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The Fanes' saga - Short essays

Lujanta’s destiny


Dolasilla’ sister may even not have existed at all, as U.Kindl proposes, being but her fictional alter ego, only necessary for literary purposes (i.e. allowing the final scene on the lake of Braies). As a matter of fact, a version of the legend does exist, where Lujanta doesn’t appear at all, but it is that which was preserved in the Fassa valley, thence unaware of the marmots’ theme. Both versions collected in the Badia valley, where a better preservation of the original traditions is to be expected, (I mean the version that Wolff learned from Staudacher and that recounted by Morlang), on the contrary preserve the Lujanta character. Indeed she turns out to be absolutely central in the development of the myth of the twinning with marmots. It is her elder sister’s sacrifice, who is “exchanged” with a white baby marmot, that allows Dolasilla to embody the “marmots’ spirit” and as a consequence acquire her regal sacredness.

Maybe the public aspect of the “exchange of the twins” between Fanes and marmots consisted of raising one or more domesticated marmots at the castle. What happened Lujanta, in exchange? Likely, “being exchanged with a marmot” might have meant, better then being brutally eliminated, being compelled to live a marmot’s life, and therefore (in a karstic highland like the Fanes’ one) remaining forever segregated at the bottom of a cave. We must remember that a formally very similar ritual, again connected with gaining the favour of underground powers, albeit for a completely different ultimate purpose, is documented by another legend located only a few miles away from the Fanes: the Delibana of Livinallongo. In the latter legend we can also remark the significant reference to an ancestral matriarchate, connected with rituals women only were knowledgeable about, to the point of using a language that men just couldn’t understand.

I can remind one ethnological example at least (Easter Island) where virgins were ritually kept segregated in a cave for years in order to be “whitened”. Maybe to this specific reason, the whiteness of her skin that never had been exposed to sunrays, Lujanta owes her appellative, “shining”, that may easily mean “white-skinned”. Maybe for the same reason, the baby marmot with which she is exchanged must be albino. In any case, albino animals have always be considered as special, “sacred”: no wonder that the Fanes chose an albino individual for their sacred rituals.