Legends of the Dolomites: the German Witches (Friuli) – Lis Striis di Gjermanie (Friûl)


Legends of the Dolomites


The musicality of the Friulian language in this legend telling

of witches, mountains and streams


When folk tales become a vehicle for telling the story of places and the passage of the seasons. The insistent rhythm of a text for a close encounter with the Friulian tongue. Thanks to the contribution of ARLeF – The Regional Agency for the Friulian Language, we can now offer you the first legend.


Lis Striis di Gjermanie (Catarine Percude)

Cuasi tal mieç dal cjanâl di San Pieri, parsore la vile di Çurçuvint, si viôt une montagne verde che i disin la Tencje. Là sù adalt al è un biel pradissit in forme di cjadin dulà che e je vôs che a vignissin une volte a balâ lis striis di Gjermanie.

A capitavin ogni joibe, la matine a buinore, prime che a sunassin dì lis cjampanis di San Nicolò di Paluce.

Vistudis a blanc, cuntune velete rosse su lis strecis biondis ingropadis su la cope come une brotule di cjanaipe, sentadis suntune file di nuvulutis di aur e di arint, a svolavin jù vongolant di montagne in montagne fin dulà che e nas la Bût. Su la bocje dal gran fontanon inte ploie minudine che come flôr tamesade e salte in aiar pal impeto de aghe che e ven fûr imburide a rompisi tai crets, si lavavin la muse e i pidins, e po cun chês lôr manutis frescjinis si petenavin la caveade e le fasevin sù in riçots.

Cualchi volte il soreli, plui furbo che tal lôr paîs, injenfri lis cretis de montagne al vignive a cucâlis prime che a vessin finît di svuatarâsi, o la cjampane di San Nicolò e sunave madins plui a buinore dal solit, e alore vaiulints a scugnivin tornâ indaûr. Ma plui dispès, metût tal sen un macet di violutis rossis, a svolavin tal pradissit de Tencje, indulà che in gran ligrie a jerin za a spietâlis lis striis cjargnelis e chês dal Friûl.

Su la specule di Cjabie, su chê montagne verde e rimpinide che e cjale parsore Cedarcjis e che e fâs cjanton tra la Bût e il Cjarsò, si podeve viodilis in comareç a balâ insiemi e a bussâsi come tantis sûrs. Indulà che a tocjavin lis cotulis e chei piduts lizerins, il prât al sflorive di bote e tal indoman dut il cjadin de Tencje al pareve piturât a strichis rossis, turchinis, blancjis e zalis a fuarce di tant pampurcin, zîs e campanelutis che a cuvierzevin la tiere. A disin ancje che sâr Silverio, chel danât che al piche la montagne ret di Moscardo, al montave sul so grebano e par gust di viodilis al meteve il cjapiel vert e la gabane colôr di rose.

Su la ore di misdì, par rinfrescjâlis, al jevave sù dal mâr un aiarin zentîl e, traviersade la planure, al marcjave a cavalot de Bût spacant lis alis blancjis, mormorant e bussant a une a une lis ondadis che i vignivin incuintri. Chel aiarin, a chê ore istesse, al ven sù ogni dì tal cjanâl di San Pieri; ma tal cjadin de Tencje no balin plui lis striis. Invezit sâr Silverio al piche plui che mai la joibe, e cuant che al à fat un gran grum di claps, ju sdrume jù te Bût e in forme di purcit al torne insù a rimâ. La cjampane di San Nicolò, sdrondenade dal vint, cumò e sune a miezegnot, e chei bots malinconics e misteriôs a parin il sglinghinâ di une cjadene.

Lis nestris striis spauridis a fuin a scuindisi daûr i grebanos dal Cuc, o su la Cjaule, o injenfri lis palis secjis de Serenate. Chês di Gjermanie, vistudis a neri, cu lis strecis disfatis jù pes spadulis, sentadis sul confin a vain la antighe amicizie pierdude.



The German Witches (Catarine Percude/Caterina Percoto)

Almost in the middle of the Canale di San Pietro valley, above the village of Cercivento, you can see a green mountain called Mount Tenchia. On the peak is a little round meadow where it is said the German witches once danced.

It happened every Thursday, at dawn before the bells of San Nicolò in Paluzza rang out. Dressed in white with a red veil over their blonde locks, wound round the neck like a sheaf of corn, seated on a line of gold and silver clouds, they would fly down, swooping from mountain to mountain, as far as the Bût river rises. On the edge of the great natural fountain where the water, crashing wildly against the rocks, looks like a little rainstorm with tiny drops like sieved flour, they would wash their face and their dainty little feet and with their clean hands would comb their tresses, that then flowed in ringlets.

Sometimes the sun, more knowing than that of their own land, would creep over the mountain peaks and started peeping at them before they had finished their ablutions, or the bells of San Nicolò would ring earlier than usual in the morning. At that point they had to turn back weeping, although more often than not they clutched to their breast a bunch of red violets, flying up to the Tenchia meadow, where, bursting with joy, the witches of Carnia and Friuli were awaiting them.

On the Cabia vantage point, from that green, precipitous mountain that towers over Cedarchis and stands between the Bût and the Chiarsò, you could see them meet up and dance together, kissing each other like sisters. Wherever their skirts or dainty feet touched the meadow, it would instantly burst into flower and the next day the Tenchia valley looked as if it had been painted with red, blue, white and yellow stripes, with so many cyclamens, lilies and bluebells covering the earth. They also say that Silverio, that damned soul, doomed to smash the mountain facing the Moscardo mountain stream, so loved watching them that he climbed up to the peak in a green cap and a pink cloak.

Towards midday, to cool down, a gentle breeze would lift up from the sea which would cross the plain, travelling along the Bût, shaking its white wings, murmuring and kissing one by one the waves it encountered. At the same time every day that breeze blows along the Canale di San Pietro but the witches no longer dance in the Tenchia meadow. However, Silverio smashes the rocks harder than ever on Thursdays and when he has amassed a big heap of stones he hurls them down into the Bût and, in the form of a pig, he climbs back up again snorting. The bells of San Nicolò, moved by the wind, now ring at midnight and that mysterious, melancholy tolling recalls the rattling of a chain. Our witches, terrified, run and hide behind the Cucco rocks or on Mount Chiaul, or on the steep slopes of Mount Sernio. The German witches, now dressed in mourning, their hair lying in tangles on their shoulders, sit down on the border and weep for their lost friendship of old.


Ph. Eugenio Cappena