Kingdom of Fanes
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The Kingdom of Fanes (Ladin Rëgn de Fanes) is the national epic of the Ladin people in the Dolomites and the most important part of the Ladin literature. Originally an epic cycle, today it is known through the work of Karl Felix Wolff in 1932, gathered in his book Dolomitensagen. Until that time, this material was transmitted orally among the Ladin people. This legend is part of the larger corpus of the South Tyrolean sagas, whose protagonists are the Fanes themselves.
Initially, the people of Fanes lived in peace and allied themselves with the peaceful marmots. Some generations later, the queen decides to marry a foreign prince who takes control of the kingdom, replaces the marmot in the emblem of the Fanes with an eagle, allies himself with the eagles and prepares to wage war to expand the kingdom. He made his daughter Dolasilla a fierce fighter. Dolasilla receives an impenetrable silver armour and unfailing arrows from the dwarves, as she helped them. The dwarves foretell her she will be invincible until marriage and advise her not to enter the battlefield should the silver armour change colour. Under Dolasilla's command, invincible on the battlefield, the kingdom grows in size, until she meets a servant of the sorcerer Spina de Mul, the enemy warrior Ey de Net, whom she falls in love with. Due to the dwarves prophecy, the king opposes the marriage. Then, Dolasilla and Ey de Net pledged not to fight ever again. Foreseeing the end of his kingdom, the king banishes Ey de Net and bargained his people and kingdom for the entrance to the legendary underground land of plenty Aurona with the enemy kingdom of the southern people and flees. To defend her people. Dolasilla breaks her oath and joins the battle, despite her armour is turning dark. She dies fighting killed by her unfailing arrows, which Spina de Mul stole from her. The traitor king is turned into stone and the survivors of the Fanes find shelter by the marmots in the mountain, where they wait for the silver trumpets that will mark the rebirth of the kingdom.
The Kingdom of Fanes according to Wolff
The preservation of such material about Ladin legends is due mainly to Karl Felix Wolff, Austrian journalist and anthropologist. The passion for folklore and oral traditions of the people of the Dolomites started during his stay in Fiemme Valley. Then Wolff dedicated his time to the purpose of gathering this oral traditions. He was convinced these stories were distinct and distant from the Romance and Germanic lores most stories in the Alps came from. The motifs of these stories led him to think they came from more ancient times, due to the presence of totemism, the anthropomorphisms for the sun, the moon and death and an underlying conflict between patriarchal and matrilinear societies. The reconstruction of the epic cycle took a long time, between 1907 and 1932.
Since the material was very fragmented, Wolff stated he had to make additions some rework so to produce a complete text. However, he was not very precise at stating which parts of his work was his own. Ulrike Kindl, germanologist at the University of Venice, analysed Wolff's method and the sagas extensively, in order to backtrack to the original material. According to her work, Wolff's book could be separated in three different parts, initially independent: a corpus of stories from the Val Badia and Cortina d'Ampezzo revolving around the character of Dolasilla and the Fanes, a fodom one about Aurona, the underground land of plenty, and Lidsanel's saga from Fassa Valley.
Mentioned places and underlying events
The dating of the cycle is uncertain, likely from a pre-Roman period. Some themes suggested Wolff, Kindl and various scholars that the original story may date back to the end of the Iron Age, around 900 BCE.
Following such dating, if the story were to be somewhat based on historical events, the southern people the Fanes are at war with might be, then, the Palaeo-Venetics.
Initially such dating was supposed implausible, as it was believed that humans did not populate the dolomitic valleys until Roman times, but such hypothesis was proved wrong by various archaeological discoveries, like the mesolithic burial in Mondeval (San Vito di Cadore).
When Wolff started to gather these oral stories, the available material was scarce and almost forgotten. However his work stimulated a rebirth in the interest towards this legend and in general the Alpine folklore. After Wolff, copious other versions of these stories followed, like those of Staudacher and Angel Morlang or the re-elaborated version of Brunamaria Dal Lago. In 2005, from the idea of Susy Rottonara, Roland Verra and Hans-Peter Karbon a film about the saga was produced, titled “Le Rëgn de Fanes”, which won Best International Score prize at Garden State Film Festival in 2008. The legacy of the legend could also be found in the various shops, hotels and commercial activities named after the characters or the events of the story.
- Likely Palaeo-venetics.
- (in Italian) Giuliano e Marco Palmieri, I regni perduti dei monti pallidi, Cierre Edizioni, 1996, Verona.
- (in Italian) Karl Felix Wolff, L'Anima delle Dolomiti, Cappelli, 1987, Bologna, p. 252
- (in German) Ulrike Kindl, Kritische Lektüre der Dolomitensagen von Karl Felix Wolff, Bd. II.
- (in Italian) Bruna Dal Lago Veneri, Storie di magia. Errabonda cultura lunare fra le custodi del tempo promesso nelle valli ladine, con una prefazione di Luigi Granetto, Lato Side, 1979.
- (in Italian) Giuliano Palmieri e Marco Palmieri, I regni perduti dei monti pallidi. Cierre Edizioni, 1996 Verona.
- (in German) Ulrike Kindl, Kritische Lektüre der Dolomitensagen von Karl Felix Wolff, Bd. I. Istitut Ladin Micura de Rü, 1983, San Martin de Tor.
- (in German) Ulrike Kindl, Kritische Lektüre der Dolomitensagen von Karl Felix Wolff, Bd. II. Istitut Ladin Micura de Rü, 1983, San Martin de Tor.
- (in German) Karl Felix Wolff, Dolomitensagen, Selbstverlag, 1913, Bolzano.
- (in Italian) Karl Felix Wolff, Il regno dei Fanes, Cappelli, 1951, Bologna.
- (in German) Karl Staudacher, Das Fanneslied, Ed. Tyrolia, 1994 (1937), Innsbruck.
- (in Ladin) Angel Morlang, Fanes da Zacan, Istitut ladin Micurá de Rü, 1978, San Martin de Tor.
- (in Italian) Bruna Dal Lago Veneri, Elmar Locher, Leggende e racconti del Trentino-Alto Adige: vagabonde fantasie, miti e incantesimi erranti tra valli, boschi e castelli misteriosi; un intreccio affascinante e sorprendente di storie a cavallo tra due culture di antichissima tradizione, Roma: Newton Compton, 1983.
- (in Italian) Bruna Dal Lago Veneri, Il regno dei Fanes, Giunti 2008