>> Traditionelle Sagen >> Italien >> Legends in English



(La réjna de lis Crodères.)

Love without sorrow cannot exist.

(Dietmar von Aist; 12. Century.)

Going from Cortina d'Ampezzo to the lake of Misurina over the mountain-ridge, where the three crosses stand, one sees in the south an immense mountain-chain, threatening in its huge, steep formation and gloomy in its solitude. Between frosted, snowfilled clefts stand a number of bare, sloping peaks, all about the same height, but similar in shape and ruggedness, as if one were trying to look sterner than another. These wild mountains are called the Marmarólles (Marmarólles is the old form of this name used in the Ampezzo valley. In Cadore it is called Marmarole.)

No farm, not even a shepherd's hut, is to be found upon their slopes for they are very steep, and beyond the edge of the forest there are no rich mountain pastures, for there the rocks commence, and with them a vas t desert. It takes a whole day to pass the edge and to come down on the stony Pian de la Gravina, from where the Oten-valley leads to Cadore. At the foot of this great mountain-chain, between Auronzo and Misu­rina, is the "Argentiera", an old mine, once very large and productive, but now becoming more and more impoverished. The miners who worked all over the mountain told the people in the valley a great deal about the secrets of the Marmarolles, the ice palace on the Cornòn de Fropa, and the Crodères, who dwelt up there. These Crodères, or sons of the rocks, looked like men, but they felt neither sorrow nor joy, and were always calm and even tempered. The Crodères never harmed men intentionally, but if a man asked them for help they would not stir, even though it were possible to save his life by a single grasp. They knew neither grief nor love, and all because they had hearts of stone. The Crodères and the whole kingdom of the Marmarolles were ruled by a queen, so the miners had learned. They used to take advantage of what was called 'the silent day' to enter the mountain and bring out much gold and silver. This silent day occurs once a year on the Marmarolles: no blade or leaf then moves, no stone falls from the steep rockwalls, no particle of snow rolls down the snow clad mountains. All the mountains seem dead, and the most secret passages of the Crodères are open. Pure gold and silver, at other times hidden, now lie there openly, but the Crodères themselves are leaning against the rocks fast asleep. Then one can reach the interior of the Marmarolles, look at everything, and take away what one likes; but, whoever enters the ice-palace of the Cornòn de Fropa, will see, in a dark room, sitting between two coffins, a woman inblack raiment, with a veil before her face and a blue crown upon her head. It is Tanna, the queen of the Crodères.

When only ten years old Tanna had been elected queen and was crowned with the blue diadem. Soon, however, the Crodères repented of their choice, for they discovered that Tanna possessed, not a heart of stone, but a human heart, and accordingly she commanded the noisy brooks, the pattering stonefalls and the thundering avalanches, not in the manner of the rock-born Crodères, but after the fashion of men. All order in the kingdom of the mountains was disturbed when Tanna wore the blue crown and assumed power. First the stone falling had to stop. Tanna had learned from the shepherds that they and their cattle were endangered by stones that fell from the rocks, and, therefore the mountain queen would no longer permit any stone falling. Then seeing, in winter, that people who were bringing their wood from the forest were greatly afraid of the snow-slides, she stopped the avalanches. And even the rushing down pours of the waters, sometimes dangerous to men, were forbidden by the queen, who only allowed them to trickle slowly down the mountain-slopes. And there, where expanses of rock and desert slopes formerly existed, Tanna, because of the men, allowed to spring up rich meadows where their cattle could graze. The men were pleased, therefore, and whenever they saw Tanna they praised the generous "Réjna de lis Crodères", venerating her and overwhelming her with gratitude. Thus they encroached more and more until finally the kingdom of the Marmarolles became a play-ground for men.

Aloft, where the bare peaks were invisible, huge masses of snow and ice lay heaped, always growing higher, since no avalanches could rush down any longer. The Crodères beheld with indignation this neglect and disfigurement of the mountain realm, but they were unable to prevent it, for Tanna wore the blue crown, and power was hers.

And whent the Crodères remonstrated with their queen, begging her not to do all that the men desired, Tanna replied that they did not know how beautiful it was to give joy to men, and vividly she told them how good and grateful the men were and how they honoured her.

"Yes", said the Crodères, "they honour you because they know you are powerful, and that any day you can let the avalanches rush down upon them. Woe, if you should cease to possess this power, and be obliged to depend upon the goodwill of men!"

Tanna, however, would not believe this; she preferred the merry, laughing men to the taciturn Crodères with their hearts of stone.

Therefore she became less and less inclined to remain up there on the high rocks, and was better pleased when dwelling in a hut down in the forest, where she could see the men around her, listening to their requests and sharing their joys.

Seven years passed in this manner, then one day it happened that while Tanna strolled about on the alpine pastures, the Storm came along and saw the young queen. He hastened up to the rock peaks, asking the Crodères, with whom he was friendly, who the beautiful girl with the blue crown was; and on hearing that she was the queen of the Marmarolles, he was astonished, for he had seen her walking with the men and talking to them, instead of being enthroned, in lonely glory, upon the highest mountainpeak. The Crodères complained to him about their sorrow, telling him how abandoned they were, as she had a human heart and felt attracted by the men. That will soon change, thought the Storm and every day he blew over the alpine pastures where he had seen Tanna. The men hated and cursed him when he came roaring along, shaking their huts and knocking down trees. But he did not care, and he kept on coming until at length he saw Tanna for the second time. Then he showed his admiration for her and wooed her, saying:

"Noble queen of the Marmarolles! how beautiful you are, and how wonder fully that blue crown adorns you. You rule the mountains and the gentle winds; we should form an alliance, then we shall be incomparable in power and glory. Come up into my realm of light and blue distances ;come and be my wife, and the whole wo I rld with its wonders will humbly lie at your feet."

But Tanna laughed and would have nothing to do with all this.

"No, my dear Storm", she said, "I don't want to go up there in the winds. I am very sorry but I prefer to remain on the green alpine pastures, and I beg of you not to be blowing around here always. Get yourself a star queen; with her you can speed away through the winds."

This speech almost confused the Storm, but he could not believe that Tanna was serious in her refusal of him. Therefore he came on two other occasions, repeating his offer. Still it was no use and he had to be satisfied and leave the mountain pasturage. The men, however, had observed that he had been courting Tanna, and that she had rejected him, so they laughed loudly, and were so impudent as to look out from their holes and hollows, mocking the mighty Storm as he went away.

Again several years passed. Tanna became more and more estranged from the Crodères, and they hardly knew that they had a queen. But one day they were astonished by a report which was stranger and more painful to them than anything that Tanna had done up to then. They were told that Tanna was giving her hand in marriage to a Count of Aquileja, who had come into the Marmarolles to hunt, and so had become acquainted with her. Thenthe Crodères became angry: Their queen, the lady of the proud kingdom of the Marmarolles, she who wore the blue crown, to become the wife of a mere man I This could not be. S o they sent a delegation down to the forest where Tanna lived, begging her not to carry out her intention, for, as queen of the mountains she was not permitted to wed a worthless man. But Tanna told the delegation that she would not do anything else, and that the Crodères would have to be content with it. The Crodères summoned a council, to which Tanna was also bidden, and they invited the queen to renounce her former behaviour, to think of the welfare of the Crodères rather than that of the men, and to declare that she would never give her hand to a man. As Tanna refused to make this declaration, the oldest of the Crodères was brought from the depths of the mountain to curse her. For years this old man had not spoken a word, neither did he take part in the councils, and he had never Yet seen Tanna.

The Crodères did not like him very much, for he, too, was said to have a human heart, but a heart full of hate and wrath, and they needed him therefore for uttering maledictions, for curses have to be pronounced in hate, to produce an effect, and the Crodères could neither hate nor love.

The old man was led by two attendants. He kept looking at the ground in front of him, apparently listening sternly to the accusations that were being made against Tanna. Then he looked up at her and saw how helplessly she stood there in the midst of her accusers, and how wonderfully her gentle, blue eyes were pleading with bin. For a long time he looked thoughtfully at her, and gradually his severity and hardness melted away. The Crodères, were waiting for him to stretch out his hand to make the sign of malediction, silently and gloomily, as he had done it on former occasions, but, instead of that, the old man said in his hollow voice:

"Alas ! why do you show me images which should have been forgotten long ago and never heard of again? Why do you tear open the wounds of my soul? Alas ! have I been obliged to live so long but to see once again that suffering look, that look of her whose face was like the dawn, whose hair like sunlight, and whose eyes were like the endless sky I" He became silent, and his tired glance rested upon Tanna, and seemed to tell a sad story of forgotten days. But the Crodères did not understand this, and insisted that he should pronounce the curse, for they said that Tanna was unworthy to wear the blue diadem and to be queen of the Crodères.

"To be queen of the Crodères?" repeated the old man, "no, that is ' not now for her. She must lay down the blue diadem, and go to the men and live with them until her destiny is fulfilled ! Then she will return again to the kingdom of the mountains and become the worthiest queen that has ever worn the blue diadem."

Having said this, the old man leaned heavily upon his attendants, his head sank back and his eyes were open in spite of the sun which shone upon his face. His attendants held him and tried to raise him, but they only held a body from which the soul had departed.

The Sasslong Group

High up on the ice border of the Marmarolles, from where the south sea is visible, Tanna is sitting, surrounded by the great silence of the mountains. She holds up her child so that it may become accustomed to the sun, the sharp mountain air and the horrible abysses. She nourishes him with the previous year's snow, and shows him the eagleswhich are balancing in the air. She tells him about his father, who had gone back to Aquileja, far behind the last mountain-chains on the end of the "Splanèdis" (lowland), there where the sea is billowing. From there, she says, his father will come back again to stay with them for ever, for so he has promised. And they remain sitting on high, looking towards Aquileja, day after day, month after month, and time passes through the blue distances. Eternally the mountain torrents roar, flowing to the sea, and the yawning valleys conceal the paths that lead from Aquileja. When will you fulfill your promise, and turn again mountain-wards to your wife who laid down for you the blue crown, and renounced her right to rule the kingdom of the Marmarolles? When will you come, when? Oh, she is waiting with unshaken faith, and is holding up her child which she wants to show you, the child that is to become as strong and proud and bold as you are, and as faithful as she thinks you to be.

From the snow-covered mountains right down to the sea Tanna's longing travels, and when sometimes the evening will sadden her heart, dawn, again, always brings her new faith, new hope and trust.

Else has her great happiness been all a mistake, and a man's promise but empty sound. And thee mountain-peaks silently tower, the eagles circle and Tanna is waiting. Time passes restlessly. Already Salwan& goes along the edge, ascending and descending, and never tiring to ask what it looks like in the valleys down the plains and beyond the sea. Tanna tells him, describing that which she herself does not know, and she keeps on saying that his father will explain all as soon as he returns, and will take Salwanèl with him and show him everything. But Salwanèl will not wait any longer. He wants to know the wonders over which his eyes are sweeping from high up there, and he wants to go as far as the sea, to search for his father and to bring him back to the Marmarolles. In vain the mother praises the mountain peace and begs her son to remain with her until his father returns.... one morning Salwanèl has vanished, irresistibly he has been driven out into the wide world.

Salwanèl discovers his father, but the father does not want him, and has him turned out of doors by armed servants. Then Salwanèl takes service as a horseman with a duke, who is his father's deadly enemy, and takes part in fights between them. In a battle Salwanèl gets a sword cut from his father, through the helmet, and they bring him back, severely wounded, to the duke's castle. They all know that he is the count's son, and that it was his, own father who wounded him. Marcora, the duke's daughter, feels pity for him and nurses him, and as soon as he recovers she tells her father that she intends to become Salwanèl's wife. At this the duke becomes very excited and has her imprisoned in a tower, but Salwanèl rescues her, and flees with her upon his horse to the foot of the mountains. He wishes to bring her to his mother for there she would be free from all persecution.

Lonely, Tanna sits upon the icy brink of the Marmarolles and hours and days pass silently. Still her longing stretches away to the far sea, but now the evening has more power over her than the morning, and a hard look has come over her face. She now wonders to herself why no avalanche comes rushing down to break the cold silence of the high mountains. Heaped up in immense quantities the masses of snow and ice are weighing down upon the mountains, for she herself had once forbidden the avalanches to fall and that prohibition had never been cancelled. How happy she was in those days to be queen, to command the avalanches, and to be able to protect the men, her heart had throbbed with joy, and now this eternal waiting in terrible solitude. And sometimes when the storm comes howling through the ravines and across the snowfields, or resounds among the ice-blue pinnacles of the ridge, it seems to her as if a thousand voices are calling; woman, why are you so lonely?

The blood rushes to her heart, and the blue eyes that were once so mild are staring into the endless distance. But she does not want to think of him who had once been so much to her she only wants to dream about the child that once she held above the abysses and towards the sun, as the eagles hold their young. Where could Salwanèl be, and how could he be? A mist comes before her eyes. Oh, this endless longing and thinking 1 Happy are they who, like the Crodères, know neither grief nor trouble.

Lonely and desolate Tanna sits on the summit of the Marmarolles. Once more it is growing dark and shadows are flitting across the valleys. Hark!.....was not someone calling, "Mother", from down there at the foot of the rocks? Quickly she crosses the glacier and looks down into the yawning depths. And - oh - Salwanèl is standing there with Marcora, wishing to bring her up to his mother, on the free, high mountain-spaces.

"Mother", he cries, "show me the way to the ridge. So much snow has fallen since, that I can not find the way, and pursuers are close behind us."

But Tanna does not know the way either, as she had not travelled it for many years. She looks vainly around; everywhere the glaciers and ice-walls rise vertically upwards. Twilight, however, is putting its veils about the clefts, the pursuers cannot advance in the darkness, she thinks, and before dawn she will be able to save her child: the avalanches, so long held in check, must be made to tumble down and dash the pursuers into the depths. But Tanna no longer wears the blue diadem, and the avalanches will not obey her. After many years, therefore, she goes once again into the mountain to ask the Crodères to send down the avalanches. The Crodères, however, see no reason for doing so. Tanna becomes very afraid and requests them to hold a council, as they did before when they deprived her of her blue crown. The council takes place, and Tanna describes the condition of the mountains, all overloaded with ice, and snow, and said that they should not remain like that any longer. She admitted that it was she herself who had caused this, by her foolish prohibition, but at that time she knew no better. She was young and short-sighted when she ordered the avalanches to remain still, she said, but now, she continued, things could not go on like that, for the overgrown glacier would soon crush down the hollow mountain. Tonight they ought to give full power to the storm to move the avalanches.

So speaks Tanna. The Crodères, however, recognise the real reason for Tanna's speech, and they refuse her proposal. They say they are quite glad that the mountain held so much ice and snow, for, at any rate, the men could not come up to the high mountain-chain any longer, while, formerly, when Tanna was wearing the blue crown, they were able to graze their sheep there, undisturbed. The Crodères, they said, had no cause to seek a change and to move the avalanches.

Then Tanna told them the whole truth: that her child would be killed by his pursuers if the avalanches did not come to his assistance. Last year's snow would have to move that very night, for tomorrow it would be too late; at dawn her child would again be at the mercy of his pursuers.

And she besought the Crodères, whose queen she once had been, but they, with their hearts of stone, remain immovable.

They say to Tanna: "It was you, yourself, who would not allow the avalanches to fall, and now you beg for it how changeable is your mind. The government of the mountains will never again be at the mercy of your caprices. We Crodères know nothing about grief and joy, about your human heart, about your sorrow and love. Go and get the men to help you if you wish to save your child. You wanted to live with the men, now continue with them until your destiny is fulfilled.

Then they lead Tanna outside and close the rockgate. There she stands, she who once had been queen of the mountains, with the pinnacles and peaks towering rigidly and silently around her. Over her the dawn is already breaking. Soon its light falls upon the clefts and valleys. The pursuers see Salwanèl and beset him, but he carries Marcora higher up towards his mother who is waiting for them both up there on the ridge. Her hands are already outstretched when his enemies reach Salwanèl. He fights against them, staggers and falls into a gaping glacier-cleft, between towering walls of glistening ice.

Where the Marmarolles slope down steeply to meet the valley, towards the south, in the deserted cleft of Oten lies the Pian de la Gravina, a poor highmountain pasturage. There Tanna and Marcora are living, and every day they go up to the mouth of the glacier, for Tanna says that the glacier will one day give back its dead. Tanna is accustomed to waiting, so she waits patiently, always having new arguments for Marcora who silently gives free rein to her grief. Thus, day follows day, and year follows year; indefatigably they search up and down the glacier, which is growing bigger and bigger, for the snow-drifts up there on the Marmarolles have not yet fallen down, and are condensing little by little into last year's snow and ice. The glacier, therefore, pushes its tongue more and more forward upon the Pian de la Gravina. The shepherds who come up there in summer with their sheep become annoyed at this, and they ask each other why the glacier should be growing larger and larger, destroying their mountain pasture little by little, and they come to the conclusion that it can only be the fault of the two "Stries de Dyatsche" (ice-witches) who haunt the glacier to do harm to men. The two witches, therefore, must be expelled, and their hut is burnt while they are making their search of the glacier. Then they move to a cave, but a cleft leads up to it, and through this cleft sulphur fumes are rising, so they have to leave the place. And each summer the shepherds discover their new hiding places, for they are assisted by the miners who prospect there, as they also are convinced that the two Stries are working mischief. Hated and persecuted, they still wait and hope that the glacier will give them back the dead body that is so dear to them. But the glacier stretches farther and farther into the Pian, and while formerly the sheep could be driven up, now they must all, remain on the lower half of the Pian. Coldly the wind blows down from above, for the masses of snow are becoming higher and higher, and, looking up from the back of the mountain to the tops of the Marmarolles, one can see last year's snow and ice standing there.

Then one day the shepherds discover Salwanèl's dead body in the middle of the Pian, at the gate of the glacier. They begin to shout loudly. Marcora hears them, and having a presentiment as to what has happened, she hurries along. She recognises the dead body, sinks down upon it, and dies. The shepherds stand there speechless, but when Tanna comes up they fall back, because she is no longer the poor "Stria de Dyatscha" - she is a royal lady; and an old shepherd who remembered having seen Tanna when she was a queen, holds up his hands in great astonishment and cries:

"Omni vardede ilo la Réjna de lis Crodères" (Men, look, this is the queen of the Crodères). They all gaze and wonder, for upon Tanna's head. they see the blue crown, the greatest treasure and the greatest secret of the Marmarolles. And Tanna advances to the glacier, saying to the shepherds:

"Yes, I am Tanna, queen of the Crodères. I am queen again, and wear again the blue crown because my destiny has been fulfilled. But you must flee, for the heights of the Marmarolles are threatening terribly. Tanna is returning to her people. All the terrors of the mountains, which for your sakes she banished, will now be free, as formerly; all the prohibitions which Tanna granted for your protection are revoked, and with the rushing of rocks and avalanches, which have so long been held back, and which now are thundering down, the queen of the mountain is burying her pain and her love."

When Tanna had thus spoken a deep rumbling began to resound ominously. Shepherds and their Rocks run confusedly, and fly in terrible fear down through the Otenvalley. The noise becomes louder, the glacier bursts, and from the heights, the masses of last year's snow are gliding down. But the Crodères come out through secret rockdoors to do homage to their queen. The dead bodies of Salwanèl and Marcora are placed in golden coffins and brought up into the palace of the Cornòn de Fropa, and the queen follows with her court and with the first subjects in her kingdom. Meanwhile without, rocks and avalanches are thundering down in ponderous masses, and the mighty Marmarolles are smoking from top to bottom with the silver dust of crushed ice.

The Crodères have their queen, but because she still followed the dictates of her heart at the last moment, warning the men, instead of letting them perish under the avalanches, Tanna must still suffer every year for one day. This is the "silent day" in the Marmarolles. On that day Tanna goes to the ice-palace where the two golden coffins are standing, and she remembers days that have been, mourning for her faithless lover and her lost happiness.

Then she is again the proud queen of the mountains and rules the vast heights in cold beauty and with immutable dignity, without sorrow and without love with the equanimity of the Crodères.