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ALBOLINA.

Blank de Stáyles
Rày de Noreyes Alba, Alba,
véjn te mes èyes!

In the Fassa-valley, between Canazèi and Penia, towers the rocky Dolèda top with spruce-covered slopes. There once stood a proud castle, and the nobles who lived in it ruled, for centuries, the Fassa-valley and the Cayùtes, as far as Agordo.

One of these lords of the castle had a little daughter who was sickly, pale and weak. No matter how many doctors and wise women he consulted, no one could give him a remedy for his child. When the girl was seventeen years old she became so weakened that her relatives had no longer any hope for her. One day, however, her father, while hunting, met a "Bregostèna" (a wild forest-woman) who offered him all kinds of healing herbs. The nobleman told the woman about his daughter's illness, whereupon she immediately suggested that the lord should take her into the castle and that she would help the child. So the Bregostèna came to the castle and looked at the little lady. At once she said: "The child has the night-sickness; she must be given light, and more light, - light, and the rosecolour of dawn."

And, as up to this, no one had ever been able to diagnose the girl's illness, the lord of the castle felt confidence in the Bregostèna's knowledge. He sent away all the doctors and wise women from the castle, and he ordered that his daughter was to be treated exactly according to the directions of the Bregostèna. Then the latter went immediately to the Fedaja-lake with a number of workmen and, on the west of the lake, she had built a small but beautiful wooden house, with a large window and an attic overlooking the lake. When the little house was finished, the Bregostèna went for the young noblewoman and brought her there, and they both lived together on the shore of the lake. The method of treatment was as follows: every fine day, as soon as the dawn became visible in the east, the Bregostèna wrapped her patient in furs, carried her out on the attic, and showed her the dawn. From here she could see it twice: once in the sky, and then down upon the surface of the lake.

After but seven days, the lord of the castle saw that his daughter was no longer as pale as she had been, and when, therefore, he expressed his gratitude to the Bregostèna, she said that the dawn would now have to be brought down in order to let its lights and colours glow upon the patient. The nobleman was anxious to see how she could manage this, but the wild woman taught the sick girl the following words:

Blank de Stáyles,
Ray de Norèyes
Alba, Alba
véyn te mes èyes.

 

meaning:

 

(Light of the Edelweiss,
Ardent like the Alprose
Dawn, Dawn
come into my eyes.)

As soon as the noblewoman recited this invocation for light each morning, her, recovery became more and more evident. The rose-colour of dawn came down to the girl, and she became so beautiful that her own family hardly recognised her again. After a little while the Bregostèna declared that she had now enough, that the cure was com plete, and there was no need to say the charm any longer. But the noblewoman did not agree with this, and secretly she continued the morning spell, for, since she became beautiful and healthy, she admired herself tremendously, and she loved to look at herself in the mirror, for hours and hours, especially when the young day was beginning to radiate, and she was able to draw the roseate dawn into her face by repeating the charm.

One morning the Bregostèna came along by chance, just as the noblewoman was standing on the shore of the lake reciting the charm. . She, therefore, became very angry and exclaimed:

"What are you doing? You must not take liberties with the charm; it is only intended for invalids. Do you know what will happen if you continue like that? Little by little you will absorb the strength of the dawn, and the mountains and water-spirits will therefore grow very angry."

Then she looked closely at the noblewoman's face, and continued:

"You have already taken too much. You must give back some of the rose-colour. To do so, we must stand in some place from where we can see a long way towards the west, for example on the slope of the mountain Padòn, and we shall recite the nightcharm, so that the light may leave your face and go back into space."

Then she taught her the night-charm, but the noblewoman resolutely refused to carry out this countermagic. She did not want to deprive her countenance of even the least beauty and light, and she left the little house on the Fedaja-lake, going down to Dolèda to her father's castle, although the Bregostèna warned her repeatedly and finally became angry.

The lord of Dolèda castle was even more haughty and proud than his daughter. Not only did he say that she was perfectly right, but he also declared that the Bregostèna's behaviour was very insolent; and, after a while, when she came to the castle to be paid for having effected the cure, the lord paid her but he afterwards had her scolded and turned out of doors. Indeed, if the noble-woman had not run to her father and pleaded with him, still worse

would have happened. Full of wrath, the Bregostèna Red into the forest and ascended the mountain

Masarè, going there to the Striòna (the chief witch) with whom she was acquainted. They both agreed upon a plan of revenge: they decided to inform the mountain and the water spirits about the abuse of the morning spell.

When the noblewoman saw how unjustly her father had treated the Bregostèna she became afraid, but she soon forgot all about the matter. In the meantime she continued to use the light charm, and it finally happened that without any trouble her face was able to radiate a shining brightness. Accordingly she was called "Albolina" (little dawn).

After a while the mountain and water spirits realised that someone was taking light from the dawn, and they grew very troubled on that account, without being able to discover for a long time who was doing it. Finally they learnt it from the Striòna. Then a council was held on the rocks of Masarè, and although the Bregostèna and the Striòna were as pressing as they could be, following the advice of the "Wèye de Camerlòy" (the old man of the Camerllòy), it was only decided, first, to warn the girl who was trifling with the dawn. The Striòna was very annoyed at this decision. She remembered that she once had also wished to use the morningspell, but she had been refused permission, shortly, and, now, when some one else was involved, absurd considerations were advanced. This objection of the Striòna, however, was silently passed over.

Albolina lived in a tower room facing the Collàz. One midsummer evening it was very warm, and all the windows of the castle were open. On several occasions Albolina heard strange cries which seemed to resound over amongst the rocks. They sounded ominous to her, and she asked an old servant what kind of cries they could be. The old woman replied that they were the cries of many owls, and that they were a very bad omen.

Soon after midnight, when Albolina was sleeping, a large Dúy (an eagle-owl) flew into her bedroom and perched on the arm of a chair which was standing in the moonlight. Albolina awoke, and on seeing the bird sitting in front of her with glittering eyes, she became terribly frightened. Then the owl began to speak, saying:

"You know well that you are abusing the morningspell, and that, therefore, the mountain and water spirits are angry with you. You also know the nightspell, by means of which the light can be set free again. Say it, and give back the colours which you have stolen, let them depart once again into the dark space."

Albolina reflected; understood everything, but a sullen obstinacy was taking possession of her: to give back light and beauty, even only in part no, never.

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Marmarolles Group

As she remained silent the Dúy again began to speak, admonishing her to yield and to desist from her wrongdoing. After a while there came a roaring around the tower, and many owls darted in with fluttering wings. They perched around on every object and stared at the girl with threatening eyes. Albolina became more afraid than ever, but she tried to keep up her courage, and she determined never. to give up the advantages which she had gained through the morningspell, and therefore to continue it.

So she still remained silent.

The owls, perceiving that it was useless to wait there, suddenly began to croak terribly, and stormed out into the night. Albolina at the same time shouted for help as loudly as she could, and when the old servant came she told her what had happened. The old woman assured her that she had only had a bad dream, but the noblewoman could not sleep any more because of her fear, and she determined to speak to her father about it next morning, and if her father should consider the matter to be very dangerous, then there was nothing for her to do but to give in, and to use the morningspell no more. But to give back even but a small part of the rosecolour which she had already obtained no, on no account would she do that.

The following day was one of wonderful clearness, and the jagged rock-peaks towered above the dark pine-forests in light, joyous colours. Albolina went down to the courtyard of the castle and there saw her father who had returned from hunting. They met in the hall, and the daughter related her night's experience. The lord began to laugh, and in a few words he pooh-poohed the girl's seriousness. "Don't be frightened", he said, "the morningspell has done you a lot of good, and now you want to give it up because you have dreamt about owls! Silly, little one! Do what you like, and what is good for you, and then say goodnight to the owls!"

After that everything went on as before. Albolina overcame her fear and continued to use the morningspell. The rosy brightness on her face became more and more beautiful, giving her a supernatural expression.

' One day the lord of Dolèda went on horseback to the heights of Buffàure, with his daughter and some huntsmen, in search of deer. It was autumn; a bitter, cold wind was blowing over the back of the mountain, and when, in the afternoon, in the pastures called "Piàns de Ardonèy", they were caught in a "Gónfet" (a thunder and snow storm). It became so dark that the horses were scarcely able to proceed. The lord gave orders to push on until the next Alpine dairy was reached, but when they had done so they found it was 'closed, for the shepherds had already gone into the valley with their cattle, and they had to break into the hut by force. When they were finally under shelter the lord of the castle discovered that his daughter was missing. He grew terribly excited, therefore, abused his retainers and ran out again to look for the girl, the others following his example. Sometimes they thought they heard faint calls for help coming from the missing girl, but in the raging snowstorm every track became covered, and all their efforts were in vain.

The next day the lord sent messengers to the neighbouring villages, and people were sent everywhere to search the mountains thoroughly, up and down. But it was all in vain: the noblewoman was not heard of again. Half mad with grief the lord returned at length to Dolèda to make arrangements for new and more extensive searches. While occupied in this manner a foreign prince, who had come. as a suitor to Albolina, arrived at the castle.

"I have heard,", said he to the lord of the castle, "that your daughter carries the rose colours of dawn on her cheeks, and a girl who is adorned by the dawn must be the most wonderful on earth."

When the prince heard the dreadful news he immediately announced his intention of joining in the searches. Indeed, two days later he accompanied the lord to the mountain-pastures of Ardonèy, but he, too, was soon obliged to perceive every journey and every search upon the late autumnal highmountains, which daily were becoming more desolate, could bring no success. The two noblemen then devised another plan: they were worried that no one on the Buffàure-mountains or in the forest farms should have any knowledge of what had happened, and they charged any person who had perceived even the smallest indication to inform them of it at once; for they believed that Albolina was not dead, but that someone had abducted her.

And they were right in this supposition. As Albolina was riding behind her father in the thunder and snow storm, her horse suddenly became restive, and the servant who was guiding it was obliged to let it go to help to break open the door of the Alpine dairy. On hearing the door being burst open soon after, the horse took fright and ran blindly into the thick mist. Albolina was able to bring it to a stand still eventually, but in the meantime she had gone so far astray that she could not make her way back to the gut. Trotting around she called to her father. Then she saw several gray figures appear in the dense fog, and approach quickly. She immediately saw that they were "Pelendròns" (evil mountain spirits) of whom she had often heard. These Pelendròns are grotesquely formed, sometimes as balls or sacks or as large heaps. Although they have gray stockings instead of legs they are able to run faster than the chamois over steep slopes and rocks. They like to exercise upon the "Serúlles" the torn edges of the highest Dolomite mountains, swinging from jag to jag, then, all at once they roll themselves into a ball, and tumble down over the waste slopes into the forest where they vanish. They are mostly to be seen in the autumn, when stormy weather is near. They hate men and often throw stones after them. They also like to steal young girls and little boys and carry them off to inaccessible places in the walls of the rocky mountains.

As soon as Albolina saw the Pelendròns she urged on her horse, to flee from them. The horse raced away over the wild mountain pasture, but the Pelendróns were quicker; they overtook the horse, caught its bridle and held it firmly. They then took council as to where they should take Albolina. Finally one of them said:

"Let us go to Sacòy."

Then they moved on. Arriving at Sacòy they again conferred and went to Toè. There they took council for a third time and went to Dui. At Dui a lively dispute took place, and they shouted so loudly that their voices could be heard easily above the rolling thunder and the howling tempest. Some declared that they ought not to go so low down, others complained about the Bregostènas, saying they were never where they were wanted. Finally they continued on until they came to Kyumèna. Here they stood and shouted into the forest. Immediately seven Bregostènas appeared, amongst them that one who had once cured Albolina. Sneeringly she said:

"Ah, my little dove, now we have got you, haven't we? Now we will teach you to give back the good things you have stolen."

Albolina thought that they would only require her to renounce the morningspell. Then she looked about her and considered whether it would not be possible for her to escape. Flight did not seem out of the question, especially as the Pelendròns, who had frightened her most, had vanished all at once. The Bregostènas, however, did not let the horse loose. They led and pulled it slowly over the rocks to the gorge of the Grepa-brook, which was greatly swollen and was seething downwards, for the snowstorm had changed into torrential rain. Then, from behind a corner, there jumped out the Striòna, the head witch of the mountain Masarè. She whirled her broom around, threateningly, and shouted into Albolina's face:

"Here you are, you shining dawn. Wait, you vain creature, you arrogant thing, we will bring you to your senses."

The Bregostènas laughed. Some of them crossed the brook, others tried to guide the horse through it, but when it came to the middle it fell down. Albolina sank down beneath the roaring waves and was carried away, but she did not lose consciousness, and now she saw several womanlike figures emerge from the waves. They were deadly pale and their white garments were dripping with water. All at once one of them began to speak:

"See, how we are looking," she said, "we have all become pale and weak because you have taken the dawn from us. The dawn gives dew to the mountains, and the dew gives us strength; if you don't yield very soon we shall all be destroyed."

"But who are you?", Albolina asked.

"We are called Yarines," answered the speaker, 46 we live in the waters, but when it rains a lot, like today, then we like to come out to look after the flowers which grow upon the shore. Without us few flowers could exist, therefore be so kind as to give us back the dawn."

"If you need the dawn so very badly", replied Albolina, "I don't wish to deprive you of it any longer, and I promise you never to use the morningspell again."

As soon as she had said this, she kicked against the root of a tree which wis hanging into the brook, and holding on to it, she succeeded in regaining the shore. Here she recovered, and began to think over her adventure. The Yarines were no longer to be seen, but the brook swept along, noisily swelling higher and higher. Albolina was almost satisfied that the whole thing had been a trick of the evil spirits to extract a promise from her. All at once it occurred to her that she should now run away and hide, but before she could do so, the Bregostèna and the Striòna caught her and dragged her on to a giddy rockwall, to a ledge where one could hardly stand. Here the Striòna caught her by the throat with her clawlike hand and said in a threatening voice:

"Recite the nightspell immediately, so that the dawn which you have stolen may go free."

Albolina was annoyed by her behaviour, and refused to yield.

"But you promised the Yarines," said the Striòna.

"That is not true," replied Albolina, "I only promised not to use the morningspell any more."

"And you want to keep what you have already stolen ?" the Striòna cried, in terrible wrath, "You impertinent creature, we will teach you to loose your obstinacy. We will fetter your hands and feet and banish you on this rockwall so that you will never again see the morning, because this wall faces the west. Here you will remain freezing, until you recite the nightspell, and give back the lights you have stolen. After saying this, the witch became silent, and awaited the result.

Albolina reflected, and looked away in the distance. Beyond the high mountains of Udày and Camerlòy the evening light was dying away, and it was already growing dark in the forests.

"And," pressed the witch, "we shall not wait any longer. Say, yes or no!"

"Then I say, no," replied Albolina.

At this the Bregostènes and the Striònas cried out in a terrible manner, at the same time making magic signs, and soon Albolina discovered that she was unable to move. Being crippled and helplessly deserted on the rockwall, the evil spirits left her, but for a long time afterwards Albolina heard their shrill voices and their mocking laughter in the darkness. It became dark night. The rain had ceased, and the forests lay silent. Then the moon came out behind the wandering clouds. All at once Albolina saw something black, and heard a noise, above her head. A large bird flew around her, and settled close beside her, on a jag of rock. It was a "Duy" (an eagle owl). He sat exactly against the moon, and, in the shadow which he made, he looked immense. Albolina stared at him, fearfully. Then he said calmly:

"You don't recognise me? We have spoken to each other once before in your castle at Dolèda."

"I know it well," replied Albolina.

"If you had taken my advice and yielded then," the eagle-owl continued, "you would now be safely hidden in your beautiful castle, and your father would not be searching anxiously for you all over the mountains."

"Yes, it surely would have been better," said Albolina.

"I am glad you appreciate that," the Dúy answered. "In the meantime your condition has become worse, but the remedy lies in your hands - you have only to recite the nightspell.

"Now that is not possible," Albolina said.

"Why not?", asked the Dúy.

"Because I cannot bow before the witch," Albolina answered, vigourously and with pride.

"Goodnight, then," said the eagle-owl, and he spread his wings and flew away in the distance.

During the hours that followed Albolina was tormented by a dreadful languor. She felt exhausted next day, and towards noon she really thought she would die. Then a light rain began to fall, and soon several figures in white garments came up the rocks.

Albolina recognised them immediately: they were Yarines. They held blue flowercups in their hands, and coming close to Albolina, they said:

"We are bringing you something so that you won't become too weak."

Albolina looked with astonishment at the flowercups which the Yarines offered her and wanted to know what they contained.

"Dew", was the answer, "dew which we gathered for you this morning on the east side of the mountains. It is very refreshing and will give you strength. Yesterday you promised us that you would deed, not use the morningspell any more, and, indeed, today already we found more dew than usual. We therefore wished to give you some as well."

Albolina thanked them and took the dew. Soon she felt strengthened, and the Yarines perceived it, saying: "Now you can remain like this for years; we will help you, for we also do not care much for the witch with whom you are quarrelling."

Then they went away.

Albolina remained on the rockwall. Days passed, months passed, winter came and went. Surrounded by snow, Albolina remained immovable on the wall. No one had seen her, and no news of her could reach the searchers. Summer came, and it, too, was almost gone. When the autumn storms were beginning high up on the summits of Buffdure and Ardonèy, and when the Alpine-dairies had to be abandoned, Albolina heard the shepherds and the tinkling bells of the cattle as they came down from the pastures to the valleys. Then the great silence fell again.

One night, however, Albolina was startled by sounds which were echoing horribly from a rock opposite. A man had lost his way there at night. He was hanging over the gulf and was calling for his companions, but they were already far away and could not hear him, and, therefore, his life was in danger. Albolina began to speak to him, saying that she also was hanging on the rocks, and had been so for a long time. The man said he was an "Arimann" (a soldier) who had to go up to the mountains of Contrin on relief duty, that he had lost his way and could go neither backwards nor forwards, and unless his companions came soon, he would be obliged to fall headlong. It was necessary that he should have a light. If someone would hold a torch above him, or at his side, he could help himself forward, but without light he would be lost.

On hearing these words, Albolina remembered that she indeed could give light to this poor soldier by reciting the nightspell and setting free the dawn that was on her f ace, and, seeing that speed was necessary, she did not hesitate. How astonished the poor soldier became when suddenly a rose coloured light shone out, and illuminated the clefts, on which he hung, with the brightness of day. Immediately he was able to make his way to the ridge of the cliffs and reach the path. Here he turned, for he wanted to see his rescuer and thank her, for he perceived that it was a woman, from her voice. But, oh, he had no sooner regained the path than the light faded away. He then mounted upwards and joined his companions, telling them of the miraculous way in which he had been saved. Together they went to Contrin where they met two shield bearers who were in the service of the lord of Dolèda. The lord heard the news, piecing it together coherently for himself. He took council with the prince, who was still his guest, and he too agreed that they should immediately hasten to the spot to confirm what they had heard. Accordingly they went on horseback to Kyumèna. In the meantime Albolina was set free, because by saying the nightspell and giving back the dawn, the magic power also lost its might. The invisible c ains broke, and with the dawning day Albolina went along the path nearby. But here she became so weary and weak that she was obliged to sit down and rest for a long time. This spot is called "Loypáusa", and the shepherds of the Grepa mountain-pasture used to speak of Albolina, every time they passed by, and to rest there, too. That is why the place is so called, for Loypáusa is derived from "ilò i páusa" (there one must rest).

Albolina was still sitting there about noon when all at once she hear ' d men and horses approaching. It was her father and the prince. Both were coming on foot, because of the narrow path, and were leading their horses. Suddenly they stood before the lost maiden, and their joy, at finding her well, knew no bounds.

Thus Albolina came back to Dolèda. She never again used the morningspell, and yet she char med her prince for ever after.

Today the rock in the Grepa-valley where she stood for thirteen months is still called "Croda de Albolina". It is over the Piàn dal Pént, not far from Fontanàz.