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THE LATEMAR-DOLLS

Facing the Rosegarden, the Làtemar chain of mountains slopes down with a very fine toothed edge to the pas ture-hills. This jagged ridge is known to the inhabitants of the Fiemme-valley and the Fassa-valley as "la processjòm delle pope", which means: the procession of the dolls, and the name originated In this way:

In a silent larch-forest, near the saddle of Carezza, several shepherd's children were sitting together one day when an old man came along and told them that he had lost his knife the re. The children assured him that, they had found nothing, and they immediately began to look for it, but in spite of all their searching they were unable to find anything. In the meantime the sun had set beyond the saddle, and in Vallenga the bells were ringing the Ave Maria. It was time for the children to bring together the cattle which they were tending, and the old man moved on towards the Latemar. While going home with the cattle the children saw something shining in the grass. The oldest of them, Ménega, who was twelve years of age, went nearer to it, and, oh, among the flowers there lay a beautiful knife with a gilded handle They all admired the glistening article, and Ménega said that she could run back and still overtake the old man, and give him the knife, and that, in the meantime, the others were to drive home the cattle. The girl ran back as quickly as possible, and far up on the slope of the Latemar she reached the old man. He was very pleased to get back his knife, and he promised to reward the honest little finder by giving her whatever she would ask for. Ménega became very embarrassed, but finally she said she would love to have a beautiful doll.

Lake of Carezza


The Lake of Carezza with Latemar

"Well," replied the old man, "come here tomorrow with the children who were with you today, and I shall show you a lot of dolls, and you may choose the most beautiful one. There is no time for that now, and you must go home at once because it is already growing dark, and the evil witches come down from the Mugòni at this hour."

The little one became frightened at hearing these words, so she bade the old man good evening, and hastened down the hill again. Above Tamjòn the path leads over a brook, and there, on the small bridge, stood a strange woman. Ménega at once felt afraid, but the woman returned the child's shy salute in a friendly manner. Then she joined her and they talked together. It was not long before Ménega had related her latest experience in full detail.

"Oh, you are a lucky girl," said the stranger, "the old man you speak of is an immensely rich Venetian who lives in the Latemar district. He possesses wonderful treasures, and amongst them are dolls of which he has two kinds: One with dresses of white, yellow and red silk, but the others are dressed in, brocade, and have pearls and jewels and golden crowns. Now, tomorrow, if he only shows you the dolls with the silk dresses, don't be content, but say:

Pope de preda
con strazze de seda
ste li a vardàr al Latemàr.
(Slang of the Fiemme-valley.)

(Dolls of stone
with silken rags
stay there and look
at the Latemar.)

Then the wealthy man will also show you the precious dolls with the golden crowns. But don't forget the rhyme."

After saying this, the woman left the girl and turned across the fields towards a dark forest where she vanished. On the next day Ménega and the other children, full of expectation went up to the saddle of Carezza and towards the Latemar, in order to see if the old man would keep his promise. When they reached the place where Ménega had left the old man on the previous evening, they heard a strange noise on high, and, on looking up they saw a heavy gate in the walls open itself, and through the gate came an endless troop of dolls who settled themselves side by side upon the mountain ridges. All the dolls had silk dresses of red, white and yellow colours. Filled with astonishment the children beheld this strange spectacle, but Ménega had a discontented look on her face, and after a while she recited the rhyme she had learned from the strange woman. Immediately an appalling whistling and. roaring swept through the mountain, and from the forest below a loud, mocking laughter floated up to them. The dolls became stiff and rigid, and were changed into stone. Horrified, the children fled downwards, - and never stopped until they reached their homes.

Nowadays one can still see the beautiful, coloured dresses of the stone dolls shining in the sun.