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The Fanes' saga - Analysis of the legend

The Fanes kingdom: 6 - The end of the kingdom


The 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 text in short



In 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.


The “Caiutes’ commander” must really be the general sent by the Palaeo-Venetics 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.


Next 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.


Dolasilla's 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 corrosion.
Dolasilla 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.

Since they were heavily outnumbered, the Fanes’ tactics of attacking their enemy on the wide open fields of the Pralongià 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 Caiutes’ king; but sunrise reveals the heroine’s presence to the enemy bowmen, and her end becomes unescapable.


The 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.

Here 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.


The 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.

As 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.



The 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 next chapter.