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The Fanes' saga - Analysis of the legend

The Fanes kingdom: 5 - The King's betrayal


In the previous chapters we have already remarked that some weaknesses in the narration may be caused by the first storytellers’ lack of first-hand information. Since now on, the few survivors’ witnessings, that represent the primary source of the legend, become fragmentary, reticent, often reconstructed out of hearsays, sometimes even artfully distorted on the purpose of conveying all the blame and all the shame onto the king alone. Fortunately, we know the general outline well enough yet to try recomposing the puzzle more coherently.


The text in short


Healed from her wound, Dolasilla enters the field again, protected by Ey-de-Net’s huge shield. The Fanes’ army appears invincible. When, one day, Ey-de-Net asks the king for his daughter’s hand, he gets indignant. But Dolasilla has fallen in love with her shield-carrier herself, and declares tired of fighting. Since Ey-de-Net can’t be replaced in his job, the king pretends yielding his consent, but delays the wedding and prepares a plot. He knows that both have promised each other never to fight again unless together. In his unmeasured greed for wealth, the king plans to have himself and his family buried in the Aurona. To do that, he needs a lot of workers to find out its entrance and open it again. Therefore he secretly gets in touch with the enemy, the “southern peoples” who are going to wage war against the Fanes, and comes to an agreement with them: he will prevent Dolasilla from entering battle, so that the enemies will easily gain victory and take possession of his kingdom; the Caiutes, after their victory, will dig out for him the gates of the Aurona in exchange. Therefore, the king banishes Ey-de-Net, being convinced that Dolasilla will no longer fight without him because of her promise, and himself retires on the Lagazuoi waiting for events. Ey-de-Net leaves the kingdom without even having met his betrothed again.


When Dolasilla announces her will to marry Ey-de-Net, the king indeed cannot but be happy: this is exactly what he was expecting. It is probable that he just pretends being angry, to disguise his agreement and increase his restless warriors’ acceptance of the marriage: had they been aware that Dolasilla’s marriage with an “enemy” had long been prepared, and therefore it was not, or not only, a love affair, but a king’s cunning political move, they even might revolt against him.
Maybe the king actually was greedy for wealth (at least in a mountain shepherd's eyes), but certainly could not wish being buried in a mythical mine. However, this expression makes us understand that a mine may really have been implied in the plot. Let us try to reconstruct what might have happened, according to the existing clues.
If the “southern peoples” are engaging war against them, chances are that the Fanes have violated their truce with the Caiutes a provoked a firm reaction from the Palaeo-Venetics. This means that the king’s authority must already have been quite weak. Now the enemies are collecting troops to send a punitive expedition with crushing forces against the Fanes. We saw in the previous chapter that the king himself is a Caiute, therefore he sure doesn’t wish fighting against them; moreover, he perfectly knows that the Fanes cannot prevail against the Palaeo-Venetics. We may guess that the Caiutes’ king made his friend (or brother?) a generous proposal, at the same time as he was issuing an ultimatum: provided the Fanes stop their raids forever, he will grant them the exploitation rights of a rich mine, so that they won’t be able to allege their poverty as an excuse any longer. Obviously, the Fanes’ king willfully accepts, but his young warriors don’t. Never shall they bend to conditions imposed by the enemy, never shall they accept the humiliation of toiling in a mine: a raider’s life is much more fun. If the king has accepted conditions like those, he is colluding with the enemy, he has betrayed his people, he is no longer worthy of his title. As a matter of fact, the king disappears, and nothing will be known of him any longer; Ey-de-Net gets banished, although not by the king, by the Fanes themselves.

The Fanes are in dire straits: the king has disappeared, Ey-de-Net has been banished, Dolasilla refuses to fight although repeatedly invoked, and the overwhelming foes are approaching their borders. The Eagle-prince suggests exploiting the darkness for a sudden night attack. Pondering her difficult choice, either to fail her promise or let her people being destroyed, eventually Dolasilla consents to enter the battlefield again.


The Fanes must have started counting their enemies who are waiting, weapons at hand, for their ultimatum to expire, and they have realized being in a very serious trouble. But now they couldn’t any longer obtain a truce even if they wanted to. And then they look at Dolasilla as at their last hope: maybe, if she leads them in battle, they might prevail again. The invocations to the princess are insistently repeated, in a style that may be rather directly related to the homeric canon of Achilles being supplicated to fight, or to still later literary perorations: a convincing clue that the redundant rhetorical flourishing of this chapter of the legend is indeed only an embellishment developped in a later period.
The girl must probably understand that everything is lost, nevertheless she eventually accepts to lead the last desperate assault.

Ey-de-Net is looking for a silvano, a friend of his, but meets the raven again. She tells him the news that Dolasilla will fight again, against all odds. Since the hero feels betrayed because she broke her promise to him, and declares he will go far away forever, the silvano sends him consulting the lake nymphs’ oracle (the ethereal mjanines). But the oracle answers that Dolasilla had no other choice but to break her promise, and that she soon will die. Ey-de-Net tries to rejoin to the Fanes to defend her, but arrives too late.


Escaped or banished from the Fanes’ kingdom, Ey-de-Net loiters nearby: he doesn’t try at all to return among the Fanes, nor to reach his old comrades, nor does he go away. This circumstance may let us suppose that he had a predisposed plan to meet with Dolasilla again. I suspect that he visits the silvano just because Dolasilla had agreed to reach him there so that they may get away together; only when and because this does not happen (and on the contrary he is told that Dolasilla has decided to resume fighting), he gets disheartened, convinced that the girl has preferred dying together with her people. Obviously the Fanes were unaware that Dolasilla herself was on the verge of betraying them - and the few survivors wouldn’t admit that, even if they had suspected it; therefore the storytellers had to devise a completely different explanation to justify her behaviour.
Dolasilla pays a visit to the silvano, Ey-de-Net’s friend, and learns that he went away, never to come back. While returning to her castle, Dolasilla meets a crowd of weird ragged boys, who ask for her arrows; she gives away one each, thirteen in total. When she arrives at the castle, the enemy coalition is on sight, camped on the Pralongià.

The first scene of the episode is just the counterpart of the previous paragraph. Dolasilla does go to her date but, victim to the same misunderstanding, convinces herself that Ey-de-Net has decided to abandon her forever. The second scene is nothing but a stage device to show that the heroine herself, desperate, wilfully gives away her own arrows, those that will give her death. The intention may be to remark that the heroine could only succumb to arrows that were not only “magic”, but also “unfailing”. However the presence of the mysterious children, who appear as by wizardry, and also of the “magic” number thirteen, makes us believe that this is just a later interpolation.



The legend plot, as we can read it now, shows over and over being just the picture of the events as the Fanes could see them, i.e. from a quite limited and partial point of view. None of them, except the king and maybe Dolasilla, could realize having raised the wrath of a power capable of destroying them without even get upset that much. None of them could hold the vision that owning a mine would allow them to put an end to their condition of precarious survival, and attain something close to welfare. They never suspected that the king had arranged Dolasilla’s marriage with Ey-de-Net. The king probably has betrayed his wife, but he only did his best to save his people from impending disaster. But he was misunderstood. We don’t, and never shall, know whether he had a chance to escape together with his mistress Tsicuta, but it’s more probable that the Fanes just put him to death, maybe keeping the queen herself unaware.