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The Fanes' saga - Analysis of the legend

The Fanes kingdom: 4 - Ey-de-Net


The plot begins to unravel, with the introduction of a group of peculiar characters, some of which are essential for both interpreting the real meaning and proposing a datation of the narrated events. The male protagonist, the herculean warrior Ey-de-Net, eventually enters the stage, and at the same time the mysterious key character of Tsicuta, who had once been betrothed to the Fanes’ king, is also revealed.


Thet text in short


Spina-de-Mul, here defined as “the Lastoieres’ sorcerer”, on the purpose to retrieve his Raietta, tries to put together a coalition of tribes against the Fanes. He succeeds in convincing Ey-de-Net to take a part in it with a group of Duranni. The warrior, who had never heard of Dolasilla, accepts at the condition of being granted to take the girl out of the battle unharmed.

The Lastoieres are a small tribe, whose name seems to be related with the Lastoni di Formin, close to the Croda da Lago. Since they live in this area, they are in the nightmare of being destroyed by the Fanes’ raids at any time. This must be the true reason (instead of the alleged recovery of the Raietta, that was related with the ancient initiation myth) why the “modern” sorcerer takes so much pain. He proves a cunning diplomat and succeeds in putting together a pretty strong coalition, but the Caiutes remain out of it. Ey-de-Net, a young warrior chief, consents to participate, probably at the head of his personal supporters, more on the purpose to make acquaintance with this Dolasilla than for political or military motivations.


Before the battle, Ey-de-Net greets sunrise from the top of mount Amariana. The clash, in which the Eagle-prince fights for his first time, takes place in the small plain of Fiammes. While the Fanes are at an advantage, Ey-de-Net confronts Dolasilla standing motionless and uncovered but, as the archer girl wavers, Spina-de-Mul, who was hiding behind his shield, wounds her with an arrow. Ey-de-Net, instead of exploiting the Fanes’ momentary dismay, assails the sorcerer who has broken their deal. The Fanes prevail and the allies quarrel.


Instead of moving against the Fanes taking the straightest path, i.e. through the Falzarego pass, where they would logically be awaited, the allies march north along the Boite stream, on the obvious purpose to bypass the defenders and penetrate into the core of the enemy territory. The Fanes however are not deceived and intercept their enemies still in the narrow plain of Fiammes, i.e. well before they can actually violate their borders. They at once take the initiative and successfully attack the Peleghetes, according to a classical scheme of breaking up the center. Only later, having put the weaker tribes to flight, they turn to the tougher Duranni: here the crucial scene of Dolasilla’s wounding takes place. When the girl falls, Ey-de-Net, instead of giving order to counterattack, angrily knocks the sorcerer down with his shoulder. This is undoubtedly the passage that must have essentially contributed to the assimilation of this pair, the warrior who knocks the sorcerer down without using any weapon, with the mythological one of the “ancient” Spina-de-Mul and Ey-de-Net.

Ey-de-Net will not come back home, because he wants to approach Dolasilla. He finds an anguana, and asks her for advice. The anguana addresses him at the Vögl delle Velme. In his turn, the old man sends him to Tsicuta, a sister of Spina-de-Mul’s. Ey-de-Net looks for her to no avail for a long time, until he runs into a raven, who explains him what he must do to meet her. She tells him that the woman had been betrothed to the Fanes’ king before the latter married the Fanes’ queen, and other interesting details. Tsicuta deals with Ey-de-Net coldly, foretells him that Dolasilla will break a promise she will make him, and that her destiny is shaped by her father’s ambition. However she gives him the correct advice to get in touch with the girl: he must have a shield built, so heavy that almost no man can be able to carry it.


Ey-de-Net decides to defect. According to the legend, he will never return to his Pregajanis, not even after Dolasilla’s death. He looks for an anguana and finds her on the shore of the Costeana stream. She suggests him – for rather obscure reasons – to meet with the Vögl delle Velme. This character, who is defined a “prince of the Aurona”, i.e. an expert metallurgist, “who travelled all over the world” and who, being able to despise wealth, must have owned a lot, exactly outlines the figure of a Bronze-Age itinerant smelter, well-proven by archaeology. The Vögl sends the hero to Tsicuta, but he has a hard time finding her. A supernatural halo of mystery and terror has been built around this character. But, from the raven’s gossip, we learn far more mundane details about her. Actually, the woman accomplishes nothing esoterical and gives Ey-de-Net the right advice to enter the Fanes’ kingdom.

Dolasilla quickly recovers from her wound. The artisans who had assembled the silver armour answer the king that it had been pierced by a magic arrow, against which it had no power. In order to protect Dolasilla from enchanted weapons, an enchanted shield was required, as the dwarfs of mount Latemar could build. The dwarfs speculate that the king’s order concerns the same shield Ey-de-Net had already ordered them; when the finished objects is delivered to the castle, the Fanes discover that none of them is able to raise it from the ground. One day, Ey-de-Net arrives and proves able to carry it, so that he is hired as shield-carrier for the princess.


If we replace the word “magic” with the word “metallic”, we can read that the metal armour could stop normal arrows, but not those equipped with a metallic arrowhead: to obtain that, a metal shield was needed, but a very heavy and thick one. The logic flows perfectly.
We can be left skeptical about the smith dwarfs’ argument, who apparently receive two separate orders, one from the Fanes’ king and one from Ey-de-Net, but conclude that both are dealing with the same object, and therefore build but one.
No man can raise it, but Ey-de-Net (who had it built according to his own strength) carries it without effort. Obviously, the Fanes as a race must all have been thin and short guys, and the Duranno a sort of giant among them.


Spina-de-Mul appears here in the role of a cunning diplomat, capable of roaming mountains and valleys to put together an army from nothing in support of his threatened tribe. Indeed, he is said to be a brother (a brotherhood better to be read in the broader sense of “fraternity”) of Tsicuta, who certainly is, as we shall see shortly, a Caiutes priestess. Spina-de-Mul (the “modern” one!) may thence be probably defined as a priest, maybe a missionary among the Lastoieres. Certainly, at Fiammes he fights with a bow, a weapon not exactly suitable to a warrior; anyway, by wounding Dolasilla he obtains a brilliant success. The Fanes prevail again, but theirs is a Pyrrhus’s victory.

Ey-de-Net immediately appears as a competent military chief; the strategical move (that, however, has no success) to bypass the Fanes’ army must be an idea of his, and his battle array appears quite sensible. However, his interest in the matter is limited to Dolasilla; as soon as the heroine falls, he doesn’t insist fighting, on the contrary he just quarrels with his ally who broke their deal.

The episode of the Vögl delle Velme was inserted by Wolff between the encounter with the anguana and that with Tsicuta. In this position, it appears meaningless. We must keep in mind that Wolff was reassembling the scattered fragments of an almost forgotten legend, and probably he just made a mistake in locating this character before, instead of after, the episode with Tsicuta. Indeed, if she suggests Ey-de-Net to have a shield built, who could give him advice better than the old retired itinerant smelter?

But the keystone of the story is Tsicuta. On one hand, she owns a range of attributions more appropriate to a Nature mother-goddess than to a priestess; her nickname (Tsicuta = Hemlock), that recalls both her dominance on herbs and a socially reproachable usage of them, her undiscoverable dwelling inside the mountain itself, her fire-red poppies, her control of storms, her relationship with animals… On the other hand, the far more humanlike circumstances described by the raven. Tsicuta had been betrothed to the man who today is the Fanes’ king, but he was induced by the Caiutes’ king to forsake her and marry the marmots’ queen instead! This can only be explained by assuming that the Fanes’ queen, when she had to marry, and to marry a foreigner according to her tradition, asked the Caiutes’ king for a husband: he designated for the role a close friend of his, maybe a relative, or even his own brother, just overlooking the detail that he was betrothed (or married) to Tsicuta. An illuminating consequence follows: both Tsicuta and the Fanes’ king must be high-born Caiutes!

Now let us examine the story of the shield. If the smith dwarfs build a shield by order of the Fanes’ king, but manufacture it according to Ey-de-Net’s size, this may only mean that the warrior and the king had already agreed to have it that way. As a matter of fact, Dolasilla is of a marriageable age, and the king has the problem of finding her a husband. He must be a foreigner, and certainly the king wants him of his own race and his same political opinions. However, the Fanes warriors would be hostile to another Caiute like him. Ey-de-Net comes at the right time: he is the right man, and the king does his best to introduce him into the Cunturines without rousing suspicion.

Now, who was acquainted with both, Ey-de-Net and the king, and therefore could arrange them to meet?
Tsicuta was the only one!
Suddenly, all veils fall: the mysteries and terrors shrouding Tsicuta and her dwelling must have been artfully manufactured to keep inquisitive people at a distance and cover her secret meetings with the Fanes’ king; meetings that didn’t stop at all after his royal wedding. This circumstance also explains why a version of the legend (collected by H. de Rossi in the Fassa valley) says that the Fanes’ king betrayed his people because of his love affair with a Caiute princess.