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Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss

Original version
Misurina was the daughter of king Sorapiss. Their kingdom was in the area bordered by the Tofane, the Marmolada, Mount Antelaus and the Three peaks of Lavaredo (all mountains extending between the Italian regions of Trentino and Veneto). Sorapiss was a huge man with a kind soul. He had lost his wife when Misurina was a young girl and he loved his only daughter immensely. Misurina was a tiny girl , she was so small that she could be carried by her father in the palm of his hand. Misurina was not a good girl: she was spoiled, spiteful and extremely selfish. She didn’t love anyone and was not loved in return. She despised everyone, so that everyone avoided going to their residence. When Misurina was 8 she learnt of the existence of a fairy, who lived on Mount Cristallo. The fairy was said to have a magic mirror with which she could read the thoughts of the people who looked at their image reflected on it. The fairy also had a very beautiful garden full of flowers. Misurina decided that she wanted the mirror and asked her father for it. The king couldn’ t refuse his daughter anything and went to the fairy. The fairy didn’t want to part with the magic mirror, so she set an impossible condition for Sorapiss to have the magic object: he had to transform into a mountain and cast his shade on her garden to protect her flowers from the light of the sun. Misurina convinced her father to accept the fairy’s condition; she was even pleased with the idea that her father would become a mountain because she wanted to run and play on the slopes of the mountain. So, the transformation of King Sorapiss began: he changed colour, he began to swell, his hair became trees, his wrinkles became crevices. While he was transforming into a mountain, Misurina was on the palm of his hand; she soared with him towards the sky, she felt dizzy and lost her balance and started falling into the void. The King was still half man and half mountain, he saw what was happening to his daughter and he began to cry in despair. His tears formed two streams which gathered at the base of the mountain and gave origin to a lake which took the name of Misurina. The mirror fell together with the girl, it shattered in thousand pieces, and this explains the thousand colourful reflections that make the lake so beautiful.
Alternative versions
The peaks of Croda are often surrounded by thick black clouds and thunder storms and lightning are a frequent occurrence. The legend tells that the reason for the terrible weather conditions are to be explained with the existence of an evil sorcerer who lived on top of these mountains. The inhabitants of the village of Auronzo were afraid of the sorcerer and of his terrible storms. For this reason, every year they offered a young girl to the evil spirit to keep him at peace. On the day of the summer solstice, the maiden selected among the young girls of the village reached the top of the mountain to offer herself to the sorcerer. One year, the beautiful Misurina was selected. She climbed mount Croda, met the sorcerer and never came home. One day, while the man was absent, Misurina decided to explore the surrounding area. She found a cavern and went inside. While she was there she was approached by a bat. The bat spoke and told Misurina that her name was Rosa and that she used to live in the village before being offered to the sorcerer who had transformed her into a bat. She also told Misurina that she had to open a chest and take the poorest objects that she would find inside it. Misurina did as she was told. She found a lot of precious jewels inside the chest, but she only took the simple objects : a handkerchief, a comb and an apron. Rosa then ordered her to run as fast as she could and to escape, but the sorcerer noticed Misurina escape and ran after her. The bat told Misurina to throw the comb behind her. The comb transformed into a huge forest with very high trees.The sorcerer lost time in the forest, but eventually he reached Misurina again. Then Rosa told her to throw the handkerchief behind her. Misurina did as she was told and the handkerchief transformed into a muddle which slowed the sorcerer. The third time Misurina threw behind her the apron. The apron became a high wave which took the sorcerer away. The wave then became a deep lake in which the sorcerer drowned. The magic spell was broken and the bats transformed into girls again. The whole village celebrated the return of the girls and the lake was given the name Misurina to honour the brave girl who had defeated the sorcerer.
Main characters
King Sorapiss : King Sorapiss was a kind-hearted man and all he wanted was to make his pretty daughter happy. As he was a widower she was his only reason for life. Physically he was an imposing man with dark hair and high stature. Misurina: Misurina was a little girl with delicate features, graceful and short in stature. She was spoiled, spiteful, uncaring, selfish and very capricious and growing up she became increasingly arrogant and selfish. The Fairy: The fairy was very clever, she lived on Mount Cristallo and possessed a lovely flower garden. The mirror: The mirror is the key object in the legend and has the ability to read the minds of the people whose faces it reflects
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
Lake Misurina is the largest natural lake in Cadore, an area near Belluno (Veneto). It is located 1754 m. above sea level and is part of the UNESCO site of the Dolomites. The Dolomites, also called “The Pale Mountains”, are a mountain range in the east of the Italian Alps, in an area which is shared by the Italian regions of Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige, Friuli and the counties of Belluno, Bolzano, Trento, Udine and Pordenone. The Dolomites are characterized by the presence of “dolomia” or dolomite. This is a carbonate sedimentary rock consisting mainly of the dolomite mineral, chemically a double carbonate of calcium and magnesium. This rock takes its name from the 18th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu (1750–1801), who was the first to describe the mineral. In reality, not all the current Dolomites are made of dolomia rock as some of the most famous peaks show a kind of limestones derived from ancient coral reefs. The geological history of the Dolomites is very complex, and it shows the alternation of marine flooding and surfacing that occurred over hundreds of millions of years. The rocks of the Dolomites were formed mainly during the Triassic period (about 250-200 million years ago) in a marine environment. These lands were then raised during the Alpine orogenesis, but in a way that preserved the original underwater landscape. This is why it is possible to find a lot of fossilised shells, corals, algae. Over the millennia earthquakes, volcanic explosions, erosions related to atmospheric agents changed and modelled the shape of the Dolomites. The result is a very complex scenery characterized by vertical lines. The highest peaks in the Dolomites are Marmolada (3343m) Tofane (3244m) Cinque Torri (2361m) Sassolungo (3181m) Plan de Corones (2275m) In 2009 UNESCO included the Dolomites in the list of its World Natural Heritage Sites The territory of the Dolomites is home to over 2000 different types of plants. Among the many characteristic species we can mention the Campanula morettina, a purplish-colored flower, which grows in the cliffs above 1000-1200 meters and blooms in August, the Tyrolean primula that grows among the dolomitic rocks, in damp places and sheltered from the sun between 900 and 2600 meters, the saxifrage that always grows in rocky environments with prolonged snowfall between 2400 and 3300 m. The Dolomites are home to numerous animal species, which have adapted to the extreme conditions: squirrels and roe deer, marmots and foxes, and the golden eagle.There are also numerous chamois, in the territory of the Parco delle Dolomiti d' Ampezzo and in the Belluno Dolomites National Park, and the deer. Also the mouflon is present in the area of the Marmolada. Among the birds, in addition to the golden eagle, there are peaks and owls and the white partridge.
Local traditions or historical connections
The air around Lake Misurina is particularly balmy and good to cure asthma.
Didactical Relevance
The legend allows the students to learn about the origin of the Alps. It is possible to ask for the cooperation of the Science teacher and the Geography teacher to allow the students to learn more about the rocks and geology and the formation of the Alps. It also develops the curiosity of the students who may want to look for other UNESCO Natural Heritage Sites.
Didactical Activity
Step 1. Start the didactical activity with Geography: start with a study of the Alpine region in Italy (general characteristics of the Alps, their origin) and in particular of the Dolomiti region. Move on to a geolocalization of Lake Misurina, Mount Cristallo and Mount Sorapiss. Consider the network of connections (the railways, the highways, the airports) near the Dolomiti region. Find out the resources for tourism offered by the Dolomiti region and the villages of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Canazei and others both in winter and in summer Step 2.Science: the "dolomia" is a particular rock, with very particular colours and features, have the students study its characteristics and its formation. Then, the students can compare the dolomia to the other rocks present in the Alpine region and they can focus on their common elements and their differences. The Science teacher can then focus on the different plants and animals typical of the Dolomiti region. Step 3.Literature : It is important to teach the students how to read a legend and to connect it to local traditions and history. Ask the students to read the legend and reflect on it. The presence of the “creation of natural elements – a river, a lake, a mountain” is common to many other legends all over Europe, ask the students to read the other legends by the partners on this “Parsifal” portal and to select those which have a similar purpose, then ask them to find common elements and differences. To develop their creative writing ability, it is possible to ask the students to write their own version of the legend. Step 4.English: show the students the video by UNESCO on the Dolomites in the original English version. Work on the language and the vocabulary related to the mountain landscape Step 5: A class trip to the Dolomites (two days, with overnight accommodation)


UNESCO video
The video was created to celebrate the Dolomites nomination as one of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites


tre Cime di Lavaredo Mountains
Mount Sorapiss
Sassolungo Mountain

External Sources

The village of Auronzo di Cadore
The official site of the village near Lake Misurina
The Dolomites
The site gives general information on the Dolomites
Why the Dolomites have become a World Natural Heritage Site

PDF version of the legend in national language