|Zornitza||daughter of Radan and sweetheart of Ilija||Nadia Sharkova|
|Ilija/Lud Gidiya||farm worker in love with Zornitza||Dimiter Tzolov|
|Radan||a land master and father of Zornitza||Dimiter Kozhouharov|
|Radanitza||mother of Zornitza||Jordanka Dimcheva|
|Mecho||friend of Ilija and in love with Kuna||Mihail Liutzkanov|
|Kuna||friend of Zornitza and sweetheart of Mecho||Tzena Rashkova|
|Osman Bei||Turkish ruler||Georgi Genov|
|Kadija||a Turkish village judge||Kiril Djulgerov|
|Otez Matei||the old priest||Boris Ignatov Christov|
In the village of Sultane the farm workers are seen early in the morning singing on their way to work in the fields of their masters. The shepherd Mecho, a worker for master Radan meets the farm workers and tells them about the big brawl that happened last evening. The rebec* player Ilija, a shepherd who is in love with Zornitza, was caught by Radan serenading his daughter, Zornitza, beneath her window. When he discovers that his daughter is in love with this farm worker he creates a scene in the village. He will not let this crazy Ilija court his daughter, the finest girl in the village.
Ilija is heard coming from the fields singing of his love of Zornitza. Everyone in the village loves Ilija because he makes them happy with his songs and rebec playing and they welcome him joyfully. Mecho is afraid for his friend because of Radan's threats and plans to keep the lovers apart for their own safety. Ilija is prepared to fight for his love. The harvesters promise Ilija that they will help him and together they go off to work in the fields.
Kuna, a worker for master Radan and sweetheart of Mecho, comes running to Mecho and tells him to find Ilija to meet Zornitza. Zornitza is unhappy because her father has forced her to separate from her love. She tells Ilija that it may be best for them to separate. At that moment Radan arrives with two other masters and angrily tells his daughter to go home and orders Ilija to immediately leave the village. Radan announces that he would rather give his daughter to a Turkish man than to Ilija. Hearing the argument, the workers return from the field and become indignant over Radan's words. Ilija courageously announces that he will not allow Radan give Zornitza to a Turk and begins a funny song. Radan is furious and wants to complain to Kadija but Ilija's songs fascinate the countrymen who begin to dance the horo.
At the home of Radan the desperate Zornitza asks her mother for help. Her mother understands her because many years ago her father forced her to marry Radan. The Kadija of the village arrives looking for Bei Osman who had been there the day before. As the Bei leaves, Kadija happily tells him that he was made ruler of the village by the Sultan and wonders why he was granted this great honor. The Bei tells him that in one battle where the Turks were crushed, Kadija and his janissaries** saved the Sultan. For his act of heroism the Sultan gave him the village of Sultane. Kadija asks about the Bei's family and sadly Osman tells him he had been a janissary for an Ottoman landlord but does not know his real family or where he came from. All that was left with him was one amulet made of leather marked with an unknown stamp. In vain, the Bei asked learned Syrians, Greeks, and Persians about the meaning of the amulet. Kadija tells the Bei that in the village there is one old priest called Otez Matei who might be able to read the amulet. The Bei sends one of his men to fetch the old priest Matei.
Radan arrives with two of his friends and complains to Kadija about Ilija-Lud Gidiya. The masters insist that Ilija leave the village because he incites his fellow countrymen not to work on the master's fields. Kadija promises to denounce Ilija that same day and dismisses the masters. Alone with the Bei, he reveals the real reason for Radan's anger and asks for the Bei's advice: if he blames Ilija the village people will be unhappy; if he acquits Ilija he will incur the wrath of masters. The Bei tells him that even if in the retinue of Sulimen there are brave men, it is the singers that make famous the work of the Sulimen. If you blame the singer you will make a great mistake.
The Kadija leaves pleased with the good mood of the Bei towards the rebec player and decides to acquit Ilija. The old priest Matei arrives and is met by the Bei and with great excitement gives him the amulet. The priest immediately sees that the amulet is written in Bulgarian and the stamp is from the village of Sultane. The Bei is upset with this information. With dignity the priest tells him about the past glory of the enslaved country. "Bulgarians had kings, intellectuals, great armies and a kingdom on three seas." The Bei with impatience asks him what is written on the amulet. The priest replies that he has to research the old church books. Feeling the resentment the Bei states this was started by Radan's request to send Ilija away, but he does not want to interfere. Zornitza walks by, startling the Bei with her beauty. Never has he seen such a beautiful girl. Radan offers the Bei his daughter for his wife if he will banish the rebec player from the village. Before Osman has a chance to answer Zornitza brings them coffee. Radan introduces the Bei and he orders her to kiss the hand of the Bei, as he will be her husband. The girl begs her father for mercy but he is inflexible. Full of love, Osman tells of the beauty their life together will hold. Zornitza bravely tells him that she loves another man and runs away. Radan calms the Bei and tells him that he will force his daughter to obey.
In the far distance a drummer can be heard telling that Ilija's trial will begin soon. As Radan leaves for the trial, Osman resolves to send the rebec player away to get Zornitza to himself.
The drummer calls the people to gather under the old sycamore for the trial. Zornitza tells her problems to her girlfriend Kuna who is trying to find Mecho to ask him to help. When Mecho hears that Radan plans to marry his daughter to the Turk, he promises to help. People begin gathering on the squareas Kadija arrives with the masters and the trial begins. Ilija is brought in tied by the soldiers. The masters begin their prosecution stating that Ilija-Lud Gidiya causes unrest and the workers do not want to work in the fields. This is why they want Ilija banished from the village. Ilija explains that he never treated anyone unfairly and never said anything bad about anyone. On the contrary, as a farm worker he is making a larger herd for the master. The truth is that Radan wants to send him away because he loves his daughter. The people confirm his testimony. The Kadija orders Ilija untied to demonstrate his skill. As he starts to play, even the Kadija can't refrain and begins dancing with the people. The masters join in and the happy Kadija rules that Ilija is not guilty to the delight of all.
The Bei arrives and orders the soldiers to bind Ilija and send him away from the village. The soldiers tussle with Ilija and tear his shirt. The Bei is amazed to see on his breast an amulet similar to his. With his dagger he removes the amulet of Ilija and gives it to the priest Matei. Excitedly Osman waits for an answer from the priest. Otez Matei quietly tells everyone that once upon a time the shepherd Boril from their village had two sons, Slav and Ilija. The Turks took the young Slav to be a janissary and now he stands before them as the Osman Bei. His brother is the rebec player Ilija. During the excitement Zornitza rushes in to plead for Ilija's freedom in return for her hand in marriage. For her sacrifice, the Bei tenderly brings her to Ilija. All three embrace in joy at this resolution.
Master Radan is compelled to agree to the marriage of Zornitza and Ilija as people congratulate each other. Unexpectedly Mecho arrives with a group of shepherds to save Ilija. Everyone laughs at his tardiness as Ilija invites the entire village to the wedding.
* Rebec a stringed instrument played with a bow.
** Janissary a Christian youth taken from his family at an early age as a payment of taxes by the Ottoman Turks and trained to be a soldier in the Turkish armies. These boys were from the Balkan countries, mainly Bulgaria and were educated in the Ottoman ways, often losing any memory of their families and where they were from. After years of training they returned to their countries and often the villages of their families to fight as a soldier of the Turks unknowingly against their own people.