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The Fanes' saga - Short essays

Personal names in the saga


There are only a few of them. Most of the existing ones either are appellatives, or can be demonstrated to be spurious. Several principal characters’ names are wholly missing: from Moltina’s husband to the last Fanes’ queen, from the latter’s husband to the Caiutes’ king, and so on. One might remind the “Origines”, the history of Rome written by Cato the Censor without once naming his characters but by the title corresponding to their public office (“the consul”, “the praetor”, etc.). One of the possible reasons why the Fanes’ king and queen have no name is that they represent, so to speak, a collective of people, i.e. they are an historical synthesis of generations of kings and queens who followed one another over time; albeit a last queen and a last king obviously had to exist, and the detailed narration of the events that marked the end of the kingdom cannot but refer to these both particular individuals. Another chance, not to be overlooked, might be that the Fanes themselves did not use personal names as we intend them, but named people by attributions linked to their position within society, or to their physical features, or to events they had been the protagonists of. Maybe all these hypotheses are all at least partially true at the same time. What follows is a short discussion about the names – or appellatives – of the characters who own one, at times an archetypical name shared by homologous figures belonging to periods and contexts even very different from each other.

Molta and Moltina: we can see here an anomalous structure, a pair of mother-and-child’s names, where the protagonist’s name (the daughter) seems to be derived from that of her mother’s, who anyway plays a quite marginal role in the story. Likely, however, this “Molta” is but a spurious interpolation of Christian age, and ought not to have been present in the original core of the legend.
We are induced to believe that the name “Molta” must be interpreted according only to what the woman represents for her daughter, owing to an exchange between “l” and “r”, i.e. her mother who died [=morta] and left her orphan and deprived of everything. If “Molta” were to mean “morta”, certainly “Moltina” wouldn’t be its diminutive, (as it would turn spontaneous in any neo-latin language), but rather a substantivized adjective in its turn derived (in Latin or a close language) from the noun “Molta” (=dead woman), and therefore Moltina should mean “pertinent to the dead woman”, “(daughter) of the dead woman”.
However, we have the very interesting indication by U. Kindl (priv. comm., 2002) of the existence of a Rhaeto-Roman god named Moltinus, who is mentioned on a stele found in Alto Adige and is considered as equivalent to Mercurius as god of livestock thieves, but also as protector of livestock itself (Moltinus was originally a Celtic deity, who can be encountered in France and in Austria, but there he is generally compared to Mars, better than to Mercurius). Whichever the name owned by the founder of the Fanes’ kingdom, if any, we cannot discard that in the Rhaetic or Roman period she was assigned a special appellative on the purpose of stressing her sacredness by associating her to a god. Much later, having Moltinus’ memory dissolved by then, and being in need to insert a fictitious Moltina’s mother into the story, storytellers might have resorted to this totally invented “Molta”, on the purpose to artfully build the above mentioned fictive semantic structure.

Dolasilla: among non-named characters, and characters only named with an appellative, Dolasilla appears the only one in her family owning a “true” name. Is it really so? Maybe “Dolasilla” also (at times also “Doresila”) was but an attribution. K.F.Wolff tried to explain “-sila” through the quite doubtful assonance with “sala”, thence connecting Dolasilla with waters (“sala” in Ladinian means “millcourse”, or “springpipe”). The root “-sill” also appears, however, in the ancient Ladinian (or better late Rhaetian?) “fursill”, the name of a famous (historical) iron mine. “Sill” thence meant “metal”? Is there a relationship and not only an assonance with the German “Silber” (silver)? “Dolasilla” therefore might mean something like “metal-clad” or “shining with metal”? Perhaps one day a linguist shall tell us.

Lujanta: this is an evident attribution, because in Ladinian it means “shining”, “radiant”. This might easily be extended to mean “white-skinned”, “lunar”. Of course we cannot discard that the adjective “Lujanta”, attribution or not, was also used as a real personal name (see also >Essays > “Lujanta’s destiny”).

Ey-de-Net: Morlang uses “Edl de Net”, absolutely equivalent. It literally means “Night-Eye”, but it might also be read as “Eye of the night”. U.Kindl suggests the latter reading, which would bestow him a name with a lunar symbolism. Remind that Ey-de-Net (although probably another Ey-de-Net) will marry Soreghina, the Sun’s daughter. From a purely linguistic point of view, the former lesson, simpler and more direct, also looks like the more probable, but a subtlety like this, bound to meanings probably mostly lost by then, might have gone just unnoticed to the Ladinian storytellers.

Spina-de-Mul: Morlang uses the word “Spina de Müsc”, i.e. “donkey-skeleton”. Little changes for the sorcerer as such, but the absence of the “mule” allows dating the sorcerer to a period when horses were not yet raised. We can’t even discard that the original, pre-Ladinian name made reference to still another four-legged animal (e.g., a cervid) and that it was only approximately translated (Palmieri).

Tsicuta: local form of the word “cicuta” (hemlock), the well-known poisonous herb, an infusion of which was used to put Socrates to death. On one hand, this name alludes to a special mastery of the usage of herbs; on the other, to a socially reproachable usage of them. Maybe, at least initially, “Hemlock” was but a proper nickname to indicate an ill-tempered and pungent person, like e.g. that football player, Lorenzi, who played for Inter in the fifties, who was nicknamed “Veleno” (Poison).

Vögl delle Velme: Vögl in Ladinian means “old man”, but what are the “Velme”? Palmieri translates the Ladinian word by interpreting it as a reference to the conical heaps of pressed hay, quite common in countryside courtyards. We can remark that their shape is almost identical to that of a pre-historical smelting oven. Did the word migrate by analogy from the former to the latter object? Palmieri himself (2002) quotes the Austrian legend of the Venediger Mandl (lit. “Venetian little men”), whom he interprets as Palaeo-Venetic miners of the late Bronze Age: “… they light a big bonfire in a haystack in such a way that straw doesn’t take fire”.

Odolghes: name attributed to the mythical king of Contrin, as a matter of fact derived from that of a legendary bavarian duke, Adelger, through the lombard Adalgais (see separate discussion in Odolghes).

Sommavida: the princess of Aurona brought back to sunlight by Odolghes. Her name, clearly a Neo-latin one (“summa” in the sense of highest point, or mountain pass, is rather common in Ladinian) might be a reference to the Sommadida forest, near Auronzo, of which it might be a variant or a trivial misspelling, possibly by Wolff himself. Not far from the Sommadida forest, in effect, there is the entrance to a famous mine, that seems having been referred to by the magic name “Aurona” – albeit this doesn’t mean identifying it with the mythical archetype of all mines, that should better be linked to a place in the valley of the Cordevole stream.

Lidsanel: this name is certainly a late-medioeval one. It derives from the Ladinian “lidsa”, (italian “lizza”), meaning “tournament”. Both words are taken from the frankish word “lice”, that originally meant “palisade”, and only later was used to indicate the area comprised between two concentrical wall enceintes, that was carefully kept free so as to offer no shelter to any foe who had entered it, and was therefore quite suitable to host carrousels and tournaments. Therefore the identification “lidsa” = tournament presupposes a military architecture that developped not earlier than 1100 – 1200 A.D. At least the hero’s name, thence, cannot be contemporary to the supposed Arimanni.

Merisana: in Merisana we can easily read a Latin “Meridiana” (i.e., pertinent to Midday), through the Ladinian “Merijana”.

Soreghina: Soreghina’s name, usually referred to soredl, “sun” (= the eye above?), might also be read as sora-ega, i.e. “over the water”. Notice, moreover, that the adjective that always accompanies Soreghina is lujenta, "shining", i.e. Dolasilla’s marmot-sister’s attribution! A coincidence?