Nora of Kelmendi

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Nora of Kelmendi
Folk tale
Name Nora of Kelmendi
Country Albania

Nora of Kelmendi was a 17th-century Albanian woman now legendary for her beauty and valor.[1]

She is sometimes referred to as the "Helen of Albania" as her beauty also sparked a great war. She is also called the Albanian Brünhilde too, for she herself was the greatest woman warrior in the history of Albania.[2] There are two versions of Nora's legend; both end with Nora killing the Pasha, head of the Ottoman Army, who had vowed to reduce the Highland (Albanian: Malsia, also Malcia or Maltsia as for the Gheg dialect) into ashes if Nora did not become his wife.[3]


The events happened around the year 1637,[4] while other older sources place the culmination of Clementi-Ottoman clash during 1638[5][6] or 1639.[7] Nora’s father, a noble warrior, wanted a son to help him fight against the Ottoman Empire. When Nora was born, he abandoned her at an orphanage. His sister, knowing the doings of her brother, adopted Nora and raised her as a boy. Nora's biological father, having the desire to train some young man to become a fighter, decided to train the adopted "son" of his sister. Hence, unknowingly, he trained his own daughter to become a fighter. As she grew up, however, Nora turned out to be the most beautiful girl in Malsia. It is said that she was as pretty as a true Zana (mountain fairy). Her fame spread through the whole country. A pasha who resided at the Rozafati Castle in Shkodra, heard of her too. One day, Nora came down to the city with her parents. The pasha came out of the castle and fell in love with Nora upon setting eyes on her.
Being from nearby Bosnia, which followed similar traditions to Albania, the pasha wanted to marry her by the laws of the Albanian Canon (Albanian: Kanun), which meant he would send a trusted man to Nora’s house and ask for her hand. However, Nora's family replied that the Albanian Canon did not allow for marriages with non-Albanians. The pasha was not accustomed to such refusal and kept a harem of women from far and wide. He flew into a rage: "Either Nora will become my wife or I will I'll burn all of Malsia to ashes." The pasha then led his army and besieged Malsia. Nora had proved to be a warrior, but now she had to prove that she was wise too, in order to spare Malsia from destruction. So she devised the plan to kill the angry Bosnian pasha.

There are two versions of the story. In the first version, Nora pretended to want to marry the Pasha without the permission of her family. Dressed with the djubletah, traditional North Albanian women dress, she went to the pasha's tent. Seeing her, the Pasha fell on his knees and began to pray, believing she was a true gift from heaven as a reward from the almighty Allah for his services to Him. The pasha ordered his troops to rest and prepare to go back to Shkodra. The soldiers happily put down their arms and celebrated by putting their noses into their bags of hashish. When all was quiet around the pasha's tent, Nora retrieved a war dagger that her father had given her, a dagger that had been passed through her family for many generations. It was believed the dagger had magical powers, for no one who had carried it had died from wounds inflicted by opponents—highly unusual at that time and in this turbulent region. Nora stabbed the pasha, kicked him on back of his head, and choked him so he could not scream. The pasha fell on his Persian rug. At that point Nora could no longer stab him because by Albanian custom, it is dishonorable to strike a man who is not standing or to hit a man who does not fight back. Nora fled and, as planned, the army of Malsia attacked the Ottomans, winning temporary victory over them. The pasha survived his wounds, gathered his own special unit and followed Nora to her home.

In a second version of the legend, Nora never goes to the tent. Instead, as the armies fought, several of the Ottomans broke away from the main body of the army to attack the villages. Nora led an army of 300 women against the Ottomans who had set off to burn, pillage and rape. In battle, Nora came face to face with the pasha and kills him in a duel.

In both versions, Nora kills the pasha in a fair duel. Both versions name the pasha as Vutsi Pasha from Bosnia.

Historical events[edit]

Historical sources give a less folkloric version of the story, focusing more on the ongoing struggle of over a decade between the Ottomans and Clementi highlanders initially due to their collaboration with the Montenegrins, and their fame as the most stubborn between Albanian tribes, rather than the portrait of Nora or any other local heroine, though they mention that women fought as well. According to Pjetër Bogdani's Cuneus Prophetarum, there were around 500 Kelmendi attacking the Ottoman army of 12,000.[7] François Lenormant in his Turcs et Monténégrins (Paris, 1866) mentions an Ottoman army of over 30,000 with 900 on the Clementi side, while the conflict starts in 1624 and spikes in 1938.[5] Another description comes from Father F. Arcangelo da Salto, theologian and counsellor of Savoy and consultant of the Holy See, who mentions around 700 Clementi, and the Ottoman casualties around 4,000, published in Vita del Venerabile Padre Fr.Bonaventura da Palazzuolo Riformato, vol.II, Venice, October 1722.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edi Shukriu (2000). Gra të shquara shqiptare [Distinguished Albanian women] (in Albanian) 1. Prishtina: Teuta. p. 36. OCLC 630465842. Retrieved 9.11.13.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ Savez udruženja folklorista Jugoslavije. Kongres. (1980), Rad ... Kongresa Saveza folklorista Jugoslavije. (in Serbo-Croatian), Cetinje, Yugoslavia, p. 219, OCLC 8509246, retrieved 10.11.13  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ Antonia Young (August 2001). Women Who Become Men: Albanian Sworn Virgins. Dress, Body, Culture. Berg Publishers. p. 113. ISBN 978-1859733400. Retrieved 9.11.13.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ Österreichische Osthefte (in German) 34 (1-4), Vienna: Österreichisches Ost- und Südosteuropa-Institut, 1992, p. 13, ISSN 0029-9375, retrieved 9.11.13  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. ^ a b François Lenormant (1866). Turcs et Monténégrins (in French). Paris. pp. 124–128. Retrieved 11.11.13. Pendant que la gouverneur de Scutari réduisant ainsi a l'obeissance une partie de la population tserno-gortse, le pahca d'Ipek, uni a moudir de Goussinie, attaquait leurs allies schkypetars les Clementi. Repousse. il implora de la Porte les mouens d'ecraser les montagnards de des bords du Zem. L'annee suivante, en 1624, la crainte qu insiraient les Montenegrins etant calmee, un ordre de Constantinople fit marcher simultanement contre les Clementi les Pacha de Scutari et d'Ipek. ainsi que le vizir de Bosnie, a la tete d'une armee de 30,000 hommes. Les troupes ottomanes se rasemblerent aupres de Scutari et s'avancerent en remontant la vallee du Zem. Feignant, par une ruse de guerre, d'etre epouvantes a la vue du nombre de leurs ennemis, les montagnards de cette intrepide tribu prirent la fuite et attirerent les Turcs jusqu'a un endroit appele Jamara, ou se reunissent las deux branches du Zem et ou l'armee du Sultan se trouva tout a coup arretee par un pont que les Clementi avaient coupe.
    les muslumans se debanderent bien vite et se sauverent a toutes jambes pendant plusieurs lieues, laissant 6,000 morts sur le champ de bataille. Le vizir de Bosnie avait donne le premier l'example de la fuite. Quant aux Clementi, leur perte avait ete presque nulle. Les traditions du pays pretendent meme qu'ils n'avaient eu que 900 hommes engages dans ce combat, avec un certain nombre de femmes, de vieillards er d'enfants.
    Ceux-ci resterent plusieurs annees sans ceder, Mais a la fin leurs provisions s'epuiserent; leurs bestiaux furent tous devores ils en vinrent a se nourrir d'herbes sauvages et de l'ecorce des arbres. Malgre tant de souffrances ils resistaient encore en 1638, lorsque le Sultan Mourad IV debarrasse de la guerre avec la Perse apres la prise de Bagdad, chargea d'en finir avec eux Doudje-Pacha, ancien bostandji-bachi, nomme governeur de la Bosnie.
      Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ a b Benedetto Mazzara (July 21, 2011), Leggendario Francescano, Istorie De Santi, Beati, Venerabili Ed Altri Uomini Illustri, Che Fiorirono Nelli Tre Ordini Istituiti Dal Serafico Padre San Francesco raccolto e disposto secondo i giorni de mesi in quattro tomi dal padre F.Benedetto Mazzara (in Italian), Nabu Press, pp. 10–17,22, ISBN 978-1173702304, retrieved 11.11.13  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ a b Pjetër Bogdani (1685), Cuneus Prophetarum (PDF) (in Albanian),, retrieved 10.11.13, Cusc mundetè me i raam mboh se ma i vobek kjè Vucia Pascia , issiλi pèr tè mbèleξè gni uscterij 12. mije vettesc , nuk' i mbastuenè sciumè miliogn aar , se Kelmendasitè tanè , te sijtè me gniεaan' ;Eja cusc ansctè trim, mbèleξ unè affere 500. vettèvraanè Vucie Pascenè , vjetit se Chrisctit 1639.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)


External links[edit]