The Legend of Albania’s Many Mountains

Naum Prifti

While God was finishing up with the Earth’s creation, he soon noticed a stack of mountains sitting by his side and since he didn’t like the idea of carrying them around everywhere, he decided to store them for some time in Albania. He asked the inhabitants and they obliged.

Albanians had a tough time getting used to them, because mountains leave you breathless when you climb up and tire your knees when you come down; let alone the damages caused by the rocks and avalanches, the hazards of icefalls and landslides, cornices and crevasses. Yet they also discovered the coolness of springs, the freshness of livestock goodies, the breezing brooks, the murmuring waterfalls, the refreshing winds of slopes and trails. So much captivated by the mountains, they soon worshiped them much like the Sun and the Fire. Albanians even called parts of the mountain by the same names as body parts: the face, the neck, the foot, the back, the throat, the shoulders, the mountain head – a whole terminology rarely encountered in other languages of the world.

Thousands of years passed and some people began complaining to God about the fact that their homeland was covered only with hills and swamps with no mountains around. They felt as if they didn’t get their fair share. That is when God remembered the mountains he had placed in Albania and sent word that he would return to take a few of them from the land.

Upon hearing this Albanians became very upset. They rallied to make their voices heard. Using their mountain call by placing one hand around the mouth so as to be amplify the volume and the other by their ear to be ready to receive the response, there came such a trembling roar across the slopes and peaks that outdid even the howling of the winter storms.

“Hey! Have you heard? God wants to take away our mountains…”

“What did you just say, may you never speak another word again? Aren’t the mountains part of Albania’s charm, beauty and grandeur? How does one live without the presence of mountains all around?”

“Word is out that he only left them here for a short while.”

“No, truth be told, they have been here as far back as we all remember, I fear that God probably doesn’t remember.”

“Don’t you get it? He is the almighty God and he can give a direct order?”

“Makes no difference, what is given once it is not to be withdrawn. Besides God knows that the mountains are the thrones and seats of our deities, nymphs and sprites. Without the mountains, they too would go somewhere else.”

Someone amongst them burst out with anger:

“Poor us…  If the mountains are gone, what will become of Kanun, who will it belong to? If we lose it then our lives are at the mercy of the devil…Dear God, how terrible!”

“Wouldn’t it have been better for us if we would only have plains?” – asked someone interested in hearing another opinion.

“Bite your tongue man, our mountains are our clocks and calendars, without them we can’t tell eve from nightfall…”

Filled with rage an elderly man unleashed his anger:

“No, man, as long as live we don’t give up the mountains lest we lose the mountain tea…What do we drink in wintertime, how do we cure the elderly and the children’s coughs and runny noses? Neither God, nor man shall permit this.”

The protests and outraged cries of the Albanians were amplified by the ledges and the ridges, the crests and the slopes, the peaks and the summits. Upon hearing all the commotion Almighty God realized that the Albanians were one with their mountains and so He gave them his blessing:

“May you have them to enjoy eternally!”

Translated from Albanian by Eric Tare

The photo above:

Albanian Alps – from left to right: partly covered Maja e Jezercës (2694 m), Maja Popluks (2569 m), and Maja e Alisë (2471 m) – picture taken from southwest from above Shtegu i Dhënve (Source: Albinfo, Wikipedia)