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Laboratory - The mythological meaning of Molta


One of the most noteworthy skills, that Ladinian legends credit the anguane with, is their knowledge of the best time to perform farming tasks. Until now, I has always considered this feature as independent form the others and uneasy to explain. It got to my mind, however, that a simple and straightforward explanation does exist, that can be logically connected with the other attributions of this character.

Molta, in Wolff’s version of the legend, is the natural mother of Moltina, the founder of the royal dynasty of the Fanes. Emigrated into foreign lands, she returns at the point of death with a child in her arms, meets the anguana and dies before just saying a single word. Her corpse is taken away by the marmots, who hide it into a cleft in the rocks.

About this mysterious character we already reported two kinds of reasoning (see here and here):

- A such pale and colourless character doesn’t seem suitable to be the ancestor of a glorious dynasty. Beyond that, the description of her ordeal fits much better a medieval woman than one of the Bronze age. It looks reasonable to assume that Moltina’s natural mother was not Molta, but the anguana herself, and I suppose that the exchange of mothers took place quite lately, when the natural daughter of a priestess had to be considered as a serious scandal.
- The pair of names, Molta-Moltina (in Latin the suffix –ina reveals a diminutive) seems to be factitiously built, and might indicate that Moltina really was the “daughter of the dead woman”, because “morta” means “dead woman” and the exchange of “r” with “l” is quite common in Ladinian. On the other hand, Moltinus was a Celtic god whom the Romans interpreted as Mars; in the Pusteria valley a votive stone has been found bearing his name engraved; in this area, however, this god seems closer to Mercury than to Mars.

I recently had a new thought, triggered by the analogy between the myth of foundation of the Fanes royal dynasty and that of Romulus and Remus (see  here). Given that Moltina’s mother really was the anguana, what if Molta originally was in the myth Moltina’s elder sister?
The marmots take her away underground, so creating a parallelism with Lujanta and Dolasilla and establishing a mythological premise according to which the queen’s elder daughter must be given to the marmots in order to perpetuate the twinning, and the parallel is also accomplished between the pair Molta and Moltina (the elder sister must disappear for the younger one to rule) and the pair Remus and Romulus (to whom the same facts happen)! The circle gets full.

I believe very probable that not only Wolff, but also many previous storytellers had completely forgotten the real mythological significance of the matter. They had to deal with this enigmatic character and, being embarassed in defining Moltina’s motherhood, transferred it on her. The choice of the name Moltina, from whom the name Molta was derived backwards, might be connected with the existence of a god named Moltinus and might imply that the sisters’ father was lately considered to be the god himself.