Beyond the Hatfields & the McCoys: Blood Feuds in Albania

I’m once again doing the ill-advised – sitting and thinking that I should blog about something late at night. There is something to be said for waiting and doing this in the morning when I am decently caffeinated, but that hasn’t worked out all week, so here I am.

In about a week, Zoe Beck’s new collection of short stories, A Contented Man & Other Stories, will be released. One of the stories in this series is a retelling of the Rapunzel story, set in 1930s northern Albania. But this isn’t one of those more typical reimaginings of fairy tales; this is actually an inversion of the tale with the woman waiting outside of the tower and the man locked inside. He is there because their two families are locked in a blood feud, called a Gjakmarrja in that part of the world. These feuds primarily involved men carrying out revenge killings, however, an interesting gendered element is introduced by the category of the so-called sworn virgins. These women, who no longer had any living male relatives, vowed to pursue lives of celibacy as men, and as such, they could take part in the feuds. It was the only way that women in this region could attain rights equal to that of men.

As for the rest of the story, you will just have to read Zoe’s “Rapunzel” to learn more… But here are a few pictures of “Rapunzel’s towers” to tide you over until then.



Lura_Albania_kulla (1)

Sworn_virgin_in_Rapsha,_Albania (1)

Photo credits:

By Doron (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

By isaleal (originally posted to Flickr as Kulla) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“Sworn Virgin” by Edith Durham (8 December 1863 – 15 November 1944)


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