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The Fanes' saga - Short essays

The Raietta


The Raietta, the wonderful gleaming gemstone, appears twice in the Fanes’ saga:

- it is the gem that Spina-de-Mul “loses” in his initiatic fight and that Ey-de-Net finds on the ground, just to give it away to the baby Dolasilla, to stop her from crying;
- it is the gem that the Fanes’ king uses to “crown” his daughter on
Plan de Corones and that, having been incorporated into her “diadem”, is later constantly worn by her in combat.


A wonderful gemstone called “Raietta” appears also in “Donna Dindia”’s legend, where it is charged, however, with magic cursed powers: any man who gets close to its owner becomes her slave. Almost certainly, calling this gem “Raietta” is only another example of assigning to an object or person the name of its primeval archetype, much older and initially not related to it at all. About Donna Dindia’s complex legend, certainly at least partially medioeval (gemstone included), see >Analysis >Related Legends.

The name assigned to the gem means “radiant, glittering”, with reference to “rays” that are surely light rays, see the “Rei de Raies” (King of Rays) in Merisana’s wedding.
If then we observe the features attributed to the gem within the Fanes’ saga, we can remark that:

- size: it is said that it fits to baby Dolasilla’s hand (a fact not really necessary to the course of the story and to be interpreted as an approximate estimate);
- shape: is never mentioned;
- colour: is never mentioned; both this lack of remarks and the repeated comparison with a star induce however to suppose a neutral, substantially transparent hue;
- splendour: is defined as absolutely outstanding: “gleaming”, “like a star”, “peerless”.

It can also be remarked that Spina-de-Mul keeps it inside a “coating” and holds it “with his left leg bent (!)”. I can’t find a real explanation to both these details, specially to the second, provided they are original and not just instrumental. As a matter of fact, the “coating” has the purpose to avoid that the gemstone reveals itself in the darkness, the fact that Spina holds it in that cumbersome posture is the “explanation” why he can’t run away and escape Ey-de-Net’s blows.

So we are dealing with a gleaming colourless gemstone, one or two inches long. Surely this is no diamond, because:
1. only very few diamonds that big do exist still today worldwide;
2. in Europe diamonds cannot be found, except for some kimberlite veins recently discovered in Finland, and not yet industrially exploited;
3. Pliny describes them as exceptionally rare gemstones, reserved to kings; probably, the Romans saw the very first ones at some Eastern court.

The most probable solution is that the stone is a rock crystal (a form of quartz, silicon dioxide). This stone can be found rather abundantly all over the arch of the Alps. In the Dolomites proper it can only be found in the Monzoni area, but it is relatively easy to find not far away, in the Aurina valley, or better in the Hohe Tauern (Austria). It is a crystal that, if perfect, is completely transparent; it can easily attain a size comparable to that attributed to the Raietta (or more), and it reflects and refracts light with brilliant, glittering effects.
Rock crystal is known to man since Palaeolithic; harder to be worked than flintstone, it was often used aside the latter to manufacture any sort of tools. In certain sites, where flintstone was more difficult to procure than rock crystal, it may happen that the whole lithic industry actually consists of quartz (Alpe Veglia). The so-called “diadem of Vela”, a famous necklace wholly consisting of rock crystals, was retrieved in a neolithic graveyard close to Trento.

Worked rock crystal should have come onto the Dolomites for the first time when mesolithic hunters brought it along, shaped as spear- or arrowheads. Probably a number of them, specially arrowheads, got lost during millennia of hunting expeditions on the highlands; as a matter of fact, still in 1994 Vittorino Cazzetta found a wonderful sample of rock crystal arrowhead near the Col di Lana (Palmieri, 1996). When in the legend “Donna Dindia” it is rumoured that the Raietta can be found “on the Gardenazza” (a large karstic plateau quite similar to the Fanes’one and separated from it only by the val Badia chasm), probably reference is made to a similar, exceptional finding that had happened in that area in the past. Indeed, as it is discovered later on, the gemstone is actually no longer on the Gardenazza: it has already been brought away.

Is the Raietta, that Spina-de-Mul loses and Ey-de-Net retrieves after their initiatic fight, really the same gemstone that Dolasilla will wear in battle on her headdress? Probably not, if the initiatic myth must be dated to a period much earlier than the Fanes (see >Analysis >Inserted myths), and the names “Spina-de-Mul” and “Ey-de-Net” have been assigned to both “modern” characters, whose feats someway reminded those of the ancient protagonists of the myth, according to an archetypization process which is very frequent in the Fanes’ saga. If so, obviously the “Raietta” of the Fanes has been archetypized over the older one as well, at the same time as the main characters of the story.

Two events, taking the text literally, should link both gemstones together:
1. during the battle at Fiammes, Dolasilla “remembers” having seen (when she was a newborn baby!) Ey-de-Net’s face and for this reason she refrains from killing him. But the link is scarcely credible and absolutely not necessary;
2. the recovery of his Raietta is mentioned, later on, as the reason why Spina-de-Mul does all that he can to attack the Fanes by every means. But this also is a specious construction, not required for the development of the story; if we admit that the Lastoieres’ Spina-de-Mul has nothing to do with the shaman who appears in the initiatic rite, on the contrary it is certainly false.

Therefore, both links are spurious, probably built lately, after the gemstones were identified by archetypization, and therefore they cannot be invoked as an evidence that originally the stone was really the same.

The Raietta of the initiatic myth certainly was an amulet, that the youngster who had accomplished his initiation was made to retrieve, so that he might wear it lifelong. Was it thence an arrowhead, as Palmieri proposes, perhaps influenced by Cazzetta’s finding? Maybe, but not necessarily so. In any case, the boy would not risk his amulet by using it for hunting. More probably, he wore it in a skin holder, like Spina-de-Mul, although he probably wore it hanging from his neck and not in the back of his knee, as the sorcerer is told having done.

The Raietta used by Dolasilla’s father to crown her on the Plan de Corones might have been another rock crystal arrowhead, of mesolithic age or later, found somewhere else. That the archer’s gemstone were shaped as an arrowhead might well have a precise symbolic meaning. However, significantly enough the legend doesn’t mention anything like that. As a matter of fact, as the crowning takes place after a war campaign presumably ambiented in the Pusteria, we are brought to believe that the Raietta was a large rock crystal from the close-by Aurina valley, a war prize obtained by plundering a village in the valley. As I already stated elsewhere, I believe quite likely that the gemstone was not worn as a “diadem”, but was embossed into Dolasilla’s helm, a war prize also: a weapon that is constantly present in all images of Bronze- and Iron Ages warriors, but that is never mentioned elsewhere in the Fanes’ saga.

A last detail is represented by Ey-de-Net giving the gemstone away to a newborn baby girl (be it named Dolasilla or whatever). According to what we have said, the episode should pertain to the initiatic myth, however it seems wholly unrelated to it. Remark that such an event implies an age difference of at least twelve years between its protagonists, a fact that makes unlikely they later had a romance, in a period when people got married very young and at forty (if he attained that age!) a man already was old. It might be either an appendix to the initiatic myth, of which we ignore the meaning and the implications, or a detail connected with Dolasilla’s legend, that was incorporated into the above myth when both were merged together, or it might be a reference to a further autonomous myth, linked to the character of a young warrior, as usual archetypized as Ey-de-Net, about whom we know nothing more than this.


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