Old Agostino was the yardman in my uncle’s building yard. He was a hunchback with a large bony face, sad grey eyes and unkempt grey hair. His hands were like shovels, strong and hard, and he walked with a heavy shambling gait like Alberich in the Northern saga. But to me, a lonely little girl in a world of grown ups, he was always of exquisite gentleness, and I soon discovered that he was a wonderful storyteller. His voice was deep and strong, in stark contrast to his misshapen body, and his words, broken Austrian-German interspersed with his native Ladinian, sounded like water murmuring, rippling and gushing over a stone-filled creek bed.
Agostino hailed from the Dolomite mountains, from the forgotten tribe of the Ladinians, and that was his pride and his sorrow. “Agostino, tell me of Dolasilla”, I begged, and waited for the radiant smile to light up his face.
ancient image: Woman/Goddess on horseback. Credit: “HorseDreams”, Spinifex Press, 2003.
“Ah, Dolasilla, the Princess of Fanes … she was so beautiful. Straight and slim she sat upon her charger, and the blue Rayeta Stone gleamed in her crown. She wore the white mantle of the marmots and she had the unfailing silver arrows in her quiver.”
This was a story that I did not find in my book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. A princess who fought in battle and who was an invincible warrior. But Agostino did not spare me the tragic end. Yes, Dolasilla wanted to stop fighting and conquering, but it was her father, the wicked king, who would not allow it. He banished her lover, handsome prince Ey-de-Net, and promised his daughter to the King of Aurona, the Great Goldmine. But Dolasilla would not be married against her will. When the King of the Aurona came to get her, she fought against him. But without her lover, who was also her shield bearer, she was vanquished. She was killed in battle and her kingdom, the Kingdom of Fanes, was destroyed.