The Building of Skadar or The Walling of the Skadar[1] or The Founding of Skadar (Serbian: Зидање Скадра) is a poem of the pre-Kosovo cycle of Serbian epic poetry. It is based on the motif of human sacrifice.[2][3]

Time and place

The events described in the poem allegedly occurred at the beginning of the 14th century.[4] Jovan Tomić concluded that this song was created in the region near Skadar (now Shkodër), such as upper Albania, Montenegro, or the southwest part of Herzegovina where the tradition of the Mrnjavčević family was strong.[5] His conclusion was later supported by other scholars.[6] The army led by King Vukašin Mrnjavčević and his son Prince Marko came under Skadar in June 1371, but when they were informed about a large Ottoman army advancing from the east they headed east to prepare for the Battle of Maritsa.[7]

The same motif is described in poetry composed in some other languages. The version in Serbian is considered as the major South-Slavic version. It is the only version which exists in the form of an epic poem, while versions in Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian are ballads.[8] The version of the song in the Serbian language recorded by Vuk Karadžić is the oldest collected version of the legend, and the first one which earned literary fame.[8]

Publishing and initial reactions

This song was published for the first time in 1815 in a version recorded by Vuk Karadžić from the singing of a Herzegovinian storyteller named Old Rashko.[9] In 1824, Vuk Karadžić sent a copy of his folksong collection to Jacob Grimm, who was particularly enthralled by The Building of Skadar. Grimm translated it into German, and described it as "one of the most touching poems of all nations and all times".[9] [10] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published the German translation, but did not share Grimm's opinion because he found the poem's spirit "superstitiously barbaric".[11]


The song describes the building of a fortress on the Bojana river at Skadar by the Mrnjavčević brothers (Vukašin, Uglješa and Gojko Mrnjavčević). Gojko had to wall up his young wife alive within the walls of the fortress as a sacrifice demanded by the mountain vila (nymph in Slavic mythology). According to Vuk Karadžić, there was a belief at this time that it was impossible to build a large building without a human sacrifice. Vuk claims that people even avoided the building sites because they were afraid their shadow could be walled-up and they could die without it.[12]

See also


  1. ^ H. Munro Chadwick; Nora K. Chadwick (31 October 2010). The Growth of Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-108-01615-5. Retrieved 5 March 2013. In the 'Walling of Skadar' Vukasin contrives to get his brother's wife immured as a foundation sacrifice to the Vila.
  2. ^ Felix J. Oinas (1978). Heroic Epic and Saga: An Introduction to the World's Great Folk Epics. Indiana University Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-253-32738-3. Retrieved 1 March 2013. For example, "The Building of Skadar" (Vuk II, 25) is based on the motif of a blood sacrifice being required to make a building stand.
  3. ^ Tade Božinović; Renko Fulgosi; Ante Bakotin (1957). Pregled književnosti naših naroda. Slobodna Dalmacija. p. 17. Retrieved 4 March 2013. Pretkosovski ciklus pjeva najviše o Neman jićima i Mrnjavče. vićima. Najviše pjesama ima o Nemanji, sv. Savi, Milutinu i Dušanu Silnom. Najljepše pjesme ovoga ciklusa su: »ženidba Dušanova«, »Zidanje Skadra« i »Uroš i Mrnjavčevići«.
  4. ^ Zora Devrnja Zimmerman (1986). Serbian folk poetry: ancient legends, romantic songs. Kosovo Pub. Co. p. 294. Retrieved 1 March 2013. "The Building of Skadar" is an old epic, the events of which are reported to have occurred during the first half of the fourteenth century.
  5. ^ Književnost i jezik. s.n. 1980. p. 27. Retrieved 5 March 2013. Najzad Jovan N. Tomić zaključuje da teren postanka pesme »Zidanje Skadra na Bojani« nije daleko od samog Skadra."
  6. ^ Prilozi za književnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor. Državna Štamparija. 1989. pp. 53–54. Retrieved 5 March 2013. Томићевом изналажењу локалитета Вуковој песми Зидање Скадра не може да се приговори
  7. ^ Andrija Veselinović; Radoš Ljušić (2008). Srpske dinastije. Službene glasink. p. 67. ISBN 978-86-7549-921-3. Retrieved 5 March 2013. У јуну 1371. војска коју су предво- дили краљ Вукашин и његов син Марко дошла је под Скадар, али је поход нагло прекинут
  8. ^ a b Alan Dundes (1996). The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 146. ISBN 978-0-299-15073-0. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  9. ^ a b Alan Dundes (1996). The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-299-15073-0. Retrieved 1 March 2013. Karadzic recorded one version of the ballad from one of his prize informants, a man called Old Rashko, who was born in old Herzegovina,... The ballad was first published in 1815.
  10. ^ Paul Rankov Radosavljevich (1919). Who are the Slavs?: A Contribution to Race Psychology. Badger. p. 332. Retrieved 1 March 2013. skadar.
  11. ^ Marcel Cornis-Pope; John Neubauer (2004). History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 273. ISBN 978-90-272-3455-1. Retrieved 2 March 2013. Goethe published a German translation of it but found its spirit 'superstitiously barbaric'.
  12. ^ Alan Dundes (1996). The walled-up wife: a casebook. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-299-15070-9. Retrieved 4 March 2013.