The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites

ITALY | TYROL : The Legend of the Pale Mountains, the Dolomites

Dolomites beauty derives from a variety of spectacular vertical forms such as pinnacles, spires and towers, with contrasting horizontal surfaces including ledges, crags and plateaus. They rise abruptly above extensive talus deposits and more gentle foothills. Countless legends have grown up in the shadow of these pale mountains, inspired by observation of the natural landscape and influenced by the stories told by the people. The Dolomites must surely, in the popular imagination, be inhabited by fabulous creatures as well as by kings and queens, discover the The legend of the Pale Mountains, the Dolomites.

“Come have a close look at this wonder, without a doubt one of the most beautiful, powerful and astonishing gifts from our planet… Are they rocks or clouds? Are they true or the products of a dream? “

Dino Buzzati, The Glass Mountains, 1956

Discovering the Pale Mountains or Dolomites on a motorbike

The Dolomites are unparalleled when it comes to mountains that rise as peaks with intervening ravines, in some places standing isolated but in others forming sweeping panoramas.

Discovering the Pale Mountains or Dolomites on a motorbike
Riding the Dolomites.

Some of the rock cliffs here rise more than 1,600 m and are among the highest limestone walls found anywhere in the world. and fine roads that span through this

spectacular scenery. The most characteristic feature of the Dolomite rock is its bright colour, ever since they are called the pale mountains.

All surreal in both scale and setting, check out the intro of the Silvester Stallone film Cliffhanger to get an impression of the jagged limestone towers and huge precipitous cliffs, they shot this dramatic scene in the Dolomites.

The area does not only impress because of this pallid mountains, but mainly because of their varied landscape:

Wild alpine meadows, deciduous and evergreen woods, lunar landscapes, high altitude terrain, alpine lakes, soaring peaks, dramatic walls, and towering heights.

We know the Alps very well, as we spend many years there, we love the outdoors:

“Wow! I didn’t know that you had six toes?”

“Nah, that’s just a blister!”

Proper shoes and well cut toenails are a must in order to hike, track and climb the Dolomites. Riding the motorbike is spectacular, the Pale mountains feature an infinite number of paved roads winding their way through these wild landscapes, with breathtaking views adding to the drive.

Dolomites UNESCO world heritage

After emerging from an extinct tropical sea around 70 million years ago, the sharp limestone peaks of the Dolomites are some of the most beautiful alpine landscapes in the world, no wonder UNESCO has declared the Dolomites a World Heritage Site in 2009:

“The site of the Dolomites comprises a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, numbering 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 metres and cover 141,903 ha.

It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.

A serial property of nine areas that present a diversity of spectacular landscapes of international significance for geomorphology marked by steeples, pinnacles and rock walls, the site also contains glacial landforms and karst systems.”

~The Dolomites UNESCO

The UNESCO zones

Dolomites UNESCO world heritage sites
Dolomites UNESCO world heritage sites
Biking the Dolomites.
Riding the Dolomites.

The nine Dolomites mountain groups are spread over five provinces: Trento, Bolzano, Belluno, Pordenone and Udine connected by beautiful and challenging mountain passes. They are featuring thrilling curves, turns, hairpin bends and switchbacks while winding up and down – every pass links to new stunning views…

This are the mountain passes you can drive in the Dolomites:

  • Pordoi Pass (Arabba to Val di Fassa), 2,250m or 7,382f
  • Sella Pass (Gröden Valley to Val di Fassa), 2,244m or 7,362f
  • Giau Pass (Cortina to Val Fiorentina), 2,236m or 7,336f
  • Valparola Pass (Cortina to St Cassian), 2,168m or 7,113f
  • Gardena Pass (Gröden Valley to Colfuschg), 2,121m or 6,959f
  • Falzarego Pass (Caprile to Cortina), 2,117m or 6,946f
  • Valles Pass (Paneveggio to Falcade), 2,032m or 6,667f
  • Würzjoch (Eisacktal to Val Badia), 2,003m or 6,572
  • Rolle Pass (Predazzo to San Martino di Castrozza and Primiero), 1,984m or 6,509f
  • San Pellegrino Pass (Moena to Cencenighe), 1,910m or 6,267f
  • Campolongo Pass (Corvara to Arabba), 1,875m or 6,152f
  • Tre Croci Pass (Cortina to Auronzo), 1,808m or 5,932f
  • Furkel Pass (Mareo to Olang), 1,759m or 5,771f
  • Karerpass or Costalunga Pass (Welschnofen to Vigo di Fassa), 1,753m or 5,751f
  • Kreuzbergpass or Monte Croce Pass (Innichen and Sexten to the Piave Valley and Belluno), 1,638m or 5,374f
  • Cereda Pass (Primiero to Agordo), 1,372m or 4,501f

Get up early, have a ride outside the main route and avoid to be stuck in traffic you might like to use the Roadstoriez map, and enjoy the fun.

trilingual street sign Southtirol
Trilingual road sign in the Dolomites – South Tyrol.

History of Southtirol

Because the people of the Dolomites are bilingual, even trilingual in some places, many villages and towns have both an Italian and Tyrolean name, and in the Dolomites a Ladin one too:

Culturally speaking are the Dolomites a fascinating border region between the Austro – Germanic linguistic area to the north and the Italian speaking southern section. Here three different linguistic groups are peacefully cohabiting – the Tyrolean German – speaking South Tyroleans, the Italian speaking inhabitants and the Ladins , a linguistic minority group speaking a language based on the Latin spoken by the peoples of the area during and shortly after the Roman (!) occupation of the Dolomites.

When you travel to the South Tyrol, you may encounter any of these languages:

“Salve!” (a formal Italian Hello), “Guten Tag!” (Hello in German), or “Bun dé!” (Good Day in Ladin).

The Three Languages of South Tyrol

South Tyrol (known as Südtirol in German and Ladin, as well as Alto Adige in Italian) was part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was annexed by Italy at the end of the First World War.

Most Italian toponyms are translations performed by nationalist Ettore Tolomei during the fascist Italianization of South Tyrol. After World War II, 1945, South Tyrol and the neighboring province of Trentino formed the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The rights of the German- and Ladin – speaking minorities were officially protected under the 1948 Autonomy Statute.

But the South Tyrolean People’s Party began pushing for greater provincial autonomy in the mid-1950s, and in the 1960s German-speaking militants even carried out a series of bomb attacks against symbols of Italian state authority.

A revised statute came into force in 1972, devolving most powers to the provinces and setting up power-sharing between the linguistic groups in South Tyrol. German and Italian were both made official languages, also was Ladin recognized as an official language in the Ladin areas.

Every citizen has the right to use their own mother tongue, even at court. Ladin and German are teached at schools. All traffic signs are officially bi- or trilingual. In order to protect minority rights there is proportionality for public jobs, housing and other benefits. This considerable level of self-government is given also due to the large financial resources of South Tyrol, retaining almost 90% of all levied taxes.

Language distribution:

Around 62.3% of South Tyroleans identify themselves as German speakers, 23.4% Italian and 4.1 % Ladin. 10.2% of the population speak another language natively (census 2011).

Italian, is the national language of Italy.

German is an official language in the the Province of Bolzano spoken by 314,604 (census 2011) people. A majority of this people use native Austro-Bavarian dialects of the German language (Tyrolean), in every day life. Standard German plays a dominant role in education and media.

Ladin is officially recognized in Trentino and South Tyrol by provincial and national law. About 20,000 people in the Dolomites still speak Ladin today, in the 5 Ladin valleys: Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Fodom and Val di Fassa. Ladin is recognized as a minority language in 54 Italian municipalities belonging to the provinces of South Tyrol, Trentino and Belluno.

LEGENDS of the Dolomites

The stark, majestic contours of the Dolomites and their mysterious forests and little villages scattered among valleys, rivers and high pastures, seem to have come straight out of a book of fairy tales peopled by Kings, knights, damsels, witches and woodland sprites.

Countless legends have grown up in the shadow of these mountains, inspired by religious feelings and by observation of the natural landscape and influenced by the stories told by the balladeers. The Dolomites must surely, in the popular imagination, be inhabited by the creatures of fables.

Have you heared about the interesting phenomenon, the so-called Alpenglühen in German, in Italian riverbero rossiccio and Enrosadira, is the Ladin term for the alpenglow. During sunrise and sunset the Dolomite rocks are covered in red color tones. The mystic legend of King Laurins Rose Garden talks about this phenomenon.

Alpglow The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites
Alpglow in the Rose Garden, German Rosengarten and Italian Catinaccio.

On the origin of the Edelweiss in the Dolomites

The Dolomites take their name from the carbonate rock ‘dolomite,’ named for French geologist Dieudonné Dolomieu, who was the first, in the late 1700s, to describe this mineral found in large quantities in this mountain range. This is why the Dolomites are also called the “Pale Mountains”.

The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites and theEdelweis
The scientific name of Edelweiss or Stella alpina is Leontopodium alpinum which comes from the Greek meaning “lion’s paw”.

The Ladin population, the oldest people of the Dolomites mountains, have their own story about the gleaming of the rocks. A moon princess lived on earth and felt extremely homesick. The dwarf population did not want the princess to leave her husband so they decided to cover the dark mountains with bright treads. And even if the princess is not alive any more, the rocks still have a bright color. The Edelweiss is bought to the Alps from the Princess.

Ethnobotany: Uses and Benefits of Edelweiss

Edelweiss has a history of herbal medicine use. Today it is extracted for use in anti-aging serums and cosmetic treatments to soothe skin. 

Traditional herbal formulas call for making the leaves and flowers into a tea for stomach pain. 

The plant has no particular toxicity to pets or humans. There aren’t many bees native to the normal ranges for Edelweiss cultivation. In other areas, they are a good source of nectar and pollen and draw in pollinators with their fragrance.

The Dolomites do not only impress because of the interplay of colours, but mainly because of their varied landscape. Below the bright rock walls you see dark scree leading down to green meadows, which again border with dense forests. Here and there you will find crystal-clear alpine lakes, which mirror the Dolomite Peaks. A varied flora and fauna has developed in this impressive landscape. Hares, squirrels, marmots, deer and chamois live in the mountains. The flora is characterised by ground-covering moss, Edelweiss, blooming Alproses and healthy mountain pine.

The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites
Rhododendron ferrugineum or Alpenrose or Rosa Alpina , is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall and produces clusters of pinkish-red, bell-shaped flowers throughout the summer.

The “pale mountais” – the Dolomites

Once upon a time to the south of the Alps there was a rich and fortunate kingdom. Its inhabitants lived a happy and carefree life. Except for one, the king’s son, who was tormented by an ardent desire: he wanted to go to the moon.

One day, during a hunt, the prince got lost in the forest. Well into the evening, he lay down on a meadow covered in red rhododendrons and he had a strange dream: in a meadow covered in flowers that he had never seen before, he met a beautiful maiden – the daughter of the king of the moon. He gave her a gift of a bunch of red rhododendrons. When he woke up, happy about the dream that he had just dreamed, he began to pick rhododendrons until he had formed a beautiful bunch. All of a sudden he heard some voices coming from a white cloud at the top of a peak. The prince approached it and inside the cloud he met two very old men – two inhabitants of the moon. He told them that his greatest wish was to be able to travel to the moon. The two men fulfilled his wish, bringing the prince to the moon. Here everything was white – the earth, the mountains, the meadows – this candour was accentuated by strange white flowers that covered the whole countryside. The prince was still holding the bunch of red flowers in his hand and with great wonder they asked him where he had picked such beautiful flowers. When he said that he was an inhabitant of the Earth, he was immediately brought before the king of the Moon. The king was an old man with a long grey beard, at his side stood his daughter. The prince immediately recognized her as the beautiful maiden who had featured in his dream and just like he had done in his dream, he gave her a gift of a bunch of red rhododendrons.

The prince had been living on the moon for quite some time now when he began to notice that, as the days passed, the intense silver light of the moon was damaging his eyesight. Fearing that he would go completely blind, he felt obliged to return to Earth. He brought the beautiful daughter of the Moon King with him, as his bride. She was different from the earthly women in that her body emanated a gentle splendour and soft light. The white flowers that the bride brought to the Earth caused much wonder also. This flower soon became quite common throughout the Alps: its bright stars can still be admired today on the high summits, this flower is called EDELWEISS.

The princess found immense pleasure in the rich multi-coloured beauty of the meadows, the intense blue of the mountain lakes and the fresh green colour of the meadows. But the dark and dismal colour of the high peaks, that jutted up like dark monsters towards the skies troubled the princess’s soul with burdensome thoughts. And so she became seriously ill due to the melancholy that she felt for the white lunar countryside and she had to return to the moon. Back in her own homeland she healed immediately, but the nostalgia she felt for her beloved husband on Earth was almost killing her. Having been left alone on Earth the prince too was unable to find peace and he was deeply troubled by the painful absence of his bride. All alone he would wander around like a wild animal through the forests and on nights when there was a full moon he would stay awake, absorbed by tireless contemplation of the moon. One night he met a gnome in the forest – the king of the Salvans – and the gnome told the prince of his cruel destiny: his people had fought at length but yet had been defeated by foreigners. He was now wandering from valley to valley with his people, failing to find a dwelling place. The prince too opened his heart to the gnome and told the story of his own cruel destiny. As soon as he had finished speaking, the king of the gnomes said to him aloud: “Cheer up Prince, because both of us have found a solution to our cruel destiny!” He explained to the prince that the gnomes could paint the mountains that had so saddened the princess, giving them the colours of the moon, so that she would never again have to feel nostalgia for her homeland. In exchange, the prince would have to allow the gnomes to dwell within his kingdom. And so the gnomes came to live in the prince’s kingdom. On the first night that there was a full moon they set to work: seven gnomes, arranged in a circle, began a strange dance: their small hands waving through the air as though moved by powerful waves; this is how they began to spin the moonlight. After some time, a ball that emanated a soft light could be seen in the middle of the circle. The other gnomes began to draw out the bright threads of this ball, pulling them from the top towards the bottom and then around the mountains so as to enclose them in a web of light. The dark colour disappeared and the summits shone with a silvery white moonlight.

The prince brought his bride back to the Earth; she no longer felt nostalgia for her homeland because now the countryside of the Pale Mountains was much more beautiful than the white lunar one of her homeland.

The Pale Mountains can still be admired today and they are now called the DOLOMITES. The prince’s kingdom no longer exists but the Salvans still reside in the rocks and forests of this enchanted land.

adapted from : K.F. Wolff, Dolomitensagen

I monti pallidi

[dropcap style=”no-background”] C’[/dropcap]era una volta a Sud delle Alpi un regno, ricco, fortunato e suoi abitanti vivevano tutti felici. Solamente uno, il figlio del re, era tormentato da un ardente desiderio: voleva andare sulla luna.Un giorno, durante una caccia, il principe si smarrì nel bosco. A sera inoltrata si distese su di un prato coperto da rossi rododendri ed ebbe uno strano sogno: su di un prato coperto di fiori a lui sconosciuti, incontrò una bellissima fanciulla – la figlia del re della Luna -; lui le regalò un mazzo di rossi rododendri. Svegliatosi sentì una immensa gioia per questo sogno. La luna era alta nel cielo e la sua luce argentea ricopriva le vette delle montagne. Ad occhi aperti continuò a sognare e a immaginare di incontrare la figlia del re della Luna. Incominciò a raccogliere rododendri fino a formarne un bel mazzo. Improvvisamente gli parve di sentire da lontano delle voci. Queste provenivano da una bianca nuvola in cima ad una vetta. Il principe si avvicinò e all’interno della nuvola incontrò due uomini molto vecchi – due abitanti della Luna -.

Il principe raccontò loro che il suo desiderio più grande era quello di potere andare sulla luna. I due uomini esaudirono il suo desiderio e portarono il principe sulla luna. Qui tutto era bianco – la terra, le montagne, i prati -. Questo candore era accentuato da strani fiori bianchi che ricoprivano tutto il paesaggio. Anche le case, i campanili e le torri della città erano bianche. Il principe teneva ancora in mano il mazzo di fiori rossi e con immenso stupore gli fu chiesta la provenienza di fiori così belli. Quando disse di essere un abitante della Terra, fu subito portato dal re della Luna. Il re era un uomo vecchio con una lunga barba bianca; al suo fianco vi era sua figlia. Il principe riconobbe in lei la bellissima fanciulla del suo sogno; come nel sogno regalò a lei il mazzo di rossi rododendri.Il principe abitava ormai da molto tempo sulla Luna, però si accorse che di giorno in giorno l’intensa luce argentea della luna danneggiava la sua vista. Temendo di diventare completamente cieco, si sentì costretto a ritornare sulla Terra. Portò con se, come sua sposa, la bella figlia del re della Luna. Questa si distingueva dalle donne della Terra per il fatto che il suo corpo emanava un leggero splendore e una tenue luce. Molto stupore destarono anche i bianchi fiori portati dalla sposa sulla Terra. Questo fiore si diffuse con il tempo su tutte le Alpi: ancora oggi le sue lucenti stelle si possono ammirare sulle alte vette; il fiore fu chiamato STELLA ALPINA.

Alta Badia – Dolomiti: la montagna del Conturines si innalza dai verdi prati e boschiLa principessa provava immenso piacere nella ricchezza variopinta dei prati, nell’intenso blu dei laghi di montagna e nel fresco colore verde dei prati. Però il colore scuro e tetro delle alte vette, che si ergevano come bui mostri verso il cielo, incombevano sull’animo della principessa come pesanti pensieri. Così accadde che lei si ammalò gravemente per la forte nostalgia verso il bianco paesaggio lunare e dovette tornare sulla Luna. Nella sua patria subito guarì, ma la nostalgia per il suo amato sposo sulla Terra la portò in fin di vita. Anche il principe, rimasto da solo sulla Terra non trovava pace per la dolorosa lontananza della sua sposa: da solo vagava come un selvaggio per i boschi e nelle notti di luna piena restava sveglio, assorto in una instancabile contemplazione della Luna. Una notte incontrò nel bosco uno gnomo – il re dei Salvans – che gli raccontò del suo crudele destino: il suo popolo era stato combattuto a lungo e sconfitto da genti straniere.

Adesso vagava con il suo popolo, senza trovare dimora, di vallata in vallata. Anche il principe aprì al re degli gnomi il suo cuore e gli riferì del suo crudele destino. Appena ebbe finito di parlare, il re degli gnomi gridò ad alta voce:“Principe rallegrati, perché entrambi abbiamo trovato fine al nostro crudele destino!” Spiegò al principe che i gnomi sarebbero stati in grado di dipingere le montagne, che tanto avevano rattristato la principessa, con il colore della luna, così che lei non avrebbe mai più provato nostalgia della sua patria. In compenso il principe avrebbe dovuto dare il permesso al popolo degli gnomi di prendere dimora nel suo regno. Così accadde che gli gnomi si stabilirono nel regno del principe e nella prima notte di luna piena questi si misero al lavoro: sette gnomi, disposti a cerchio, iniziarono una strana danza: le loro piccole mani si agitavano nell’aria come mosse da forti onde; iniziarono così a filare la luce della luna. Dopo un pò di tempo si poté intravedere nel mezzo del cerchio un gomitolo che emanava una tenue luce. Altri gnomi iniziarono a tirare i fili lucenti di questo gomitolo dalle cime verso il basso, da poi attorno alle montagne così da avvolgerle in una rete di luce. Scomparve il colore scuro e le vette brillavano di una bianca-argentea luce lunare.

Il principe riportò la sua sposa sulla Terra; lei non ebbe mai più nostalgia della sua patria, poiché ormai il paesaggio dei Monti Pallidi era molto più bello di quello bianco-lunare della sua patria.

I Monti Palli ancora oggi si possono ammirare e sono denominati DOLOMITI. Il regno del principe ormai non esiste più, ma i Salvans dimorano tutt’ora nelle rocce e nei boschi di questa incantevole terra.

tratto da: K.F. Wolff, Dolomitensagen

Die Legende der Bleichen Berge

Es war einmal ein Königreich im südlichen Alpenlande, reich, sorgenlos und alle Bewohner waren glücklich. Nur einer, der Königssohn war von einem sehnlichen Wunsch gequält: er wollte den Mond besuchen. Eines Tages hatte sich der Prinz auf der Jagd im Walde verirrt. Als es Abend wurde, legte er sich in einem mit blühenden Alpenrosen bewachsenen Hochtale im Rasen nieder, und hatte einen Traum: er begegnete auf einer mit seltenen Blüten übersäten Wiese einem wunderschönen Mädchen – der Tochter des Mondkönigs -; ihr schenkte er einen Strauß roter Alpenrosen. Als er erwachte, fühlte der Königssohn eine unbeschreibliche Freude. Der Mond stand hoch und sein silbernes Licht flutete um die zackigen Felsen. Da dachte er wie es wäre, wenn er wirklich der Mondprinzessin begegnen würde; sofort fing er an Alpenrosen zu pflücken. In der Ferne schien es ihm als höre er sprechen. Der Schall kam vom höchsten Felsturme herab, der in einer dichten weißen Wolke gehüllt war. Der Prinz näherte sich dieser Wolke und im Innern dieser traf er zwei meeralte Männer – zwei Mondbewohner -. Er erzählte ihnen, dass er seit Jahren den brennenden Wunsch hege, eine Mondreise machen zu können. Die beiden Männer nahmen den Königssohn mit auf den Mond.

Das Land, die Felswände der Berge, der kahle Boden, alles hier war weiß, und dazu trugen vor allem die kleinen weißen Blumen bei, welche in unabsehbarer Menge die Mondoberfläche bedeckten. Auch die Häuser und die Turmspitzen der Stadt waren weiß. Der Königssohn, der immer noch den roten Alpenrosen-Strauß in der Hand hielt wurde verwundert nach der Herkunft so schöner Blumen gefragt. Als er berichtete, dass er ein Erdbewohner sei, wurde er zum König geführt. Der Mondkönig war ein sehr alter Mann mit langem, silberhellem Barte; an seiner Seite stand seine Tochter. In dieser erkannte der Königssohn das schöne Mädchen, welches er im Traum erblickt hatte. Ihr schenke er den roten Alpenrosen-Strauß.

Der Königssohn weilte nun lange Zeit auf dem Mond doch von Tag zu Tag merkte er, dass der ungewohnte leuchtende Glanz der Mondlandschaft so sehr sein Augenlicht angreifte, dass er befürchtete blind zu werden. So fühlte er sich gezwungen auf die Welt zurückzukehren und nahm die schöne Mondprinzessin al Gemahlin mit. Sie unterschied sich von den irdischen Frauen nur dadurch, dass ein lichter Glanz von ihr auszugehen schien. Sehr erstaunt waren die Leute über die weiße Blume, welche die Prinzessin mitgebracht hatte: diese Blume verbreitete sich im Laufe der Zeit über die ganzen Alpen und noch heute blühen ihre hellen Sterne auf den hohen Felsen: man gab dieser Blume den Namen EDELWEIß

Die Prinzessin äußerte sich entzückt über die farbenreichen Wiesen, die blauen Bergseen und die grünen Wiesen; doch die finsteren Berggipfel, die wie riesenhafte Unholde sich gegen den Himmel reckten, lasteten auf der Seele der Prinzessin wie ein schwerer Kummer. So geschah es, dass sie an der Sehnsucht nach der weißen Mondlandschaft erkrankte und die Erde verlassen musste. In ihrer Heimat erholte sie sich sehr bald aber die Sehnsucht nach ihrem Gemahl auf der Erde war so groß, dass sie in Lebensgefahr schwebte. Genau so ging es dem Königssohn auf der Erde: er irrte nur noch ruhelos in den Wäldern herum und zur Vollmondzeit blickte er ohne zu ermüden zum Mond hinauf. Eines Abends traf er in einem Wald den König der Zwerge – der König der Salvans – der ihm von seinem traurigen Schicksal erzählte: sein Volke wurde von fremden Völkern besiegt und beraubt und nun irrten sie von Tal zu Tal ohne ein Unterkommen zu finden. Der Königssohn seinerseits erzählte auch dem Salvan sein Schicksal. Da schrie der „Zwergenkönig“ laut auf: „Prinz freue dich, wir sind beide gerettet!“ Er erklärte dem Prinzen, dass die Zwerge imstande wären die dunklen Felswände, welche so sehr die Mondprinzessin getrübt hatten, mit der Mondfarbe zu streichen, sodass die Prinzessin nie wieder Heimweh zum Mond haben werde. Der Königssohn müsse dem Zwergenvolk aber dafür die Erlaubnis zum Aufenthalt in seinem Reiche geben. So geschah es, dass die Zwerge sich im Reich ansiedelten und in der ersten Vollmondnacht begannen sie mit ihrer Arbeit: sieben Zwerge stellten sich im Kreis auf und fingen an seltsame Griffe zu tun: die kleinen Hände fuhren durcheinander wie die Wellen eines Sturzbaches; sie fingen an das Mondlicht zu spinnen. Nach einiger Zeit wurde im Mittelpunkt des Kreises ein Knäuel sichtbar, der einen milden Glanz ausstrahlte. Andere Zwerge fingen nun an die glänzenden Fäden von den Gipfeln über die Abhänge herunter zu ziehen; dann gingen sie um die Berge herum und hüllten diese so in ein Lichtnetz ein. Endlich waren alle dunklen Flächen verschwunden und das ganze Gelände strahlte ein weißes Mondlicht aus.Der Prinz holte seine Gemahlin auf die Erde, welche nie wieder vom Heimweh erfasst wurde, denn nun war es im Land der bleichen Berge schöner als in ihrer Heimat.

Die bleichen Berge stehen noch heute und man nennt sie die DOLOMITEN. Das Königreich als solches ist längst zerfallen, doch die Salvans hausen immer noch in den Felsen und Wäldern dieser unsagbar schönen Gegend.

entnommen aus: Dolomitensagen – K.F. Wolff

The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites
The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites

The legend of the pale mountains of the Dolomites is one of the many stories retold by Karl Felix Wolff in his collection of legends from the pale mountains “Die Bleichen Berge: Dolomitensagen” oder “I Monti Pallidi: leggende delle Dolomiti”. 1931.

The Legend from the pale mountains

Once upon a time there lived the son of a King. His father’s since kingdom lay in the southern territory of the Alps, with its green pastures and shady forests and steep mountains with black rocks.

The inhabitants lived as hunters and shepherds, loved their country, and considered themselves happy. One, alone, was not content with his life and the world about him-the King’s son. He felt tormented by a desire which no one could grant him-he wanted to visit the Moon. He had already consulted all the wise men of the kingdom as to what he should do in order to reach the Moon, but nobody knew how to advise him.

The Prince, therefore, was discontented and sad. In vain his companions endeavoured to distract him and to turn his thoughts to other things-he talked and dreamed only about the Moon. At the time of Full Moon he always became very sad. From evening until morning he wandered restlessly around on the rocks and meadows, gazing all the time at the Moon. The most expert physicians came to the Court but no one was able to cure the strange malady of the Prince. And it continued to become worse.

The Prince and the Alproses

One day, while hunting, the Prince left his companions and lost his way in the forests. When evening came and the sun had set he found himself in a lonely, high valley, all covered with Alproses, and surrounded on three sides by steep ridges and mighty towers of rock. No longer hoping to meet with his hunting companions again that day, the King’s son decided to spend the night there. So he lay down on a, green lawn in the midst of Alprose bushes and looked thoughtfully, in the distance, at the red clouds and mountain-tops which were just fading away.

As he felt very tired, however, he soon fell asleep and had a curious dream…..he stood on a meadow all covered with strange flowers, and spoke to a wonderful girl whom he had never seen before. All around, as far as the Prince could see, it was white, but he himself held some red Alproses in his hand, and gave them to the beautiful stranger. She, smiling, accepted the flowers, asking him what his country was like, and after a while she told him that she was the daughter of the Moon King. On hearing these words the King’s son felt an indescribable joy, and awoke.

It was already past midnight; the Moon stood high, and its silver light shone into the deserted clefts and on the pointed rocks of the lonely high valley: the Prince looked up and his joy changed, becoming deep sorrow. The usual ardent longing took possession of him, and for a long time he gave free play too his sad thoughts. Finally a gentle breeze passed through the Alproses, and the King’s son thought of what should happen if he really should meet the Moon Princess. So he began to gather the beautiful Alproses and to make a bouquet, and he was occupied with it for a long time.

All at once he thought he heard someone speaking high up in the rocks. He listened, but a great silence ruled, except that in the distance a waterfall murmured. The Prince gathered some more flowers, but for the second time he heard words, and now very clearly. The sound came down from the highest rock tower, and the top of this tower was wrapped up in a thick white cloud. Up there mountain-demons have to dwell, so the King’s son thought, and he grasped the hilt of his sword. Without putting away the Alprose bouquet he slowly strode to the tower, went around the foot of the mountain walls and began to climb up on the back wall which was not so steep. The speaking became more clear, but it was not yet possible to distinguish words. Soon the King’s son came into a cloud, the moonlight could no longer get through, and he only groped his way forward. Finally he struck something hard, a door was opened, and the Prince stood before a brightly illuminated little space where two very, very old men were sitting. They rose, frightened; but he calmed them, excusing himself by saying that he was a hunter who had lost his way in the mountain wildness. On hearing these words both went to meet him, asking him to come in, and they became very friendly. They talked of one thing and another, and the Prince asked them if they were old men of the mountains.

The Prince goes to the moon

But the two old men replied that they were inhabitants of the Moon who had made a long journey all around the world and that they were on the point of returning to their own country. Hearing this, the King’s son became quite pale with excitement and he told them that for years and years he felt an ardent desire to make a journey to the Moon. The two old men laughed, saying that if he wished to join them they were quite content, and that they were starting -immediately. The Prince was very happy, thanking the good old men with endless words. Meanwhile the cloud had drifted from the rock summit and began to sail towards the Moon with increasing speed. During the long journey the Prince told the two old men many things concerning his father’s kingdom, and they told him how things were on the Moon, and how one had to live there. Thus they informed him that an inhabitant of the earth could not stay for a long time on the Moon because everything there was white-plains and mountains, plants and cities – all shining in silver sheen, and an inhabitant of the earth became blind, after a time, from this dazzling brightness. So also, said they, a Moon dweller could not remain for a long time on the earth because of the dark colours of the forests and rocks, which are saddening, and if such a one could not return soon, very soon, to the Moon he would surely die from too much pining for the white fields of his country.

The Prince meets the Moonprinces

With such conversation and considerations did the three Moon-travellers beguile their time. At last the cloud on which they were, came down upon one of the mountains, of the Moon and rested there. The first part of their journey was over, now they had to proceed on foot. The two old men explained to the Prince that they had to turn westwards, and they advised him to travel towards the east in order to reach the Capital as soon as possible. The Prince said good-bye and went down the mountain in an easterly direction.

All the country around about was white, especially because of little white flowers which covered the surface of the Moon in endless numbers. But, in addition, the ground, which in some places was bare, appeared white, and even the flaming walls of rock had faint bright colours. After a while the King’s son saw the houses and tower tops of the Capital. All these buildings, however, were made, from their foundations to their battlements, of white marble. With quick steps the Prince hastened to meet this white splendour until he was stopped by a hedge which barred the way. This hedge was made, with great skill, of sparkling metal, and its sticks bore strange decorations. Beyond the hedge a gardener was working. As soon as he noticed the stranger he advanced slowly, saluted, and inquired, in an astonished manner, as to the origin of the red flowers which the Prince was holding in his hands. These were the Alproses which he had gathered during the night. The Prince explained that he had come from the earth, and that the flowers grew there. Now, the gardener told him that in the castle, which stood in the background, lived the Moon King and his daughter. The Princess was very fond of rare and beautiful flowers, and she would surely reward the stranger in a royal manner if he would leave the red bouquet for her. The Prince laughed and said that he would give his Alproses to the Princess with great pleasure, but that he would seek no reward for them as he himself was the son of a King. At this the astonished gardener opened the gate, and invited the stranger to enter the garden. Then he ran up to the castle. After a while he returned, breathless, begging the Prince to go with him to the castle. The King’s son followed his guide through many, many halls and corridors, looking amazedly at the walls of alabaster white, and at the bright arms which adorned them.

The Prince was received by the Moon King and his daughter in a large illuminated hall, and was welcomed in a very friendly way. The Moon King was a very old man with a long silvery white beard; but, on seeing the Princess, the Prince recognised that wonderful girl whom he had met in his night dream. She accepted the Alproses gratefully, praising their glorious colour, and asked the Prince if there were many such flowers in his country, what kind of people lived there, and how large was his father’s kingdom. It was only after a lengthy conversation that they parted, the Moon King telling the Prince that he was to consider himself as his guest.

The Prince remained then for a time at the royal castle, taking long walks through its surroundings, and became well acquainted with the Moon to which he had so often looked up with longing. After some weeks the Moon King asked his foreign guest, at lunch, how he liked the Moon. The Prince replied that the white, shining landscape of the Moon was the most beautiful he ever had seen, but it’s unaccustomed brightness was so affecting his eyes that he feared he would go blind if he did not return soon to his own country. The Princess interjected that she did not share the apprehension of the earth Prince, and that with time he could accustom himself to the splendour of the landscape. A wise old courtier, however, ventured to contradict the Princess, saying that it really was not advisable for an inhabitant of the earth to remain too long on the Moon. After that the Princess said no more.

The Prince comes back, bringing with him the Moon Princess as his wife.

At the time that the King’s son lost his way while hunting, his companions searched for him everywhere in the gloomy forests and among the pathless rocks, but though their quest lasted for many days they were unable to find him. They were obliged, then, to return to the royal castle and to inform the old King of what had happened, but he sent them away, warning them that they should not dare to appear before him again without his son. At the same time the whole kingdom was informed that anyone who could bring any tidings of the Prince might expect a great reward. But it was all to no purpose. No one knew anything, and the Prince was not heard of again.

How the Edelweiss came to earth

Everyone believed that he had perished at night on the mountains, when suddenly, it was reported through the country that the Prince had come back, bringing with him the Moon King’s daughter as his wife. The simple people of the Alps were -very glad, and they all went too the palace to try to see the Princess as they could not imagine what an inhabitant of the Moon should look like, but she differed only from the women of the earth in that a bright light seemed to emanate from her, and that in the meadows each tree shadow vanished as soon as she appeared. The people were astonished at the white flower which grows everywhere on the Moon, and which the Princess had brought with her. This flower spread with time over the whole Alps, and even to-day the bright stars salute one from the rockwalls -they are called Edelweiss.

The Princess for her part was enchanted by the coloured meadows and pastures of the Alps, never getting tired of admiring the -variegated flowers and the green lawns. She also loved the blue mountain lakes, and, ever and always, she praised the -variety of the earth surface, comparing it with the monotony of the Moon landscape, where everything was white. A proud satisfaction came over the Prince when he saw that the Moon daughter was so well and happy, and he delighted to show her everything, the -valleys of the kingdom and their different curiosities, and all the beauties of the country. Both of them felt very glad and cheerful, and had no other thought but to remain like that.

The Princess misses the white moon landscape

Once, however, when the King’s son returned late one evening from hunting he saw his wife standing on the balcony and looking up at the Moon. He thought it was strange. He went up softly, surprising the dreamer, and asked her why she was looking up so thoughtfully at the Moon. She smiled and was silent, but on being asked again she confessed that she had been pining for the white Moon-fields, The meadows and valleys of the Alps are beautiful, she said, but the confusion of dark mountain tops which extend themselves threateningly towards the sky, like the black fists of gigantic demons, give the landscape a gloomy closeness, and this in time presses like deep sorrow upon the soul. On hearing this complaint the Prince grew afraid, for it recalled to his mind what the two old men said to him when he went up to the Moon: they said that a Moon dweller would soon miss the white beauty of his country and die, languishing for light …

At present, of course, there was no cause for a serious fear, and the Prince hoped to be able to release his wife from her dangerous home-sickness by amusement and all kinds of diversion. He was mistaken, however, for her condition became worse little by little. Just like the Prince before his journey to the Moon, she now gazed at the Moon for hours and hours, becoming finally so pale and weak that there were grave fears for her life, and always she lamented about the black rocks which threatened down in such a ghostly way, just as if they would darken the valleys. And just as once no one was able to help the Prince, so now, also, nobody could bring deliverance. In the meantime the suffering of the Princess was becoming worse, and the words of the two old Moon dwellers seemed to be terribly true.

The Prince felt desolate, and those about him were helpless.

The Moon King takes his daughter and the Prince back to the moon

As soon as the Moon King heard that his daughter was in danger of death, he left the Moon and came, down to the earth to visit his son-in-law who told him about her terrible home-sickness, which grew worse and worse and was now about to kill her. The Moon King said he could not let his daughter die, and, therefore, that he wished to bring her back to the Moon. At the same time he invited the Prince in a very friendly way to accompany them if he wished to do so, but said that in case the Prince should be obliged to stay on the earth he would be very sorry, without, however, being able to change his resolution to take the Princess back to her country.

Now people from all parts besieged the Prince, begging him to think of the kingdom he was appointed to rule, to remain among his native mountains and to renounce his wife. They praised the great future he had before him, advising him to undertake a campaign in the beautiful south, but the Prince would listen to no such speeches, and went with his father-in-law and his sick wife to the Moon.

The prince returns to earth

Here she recovered her health very soon, but long before she was perfectly healthy the Prince perceived with horror that he was seeing less from day to day and that he would be blind after a short time. The old Moon King now advised him to leave the Moon before it was too late. The Prince struggled against it, but seeing the danger growing more and more apparent he finally gave it up and returned, wretched, to the earth.

Now the Moon-home-sickness took hold of him more strongly than ever. At full Moon time he was never to be seen in the castle, but was wandering restlessly around on the mountains. During the days he slept in caverns and under trees, and at night he climbed high peaks, looking steadfastly up at the Moon. With the new Moon- then, the Prince would return but so changed that scarcely anyone could recognise him. Eventually it wearied him to see people at all, and he no longer went down to the valleys, so completely wild did he become. Ceaselessly he traversed the large forests and rock deserts of his kingdom, climbing every mountain-top. Nowhere could he find consolation and peace.

The prince meets the dwarf king

Many weeks had passed since the King’s son had last seen or spoken to anyone. One evening, in a rubbled valley-end, he was surprised by a thunderstorm and obliged to flee into a cavern. There he met a strange little man, hardly three shoes tall but with a long beard and a serious face and a golden crown upon his head. The Prince spoke to the little man and soon realised that he had found a fellow-sufferer, for what the little man with the golden crown had to tell about his fate was very pitiful and sad. The little man was the king of the “Salwans” (Salmon in Ladin language, signifies cavern-inhabitant, wild man.)

From olden times they had inhabited a beautiful kingdom in the far east. This kingdom, having reached the height of its glory, and possessing as many inhabitants as a large forest has leaves, was subjected to an invasion of hostile foreign forces who devastated the country by fire and sword and killed so many Salwans in protracted battles that the survivors had to flee from their own country. Then the king, with the remainder of his people, marched from one neighbouring kingdom to another begging for a mountain, or a marsh, or some other piece of ground so that his people could settle there. No sovereign would listen to him, however, and everywhere the Salwans were ejected with scorn. At last they found shelter in a distant country, but they were obliged to work so hard that many of them ‘died and other’s escaped in order that they might not witness any longer the misery of their brothers. Thus it was with the king.

Having related this, the little man sighed and said that no creature could be more unhappy than a sovereign whose people had entirely perished and he unable to prevent it. The Prince then sympathised with the dwarf king on the hard fate which had befallen him but he said that his own destiny was no less cruel and he, too, related his distressful history.

The king of the Salwans has an idea

At first the dwarf king listened with a gloomy look but, little by little, his face began to brighten, and at last he smiled, quite pleased, and when -the Prince, who did not notice this, had finished, the little man jumped up, clapped his hands and cried out joyously: Prince, be happy, we are now both saved. On hearing such a ‘ n unexpected exclamation the Prince was almost afraid to look at the dwarf, for he thought that the little man had surely lost his reason and gone crazy. But the dwarf king had not spoken without reason and he now began to explain his meaning quite clearly. He pointed out that the Princess was only obliged to return to her own country because a Moon child, accustomed to light could not bear the look of the black rocks for long. If the mountains of the Alp-kingdom were of the same clear colour as those on the Moon, the Princess would never have been attacked by such a home-sickness.

The little Salwans, he said, are a clever and skilled people and they would be willing to cover the innumerable dark mountain tops, from head to foot, with the whiteness of the Moonlandscape if only the King of the Alp-kingdom would give them permission to live there for ever without being molested. This would give help to both, to the Prince as well as to the dwarf-people.

The Prince listened to this promising speech half astonished, half unbelieving, and then he said he did not think it would be difficult to obtain permission for the Salwans to remain in his kingdom but that he did not understand how they could make a dark rockwall white. The dwarf-king smiled in a superior way and said the Prince could rest assured about that because the dwarfs had already done things which were more difficult. The Prince then hesitated no longer, inviting the little man to come with him to the court. The Salwan agreed, and as, in addition, the storm had ceased, they immediately left the cavern, walking on together. They had to wander for two days through desert solitudes before they reached the principal valley and the castle.

The old King was very pleased at the return of his son but he considered the request of himself and his companion a strange one. He did not bother about the look of the mountain-tops but he thought he could not agree to the immigration of a strange people. It was only when the king of the Salwans had explained that they would never lay claim to the rich valleys, meadows and fields, but be satisfied to remain in the f orests and wild rocks, that the Alp King and his advisers gave their consent. The agreement was confirmed by documents and both parties swore to observe it faithfully.

How the pale mountains came to be

The dwarf king departed immediately to look for his poor people and to bring them the good news. Some days later the exhausted little people were seen to cross the frontiers of the kingdom in long columns and turn towards the high mountains. After having selected their dwelling places under clefts and rocks and behind waterfalls, the dwarf king sent word to the Prince that the Salwans would begin next evening the work they had undertaken by contract. The Prince who could scarcely restrain his impatience was, in addition, tormented by doubts, for it seemed incredible to him that the dwarfs would be able to accomplish the difficult work. He ascended one of the highest mountain-tops to await the evening. As soon as the Moon had risen, seven Salwans appeared, forming a circle and beginning to make all sorts of strange contortions. Their little hands worked convulsively, like the waves of a torrent. Astonished, the Prince watched this performance; finally he asked the little men what they intended to do. They answered that they were about to weave the moonlight, and, surely enough, after a while, in the middle of a circle, one saw a clew which radiated a soft but continuing brightness. The dwarfs worked busily, the clew was growing and it became a large bundle. The Prince gazed steadily at the seven little men, while hour after hour passed. Then he looked in the distance and, behold, on every mountain top a point of light was glowing: everywhere stood little dwarfs who had spun the lights. In deep astonishment the Prince looked on this wonderful picture; the stars seemed to have fallen down on the dark sea of mountain tops. Already the valley had become all black, and the Moon shone only on the highest peaks, then it sank down beyond long wavy borders. The Salwans did not rest but immediately began another task; they pulled apart their bundles of light, drawing glittering threads down from the tops over the declivities, and they went around the mountains wrapping them, little by little, into a net of light. As soon as every edge and top had been spun over, the meshes were drawn closer together until finally, every dark plain vanished and the whole ground radiated a pale glimmer.

The next day no one, down in the valley, could believe their eyes, for the high mountains all around, once towering aloft so gloomily, were now all white, and their bright colour formed a strange contrast with the maze of mountains which remained black beyond the frontier. In a single, night the dwarfs had covered all the mountain tops in the kingdom with the white colour of the Moon-landscape. When the Prince arrived at the castle. highly pleased, a messenger was brought before him with a sad message: the Moon King informed the Prince that the Princess had contracted an illness which endangered her life, and had expressed a desire to see her husband once again. The Prince made no answer, not even a single word, but when the messenger departed he was his companion. As soon as he arrived on the Moon, he hastened towards the glittering palace. On reaching the hall the Prince was informed that the Princess was on the point of death. But he ran to her, crying that she must not die now, for all their sorrow was ended: the mountain tops of his kingdom were glittering like Moon mountains; she must return with him once more to the earth, as he had prepared for her a world of white where she would never again have to languish for light, because every high mountain top in his country had now become a flame of stone, flaring resplendently to the clouds.

The Princess comes back to earth

These cheerful, happy words revived the spirits of the Princess, and soon it was obvious that she had recovered again. After a short time the Prince was able to bring his wife back to the earth, and how joyful was the astonishment of the young Princess who had lain so near to death, when she beheld the shining landscape: the smiling Alp-garden united in its white rocks, green meadows and variegated flowers, the Moon’s regions of light with the rich colour-beauty of the earth. Never again did the Moon-daughter sigh for her own country, as it was now more beautiful on the white mountains than in the Moon.

The pale mountains are standing there today, and they are called the Dolomites. The kingdom as such has ceased to exist for a long time, but the Salwans still dwell in the wildness of the rocks and forests.

But not only does an enchanting brightness still cling to those pale mountains-they are haunted by the deep home-sickness of that Moon-Princess, for anyone who has ever been there, is always called back to the marvel of the light-girded Dolomites bv an infinite longing.The legend of the pale mountains of the Dolomites is one of the many stories retold by Karl Felix Wolff in his collection of legends from the pale mountains “Die Bleichen Berge: Dolomitensagen” oder “I Monti Pallidi: leggende delle Dolomiti”. 1931.

The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites
The Legend of the Pale Mountains or Dolomites

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Works Cited & Multimedia Sources