The Ladin Legends of the Dolomites

The Ladin Legends of the Dolomites

For thousands of years, the Dolomites have been home to a unique people, the Ladins, whose culture is steeped in deep routed history and tradition.  As with any ancient society, there have been plenty of stories and legends that have been told and retold, passed on from generation to generation.  These legends now lend themselves to the magical and somewhat mystifying atmosphere visitors to this region experience. 

Over the centuries, there have been many stories and fairy tales shared among those inhabiting the Dolomites, sometimes changing and evolving but always routed in the beautiful land and mountainous terrain surrounding them.  The stories paint intriguing pictures and attempt to describe everyday life in an exciting, romantic and extraordinary way.  Some are meant to teach lessons or instill good values, but all are meant to entertain and captivate the listener.

Take, for example, the legend of the “Pale Mountains”, which tells the story of a young prince that marries the woman of his dreams, who happens to be from the moon.  He brings his bride back down to live with him in his home, the beautiful mountains of the Dolomites, and she brings with her a bouquet of unique and bewitching white flowers.  After some time on Earth, the princess grows homesick from the sight of the pale sides of the mountains, and has no choice but return to the moon.  While roaming through the forest, the prince meets a lonely gnome, with whom he shares his woes and the gnome agrees to paint the side of the mountains glorious colors so the princess can return and the two can live happily ever after.  The “Pale Mountains” can still be seen today, and the special flower the princess brought down, called Edelweiss is still flourishing all over the Alps.   

Another tale that has been passed on for generations tells the story of a young peasant from Plaza de Sura who was particularly boastful in nature.  He learned from the other peasants of an ogre that lived in Col Maladët.  The others were terribly frightened of the beast, but the young peasant boasted that he was not afraid.  He headed up to Col Maladët to prove his strength and courage, but was no match for the giant ogre, who lifted the boy up and held him over the mountain tops for the entire night.  The peasant finally blessed himself and it was then that he was set free, bruised and embarrassed.  The legend teaches listeners not to be boastful and the importance of saying your blessings.

Yet another legend claims that there is a treasure of riches buried somewhere on the hill of Saint Barbara.  The story holds that the powerful lords of Rü had buried it there many many years ago, but that their spirits protect the treasure from being recovered.  A poor peasant is said to have set out to find the riches late one night, but was frightened away by a local servant, whose noises he mistook for the angry spirits of the lords.  According to the tale, the peasant ran home in terror and since that day, nobody has attempted to locate the hidden treasure.  It is still said to be located somewhere on that hillside.

These are but a few of the many stories that are as much a part of this region as the mountains and valleys themselves.  And although much of the lore is obviously fictional, there are some things told that walk a fine line between what is history and what is legend, thus adding to the mystique and keeping them alive to be told yet again.  The Dolomites continue to be a land of awe-inspiring beauty, deep routed history and mysterious legends that make every day there an adventure.

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