Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The History of Rozafa Castle

At a very windy Rozafa Castle.  Additional pictures can be found here.
My parents have been visiting and as is true anytime we have visitors, we provide them with a whirlwind tour of the best sites our current home has to offer.  This past Saturday, that meant a trek to the northern Albanian city of Shkoder.  Shkoder sits on the southern edge of Lake Shkoder, the largest lake in the Balkans.  A highlight of any trip to Shkoder is a visit to Rozafa Castle.

To change things up a bit, below you will find a story of Rozafa Castle that I'm borrowing from Mitrush Kuteli's Old Albanian Tales.  I first read the tale in Albanian, but I've included the English version here.

There is a beautiful but bitter legend about the building of Rozafa Castle, which has come down to us from olden times.  Here is what that legend says:

On the summit of Valdanuz Hill, three brothers were working.  They were building a castle.  The wall they built during the day collapsed at night, and so they could never get it any higher.

Along there came a nice old man, who greeted them. "All the best to you too, you kind old man." the brothers said.  "But as for us...by day we work, by night it collapses.  Can you give us any advice?  How can we keep the walls standing?"

"I know," said the old man, "but it is a sin to tell you."

"On our heads be the sin, because we want this castle to stay up."

The nice old man thought about it, and then he asked:  "Are you married, brave lads? Do you have three lasses at home?"

"We are married," they said.  "All three of us have lasses.  So tell us what to do to keep this castle standing!"

"If you want to keep it, swear this to each other on your honor: don't tell your lasses, don't speak at home about what I will say.  Whichever of your wives brings your lunch tomorrow, take her and wall her up alive in the wall of the castle.  Then you will see that the wall will stay in place and remain for ever and a day."

This is what the old  man said, and he left.  One  moment he was there, and the next he was gone.

Alas!  The eldest brother broke his word of honor.  He spoke at home, told his lass, just like that, and he told her not to go there the next day.  The middle one too, broke his word of honor, he told everything to his lass. Only the youngest kept his word of honor.  He did not speak at home, he did not tell his lass.

In the morning, the three of them got up early and went to work.  Hammers struck, rocks broke, hearts beat, the walls grew higher.

At home, the lads' mother knew nothing.  She said to the eldest"  "Daughter-in-law, the workers want bread and water; they want a gourd of wine."

The eldest daughter-in-law answered her: "Upon my word, mother.  I can't go today because I am ill."

She turned and said to the middle one:  "Daughter-in-law, the workers want bread and water; they want a gourd of wine."

"Upon my word mother, I can't possibly go today; I'm going to my parents' house the night."

The lads' mother turned and said to the youngest daughter-in-law:  "Daughter-in-law."

The youngest daughter-in-law jumped to her feet, "Yes, mother?"

"The workers want bread and water; they want a gourd of wine."

"Upon my word mother, I would go but for my little boy.  I am afraid he will want the breast and he will cry."

"Oh you go, we'll look after the boy, we won't let him cry," said her sisters-in-law. 

The youngest stood up, the good girl; she took bread and water, she took the wine-gourd, she kissed her son on both cheeks and set off; she climbed up Valdanuz Hill and drew near the place where the three men- her two brothers-in-law and her husband- were working.

"May your work go well!"

But what was this?  Their hammers stopped striking, but their hearts beat faster and faster.  Their faces grew pale.  When the youngest saw his wife, he threw the hammer from his hand, he cursed the stone and the wall.  His wife said:

"What is the matter, my lord? Why do you curse the stone and the wall?"

The eldest brother-in-law broke in, "It was a black day when you were born, our dear sister-in-law.  We have sworn to wall you up alive in the castle wall."

"And all the best to you, my brothers-in-law.  But I have one request for you.  When you wall me up, leave my right eye uncovered , leave my right hand uncovered, leave my right foot uncovered, and leave my right breast uncovered.  Because I have a little boy.  When he starts to cry, with one eye I will see him, with one hand I will stroke him, with one foot I will rock his cradle, and with one breast I will feed him.  May my breast turn to stone, may the castle stay firm, may my son grow up brave, and may he become king and rule!"

They took the youngest wife and they walled her up in the foundations of the castle.  And the walls rose, they grew high, they did not collapse as they had before.  But at their base the stones are damp and mossy to this day, because of the mother's tears still fall for her son.

1 comment:

  1. wow such a good story this has really inspired me :) I hope to visit this