The story ‘Muro drom ži ande Debeljača’ [My trip to Debeljača] illustrates the interlocking of beliefs and reality as dealt with repeatedly by storytellers from many Romani groups: the contacts between the world of the living and that of the dead (mule – ‘the dead’). The dead may be threatening, as in the tale of Keba Kouznelas or comforting and helpful (see the tale ‘O drugari’. Since mulo* stories are often understood or presented as true stories, they are mostly embedded in realistic reports. That is the case in this narrative: the uncle of the first-person narrator had migrated to Belgrade and for a while was not allowed to leave the city. But the young Rom was familiar with the area where he had grown up and so he undertook the trip instead of him.
The narrator gives a detailed description of the horse and carriage, the provisions and the roughly 50-kilometre route from Belgrade to Debeljača. The situation at the bridge across the Danube in Belgrade caused a delay of several hours. The bridge (Pančevački most), which had been bombed in 1945 and rebuilt under Tito, had only one lane for all kinds of traffic, and since the railway had the right of way, horse-drawn carriages had to wait until the trains from either direction had crossed the bridge, whereupon the road traffic from one direction could pass and then from the other. The road continued to the bridge across the Temeš stream and to the village of Pančevo and from there north through the treeless, dry plain of the Banat through the village of Crepana to Debeljača.
All the fantastical experiences when the first-person narrator enters the realm of the dead and almost fails to find his way out again – his aimless wandering, the transformation of figures, houses and landscape, the difficulty of driving owing to the obstructive grip of the dead – fit perfectly into the realistic framework. The nightmare ends at daybreak and the protagonist finds his way out. His relatives at the destination of his trip are not surprised: they know the problems one may encounter on this ghostly route. They let him know how lucky he was.
The story also includes the motif of the magical powers of people born on a Saturday, like the first-person narrator reports to be. This motif is also to be found in stories of other family members (Fennesz-Juhasz et al. 2003, no. 11). The belief that the dead who return cannot speak at all or can speak only with difficulty is frequently to be found in mulo stories (Fennesz-Juhasz et al. 2012, no. 1), as is the habit of turning a cap around and pulling it deep over one’s forehead as protection from the dead.
Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane; Cech, Petra; Halwachs, Dieter; Heinschink, Mozes F. (ed.). 2003. Die schlaue Romni: Märchen und Lieder der Roma / E bengali Romni: So Roma phenen taj gilaben. Klagenfurt: Drava Verlag.
Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane; Cech, Petra, Heinschink, Mozes F.; Halwachs, Dieter W. (ed.). 2012. Lang ist der Tag, kurz die Nacht: Märchen und Erzählungen der Kalderaš / Baro o djes, cîni e rjat: Paramiča le Kaldêrašengê. Klagenfurt: Drava Verlag (transcript and German translation: pp. 354–71).