Albanian folk beliefs

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Albanian folk beliefs (Albanian: Besimet popullore shqiptare) comprise myths and legends of the Albanians. Folk beliefs still exist in the Albanian inhabited mountainous regions,[1][2] and evolved over the centuries in a relative isolated tribal culture and society.[3] With traces of archaic elements, they are orally transmitted down the generations, narrated in the fields or at home in the evenings. The main theme of Albanian folk beliefs is the struggle between good and evil, in which the good always wins.[1] Among the main bodies of Albanian mythology there are the Albanian Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Albanian: Këngë Kreshnikësh or Cikli i Kreshnikëve), the traditional cycle of Albanian epic songs. Albanian folk tales can be divided into two major groups: legends of metamorphosis and historical legends.


The elements of Albanian folk beliefs are of Paleo-Balkanic origin and almost all of them are pagan.[4] One of the sources from which Albanian folk beliefs evolved is the ancient Illyrian mythology,[5][6][7] showing also similarities with other Indo-European branches of the neighbouring traditions, such as the oral epics with the South Slavs and the folk tales with the Greeks.[8]

Albanian mythology inherited the Indo-European narrative epic genre about past warriors, a tradition shared with early Greece, classical India, early medieval England, medieval Germany and South Slavs;[9] morover Albanian folk beliefs retain the typical Indo-European tradition of the deities located on the highest and most inaccessible mountains (Mount Tomor),[10] the lightning and fire deities (Perendi, En and Vatër),[11] the Daughter of the Sun legend,[12] the Dragon legend (Drangue and Kulshedra), the Fates and Destiny (Bardha, Zana e malit, Ora and Fatit)[13] and the guard of the gates of the Underworld (the three-headed dog who never sleeps).[14]


Albanian folk tales were first recorded in the middle of the nineteenth century by European scholars such as Johann Georg von Hahn, the Austrian consul in Janina (Ioannina), Karl H. Reinhold and Giuseppe Pitrè. The next generation of scholars to take an interest in the collection of Albanian folk tales were primarily philologists, among them well-known Indo-European linguists concerned with recording and analysing a hitherto little known European language: Auguste Dozon, Jan Jarnik [cs], Gustav Meyer, Holger Pedersen, Gustav Weigand and August Leskien.

The nationalist movement in Albania in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Rilindja, gave rise to native collections of folklore material such as the 'Albanian Bee' (Albanike melissa/Belietta shqiptarë) by Thimi Mitko, the 'Albanian Spelling Book' (Albanikon alfavetarion/Avabatar arbëror) by the Arvanite Anastas Kullurioti and the 'Waves of the Sea' (Valët e Detit) by Spiro Dine. In the last thirty years, much field work has been done by the Institute of Folk Culture in Tirana and by the Institute of Albanian Studies in Prishtinë, which have published numerous collections of folk tales and legends. Unfortunately, very little of this substantial material has been translated into other languages.

List of legends, myths, ballads, and characters[edit]

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Some of the best known legends, concepts, ballads, songs and/or characters of Albanian folk beliefs:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Elsie 1994, p. i.
  2. ^ Elsie 2001, p. ix.
  3. ^ Elsie 2001, pp. vii-viii.
  4. ^ Bonefoy 1993, p. 253.
  5. ^ Stipčević 1977, p. 74.
  6. ^ West 2007, pp. 288.
  7. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 280.
  8. ^ West 2007, pp. 19.
  9. ^ West 2007, p. 68.
  10. ^ West 2007, pp. 151.
  11. ^ West 2007, pp. 243, 266.
  12. ^ West 2007, p. 233.
  13. ^ West 2007, pp. 385–386.
  14. ^ West 2007, pp. 392.