Ćor Huso", Parry 1933-35) demonstrate how closely he was involved in the interviewing process.
  11. This may well have been a selection from Karadžić 1841-62. For a convenient English translation of many of the most famous songs from this collection, see Holton and Mihailovich 1997.
  12. On the history and nature of Moslem as distinguished from Christian songs, see Foley 1991: chs. 3-4, 2002: 204-13.
  13. Note that HB does not respond to this question but continues with his efforts to describe the superiority of Bradurić’s version.
  14. Compare the South Slavic oral epic tradition’s broad-based fascination with epistolary communication (see further Foley 1991: 20-21). Letters (knjige) are rehearsed fondly and customarily at considerable length, with vocalization at both the sending and receiving ends of the process. In effect, especially in the act of performance by a guslar, these letters are less written texts than long-distance, face-to-face exchanges. Another telling comparison is Homer’s attitude toward written signs, which he does not himself employ but construes as a subspecies of “sign” (sêma), the same term that designates funeral markers, omens, Odysseus’ scar, the olive-tree bed, and other items and events in which unique symbolic meaning is covertly but idiomatically embedded (see Foley 1999a: espec. 1-5, 13-34).
  15. See note 10. Parry’s thoughts on the South Slavic oral epic tradition per se, as opposed to primarily comparative remarks that bear in some way on the Homeric poems, are documented in the full, unpublished version of the field notes deposited in the Parry Collection at Harvard University.
  16. It is this same double identity, and the “bilingualism” that went along with it, that fostered Vujnović’s tradition-based modifications in HB’s song even as the colleague/interviewer later transcribed it from the acoustic recording. See further Nikola Vujnović’s Resinging elsewhere in this eEdition.
  17. For an interesting perspective on the relationship between the mythic landscape of traditional oral epic and the historical and topical facts of that geography, see the discussion of “epic archaeology” in the Tulu Siri Epic (Honko 1998: 322-36) and the analysis of Apache place-names in Basso 1988.
  18. Nor does the negative connotation of kleti compromise the expressive integrity of the verse; for a full explanation and a comparison to Homeric phraseology, see Foley 1991: 243-52.
  19. For further evidence of what the South Slavic singers intend by the term “word”, see Foley 2002: 11-21. Similarly, later in this same conversation HB discriminates between two forms of a place-name: “in a song one sings Zlatozoglav, and now we say Zoglav”(emphasis added). The four-syllable version can occupy the first colon or serve as the line-ending element in a six-syllable phrase that would fill the second colon (this latter usage on the basis of its metrical extent and the traditional rules underlying South Slavic deseterac phraseology; see further Foley 1990: 171-200).
  20. That is, they seem not to reflect the attitude toward oral dictation described by Lord (e.g., 2000: 124-29) in reference to Avdo Medjedović and other guslari. The Stolac singers' spoken performances show no regular gain in length and complexity over the sung performances, and in fact the reverse is often the case.
  21. In what amounts to what Dell Hymes calls a “breakthrough into performance” (1981), HB responds to Vujnović’s request for another song that mentions HB’s home village of Dabrica with a brief, 104-line performance of “Nina of Koštun and Vidak the Shepherd.” This is an example of how HB, and other guslari as well, can readily code-switch from the everyday register (appropriate to the interview) to the epic register and back again, as the speech-act requires.
  22. See further Foley 1998, 1999a: 49-63.