The Legendary Kingdom of Fanes in the Dolomites
The Kingdom of Fanes was founded very near to the Sassongher Mountain, at the base of which extends Corvara, an ancient town that falls within the epic cycle of the Fanes. We Ladin locals love traditions, which is why we want to share a story with you that goes a long way back, perhaps even going a tad too far!
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The ancient Fanes population
In the heart of the Dolomites, little is known of the mysterious “Kingdom of Fanes”.
Who were the Fanes?
The Fanes are the oldest known population within these lands, having once lived in our Dolomite mountains, on the peaks of the Conturines. The Kingdom of Fanes likely existed during the mythical Golden Age.
Many legends and an endless number of names are associated with the Fanes, today used in the Ladin language, with celebrated tales and stories steeped in magic that take us back to a world dominated by mystery and the supernatural.
The Fanes, a legendary population
The Kingdom of Fanes (in the Ladin language Rëgn de Fanes) consists of a mythological-legendary epic cycle regarding the Ladins in the Dolomites. Celebrating the epic story of a mysterious people, the history – passed down mainly by oral tradition – takes us back to mythological times with tales of magical characters, supernatural powers, mysterious kingdoms and events that revolve around the eternal conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death.
According to legend, the Fanes were the founding population of our valleys and remain hidden in our mountains to this day, awaiting the rebirth of their kingdom.
The Legend of the Kingdom of Fanes
These tales are rarely discussed, either because the history of the European peoples has occupied such a large part of the history books, or because we are attracted to more perceptible and everyday happenings. However, if we were to tell you that this is the legendary population that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings… would you start to give credence to this legend?
We could delve further into the history of the legendary Kingdom of Fanes, realising that the strength of the stories by the great English writer takes many cues from these mysterious mythological legends.
It was the Fanes to have inspired research into the fantastical.
In 1932, one writer in particular managed to gather and transcribe the legends into a fictionalised version of their history – Karl Felix Wolff. Until then, the material was passed down orally by the Ladin folk. This legend forms part of the South Tyrol sagas, with the Fanes population being the protagonist.
The Kingdom of Fanes by Karl Felix Wolff
The preservation of material regarding the legends of the Fanes is mainly due to the work of Karl Felix Wolff, an Austrian journalist and anthropologist.
His passion for the oral traditions and for the legends of the Dolomites arose thanks to the stories told to him by his nanny, colouring his dreams to the point of inspiring him to explore the Dolomite valleys to gather and transcribe stories, fairy-tales, legends and testimonials. Upon encountering the legend of the Fanes, he understood that these tales concerned traditions beyond those of the valley. It was a local tradition that led back to ancient times and to a vision of the ancestral world in and of itself, where each element – the sun, the moon, the rivers, the mountains, the animals – was represented by totemic figures or personifications bordering on the divine and magical.
The Legend and its locations
Karl Felix Wolff managed to unite three different nuclei that were originally totally independent of the myth:
- those of the Val Badia and Cortina d’Ampezzo (about the Fanes and Dolasilla)
- the “fodom” (regarding Aurona’s treasure)
- that of the Fassa Valley (the Lidsanel saga)
These ancient legends date back to the end of the Iron Age, around 1,000 years before our era, as confirmed by various finds, including the all-important Mesolithic burial site in Mondeval, San Vito di Cadore. The epic story of this myth and its main events take place on the Fanes plateau, a destination point for one of the most fascinating excursions in the Dolomites, where you can see the natural spectacle of the “Marmot Parliament” (read more about the excursion to Marmot Parliament in the heart of the Alpe di Fanes). All places in the Dolomites concern these fantastic tales in some way – from Plan de Corones, to the Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee), to Monte Averau, Falzarego, and Val di Fassa.
The Queen of Fanes, the daughter Dolasilla, and other amazing characters
The legend of the Kingdom of Fanes is a gripping and comprehensive tale, revealing the story of the rise and decline of this legendary population, which developed an alliance with some rather peculiar partners: marmots. It all began when the queen of Fanes married a greedy and violent foreign king. One of his most shocking deeds was to replace the Fanes’ historic emblem of a marmot with that of an eagle. This outrageous act was received by the peaceful mythological people with violent uproar. In response, the Queen’s daughter, Dolasilla, becomes involved. A heroine with unbeatable magical powers, her weapons are forged by dwarves, with her plight for victory in battle lasting until she meets Ey de Net, a warrior enemy with whom falls in love and to whom she then becomes betrothed. The dwarves had predicted that Dolasilla’s invincibility would endure only until she wed. The king subsequently sent Dolasilla into what would be her last battle, resulting in her death by her own arrows that had been cunningly stolen by the sorcerer Spina de Mul.
The saga comes to its hearth-breaking finale, with the king said to have been turned to stone as the few survivors of the Kingdom of Fanes reunite with the marmots in a den hidden deep within the rocks of their kingdom, from where they are still expected to sound their silver trumpets to signal their return.
Find out more…
The world of information Wolff started collating in 1907 would take him most of his life, publishing the final version of the Legends in 1941. From that moment on, his work inspired the search for a range of differing versions, such as that of Karl Staudacher and Angel Morlang on San Vigilio in Marebbe, or that of Brunamaria Dal Lago Veneri about the Val di Fassa.
There is also the 2005 film by Susy Rottonara, Roland Verra and Hans-Peter Karbon that tells the story of the Fanes, titled “Le Rëgn de Fanes”, which won the 2008 award for Best International Score at the Garden State Film Festival.
The Fanes and Corvara
Although little is known of this legend, the spirit of its stories continues to live on in the people and places of the Dolomites. In Corvara and at the Hotel Sassongher, it often happens on a winter evening, in the stube or library, perhaps over a cup of tea or a good glass of wine, you stumble across someone who narrates the legends of the Fanes and other local anecdotes.
Our traditions are our roots and the Hotel Sassongher is happy to pass on our most ancient and original traditions with respect and honour.
Do you want to explore the magical Kingdom of Fanes locations?
Find out about the excursion to Alpe di Fanes and the Marmot Parliament!
The Hotel Sassongher staff will be able to provide you with all the information and assistance regarding this stunning excursion!
Find out more…