VOLUME III • 2009: Black Arab as a Figure of Memory
The Black Arab in South-Slavic Epic Songs: Merely a Power-crazed Compulsive Lecher?
The Black Arab is a figure frequently represented in the heroic songs of the South Slavs. He is an antihero, an evil Muslim opponent of the Christian hero, primarily of the ideal hero Marko Kraljević, and also of the ill but honourable Dojčin (Bolen Dojčin, Bolan Dojčin). His most prominent marker is that he is a sexual monster and rapist. He requires a pretty girl for every night and even presumes to appear before the Sultan demanding that he bestow his daughter in marriage to him. Is the Black Arab only a power-crazed compulsive lecher? This question is investigated more closely on the basis of the heroic song ‘Marko Kraljević and the Arab’ (Marko Kraljević i Arapin), which is published in the second volume of the collection of Serbian songs by Vuk Karadžić under No. 65. A comparative analysis shows the historical, mythical and legendary roots of the figure of the Black Arab and of the epic song dealing with Marko Kraljević and the Black Arab. In some respects it follows the fairy-tale of the Dragon-Slayer, in others the legend of St. George. The Black Arab is a substitution for the Dragon. He represents the principles of earthly power and sexual desire. His unusual physical strength breeds fear. Marko Kraljević, on the other hand, substitutes for St. George. He is shaped in the same way as St. George: He fights for Good against Bad in this world, i.e. the violation and degradation of the Sultan’s daughter by the Black Arab. His fight bears a Christian meaning.