Secrets of the lake
It is located in Val di Braies (a side valley to Val Pusteria) at 1,496 m above sea level, about a hundred kilometers from Bolzano, and is the largest lake in the Dolomites. But this I bet you already know. What few people know, however, is the fact that this very body of water with such brilliant colors hides many secrets. Would you have ever guessed it? If you want to know more, get away from the beach, there are often too many people there, instead take the path that follows the shore of the lake, go into the nature that surrounds it, and maybe by then you will be one with this place, so much so that you will be able to catch a glimpse of ancient sunken treasures, or who knows, if you are lucky, two mysterious ladies listening from a boat in the middle of the waters. Are you ready? Let's get going!
How the wild lake of Braies came into being.
Legend has it that these mountains were once inhabited by a people who lived in close contact with nature, so much so that these people were commonly called "savages." Their lands were extremely rich in treasures such as gold and precious stones, and the savages loved to collect them to create jewelry. It was not greed: they believed that gold was a good omen for the wearer. One day shepherds came from the valley below, and the savages, as a token of welcome, gave them rings and bracelets. It was not difficult for the shepherds to realize that the savages held a real treasure, and, driven by greed, they tried hard to rob them. The savages were strong, but not as cunning as the shepherds, who almost always succeeded through trickery and deception. Tired of this life, the savages decided it was time to end it. There were underground springs in their lands. They opened them, flooded the valley and created a large body of water to keep the herders away from them. That was how Lake Braies was born. And the treasure? For safety, the savages hid it deep in the lake and it was never found again. Beware you, prospectors: the waters are deep and cannot be fooled. Don't try to dive, just enjoy the landscape, which after all, is filled with so much beauty that it is itself a treasure.
Hiding under the lake: the Fanes Kingdom
It is curious to think how the legend about the lake's birth is not the oldest connected to it. In the late 1800s, an Austrian journalist and anthropologist, Karl Felix Wolff, during some studies of Dolomite folklore, came across several narrative fragments concerning the Kingdom of Fanes. He studied them at length until he realized that what he had found was not just a legend, but a cycle comparable to the ancient sagas, only of Ladin origin. He had to intervene by reworking the various materials he had found, even integrating missing parts, but the result is a true narrative cycle about the rise and fall of the Fanes Kingdom.
The story is very long and complex, but we can try to summarize it. Once upon a time there was a people so meek that they had been able to form an alliance with marmots. It was the kingdom of Fanes. Its queen one day married a foreigner, who was not meek and aspired instead to conquer neighboring lands, so much so that, as a first step, she wanted to change the coat of arms of the kingdom: no longer a peaceful marmot, but an eagle of prey. The royal couple had twin daughters, Dolasilla and Luyanta. Luyanta was sent by the queen to live with the marmots to try to keep their alliance strong despite the king's choices. Dolasilla, on the other hand, grew up in the court, selfless, brave and valiant. Precisely because of her gentle spirit, one day she received a gift from the dwarves of impenetrable armor and magical arrows that would never miss their target. These gifts made Dolasilla the ideal tool for the king's ambitions: there was no battle that Dolasilla lost, her every action was a triumph.
But fate always has a hand in it, and so it happened that Dolasilla fell in love with a prince, Ey de Net. The young man knew that his beloved was in danger because a very powerful and evil wizard, Spina de Mul, wanted the ruin of the Kingdom of Fanes, and to achieve this, Dolasilla had to die. Ey de Net then, had the dwarves forge a very heavy and invincible shield, with which he would descend into battle beside the princess to protect her.
It all ended when the two decided to marry: the king went on a rampage and exiled Ey de Net. What no one but the king knew was that there was a prophecy about Dolasilla: she would be invincible only until marriage, then she would never fight again. And this the king certainly could not allow! However, the solution was no better than the problem: out of sadness, the princess no longer wanted to go into battle without her beloved prince by her side.
All was lost now, but the king's greed was insatiable, and his champion, his beloved daughter, would no longer help him, just now that he wanted to attack a very rich valley. What to do? And here, in desperation, was an idea: run away, betray the kingdom, sell it to an enemy army and with that attack the neighboring valley. Little did the king know that this terrible allied army was led by Spina de Mul himself, who was not interested in riches, he just wanted to take his chance.
The magician prepared his attack: with a spell he generated 13 children who approached Dolasilla while she was walking. They told her that they were poor and asked her if she did not have something to give them. Of course she did, and she gladly donated it: thirteen of her magic arrows, one each. So it was that when Spina de Mul with her army attacked the Kingdom of Fanes, the princess went down into battle to defend her people and found death, pierced by her own arrows. The defeat was total, but fortunately the queen was able to lead the exiles to the marmots where she was reunited with her daughter Luyanta. Together they led the refugees to a hidden place inaccessible to all, beneath the waters of a lake. Once a year, Luyanta and the queen slipped out, reached the surface of Lake Braies, and from their boat awaited the sounding of silver trumpets, which would mark the hour of rebirth in peace for the Kingdom of Fanes.
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