Fanes' saga - Analysis of the legend
Fanes kingdom: 6 - The end of the kingdom
story is now hastening to its tragic conclusion. Notice that,
once again, the witness accounts upon which the legend is based
are those of the Fanes’ survivors. Of what was happening
in the adverse camp, we only have a fictive reconstruction based
on hearsays, while the course of the battle, as seen from the
Fanes’ side, can be followed almost in detail.
the coalition’s camp, the Caiutes’
commander states that the Fanes’ king has betrayed
them, and the day after Dolasilla shall enter the field
against his promises; but himself, with the sorcerers’
help, has succeeded stealing thirteen of Dolasilla’s
magic arrows. He assigns thirteen archers one arrow each
and orders them to kill the heroine.
commander” must really be the general sent by the
to lead their coalition army. This commander, who must
not be a Caiute
at all, devises a tactical move of great importance: against
the feared archer, he puts up a party of bowmen, all of
them outfitted with “magical” arrows, i.e.
with metallic arrowheads. Remark that both the institution
of a specialized body of troops, and the intuition that
a battle can be gained by “firepower” instead
than by clash, are revolutionary concepts for the Europe
of his time (in the Iliad, e.g., we have just nothing
like that; after the Romans, it will take a lot of time
before they are understood and applied again, in the late
Middle Ages). On the Pralongià,
they will represent a decisive element for the outcome
of the battle.
morning, the Fanes are preparing for the fight but, when
Dolasilla appears, they discover that her amour has turned
dark. She understands the meaning of the prodigy, but pretends
to be confident, so that her people don’t get discouraged.
armour has got rusty while she used being protected by Ey-de-Net's
big bronze shield. Hard to say whether this is a part of
the original legend or has been added by a later storyteller
who was well aware of the causes and the effects of iron
leads her people on the verge of victory. For a long time
the enemy bowmen are puzzled because they are looking for
a white armour and not a black one. But they eventually
understand their mistake and aim all their arrows at her.
Although fighting like a lion, Dolasilla falls and the Fanes
break up. Dolasilla dies while being carried back to the
castle. Her body is burnt on the battlefield. The Fanes
are routed. |
they were heavily outnumbered, the Fanes’ tactics
of attacking their enemy on the wide open fields of the
just looks suicidal. The course of events can be much
better explained if we assume that they followed the Eagle-prince’s
proposal (see previous chapter) and actually attacked
by night. This circumstance would clarify why the overwhelming
battle array of the coalition was so utterly surprised
by the initial charge to be pushed to the verge of disaster.
On the other hand, in the complete darkness an archer
is obviously of no avail, and so in the first stage of
the battle Dolasilla just stays out of the fight. Only
at dawn, the princess joins combat and has a role in the
last charge, when the Fanes come close to defeating the
king; but sunrise reveals the heroine’s presence
to the enemy bowmen, and her end becomes unescapable.
Fanes’ queen takes command of the defence of the castle.
News are brought that Dolasilla is dead and the prince is
wounded. The castle is surrounded by the enemies.
the queen’s character comes back to the stage; she
is depicted as the soul of the defence. The aggressive
strategy (macho raiding), identified with the king and
the vulture, must be replaced back by that silently slipping
underground, symbolized by the marmots and connected with
matriarchate, that in the remote past had already represented
the Fanes’ only way of surviving.
Fanes’ king, who was awaiting for the outcome of the
battle on the Lagazuoi, is harshly derided by the winners,
and specially by Spina-de-Mul, who throws in his face the
tragic outcome of his betrayal. Even nowadays the king’s
head, turned into stone with his pointed crown, may be seen
on the mountain wall that dominates the pass of Falzarego. |
in the case of the “Croda
Rossa”, the legend tries to explain a natural
feature (in this case the king’s outline sketched
by the cliffs over the pass) by connecting it with an
event, historical or not, somehow related to the place.
As here we are in front of a “false king”,
i.e. an “untrue” king outlined in stone by
nature, and we have a legendary “false king”
available (where “false” means a lier, a traitor),
i.e. the Fanes’ king, this latter’s end, that
had remained unknown, is immediately transferred onto
the Lagazuoi and les jeux sont faites. Now, the
“pointed crown” immediately reminds the image
of a king to modern eyes. However, the first kings to
wear that symbol were the Persian Sassanides, who reigned
in the first centuries of the Middle Ages. Therefore the
whole episode cannot but have been invented after the
Crusades, that imported that symbol into Europe, and has
been grafted into the tale at that time or later. It follows
that the original legend must have told nothing about
the actual end of the Fanes’ king.
tragedy, already forewarned in the previous chapters, comes here
to its bitter end. It is interesting to notice that Wolff,
although aware of the hint at a nighttime battle, dropped it in
favour of a combat in accordance to the rules of Middle-Ages chivalry.
It is also important to remark that the suggestion comes from
the Eagle-prince, who obviously has been able to neatly separate
his own position from his father’s. Although nothing is
explicitly revealed about a dynastic conflict, yet we can read
it between the lines, and we shall read it even better in the