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Themes of the Young Hero in Serbocroatian Oral Epic Tradition Author(s): David E. Bynum Reviewed work(s): Source: PMLA, Vol. 83, No. 5 (Oct., 1968), pp. 1296-1303 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1261302 . Accessed: 03/11/2012 20:47 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. . Modern Language Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to PMLA. http://www.jstor.org THEMES OF THE YOUNG HERO IN SERBOCROATIAN ORAL EPIC TRADITION BY DAVID E. BYNUM NARRATIVES which tell chiefly of young novices at the beginning of heroic careers may be found scattered among the many Serbocroatian epic texts of the Milman Parry Collection in Harvard College Library and in several published collections of Serbocroatian oral epic poetry. While such tales have not been plentifully recorded in Yugoslavia, they are not so rare that they can be dismissed as mere sports in a tradition that is now famous among scholars for its uniquely well-attested multiformity.' The type of the initiatory hero is firmly fixed, for example, both in the sung tradition of the epics themselves and in epic legend outside the tradition in the person of Omer Hrnjica, the son (though some say brother) of the Agamemnonian primus inter pares of Serbocroatian tradition, Mujo (=Muhammed) Hrnjica.2 The Yugoslav novice heroes are generally bound by name to epics that narrate only their unusual origins or precosity, their comings-ofage, and first exploits. Thus only rarely are heroes, who are known by name from stories of their initiations, cast again as the principals in tales of mature heroism, such as sieges of cities or returns from captivity, which abound in Yugoslav tradition. Newly come to manhood, or sometimes still only precocious boys, inexperienced in war, and unwived, the novices of the initiatory tales prepare for and perform their first heroic deeds, taking their places then in an imaginary society as men, warriors, and heads of houses. Much time in the initiatory tales is taken up with instructions and tests administered to the novices by their superiors or elders, who thereby confer upon them both the right and the knowledge they need to exercise their heroic mana in the common good. The usual standard of prominence applied to stories in an oral tradition is the number of their collected variants, which supposedly testifies to their currency in the tradition. By this standard, stories mainly about debutant heroes are not prominent in the Serbocroatian tradition.3Nevertheless, the attention of epic scholarship should be fixed on them because of one quite extraordinary variant which the Yugoslav epic singer Avdo Mededovic dictated for the American classicist Milman Parry in 1935. In a tradition in which a narrative of 1,500 to 2,000 epic lines is splendid and 5,000 to 6,000 is remarkable, Mededovic's 12,311-verse epic about the adolescent novice Mehmed Smailagic is so astonishingly expanded a development of traditional narrative that it seems to exceed the Yugoslav tradition and violate its nature in the very process of perfecting it. And this performance is notable not only for its Homeric length but also for the compelling resemblance Avdo's young hero Mehmed bears to a much earlier epic hero of the Balkans, Homer's novice Telemachus. This modern Yugoslav tale has Homeric qualities both formal and substantive. Avdo's extended rendering of the song of Smailagic Meho4 may not be a strictly unique performance in Serbocroatian oral epic tradition; other singers not recorded may have sung heroic narratives in Serbocroatian to similar fullness. 1 The words multiform and multiformity are used in the technical sense they have in the Oral Theory; for statements of that sense see Albert B. Lord, The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), pp. 100-138. 2 The name Mujo is a formation on the familiar South Slavic hypocoristic pattern of disyllabic names with vocatives in -o, and is derived from the first two syllables of the Arabic name Muhammed by the Serbocroatian dialectal change h>j. Other forms of the same name, e.g., Hamdo, have been produced on the same hypocoristic pattern, but they are not widespread in the epic tradition. The derivation of Mujo from Mustafa is an infrequently encountered folk etymology and a lexicographic mistake unknown to the Moslem epic tradition. where the distinction between the two stock heroes Mujo Hrjica and Mustajbeg Lika is among the best remembered facts of heroic legend. The Arabic name Muhammed came to the Balkans through Turkish, which also contributed to South Slavic its own form of the name, Mehmed. It too underwent naturalization into Slavic, which yielded the forms Meho, Mejo, and the augmentatives Me?ina and Meca. These Slavic forms predominate as the names of neophyte heroes in the Balkan Moslem oral epic tradition. It therefore appears that the Moslem initiatory heroes, like several Sultans of the Turkish Empire, are namesakes of the Prophet. That fact reveals the possibility of a former religious and political connection between the initiatory pattern of narrative in the epic tradition and the coming of Islam to the Balkans, a connection perhaps analogous to the many attested displacements of pagan European legendary or mythic persons by Christian saints. 3 There are, however, many more epic tales which contain accounts of novices as framed stories or as mere episodes of little apparent relevance to the narratives embracing them. See, e.g., No. 18 in Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord, Serbocroatian Heroic Songs (Cambridge and Belgrade, 1954) ("Hasan of Ribnik Rescues Mustajbeg"). 4 Parry text No. 6840, "2enidba Had~i Smailagina sina," Bijelo Polje, 1935. 1296 David E. Bynum Nonetheless his performance is unique in the practical sense that no songs of his length have survived in collections made from any other Yugoslav singers, or been reported by collectors. So it is curious that Avdo chose a seemingly infrequent narrative in the Yugoslav epic tradition as one of only two tales that he would perform for Parry to such monumental length.6 The singer revealed his reasons for the choice in his own spoken commentary to the song of Mehmed Smailagic and in other recorded conversations with Parry and his collecting staff.6 One of his reasons for elaborating the tale might have influenced any singer, although not every singer could have expanded the telling of the tale as Avdo did. Avdo had learned the essence of the story from a much shorter printed variant read to him by a friend7 (he himself was unable to read). He respected books, and the fact that the story was in a book certainly dignified it in his estimation. But more important to Avdo than the authority of the book was the tale's symbolic value; he understood it as a parable of the succession of male generations, which concerned him vitally. Avdo had two sons, and both had badly disappointed his expectations of them. The conversations with him turned again and again to his touching reflections on the ties that linked the generations of his father, himself, and his own sons, and his failure to do what he thought his father had done successfully: to train and induce his sons to live by the traditional moral obligations and restraints of Yugoslav Moslem manhood. The song of Mehmed Smailagic as Avdo sang it presents a legendary paradigm of success in that same fatherly enterpTise. That particular interest in the song was an idiosvncrasy in Avdo; others could and did sing it well under no such compulsion. But the same attraction which drew Avdo to this tale might also attract a liberal humanist or social scientist, for the tale is quite overtly about the problems and the process of "socializing" a male child and about the crucial moments of "role-transference" between father and son. Avdo's personal reason for devoting himself to a perfect performance of the song of Mehmed Smailagic, the influence of prestige which may have emanated from a printed version of the story, and Avdo's own rare powers as a singer of oral epic song might all three be regarded as extra-traditional cultural forces which bore upon the creation of the unique 12,311-verse narrative. So Avdo's performance was stimulated to its unique form by a unique combination of cir- 1297 cumstances acting upon him from outside the oral epic tradition itself. If we possessed no other variant of the story than Avdo's dictated text, we would not know for a fact that the tale is a traditional one, and could only guess by inference, because it was told in a style used by other singers to tell other stories traditional by definition. We would then be in the position of the classicist reading the Homeric epics and suspecting tradition at work in forming the Iliad or the Odyssey, but at the same time dissatisfied that a strictly oral epic tradition could by itself produce such extraordinary compositions. In the presence of such a doubt, the knowledge that special cultural circumstances elsewhere had worked together to produce an extraordinary text out of the ordinary stuff of tradition would be welcome. But it might be tempting to imagine further that such a uniquely expanded tale, stimulated to expansion by extra-traditional forces, must also be thematically unique-a unique story as well as a story uniquely told-and so perhaps no longer a "mere" traditional story. So, too, were we to ignore or be ignorant of the traditional aspect of Avdo's ponderous variant, it would seem by its size and wealth of detail to defy comparison with other performances. But the traditional character of Avdo's performance and his own legitimacy as a traditional singer are established facts, no matter what influences may have moved him to a remarkable manifestation of those qualities. The traditional singer is not an innovator, and that prevents any automatic conclusion that Avdo's long variant tells a unique tale merely because it is a unique or monumental performance. Before such a notion could be accepted for this epic, as it has been proposed for the Homeric epics, it is necessary to consider carefully the evidence from surrounding Yugoslav tradition as to whether Avdo's unusual elaboration of the story of Smailagic Meho has actually affected the orthodoxy of its pattern as a traditional tale. Is Avdo's telling of the tale thematically unique? To answer this question it is not necessary, and certainly not possible, to review all the performanceqor variants of all the novice stories in Serbocroatian oral epic tradition. It is possible, and sound procedure, to select from available performances a "sufficient sample," a selection ' The other isin Parry texts Nos. 12389 and 12441, "Osmanbeg Delihegovic i PaviVevic Luka." ' Parry texts Nos. 12445, 12450, and 12457. 7 Friedrich Krauss, Smailagit Meho (Dubrovnik, 1886). 1298 Themesof the YoungHero in Serbocroatian Oral Epic Tradition variant from which it was compiled, expressed in terms of that variant's community of substance with the rest of the tradition, Each list will also be internally repetitious, since epic songs commonly contain many multiforms of the same themes within themselves. Since we are presently interested in only part of the thematic inventory of the tradition as a whole-the part about initiatory heroes-we can ignore the frequency of themes within single sample texts, thus simplifying the thematic list for each text to a simple statement of what themes are present in a text without regard to the rate of internal repetition, The next step is to compare the nine lists of traditional themes from each of the nine texts in the sample. Two important configurational facts emerge from this comparison. First, the order of themes in any one tale is likely to be highly irregular with respect to the order in any other variant. But regardless of their order, themes tend strongly to cluster, and the same agglomeration of themes appears and reappears in widely separated geographic zones as well as in close communities.'3 The chart at the end of this paper reveals the final result of the process just outlined. It shows the agglomeration of themes which the nine selected Yugoslav tales about a novice hero have in common. Each theme in the agglomeration occurred in at least six of the nine variants. Of the residual themes in the texts, i.e,, those which are not included in the chart, none occurred in more than two variants. This means that in these nine texts there is one constant narrative, with no statistical uncertainty as to its constituents, even though the story is sometimes told more com8 Text No. 527,"Zenidba (ustovie Omera," recorded from Kulen Vakuf,1934;text No. 549, "SmailCamilKulenovi6, agiCMeho," recordedfrom Hasan KajimoviC, Kalinovik, ?enisinaMehmedbega," 1934;text No. 1956,"SilaOsmanbeg recordedfrom Murat Zunic, BihaC,1935; text No. 12460, "Zenidba Sahinpa,ica Meha,"dictatedby MuminVlahovljak, Bijelo Polje, 1935. of texts such that no further variant is to be found in the accessible corpus of recorded tradition which would extend the spectrum of variation already displayed within the sample. It would be possible to fill the prescription for such a sufficient sample by various selections, I have chosen eight texts which I believe serve the purpose. Four of these are unpublished texts in the Parry Collection,8 two are in the collection published by Kosta Hirmann,9 one is the variant of the song of Smailagic Meho from Rotimlja published by Friedrich Krauss,1?and the eighth is the song "Markovo prvo junamtvo" that appeared in the Bosanska Vila in 1893. To these eight texts should be added the performance from Avdo as a ninth,1 since the process of comparison about to be used opposes it to each of the eight other texts separately, not as a group. Anyone who has worked in the comparison of oral traditional narratives, whether folktale, epic, legend, or myth, knows that there is a practical choice between piecemeal, unsystematic comparisons if one proceeds by reference to whole stories, or more precise comparisons which permit description of the arrangement as well as the substance of stories if one refers to units within them smaller than whole stories. Such a procedure is always justified by the repetition of motifs and their arrangements; in the case of Serbocroatian oral traditional epic, we know that repeated motifs and repeated arrangements of motifs are the very means of recomposition.'2 They are the tradition of sung oral narrative. Albert Lord has called a singer's groupings of motifs into conventional clusters themes; but the same effect of clustering of motifs is observed in the Serbocroatian tradition as a whole, which is the aggregate of many singers' habits of composing. Sc to distinguish the units of clustered motifs noticed in the present nine texts from singer's themes we might call them taxonomic themes, and define them as pieces of narrative or descriptions which recur in tradition, and which are discrete because their occurrences are independent of any consistent sequential relationship with other such pieces. Now we can analyze each of the nine Yugoslav tales about an initiatory hero for its thematic content. The result will be a list of themes for each tale, nine lists in all, with some simple statement of each theme's primary substance serving as the name of the theme and representing it in the lists. Each such list will faithfully reflect the matter and order of narration in the 9 Narodne I-IT(Sarajevo, 1888-89):songsxxxx (fromKonjic)"Omer Hrnjiin izbavlja svog oca buljuk-baiu Muja i trideset Omerica," suzanja,"and xi (fromSarajevo)"Hrnji6ic 10See n. 7. 11Avdo'sperformance includesabout the samenumberof verses as the sum of the other eight texts, which vary in lengthfrom57 to over 2,000verses. 12 See the discussion of Yugoslavepic composition in Lord, The Singer of Tales, pp. 30-98. 18 I would not tax patiencewith a full demonstration of thematicanalysisfor each of the nine Serbocroatian texts. Declaration of the techniquewas importantfor the present purpose,ratherthan the processof its application,which wouldoccupyas muchspaceagainas this papernow does. u Bosni i Hercegovini,Vols. pjesne Mruhamedovaca David E. Bynum pletely in one text than in another. It is to be noted finally that Avdo Mededovic's version contains all of the themes in the traditional agglomeration. Here then is the fundamental narrative of the novice hero in Serbocroatian oral epic tradition as it is found in nine representative texts. Since the thematic designations used in the chart are only bones in the skeleton of the tale, it needs to be retold. The items on the chart may be checked as it progresses. The peers of the border marches, gathered in an habitual place of assembly, take their ease and drink. Good spirits loosen their tongues, and they begin to tell tales of their own heroism, each boasting of his exploits on the border, deeds at arms, prisoners taken, brides, horses and booty captured. Among them sits a single disconsolate figure, a young man, or a lad just become man, who possesses unusual qualities of strength and genius. He is morose because he does not enjoy the privileges, and hence the respect, of other men in the assembly. Given occasion to speak, he quarrels with the chief of the assembly, or threatens to rebel against his authority, determined to assert and prove his own worth. In his anger, he threatens to shed the blood of his own family or its retainers. To forestall tragedy, someone recites the youth's ancestry to him, evoking its heroic accomplishments as a proper example for his own ambitions, and thus introducing the element of genealogy into the story. In connection with this tendentious recital of genealogy comes the crucial information that the head of the young man's family, the ruling male in the generation just preceding him, is incapacitated for performing the traditional duties of his line as ruler and protector, either because of old age or by failure to return from war, or by other long absence, such as exile, so prolonged as to amount to death. His family's glorious past and present plight are made more poignant by the fact that the angry youth is his father's only son. Having been reminded of these things, the youth is promptly given an opportunity to prove his manhood by the elders of his society, who recruit him to restore the enfeebled authority of his ancestral line. His elders invest him with the right to use that authority on a temporary basis. The authority belongs by right to the incapacitated ruler of the previous generation and is only hypothecated to the young novice so that he may restore it to its previous vigor. The novice's first duty or labor as the officer 1299 of an ancestral authority which does not yet belong to him is to make a long and dangerous journey. The purpose of the journey is twofold: it is to confirm the newly transferred authority by demonstrating its reality in the heroic worth of its new bearer, and it is to recover from captivity in hostile territories either the persons or their potent symbols in which the novice's ancestral authority was formerly vested. For example, Omer Hrnjica goes deep into otherworldly, hostile Italy seeking his father whom the Italians had taken prisoner twenty years before. Mehmed Smailagic goes to Budapest to obtain from its treacherous and traitorous ruler a legal instrument confirming him as a commander of Turkish border legions in succession to his aged uncle and father; but this quickly gives way to the more serious matter of securing release from exile for his bride's father who had been the previous ruler of the glittering provincial capital, Budapest. Prerequisite to the novitiate quest is a consultation, or a series of consultations, with certain elder, secluded, or distant mentors who impart to the novice special knowledge and instructions for his conduct during the forthcoming journey to hostile lands. These mentors may be elder relatives or elder retainers of his family, men or women, and usually both. Each one who receives and entertains the youth questions him about some remarkable feature of his appearance before instructing him. One of these mentors acts also as his patron, equipping the novice for his journey with special clothing and weapons as well as a human or equine companion of particular experience and bravery. Finally, at his departure, the novice receives a special blessing from his patron in which the hazards of his quest are listed in words conferringupon him the power to overcome them. Some particularly dangerous citizen, or more often denizen, of the hostile lands beyond the border always figures largely in the instructions to the novice, some three-headed Blackamoor or evil vizier or manslaying immigration official. But, relying on his own prowess rather than on the wisdom of his advisers, the novice ignores the often repeated warning and deliberately challenges this force when he meets it. This wicked being has one of two aspects, or both simultaneously. He may be an interdictor who prohibits passage along the roads beyond the frontier or the cruel captor of a beautiful girl. The novice becomes a hero by overcoming this figure. In either case, his victory occasions his meeting 1300 Themes of the Young Hero in Serbocroatian Oral Epic Tradition epos, the byliny, has in the young Dobrynja a hero too much like the South Slavic novice for the parallel to be merely coincidental, but the provenience of the Russian texts and their cultural background make the Russian initiatory hero fully as mysterious a cultural phenomenon in the north as is the Serbocroatian in the Balkans. Farther to the south, and in a text of greater age, classicists have encountered a problem much like our own: how to explain the presence of an elaborate initiatory story in an epic, with only slightly more satisfactory evidence surviving for such rites as may have been practiced at ancient centers of cult like Eleusis in Attica and Delphi. The problem of the initiatory story has long existed in Homeric scholarship in the form of a question: why did the Odyssey, ostensibly about the old hero's obstructed return from the Trojan War, actually begin with an extended account of his son Telemachus' seemingly pointless adventures in seeking to learn his lost father's fate? The adventures seem pointless because they neither facilitate Odysseus' return to Ithaca nor help Telemachus learn anything substantial that would dispel the mystery of his father's whereabouts. So speculation has flourished, much of it tending to the conclusion that the adventures of Telemachus really did not belong in the same epic with those of Odysseus, and that they are some species of accretion which serve more as a blemish on the structure of the Odysseythan as a meaningful part of it. The issue is a two-headed one: does the tale of Telemachus mean anything in the Odyssey, and does it mean anything at all in the form we know? Charles W. Eckert of Indiana University has recently reconsideredyoung Telemachus in "Initiatory Motifs in the Story of Telemachus" (Classical Journal, LIX, 1963, 49-57). Without offering his own opinion on the place of Telemachus in the Odyssey as a whole, he proposed that the youth can be explained as a kind of heroic model for the mystes in the celebration of ancient initiatory Mysteries. Eckert does a real service in reviving awareness of meaning in the tale of Telemachus, and classical learning may even be nearer to an understanding of the history of the initiatory tale than we are in the case of Slavic, despite the incomparably superior documentation of this modern tradition. 14 See my article, "Kult a beautiful maid, to whom he is later betrothed or married. With his betrothal or marriage, the narrative of the novice's own actions is almost ended. But what of his original mission to free the captive persons and reinstate the attenuated authority of his immediate predecessors? No doubt the assurance of continuity represented by his bride is consoling, but the fact remains that the Serbocroatian novice hero fails to accomplish by his own valor or cunning the primary purpose of his initiatory journey. It is only indirectly, through some rare and accidental circumstance, that the elder hero whom the debutant hoped to restore is finally released from, so to speak, the place of the dead. Thus, the father of Mehmed Smailagic's bride is found miraculously alive in a prison at the far end of the Turkish Empire, while scarcely any others of those exiled with him in his daughter's early infancy had survived. So, too, the incredible accident of a foreign noble girl's sudden unbridled lust for him provides Omer Hrnjica a singular means of securing his father's release from a twenty-year captivity in the girl's father's dungeon. But Omer proves unable to exploit those means; he is forced to return with his bride to his own land without the elder hero, confident only that his father will be able to return by himself at a later time. One recalls Telemachus and his unretrieved father Odysseus. I venture to call this Yugoslav tale an initiation story because manifestly it is one. This designation for the moment carries no deeper implications of social initiation, religious rites, or mysteries among the South Slavs in whose language this traditional narrative comes to us in all its multiforms. Although in former times there were cults in the northern Balkans that practiced initiatory rituals, and although it might be possible to connect their ritual iconography with the initiatory pattern of narrative in the modern collections of Yugoslav oral epic tradition, the evidence of those cults which survives from the ancient and medieval past is fragmentary and difficult of interpretation; I have dealt with this problem in another place.'4 Besides, only the narrative has so far been discovered in living tradition. Uncertainty about the employment of this epic story in connection with ritual cuts off one easy explanation of the story's presence in Yugoslav oral tradition. It is interesting that elsewhere in the Slavic world the Russian traditional Balkana," in Anali fioloskog fakultela 4, Vukov zbornik i dvaju junaka u kulturoj istoriji (Beograd, 1964),pp. 65-73. David E. Bynum But it would surely be wrong to think that Telemachus is in ancient Greek epic only as a refugee from a discarded, well concealed, and forgotten ritual past. Were one to seek a common principle in the whole experience of ancient, medieval, and modern Balkan narrative and ritual traditions, perhaps it would be that narrative tradition persists in all its rich detail while rituals succeed one another, each ritual in turn drawing from the fund of oral narrative only a few motifs to emphasize as symbols of more perishable cultural values. For whether or not the story of Telemachus ultimately represents the pattern of initiation in religious ritual or social rite, Telemachus is an initiatory hero in ancient Greek narrativetradition in precisely the same sense as the young Yugoslav heroes are in the Serbocroatian tradition. Because they so resemble each other, the modern Yugoslav experience described in this paper suggests that Telemachus, like Mehmed Smailagic or Omer Hrnjica, would have been expectedto fail in his initiatory quest to bring about restoration of his father's authority, and that the failure is itself a significant part of the story that confirms the place of Telemachus in the Odyssey. We have established the content of a traditional epic initiatory narrative in Serbocroatian by taking a kind of average of its multiforms. The same method should be observed in speaking of ancient Greek tradition. Unhappily, what survives of ancient Greek oral narrative is mostly secondhand retelling removed at least once from the tradition, and not original collected texts. But the situation is not hopeless. Plutarch and Apollodorus have left rather full accounts of the novice Theseus,'5 and they may serve to broaden the glimpse of ancient Greek tradition which Homer offers. It is probably not at all remarkable that the stories of both Theseus and Telemachus can be followed closely on the thematic chart generated from Serbocroatian tradition printed at the end of this article. What is more surprising is that the two ancient Greek stories relate to the chart in the same way as two more, randomly chosen Serbocroatian variants would be expected to. The story of Theseus begins with his genealogy. Born the only son of a noble father whom some thought the god Poseidon, the youth was duly drafted at coming-of-age to undertake a dangerous journey and, by slaying a series of interdictors and the Minotaur, to restore his royal Athenian father's attenuated authority in At- 1301 tica and Crete. Before his journey he consulted his grandfather, wise old Pittheus, who, Plutarch tells us, told him what route to take to Athens. Dressed in special sandals and carrying the sword left him by his father and preserved for him by his mother, Theseus obtained the special blessing of Hecale at his departure. He disregarded Pittheus' instructions concerning the way he should travel and took the more perilous land route to Athens. If on this occasion he did not travel with a guide, at one time he had had as a companion the prudent and seasoned Connidas, who had doubtless gone with him on his earlier, religiously initiatory journey to consult the oracle at Delphi. This same oracle later instructed him to take with him the goddess Venus as his guide on yet another journey, the crossing by sea to meet the Minotaur in Crete (just as Telemachus took Athena as a guide on his voyage to the Peloponnesus). Entertained en route to Athens by the Phytalidae, Theseus met a series of dangerous interdictors of roads, whom he overcame, and freed the captive girl Perigune, whom he wed, as later he freed and wed Ariadne. Finally, in the accounts known to Plutarch, it appears that the elder whom Theseus was set to liberate was his father-in-law, Minos himself. Thus the thematic parallels between this Greek story and the Serbocroatian story of heroic initiation are impressive. The most important fault in the comparison is the lack of several themes in the tale of Theseus which appear in the Serbocroatian. Absence proves nothing, but it should be pondered whether a true oral variant of the Theseus legend might not have given us at least some of the missing themes. In lieu of that, we have only the synopses made by learned persons who certainly were not themselves oral traditional storytellers, but only ancient collectors and compilers who report the tradition to us. Several of the themes missing in the extant tale of Theseus are supplied in the real oral traditional narrative of the Odyssey. The first, second, third, fourth, and fifteenth books of the poem tell of a journey by Odysseus' only son, Telemachus, to learn his missing father's fate. First described in the assembly of his mother's suitors, Telemachus sits a solitary, disconsolate figure. Here Athena appears to him in disguise and discusses with him his ancestry and the fate of his lost father. Telemachus complains that u Plutarch, Lives: "Theseus." Apollodorus, Library,ni, xvi. 1302 Themes of the Young Hero in Serbocroatian Oral Epic Tradition reasonable that the two heroes play the same r6les in successive multiforms of the same themes. In the Odyssey, there is a deep connection between the father and his son which made them doubles of each other and required them to share the same patterns of experience; it is the same connection between father and son which drew the mind of Avdo Mededovic so powerfully to the song of Smailagic Meho, and Avdo hearing Homer sing would not have missed it. Homer tells us what the association is: the restoration of due authority in Ithaca was the common motive for the voyages of both Telemachus and his father, and Homer displays it appropriately as the fact which links their lives by making it the driving purpose in the omniscient mind of immortal Athena, who guides the destinies of father and son alike and to the same end. A way of further emphasizing that connection was to make the tale of Odysseus' return begin like the homeward-bound portion of Telemachus' initiatory voyage, and to put it at the same place in the story of Telemachus where Telemachus himself would turn homeward. Of course the story of the returning elder hero Odysseus had to develop differently from the initiatory tale, in keeping with the different traditional pattern of the return story, but when once the development of the return story had assured the restoration of the father, which the novice Telemachus could seek but not accomplish, the tale could rightly turn again to the son and the conclusion of his initiation. Consulting Menelaus in Sparta about his father's adventures, Telemachus is again entertained and instructed, and then told by Athena what route he shall travel on his return to Ithaca to avoid the murderous intent of his mother's suitors to waylay him. Before he leaves Sparta, Helen assures Telemachus by omen of his father's sure return to Ithaca. He therefore quickly and quite logically cuts short his initiatory quest and returns uneventfully home. He has in a real sense accomplished the purpose of his initiatory voyage, subtly and sometimes inversely, by sharing a pattern of narrative with his father, and, overtly, in learning from Helen's augury the certain reestablishment of his parent's authority, for he could not himself restore it. From the coming-of-age in the council of elders and peers-to-be, through the proof of manhood and fitness to bear rule, to the promised restoration of an eclipsed authority and the resurrection of those who formerly wielded it, the because he does not enjoy man's estate, he can do nothing to restore his father's enfeebled authority in his household, overrun by suitors to his mother. Hearing this, Athena urges Telemachus to do what he has said he cannot do, to restore his father's authority at home; to prepare him for that task she provides a ship and crew for his dangerous, initiatory voyage to the Peloponnesus. On the day following his meeting with Athena, the Assembly of the Freeman of Ithaca gathers for the first time since Odysseus' departure for the Trojan war, which had happened in Telemachus' infancy. Dressing specially, Telemachus enters the assembly and takes his father's seat, thus tacitly assuming his father's right, the authority of kingship in Ithaca. After hard words have passed between the youth and the assemblymen, who are also his mother's suitors, Telemachus sets out to consult the elder Nestor in distant Pylos, with Athena acting still as his patron and now also as his guide. In Pylos he is questioned, entertained, and receives instructions. Now Nestor becomes his patron, equipping him with horses and giving him his own son Peisistratus as an escort on a farther journey to Menelaus in Sparta. In Sparta, Telemachus is at the outermost limit of his initiatory journey. And just at this point, the story of Telemachus is interrupted (between the fourth and the fifteenth books of the Odyssey) by the story of Odysseus' return, which itself echoes the initiatory story-pattern, beginning with a voyage and the overcoming of interdictors in foreign places. The sudden transition from the tale of the son to the tale of the father seems to some critics an unnatural union of generically different narratives. Yet the thematic composition of the juncture is not so monstrous. For just as Telemachus' journey from Pylos to Sparta reduplicates his voyage from Ithaca to Pylos, so Odysseus' homeward journey begins as yet another, third multiform of initiatory voyage, with patrons who equip him, preparations for journeying, monsters that block his progress, and so forth. Superficially, Homer made the transition from the story of the initiatory hero Telemachus to the story of his father's return by substituting the name of the older hero in the same string of themes he had just used to tell of the son. Such a pattern of multiformity is familiar in oral narrative composition, and in these cases there is usually a logical association which makes it David E. Bynum correspondence between the Greek traditional initiatory tale and the Serbocroatian is extensive. Avdo's and Homer's stories are in large part one and the same story, a Balkan initiatory myth of somewhat more than two thousand years' attested antiquity. Avdo Mededovic's song of Smailagic Meho in Serbocroatian may be the best Telemachia we shall ever have, and one not in essence inferior to the best we could have hoped for from the ancient Greek world. Assembly T16 Boastingin assembly Discontentedmemberof assembly T Youth does not enjoy privileges of manhood T in assembly T Youth quarrels Noble ancestry T/Th T/Th Only son Elderheroincapacitated T/Th 1303 Youth recruitedto restoreauthority T/Th Youth appointedto authority by elder(s) T/Th Novice consultsmentor(s) T/Th Mentorquestionsnovice'sappearance T Patronequipsand sends novice on a quest T/Th Novice dressesspecially T/Th for journey T Heroichorsesprepared Novice obtainsblessingat departure T/Th Novice travels (escorted) T/Th and instructeden route Novice entertained T/Th Th of girl(s) Novice meetsinterdictor/captor Hero destroysinterdictor/captor Th Th Hero betroths/wedsgirl Captiveor exiledelderheroreleased T/Th HARVARDUNIVERSITY Mass. Cambridge, 16 Theseus. Here"T"is Telemachus, "Th,"