A brigand leader in the folk epic songs Haiduk Cycle, Stаrinа Nоvаk, was a historic figure, but not as the epic tradition describes him. “Bаbа” (Old) Nоvаk, lived in the second half of the 16th century. He was born in Pоrеč, then Тimоčka Krајina. He was also literate. As a young man he became a haiduk and later on was a member of a company in Banat, under the Vallachian commander Michael the Brave. In 1601, he was ambushed and burnt at a stake in Cluj, Romania. The epic tradition dates Stаrina Nоvаk to the period of the fall of the Serbian Despotate, and his character actually blends several heroes and the Romanian haiduk company is placed on the mountain of Romanija in Republika Srpska. Also, the Novak’s son, described in the traditional songs, Gruјicа Nоvаkоvić, as well as his blood-brother Rаdivоје (dеli –Rаdivоје the Hero), are actually a blend of various historic figures.
Stàrinа – an Old Man, denotes an elderly person, but also a mythical ancestor, a founder of a lineage who protects his progeny. Bаbа, a Turkish word of Arabic origin (bаbо, in the songs) bears the same meaning.
Epic songs of the Haiduk Cycle: Stаrinа Nоvаk and Rаdivоје the Hero (Stаrinа Nоvаk i dеli Rаdivоје), Gruica Nоvаkоvić is Getting Married (Žеnidbа Gruicе Nоvаkоvićа), Gruica’s Lover’s Adultery (Nеvјеrа lјubе Gruičinе) and others. A monument to Bаbа-Nоvаk in Cluj, Romania.
The character of Stаrina Nоvаk is part of a broader Balkan tradition.