Site map Laboratory About the author Community Links


The Fanes' saga - Analysis of the legend

The myth of the "Resurgence"


Wolff’s reconstruction of the Fanes’ last vicissitudes is somewhat obscure; we must keep in mind that we were handed down different and partially contradictory versions of the story. It seems clear anyway that, since the remote past, the storytellers tried to attenuate the psychological impact of defeat and massacre by inserting fictional elements that had nothing to do with what really occurred.


The text in short



While the enemies assault the Fanes’ castle, Lujanta reappears and puts them to flight using her sister’s bow. But the castle is lost anyway. The queen reconciles with marmots; they explain Lujanta how to evacuate the last defenders from the castle through an underground path, and foretell the chance to recover their lost kingdom.


Lujanta’s reappearance isn’t present in all legend versions: it seems, however, that in any case at the root of the story there was a “Dolasilla restored to life”, to be justified a way or another. The reconciliation with marmots represents the bitter triumph of the pacifists’ party (and of matriarchate), while the profecy about the possible recovery of the kingdom is already fading into fantasy, into the dream that it may be possible to restore the good old times, idealized by memory.

The last defenders of the castle escape through an underground passage, but are being closely chased. The dwarfs save them, by deviating a waterfall (the “Morin di Salvans”, i.e. Dwarfs’ Mill) so that it separates them from their pursuers. Eventually the arrive at a large hall, where marmots are hibernating. In the meanwhile the enemies pillage the country and destroy everything. Spina-de-Mul recovers his Raietta.


A sort of passage of the Red Sea, transferred into an idealized underground landscape, and even populated by dwarfs. All concurs to indicate that this is just a Middle-Ages fictional embellishment.
The opinion that marmots hibernate in large underground halls is absolutely false (they use small, well protected chambers).
It may happen that the word “morin”, i.e. “mill”, is applied to canals that never had anything to do with a mill (cfr. Palmieri, 1996). The place-name “Morin di Salvans" indicates today a spring near Tadega pass, at the Alpe di Fanes Grande, where a canal may perhaps have once existed. It is said that the noise of a subterranean waterfall may be heard at times, but definitely there is no accessible entrance to any underground passage.
According to the marmots’ prophecy, The Fanes fight for seven summers, each year retaking a new mountaintop. But the Eagle-prince is eager to recover all his father’s conquests, and he leaves. The Fanes gain their victories by means of their ancient tactics: they strike by surprise and then vanish into caves, where they also spend all winters. Then the marmots declare that war would be over shortly if Lujanta could marry Ey-de-Net. But the hero has already married Soreghina.

Here we can see the “resurgence” daydream unfolding. The story of reconquering one peak every year is plain nonsense; and marmots here are just talking (and prophecying) animals. This is a fable all right, not any longer a legend . But hard reality surfaces between the lines: the climatic conditions are getting worse and worse, and the Fanes’ survivors are compelled to spend winters underground. As a matter of fact, the climatic factor was responsible, on one hand of desolating the land to the barren plateaus we can see nowadays, on the other of frustrating any possible attempt to restore the lost kingdom. At this point a new esoterical theme appears, that of the conditions that must be satisfied, no one knows why, in order to make the revenge possible. Several versions of this theme exist, basically of two types:
- either Lujanta (or Dolasilla) should marry Ey-de-Net (i.e. the key male character),
- or a king’s descendant (by male lineage) should recover the magic arrows.
This latter condition has an Arthurian flavour all right, but everything reminds of the Middle-Ages, when not even the slightest memory of the pristine matriarchate had been preserved.


In the island of the one-armed people, the Eagle-prince has become a happy husband. Three years later, the Flame Eagle arrives to take him back to the Fanes’ country and recover the unfailing arrows, so that the kingdom may be restored to its greatness. But his wife, who had been foretold that her husband would never return, sends the eagle away with a pretext. Before another year has elapsed, she casts him into a state of apparent death, and so cheats the fierce bird again. Three other years elapse this way. On the seventh year, the prince suddenly hears the Fanes’ trumpets blowing and wakes up at once. The day after, the eagle comes back, and he greets his wife and son, who was born in the meanwhile (with both arms), and leaves never to come back again.


This passage is completely imbued with an athmosphere charged with symbolism and magic; the concept of heroism and the relationship between man and woman are lived according to typical Middle-Ages canons. Whatever the remote island and the one-armed men had been originally, their meaning has been forgotten in the mist of time. This passage has probably been introduced on the sole purpose to create a fictitious connection between the Fanes and the hero of the Fassa valley, Lidsanel.

The Fanes and their enemies come to a peace settlement: the Fanes will get back the land that had been a part of their territory since ever, but none of their late conquests. When the pact is close to be agreed upon, the Eagle-prince comes back and rejects everything. As any further agreement proves impossible, war is declared.


I suspect that this peace discussion must originally have been inserted within the body of the saga, and was misplaced here by Wolff himself, or by late Ladinian storytellers who had no longer any clear picture of the course of the events. Precisely, I think that it should be located just before the battle on the Pralongià. The Palaeo-Venetics coalition offers the Fanes a last hope, that the queen would be very happy to grasp; but the prince’s intervention – a hint, by the way, that the dinastic conflict is over, and the patriarchate-warmonger party has taken the effective decisional power in its hands – thwarts her move.

Wolfes, crows and vultures are banqueting upon the Fanes’ bodies: men and women, old people and children, all of them massacred during the last desperate battle fought in their country’s heart, on the Furcia dai Fers, against an immense coalition collected from every corner of the world.


This battle also, in my opinion, should be placed at the end of the same military campaign that leads to the defeat on the Pralongià and the storming of the Cunturines. There is no reason to believe that the coalition limited its action to severely punishing the Fanes, short of completing their task – destroy them. The site of the battlefield shows that the Fanes were pursued from the Cunturines back and back into their country, until they had to close ranks on an impervious summit that left them with no further chance to retreat.

Just about twenty people, all women and children, including the queen and Lujanta, escaped the massacre hiding among the marmots. The Flame Eagle arrives carrying the small boy who is Eagle-prince’s son. He foretells that the kingdom will be reborn if the boy is able to retrieve the unfailing arrows and be found at the right place when the silvery trumpets blow for the “great time”. The eagle takes the job to lit a sacred flame every year in memory of the Fanes’ kingdom. He will fly the boy to Contrin, where he will learn the profession of arms by king Odolghes.


Here we have, in effect, the actual connection with Lidsanel’s epic poem from the val di Fassa, that we shall examine in the next chapter. At the same time a mythological explanation is provided to the great vulture, the "variul de la fluta", that from time to time flies circles around the will-o’-the-wisps on the inaccessible wall of the Croda Vanna.

Every year, by moonlight, the queen and Lujanta row around the Braies lake, coming out from the stone gate that gave its name (Sass dla Porta, i.e. “Peak of the Gate”) to the dominant Croda del Becco. They are waiting for the queen’s grandson to come back with the unfailing arrows. But he never comes. And one night the “great time” arrives: the silvery trumpets can be heard blowing from every mountain. But nobody is there to answer their call. The queen listens to them for a last time, then disappears to sleep forever on the lake bottom. But one day the “promised time” will come, when everyone will be resurrected and will live in peace.


The great romantic final scene must, in my opinion, be located here, separated from the myths of Fassa that follow. The concept of the “great time” of destiny, that arrives without anyone being ready to take the chance, might be a part of an ancient tradition, but the trumpets blowing from the mountains and the concept of a “promised time”, when everyone will be resurrected and will live in peace, are clearly derived by images connected with the Christian religion.



The Fanes’ legend after the battle on the Pralongià is available in at least three different versions:

1. Version accepted by Wolff in his final text: Dolasilla dies, but Lujanta reappears to bring the last of the Fanes to salvation. They hide while their enemies are devastating their country, but later on retake it piece-meal, until when, “seven” years later, a new coalition is collected and destroys them definitively (unless for dreams of revenge that will never be fulfilled):
2. Version collected in Fassa by de Rossi (and basically accepted by Wolff in his first text): Dolasilla survives her wounds and Lujanta doesn’t exist. There is no second battle, but anyway a single military campaign bringing to the Fanes’ destruction; later we only have daydreams;
3. Version reported by Morlang: Dolasilla dies and Lujanta reappears (as in Wolff’s final text), but the final battle on the Furcia dai Fers takes place shortly after the one on the Pralongià (thence a single campaign, as in de Rossi’s version).

The reconstruction of the events that I followed, as the most logical and probable, is therefore the one according to the val Badia tradition reported by Morlang. It is clear that in Fassa nothing was known about Lujanta, as well as they were unaware of all the anthropological themes about marmots and twinnings in general.