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The Fanes' saga - The events underlying the legend

The last King


The Fanes’ legend properly begins when the Fanes’ last queen, who wished to marry outside of her tribe according to traditions, wisely decided to find a husband among the Caiutes, the mightiest neighbouring people, whose aristocrats already were of Palaeo-Venetic origins and culture.

The above statement, as well as those that follow, derive from a passage of the legend declaring that Tsicuta had once been betrothed to the Fanes’ king: a statement as illuminating and decisive as this one is dropped so casually and so out of the context that we are induced to believe it as an embarassing real circumstance, better than a literary element that would have deserved being developped much further .

The Caiutes’ king designated for this honour a trustworthy friend, maybe a close relative of his, assigning him the political task of slowly bringing the Fanes under Palaeo-Venetic influence. He disregarded, however, that his man already was in love with a noble Caiute woman, who belonged to a religious circle [or who entered such a circle after having been abandoned]. Anyway, both didn’t refrain from secretly meeting again.
The new Fanes’ king therefore found himself as the matriarch’s reluctant bridegroom and the military chief of a tribe much poorer and older-styled than his original people, rocked by social conflicts and eager to gain glory and booty by raiding, among others, both the Caiutes and their allies. His first political move was trying to enter into the younger warriors’ good graces by supporting their institutional vision, – making an end of marmots and matriarchate – by procuring them with better weapons, e.g. plundering the old sacred repositories on lake bottoms, and by skillfully leading them into battle against those neighbours of theirs who lived in the northern valleys and were not bound to the Palaeo-Venetic confederation.

One of the most uncertain points of the whole saga is represented by the actual composition of the royal couple’s siblings; we shall follow here – demythizing them – the basic assumptions proposed by the legend, in the awareness anyway that both the needs of the myth and the wish to embellish may have induced the storytellers to introduce heavy distortions on the matter.

Two daughters were born to the king, one of which, – they say, – named Lujanta, was exchanged with a marmot, i.e. was brought into a cave, according to the Fanes’ ancestral and secret tradition, so that she might live a marmot’s life. This was done for the purpose that her sister, named Dolasilla, might embody a marmot herself and therefore be conferred with the sacrality required to ascend the throne at her due time.
Later on, a son was born, who – they say, because the rite was kept even more secret than the former one – was also “exchanged”, i.e. sacrificed to the vultures, so that his brother, who still had to be born, could embody the vulture himself in exchange, like Dolasilla was to embody the marmot.
When this new brother was eventually born, time later, the king proclaimed the vulture as the new symbolic (=“totemic”) animal of the Fanes, [implicitly?] declaring the end of the matriarchate and the newborn as his heir to the throne.
Young Dolasilla couldn’t accept that and, as soon as she came of a suitable age, decided to reaffirm her rights in the only way she thought possible: since her father was in so friendly terms with warriors, and used to claim that only a skilled warrior would be able to govern the state, good: she would fight herself, and would show him her stuff.

How “real” is Dolasilla’s character, how much of it has been imported from Greek or Balkan archetypes, how much is it the result of literary embellishments? We have no safe clue at that. We can take for granted that, if embellishments have ever been introduced into the story, she is the most obvious candidate at having been their object. It is quite plausible, and probable, that a queen’s daughter, destined to the throne, really existed; that she got hold of a bow, that she owned superior-quality arrows, that she contributed to her people’s victories, and finally that she fell in the battle that marked the Fanes’ end, is far from being unbelievable. We ought to be rather cautious, on the contrary, not only about stereotypal attributions like her great beauty, skill and physical strength, but also about some doubtful elements of her outfit, like her armour or the Raietta. By now, we shall pretend still to believe the legend, or at least what still holds of it after the analytical discussion of the previous sections.

The girl trained with the bow and procured herself a set of outstanding arrows by assembling second-hand metal arrowheads on straight and robust reed stems. She protected herself with an armour built out of platelets of a strange, hard metal the Fanes had stolen from an itinerant smelter, and she was ready to enter combat.
The presence of an archer on the battlefield – and a pretty good one, since Dolasilla actually displayed a steady hand and a wonderful shot – represented a devastating tactical surprise for the small enemy tribes. On the other hand, no male warrior would dare handling a bow to counter her, instead of brandishing a standard spear or a sword: everyone would laugh at his reluctance to face the enemy at close quarters and would accuse him of cowardice. Therefore, Dolasilla’s arrows opened conspicuous gaps in the enemy ranks without opposition, making the Fanes’ victories much easier, and allowing them to plunder the villages of the defeated at a very low cost in casualties.
Thence, after a victorious campaign, the king, who was very proud of that daughter of his who had become the idol of all young warriors, as well as he realized that his son on the contrary, vulture or not, didn’t show very promising, decided to postpone his programme of abolishing matriarchate, and officially reinstated Dolasilla in her rights to the crown .