High Prokletije mountains, close to the sky and trimmed with powerful, flustered rivers that travel endlessly to two opposite sides, towards two distant seas to find their peace, covered with dense woods teeming with animals and birds and meadows full of fresh grass, networked with cheerful brooks and hidden horse paths have always cleaned the head, filled the hearts and fed the imagination.
This little part of the world has given birth to many wise and talented people, especially those adept to storytelling. Brilliant writers, who have left many pages of superb literature and poetry, had their forerunners in many generations of verbal, anonymous creators.
There are many legends on the occurrence of the name Prokletije and its meaning is the same in Albanian language, too.
One of them says that God himself named it. The God created Hrid Lake, high, high in the woods for the mountain fairies to bathe in it, and for himself to enjoy in their beauty and joy. The fairies would come, make the lake curative but, one day, they had to leave. Upon seeing the empty lake, the God ran amock and started throwing lightning and thunder until only bare rocks were left behind and then he cursed these mountains. That is why people call it the Cursed mountains (Bjeshket e nemuna in Albanian), or Prokletije (in Montenegrin).
The town Duklja close to modern Podgorica was created when two brothers – the older one was called Dukljan and the name of the younger one was forgotten – competed over a woman. They had a sister of such a beauty that they both fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. They fought fiercely at first then they agreed on the following: the younger would build a fortress on the heights and Dukljan would bring water to it from the foothill by a ditch. The one who finished the job first, would get the girl.
Of course, it was easier to build but the younger brother paused before placing the last three stones. His sister admonished him to finish the job but he was so tired that he fell asleep. Sometime later, the murmur of water woke him up. Realizing that Dukljan finished his task first, he took his sister’s hand and started running downhill. Dukljan threw those three stone at them and cursed them with the words: “You will find no rest and no survival anywhere”.
Fleeing, these two came upon a high mountain where they froze to death. So, Prokletije got its name after the two of them, the cursed ones.
A Fairy and three brothers
A husband and wife lived high in the mountains with their three sons. All three of them grew into good hunters. One day, after the death of their father, they went hunting together. While passing a lake, they saw a naked girl swimming in it. Realizing that she is a fairy, they stole her clothes. The fairy begged them to return her garb, but in vain. In the end, she surrendered, they gave her some of her clothes back and set out with her to their mother. On the way there, they agreed on the oldest brother marrying the fairy. But, some time later, the middle brother changed his mind, killed the older brother, for a fairy to be his. Later on, the youngest brother killed the middle one, because he wanted the mountain beauty for himself. Suddenly, while getting close to his house, he felt such a remorse for the things he did. “How can I show up in front of my mother without my brothers?” he asked himself. The regret was such that he killed himself. The fairy took her garbs then and returned to her friends.
Mother had been waiting for her sons to return from the hunt for three days and then she started looking for them. She found the youngest one first, then the middle one and finally the oldest. She carried them over to one place. The hills and mountains echoed from her cries and curses. The same fairy came to her and asked her why she cursed the mountains and rocks. The old woman showed her the dead sons and then the fairy explained what had happened. Mother cried the word “Pro-kle-ti -jo” (you damned woman) and expired on spot. This is why people named this mountain Prokletija.
Seven billy goats
One spring morning an old man and his wife set off to Čakor with their goats – the old man in front of the herd and the woman behind it. A storm surprised them on their way up. A strong wind was blowing, it even started snowing. The legs betrayed the old woman, she couldn’t fight the Ice Wind for long. She sat down and just stayed there in the snow. The old man trudged through the clearing, barely seeing the direction because of the storm. Eventually, he got tired as well. He paused for a second to catch his breath, turned around and saw neither the wife nor the herd behind him. He only faced the swirling whiteness and seven billy goats bleating from it. He thought his wife made a break so he also sat on the rock to wait for her. There, one the rock, he fell into an eternal sleep. The place where the old women died is called The Old woman’s field today and a mountain rose at the place where he waited for her and its name is The Old Man Mountain.
The legends says that those seven billy goats still wander through The Old Woman’s field and The Old Man mountain.
In a lake called Blato by the locals of Kaludra, high in the mountains, a huge dragon used to live; it was so large that it could swallow an entire ox, together with its horns. Since it needed loads of food, the dragon would eat everything and everyone that came to the lake for a drink. The shepherds avoided this place but the cattle rushed to it and the ravage was great.
One day in late autumn, when the acorn started falling from trees and locals of Kaludra climbed down the mountain, Rade from Kaludra set off to a wild oat hunt with a group of hunters. When they approached the lake, they saw the huge dragon, its body in the water and its head outside, resting on a plate on a lakeshore. Dazed by the autumn sun, hungry probably because there were no cattle around, the beast was sleeping.
Nevertheless, the hunters fled into a cave. But, Rade was braver. He went to his hut in the katun. He took an ax there and cut the trunk from an old beech. There was a branch on the trunk which served as a handle for this enormous makeshift hammer. Luckily, the dragon had only one head. Rale sneaked up silently, aimed well and hit the dragon with his full strength. The force of the impact was such that the dragon roared strongly and the mountain echoed and shook terribly from the sound; at the same time a soaring storm broke out, it made the woods swing like straws and the caps of Kaludra’s hunters flew to the top of the mountain.
The dragon jerked so much that it drained the water from the lake and then ran over the mountains, roaring and breaking everything in its way, toward Albanian cols, where it allegedly came from. The legend says that you can still see the ravines where the water had flown when it was drained by the dragon and the valleys it made while writhing the land in its escape.
The lake was filled with water again but this water has been turbid since then and the fish cannot survive in it. The cattle drink it eagerly though, and the wool is washed better than in any other clean, running water.
Rale’s sons were named Ralević, and the place where the hunters caps flew, Kaludra’s Caps (Kaludarske Kape).