by Franco Pelliccioni , Italian Geographical Society, Rome

[Paper read at the International Seminar: "Two Distant Regions Compared", held at the Danish Academy in Rome (Det Danske Institut for Videnskab Og Kunst I Rom), October 21, 1997].

1966 - 2006


1. Premise

I thank the Academy of Denmark for this opportunity to address to a public on a matter that in the last years has monopolized my life. What today I will say on the distant islands "of the sheep" comes down from the work I am carrying on since many years among the maritime communities of northern Atlantic. The numerous preliminary contacts had with the Academy have solicited a better focusing of the whole problematic, giving rise to further considerations. The Direction was interested to involve somehow the Italian reality . From those talks ensued, first of all, the attendance of a Danish historian; as well as the idea to compare the distant north-Atlantic Faroese situation with something analogous or, however, comparable, located inside the Italian State. I remaind that the method of the Anthropological sciences includes the comparison with "other" situations and cultural realities. There is to add that in 1996 what had to be only a trip in the Friulan Carnia, for engagement, multiplicity and thickness in the contacts, arm-chair guessed selection of the realities to approach and, therefore, for importance of the collected data, had offered me an unexpected, not scheduled, "informal" recognition of the territory. Giving me to think that a comparison was possible, if not desirable. As a matter of fact the possible comparison and the remarkable similarities between the different aspects of the Faroese and Carnian societies and cultures, despite the manifold differentiations, solicited me to deepen ulteriorly the enquiry, here only sketched. Despite all, what looked like at first to be a little more than an intellectual divertissement of a researcher, who approached both realities, even on different cognitive levels, it came out of interest, from the scientific point of view too. Besides the fact that the comparison is between two cultural distant realities (Danish and Italian), between two "different" archipelagos (of sea and of land), I have added to the discussion two "case studies". The first comes from the remote island of Mykines, the archetypical symbol of the castaway island, the second from a linguistic and ethnic-cultural "island", although a land-one: Sauris. To make the comparisons I have pin pointed some indicators and problematic areas between them comparable. Some are real reading keys good for both realities. The differentiations are manifold, but the possible analogies are numerous: geo-historical aspect (same surface: 1220 square kilometres the Carnia, 1399 the Fær Øer); eccentricity and, therefore, marginality of the localization of the two "archipelagos" as regards the capital cities and the respective government territories; climatic aspect (rainfalls); past poverty and marginalization, also socio-cultural (up to the '60 for the Carnia and, for the Fær Øer, till the end: of the "long isolation" (1856), b) of the second world's war; c) of the years '70/ '80. Past and present community existential crisis; communications: (difficulty in the transports and in the communications in general (lack of roads in the Danish archipelago up to the '50, when started the building of a modern net of roads. Those in Carnia go back, apart some exceptions, to the end of the XIX century; demography (equal numerical consistence- appr. forty thousands inhabitants-) and emigrations- very recent those of the Fær Øer (since 1989), secular (from Middle Age- the very first- till the '60 ), those of the Carnia; administration: in 1948 acquisition for both of autonomy, as a Danish county (the Fær Øer), inside the Special Statute Region Friuli (the Carnia); economy: (economy connected to the environment, tourism); culture and language: specific language, linguistic teaching in schools; bilinguism; importance and vitality of cultural tradition, persistence of a rich spontaneous architectural apparatus; oral literature (the Faroese chain dance: Føroyskur dansur), poetry (the villotta carnica); a very tight man-environment relation and presence of a rich "fantastic" apparatus:trølls and sbilfs.

2. Historical-geographical introduction

2.1. The archipelago of the Fær Øer

The archipelago of the Fær Øer (Føroyar) from April 1 1948 forms an autonomous county within the Kingdom of Denmark, with remarkable responsibilities for every thing concerning economy, health, culture, communications, education and social programs. They are 18 islands with a general surface of 1,399 square kilometres and a population of 43,717 inhabitants (1994), almost all of Viking origin. The Føroyar are deeply characterized on the Western side, the more exposed towards the ocean, from steep and almost unapproachable high cliffs. I remind as in the narrows among the islands the navigation is not so easy, due to the clash between the Gulf Stream and a cold current coming from Iceland. From the climatic point of view, apart some sunny days, each day past in the Fær Øer has involved the changeable, sometimes very quick, "alternation of the four seasons". The average rainfall is of 1600 mm (with 280 days of rain). Rain, wind, salinity, and the insubstantiality of the fertile layer, very small above the rocky one, are quite negative elements, as for the existence of a true agriculture, as for the growth of plants. Only 7% of the ground is fertile, while 93% it is grazing land. When in the IX° century the Vikings reached the islands, they found them populated only by sheep. Dependent first from Norway (till 1380), and then from Denmark-Norway (until 1709) they were part of the Norwegian territory and from 1814 of Denmark. Tórshavn, founded on the peninsula of Tinganes, was soon chief town.

2.2. The Carnia

It is an area that was able to bewitch me for many of its characteristics: human, first of all, and then naturalistic, historical-archaeological, etno-anthropological and linguistic. A region of valleys and splendid mountains, plunged in the green of woods and malgas. Crossed by important and historical rivers. Populated by people that have their own language, the Friulan, with which they vigorously express their own cultural identity. The Friulani of Carnia feel at first Italian, then also Friulani and Carnians. Speaking so two different languages and a dialect. This is the Carnia, the green Carnia because of its abundant rainfalls and consequent extraordinary presence of every kind of herbs. Among other things the local geo-climatic conditions lower the altimetrical levels of approximately four hundred metres. But the corollary of this phitoclimatic phenomenon is the marked presence of wooded land, that takes away more and more space to cultivations and grazing. The wood in some zones advances excessively. Besides the climate of Carnia is characterized from rigid winters and rainy summers. And this north-western corner of Friuli, to the border with Austria, has little more than forty thousands inhabitants, of which more than a quarter live in the only urban centre of any consistence, Tolmezzo. Historically the "capital" of Carnia and centre of the homonimous Mountain Community. And this land has his homogeneity, formed in the course of a more than millennial history. That goes back to the arrival of the Carni, Celtic population of which little or nothing is known, but also that of Romans. And was known to Strabo, Titus Livy, Pliny. But it couldn't be otherwise, because one of its most important valleys leads to one of the main historical gates to Mitteleurope and, therefore, to the north and the east of the continent: the Mountain Carnian Cross Pass. Until pre-Celtic epoch it was an important transit road, where went along the hordes of the invading Barbarians, and then Carnians, Etruscans, Romans, and afterwarda also traders, foreign troops and our emigrants: towards the north and the east of Europe. The history of Carnia is rich of events. I remind those nearer to us: the events of the Serenissima (Venice), of Napoleon and of the Great War, when the Austrian troops were jammed for long time along the trenches before Caporetto. But also those concerning the liberation of Italy from the nazi-fascist oppression, when the German occupation Army was composed also from "Kosaks" belonging to the Russkaja Osvoboditelnaja Armija, l'armata dei fiumi perduti of Sgorlon. To whom Carnia was promised as a future Kosakeland in Nord-Italien. This is a land where tradition and change go together, often integrating themselves perfectly. As regards to the ethnografical and historical-cultural aspects, each village, each settlement each town has something that it is worthing to see. Since history has been also generous with this strong people, that has been able to overcome every existential collective crisis. Like twenty years ago, at the time of the big earthquake, that deranged Friuli and Carnia. With the reconstruction many ancient houses were completely restored and again inhabited. Without weighing heavily on the urban system with new buildings, more modern, but distant from the traditional model of the Carnian house. That is nowadays still re-proposed thank to the use of traditional materials : wood and stone, characteristics tile roofs, of wood or glazed, often with a green colour. And if the architectural style of the houses, also those more common and humble, it is not able to attract the visitors, still other characteristics are able to stimulate that interest. For instance those ethnographic-ones, tied up to cultural ancient models. The same panniers, like once utilized by the women for the transport, particularly of the hay, or the sledges with shoes and wheels. All objects not yet casted off and relegated in a museum. But used with pride, also if with hard job, by the inhabitants of these communities.

2.3. Discussion

What I just finished to underline, I think may justify why of this choice to compare the Danish archipelago with "that" of Carnia. As a matter of fact this wonderful Alpine region, that coincides with the homonimous Mountain Community, sees its numerous villages set amid the different valleys, that here they call canals, like we read in a letter of the 1628. And the alpine communities, if they don't share the same valley, result separate the one from the others from high mountains. They can, therefore, be imagined, described and analyzed as "islands." And the same mountains, sometimes also harsh, even if always fascinating, what they are if not " ocean waters"?! Not only... The Carnian territory as a whole gains an unity that is not only geographical and administrative, but also a cultural and linguistic-one. That are different from that of the Friuli Region, to which belongs. This in its turn bearer of uniqueness that are different from those of the Italian State in toto. The same Ippolito Nievo wrote that Carnia" it was "a small compendium of the Universe." And which epitome results more well-chosen of an island?! If we think to the "physical distance" from the capital city, or to the same location in the utmost north-oriental corner of Italy, to the border with Austria, we realize that also in this case we are before an other cultural distance. Datum that we will consider as given, and as a starting point. We will utilized it as tool to approach the other dualistic realities: the "distance" between Copenaghen and the Fær Øer. Two symmetrical cultural distances to which should be added also the one between Rome and Copenaghen (that is to say between Italy and Denmark). The contribution I intend to put forward to the discussion is to try a cognitive approach to the cultural situations of Fær Øer and Carnia, in underlining in prominence affinities and similarities. Certainly not to brush up antiquated diffisionistic theories, but to suggest to the researchers a "platform" of data and facts on marginal societies and communities, to perform future heuristic deepenings.

3. The community ethnic-cultural and linguistic identities:

3.1. Fær Øer, a small "community-nation"

The archipelago constitutes an exceptional linguistic-cultural niche where still survives the ancient Norwegian language (Viking). The foroyskt has indeed several common points with Icelandic and the Norwegian Landsmal. National language of the Fær Øer, from the end of the XIX° century has received a standardized orthography. The oldest faroese text is represented by the "Sheep Letter" (Seyðabrævið) of the 1298, which regulates, among other things , the maximum number of sheep that could be kept in the archipelago. Many of its rules are still followed. After the Seyðabrævið we have other documents, but the Reformation in 1540, together with the introduction of Danish in the Church and in the bureaucracy, irreparably damaged the local written language. That became only oral. Through it generation after generation, in the evenings close to the fireplace (once a simple fire lit in the "smoking room") of the roykstova, stories were told or were sung medieval ballads (kvæði), that give the rhythm to the "chain dances". The distance of the islands from Denmark, and their rough and wild landscape, that have preserved them from an intense colonization from the European country, combines itself to the obstinacy, the perseverance, the courage, the attachment to their own language and roots of the Faroese. And still: the notable isolation of the archipelago from the rest of the world, as well as of each village and island from all other villages and islands: all this has done that, respect to other archipelagos the traditional heritage of the original culture, as well as the same life style of these small farmers-breeders and fishermen, have standed very well the wear and tear of time. And much is also owed to the important school of life, the oral tradition, that has been able to let pass almost undamaged the "witness": the past, the fantastic one, but also the real one. In the roykstova would have again taken life the heroes of a mythical past, and those nearer to us and more true. All of them would have however offered to the bystanders a small gem of life, of culture, of what in the incoming times would still be the Faroese life style, marked with wisdom, honesty, courage, still perseverance. Here between myth and reality each new generation was informally inculturated, slowly learning those that were the authentic values of the structure of the Faroese Atlantic maritime culture. The television, that from the 1984 broadcasts in almost all the houses, looks like that has taken the place of those evenings, that so deeply have affected the life of so many previous generations. In substituting itself to the chain, that till then had tied emotionally and empatically generations between them, running backwards through the centuries, as far as to get, with the thought, to the impetuous raids of the Viking long ships, but still beyond, till to arrive at the images,obsolete at all as regards the typical panoramas of these islands, of the green woods of coniferous, of high and rocky mountains, of fiords deeply set amongst the mountains, of the splendid skjeergard of the Western coast of Norway. That is why the oral tradition that, at least in the transmission of the elder's memories, had been able to preserve together and integral, the one to the others, as so many rings of a long and indissoluble chain, connecting, through time and space, peoples by now distant the one from the others, was now going to halt and to break up. From the point of view of the actual society, the Faroese community is and feels like as one "only" great community. In theory every one participates somehow to the life of the others. Many are the bonds and the parental communities, that between them tend to interlace. Also so numerous are the friendships and endless are the acquaintances. The feeling that brings all together within the ample and reassuring community river bed is much emphasized. We stand before a collectivity characterized by a strong degree of endougenism, also if cases of weddings and alliances with Danish, Norwegians, Icelanders, etc. are numerous

3.2. Carnia, a strong regional identity.

Somebody has defined as "civilization of the fogolâr" (fire-place) the Friulan-Carnian culture. As a matter of fact , like in the Fær Øer, the kitchen with his fireplace (fogolâr) has always had an important rôle in the community sphere. "The union, the meeting that happened between peoples of every age and of more then a family around a fire-place was, and still partly is today, a determinant element of our culture, because in these evenings unions were consolidated and traditions were handed down. These meetings happened almost every evening during the winter periods ... The host family (...) set out an ample kitchen and in this all settled (...) The men spoke about what did happened to them abroad, of the plans for the following year, of the jobs to do (.), the boys, that looked like busy with their games... instead were a sort of big sponges that absorbed everythingl" (Dorigo, 1980: 54). Just in those same occasions , but also in others, in the "fredde serate invernali trascorse nelle stalle a fare la "file" (vegliare) i vecchi, Dio li abbia in gloria, [che] narravano leggende e miti di cui la tradizione orale carnica è ricchissima". The Friulan (with his Carnian dialect) is a language that in the centuries absorbed Byzantine, Longobard, Frank, German, and Slavonic words. To the beginning of the year one thousand, the people spoke a Celto-Latin language that was different from all the others. The written tradition started in the fourteenth century, with the obligatoriness for the notaries to know as the Latin as the vernacular (contracts and wills were written in vulgar, then translated into Latin).

3.3. Discussion

The numerically modest communities of the Fær Øer islands and of Carnia show strong cultural linguistic identities . Rooted themselves through the centuries, not only because of a more than secular isolation. Speaking about the Carnian territory, this has counted remote villages, indeed, and therefore of difficult access (like the same Sauris, of which I will speak in a while), to a great extent has represented a zone of transit and connection between the sea and the interior, between the Latin world and the Germanic-one, between the plains and the mountain alpine world. As for the linguistic aspect, both languages, the Foroyskt and the Carnian (dialect form of the Friulan language) didn't had, up to not long time ago, a standardized orthography (for the Faroese language we can go back to the end of the XIX century, with some previous attempts). The Foroyskt only in 1938 was acknowledged in schools as medium of teaching and since 1948 is the the archipelago national language. Both, the Faroese and the Carnians are, besides, bilingual. The Faroese language has considerably developed the terminology of typical aspects of its own habitat and economy: breeding of sheep, capture of birds, fishing, topography, weather, climate. Only for the movements of the oceanic waters (waves, currents, etc.), the philologist Jakobsen singled out 44 different terms (for him not an exhaustive number!). Speaking about the Carnian dialect, "the Friulan language doesn't have a standard handwriting accepted by all and, unlike the Italian, it is not language of the public education: here a difference with the Danish islands! In some churches it is used in the religious functions. At times the people prefer to speak Italian so they don't close themselves towards the outside, due to the presence of tourists and of not Friulan residents . And people tend to identify themselves with the local community and with the nation at large. I remind finally that the art. 13 of a recent regional law (22 March 1996, n.15) provides the creation of a scientific Committee to propose "univocal solutions to the residual divergences between the handwriting of the Friulan Philological Society and the "unitary normalized handwriting." The informal inculturation, that is the intergenerational and face to face transmission of values and knowledges of the two cultures, in the family and domestic sphere, met its apotheosis in the evenings close to the fireplace, when the extensive family had the chance to meet and "stories", facts, events, values were handed down from mouth to mouth, from father to child. The oral tradition, which has played a very first rate rôle in the two communities, seems today to have lost importance with the advent of the planetary and homologating medium above all: television. As the General Manager of the SVF, the Faroese Television, underlined to me in 1995, it was trying to utilize the powerful formative function of the medium to replace, also partially, the traditional oral transmission in the roykstova. Something analogous is to start in Friuli, thanks to the article n.29 of the regional law quoted before. To develop the Friulan language and culture, the law provides the creation of an agreement with RAI for the realization of Friulan language television programs.

4. Relationship man- environment

4.1. In the Fær Øer: the sea and the islands

The traditional Faroese economy was a subsistence economy based on the community, the characteristic village, the bygd, with its multicoloured houses in wood and the typical roofs in peat and grass, the pier, the little church, the neighbor cultivated fields (potatoes) and surrounded by low dykes of stones, and those more distant for the grazing of sheep. Each bygd for a long period of time resulted almost completely isolated from other settlements, making a world apart, a microcosm connected the other Faroese microcosms only by sea, or through the intersettlements paths that went from coast to coast, crossing valleys and mountains, often not only difficult, but at times also dangerous: for the sudden approaching of a storm or heavy fog. The Faroese have handed down stories usually of Viking origin: having a bottom of truth, like the sagnir, or fantastic, like the aevintyr. Naturally the stories have been adapted to the particular oceanic environment: you do'nt desappear in the forest, on the contrary in the fog. Giants (risar) and trølls ar part of the traditional oral literature of the archipelago. Here therefore the sjódreygil, or water-dreel, of which people are afraid of in Norway. To live in close touch with a natural world that arouses reverential fear makes difficulty to trace a line between imagination and reality. What for some look like imagination and superstition, to others may instead appear like objective reality. "In the bygdir the world has existed on two levels, a visible and an invisible, but equally real onel" (Kjørsvik Schei and Moberg, 1991: 60).

4.2. In Carnia: the wood and the mountain.

In the Green Carnia the respect for nature and environment has born long before the "invention" of any EIA ( "Environmental Impact Assessment"). These are people that live, would like to say, "harmoniously" with themselves and with everything surrounds them. If we were not well aware of the nonexistence in our planet of utopian Scian-gri-là, and of the fact that problems and conflicts are an integral part of daily life of each human being. Certainly it is that cordiality, smile, hospitality, generosity, a not superficial interest for nature, their own environment, their home, job, the relationships with the others,are here abundantly present and diffused. As regards the Carnian Valcalda it is possible to single out three phases in the relationship Man-Wood. In the first (from the '600-beginning of the '800) the wood represents a fundamental element to the survival of the mountainous habitat; afterwards it is still managed in a regulated manner and represents an endless resource. The third phase is the nearer to us, and includes the actual time: as raw material the wood is not more economically interesting for those who live there, but has got value only for the not resident. And what about the existence of the sbilfs, the elves of the woods and of the mountains? These beings of the imagination, funny and a little bit scamps, that so much they do to vex the poor human beings, with frauds, traps and spites. Tall a little more than an inch, very quick and shining, eternally children, fond of games "e dei tiri più o meno maligni a danno di animali o di uomini (...) tendono...a rifugiarsi in luoghi sempre più lontani dagli abitati ...cercando di ritrovare la semplicità degli ambienti naturali (...)" (Pielli, 1995:12).

4.3. Discussion

The sea and the mountains, the insular profile without arboreal vegetation and the woods that exceed, taken away land and grazing to men and animals. In both realities we are spectators of one very close relationship man-environment, that everything permeates and that everything conditions. We are not speaking here of old style "geographical determinism" . How many different cultural solutions, concerning mountain or maritime environments, between them similar, have been included in those that anthropologists call cultural inventions. Yet, opposite of a nature that you can notice mighty and invading, and it could not be otherwise, like I once more have experimented this year in the course of my research stay in the Outer Hebrides, it is possible to realize the reason of this respect, the reason of such solutions, above all technological, but also making part of the spiritual sphere. Both maritime and mountain environments are rough and hard, also if they could, and they are, be considered from an outsider observer stupendous and fascinating. But their past history is often only a dramatic, chronological and raw sequence of sufferings and poverty, of enormous difficulties of daily living, of a struggle to survive. Where famine and illness, the adverse elements of nature (storms and avalanches, etc.) had the chance to strike pitilessly those communities. Repeatedly. Not for case the Carnia for centuries has been land of permanent and temporary emigration. Not for combination in the Fær Øer, after the Great Crisis they are now emigrating. Before, also if wanted (up to the middle of the XIX century), it was not possible to run away for the nonexistence of oceanic boats. Should be said that in the two communities the indissoluble and narrow bond with the surrounding environment finds its clearer comparison in the existence of the elves that populate, respectively, the woods and waters of the ocean (and the fogs) of the two communities. Naturally I quickly remind that such beliefs come also because of the need to offer a psychological arrangement, perhaps also a logic-one, to difficulties and problems that an inhabitant of remote and rough areas, completely submerged in a "luxuriant" natural habitat, could find on his daily route.

5.Two economies between tradition and change:

5.1. Fær Øer: the bygd and the traditional community subsistence economy

In clear-cut counter-tendency as regards the thousands of archipelagos, islands and islets scattered in the "seven seas," lands of "historical" and expected emigration towards the mainland, and gradually fated to depopulation and to be abandoned (the island of St.Kilda (Hirta), fifty nautical miles west from the Western Isles, in Scotland, constitutes an archetypical example about it), the Føroyar have known, at least starting from the beginning of the XIX century, a real demografic increase. The present time is marked from the unexpected inversion of tendency that has seriously affected, in the last years, the Faroese economy and society, currently characterized from a situation of difficulty, enough diffused in every community of the archipelago, especially in the middle-small-ones and in the marginal islands, where is deeper. The emigration and the escape towards the capital city and, afterwards, abroad (Denmark, Norway, Scotland, Iceland), represent the more important phenomenon.

5.1.1. Fishing and grindadrap (the community whale hunting), fowling, cultivation and breeding

Only starting from the second world war, fishing began to have more and more importance. The islanders up to the half of the XIX century have been only a people of small farmers-breeders, that for their own subsistence also based themselves on what could be fished in coastal waters, as well as on the continuous alimentary supplies, first from Norway, then from Denmark. As a matter of fact the meat of sheep and of ram, the potatoes, the produce of bird-catching (meat and eggs), as well as the fat and the meat coming from the community whale hunting (Pothead or Pilot Whales, locally called grind) were certainly not sufficient to make a living for the islanders. And so for many centuries the number of the inhabitants was kept "controlled" inside each single settlement and of each island, so to avoid any possible famine. Often the supplies by sea were late for several causes (castaways, wars, corruption, etc.) and the connections among the various bygdr and the different islands were at all problematical and dangerous. Of Viking derivation, fowling is made with nets. Besides are picked up eggs of sea birds along the steep cliffs. These are the other two traditional activities directly connected to a subsistence economy of the communities. The puffins have been always preferred on the Faroese tables. But also other types of birds are catched with a long-handled net before they go back to their nests. Usually the fowler let himself lowered with ropes down the mountain. To pick up eggs and fowling have been always considered as a test of manhood, because the Faroese boy had to have agility and strength. And could inevitably meet with strong risks, also deadly. They therefore needed in the same time to be skilled and brave. Easily it was possible to slip or fall, going to smash on the reefs or ending up directly in the ocean waters.

Because of the extreme poverty of these grounds struck by a not very propitious to cultivations climate, it is practised only a village farming in the bøur (potatoes, barley). Less of the 6% of the land is cultivated. The breeding of about 70,000 sheep is diffused in all the islands, with a good production of wool. It should be still added that up to not many years ago (at least till a period following the '50), almost every Faroese family had a cow, essential milk supplier for children (like in Carnia).

5.1.2 The changing economy: oceanic fishing, shipyards and tourism

From decades the economy of the islands bases itself on fishing and on the collateral industrial preserving activity. At least till the recrudescence of the present period of depression, nearly the 25% of the local labour force attended at its different activities. The fishing occurs inside the 200 miles (of distance from the coasts) limit . And is still practiced the deep-sea fishing, in the waters of Greenland, the North Sea, Barents, besides the islands of Jan Mayen and Iceland. I remind the not negligible consistence of its fishing fleet, and the existence of shipyards, where still today build different types of ships. In these last years it has been looked for, moreover, to use to advantage this very special oceanic environment, also in spite of some past "closings" or, however, inactivities from who "had to do"." Still in 1987 it could be read: " Les îles Féroé ne visent pas à devenir un centre pour le tourisme de masse. Mais les étrangers qui ont envie de les visiter se font toujours plus nombreux, et les Féringiens reconnaissent également que, jusq'à présent, ils n'ont pas fait assez pour leurs invités" . Despite the undoubted not easy climatic conditions, the naturalistic beauties, the grounds of historical and ethnografical interest are manifold and all worthy of extreme attention for a certain type of "motivated and curious" tourist. And the archipelago is still almost unknown to mass tourism. The enormous majority of visitors reaches Tórshavn, the capital city, on board of cruise ships, or in the course of an obligatory standstill of a couple of days of the passenger-ferries, en route to Iceland.

5.2. Carnia: the traditional economy, the alimentary self-sufficiency

Historically the economy of Carnia was founded on agriculture and breeding, that alone however were not sufficient to guarantee the subsistence to the poor families of the region. In the XVIII century the cultivation of maize and potatoes propagated, and they stemmed so the frequent famines of the past. In 1781 an official paper mentioned, however, how the harvest of wheat wasn't enough to maintain the 28,070 inhabitants of that time, and the unique possible alternative was represented by emigration. In the Valcalda, to the beginning of the XIX century the contadin cjargnel got bairley, rye, wheat (little), hemp (little), broad beans (few), flax, potatoes, beans (few), hay (fen), cheese, firewood. The livestock included cows and goats, but also sheep (for the wool), oxen and asses for the transports out of the villages and pigs. "Very rare were the families- poorest- that didn't have a cow at least," integral part of the family, furnishing milk, cheese, butter and calf "essential to the life of every day" (Dorigo, [cit]: 19). But in 1826 Morassi as regards to Ravascletto, always in the Valcalda, reported as: " il clima deve dirsi piuttosto rigido che temperato, perché la posizione del territorio è tutta montuosa. L'inverno si calcola ordinariamente sette mesi...attese le copiose nevi che qui cadono...Non sono facili da lavorare simili terreni poiché sono quasi tutti in pendenza, di limitato strato fertile ed inoltre, quando la terra si inaridisce a causa dei venti e della lunga durata della neve, si fa più tenace e più forte (...) quasi tutti nel tempo stesso proprietari, agricoltori, artisti e trafficanti se si eccettuano pochissimi braccianti che quasi nulla possiedono (...) questi abitanti attesa la frugalità del loro vitto, aiutati dal ricavato dei loro mestieri che esercitavano si mantenevano mediocremente relativamente al loro stato" (Violino, 1996:112-4). "The job in these cultivations was hard and long: the women, during springtime, were for forty days cul cûl in sù to dig, sarî and dà tiára to the crops. During these works the priest did the "rogazioni," that consist of processions along the fields on which the clemency of God was invoked with the songs of "a peste, fame e bello libera me Domine e a fulgore et tempestate "(Dorigo, quot.: 19). Zootechny and agriculture were essential, but not sufficient. They were therefore supported by handicraft activities, like the workmanship of wood, the extraction of marbles, weaving, besides the petty trade. I remind that Tolmezzo, service and industrial centre, once precious carrefour between the world of the plains (and the Mediterranean) and that of the Alps, already in the XVIII century, 1200 looms of the Linussio factory exported fabrics in all Europe. Factory that for cloths was the biggest of Europe according to an economist of the time.During the two world's wars the livestock was drastically reduced due to repeated requisitions. In the years of the Great War the Spanish fever and the diphtheria (grup) would have raged too. Currently farms result small, fragmentated with little intensive cultivations. Besides there is to say that still at the beginning of the XIX century communications were scanty at all. With great difficulties, for instance, they were able to take care of sick people in the variuos settlements. Often relieved from the relatives with herb decoctions.

5.2.1. The Carnian modern economy and the wood: industry and craftsmanship; tourism

With explicit reference to the Valcalda, in the period 1600-1800, the lands for grazing were often contended from the wood. The surface of the pastures was just sufficient to feed the cattle necessary for the survival of the community. But the wood furnished firewood to light the fireplace, to build furnitures and houses, for the transports, roads, mills and sawmills and finally to feed the furnaces that manufactured tiles and other bricks for building. The wood safeguarded the hidrogeological balance, of valleys, and of the Friulan plain. Therefore the Vicinie of old tried to avoid the breaking of the mountain. "Today we see a very interesting phenomenon that is the recapture by part of the wood of the areas that were taken away in the past centuries. the local society, strongly reduced, determined in its economy from the outside and not more interested in breeding, "grants" the marginal areas to the trees " (Maniacco, cit: 105-6). The industries that work the wood, above all furnitures, and a splendid craftsmanship are enough developped. As regards tourism, a first nucleous got organized in Carnia in the same period of the pioneer-one in the Danish islands (XIX century). In that time, for instance, the settlement of Forni already had two hotels, and was frequented from scholars, mountain climbers and traders. But the beginnings of a modern tourism goes up to nearer times (the '20). The Carnia tries above all to consolidate and develop the deep interest that outside the region have the manifold traditional festivals, that we find inside the original cultural heritage. The offer tends, therefore, to address to a motivated tourism, attracted, also in the week-ends, from areas often not very far from Carnia. Looking to offer hospitality to guests also in the so-called low season, with pin-pointed fascinating touristic proposals.

5.3. Discussion

The economy of the communities naturally is rooted deeply in the territory, in privileging the traditional activities: farming and cultivation, that are common to both, besides fishing and shipyards - currently in crisis- for the Fær Øer, and to the handicrafts activities connected to the wood (timber cutting, constructions, etc.) for the Carnia. But Carnia is also differentiated because paths and roads have always been able to overcome or to bypass the same mountains that deeply underline the territory, fostering as the itinerary petty trade as the trade firmly carried on abroad. This was not possible in the Danish islands, because of their complete isolation, that persisted until the end of the Danish crown Monopoly. Also because know how and entrepreneurial initiative (and relevant risks) cannot be improvised. From the commercial point of view as a matter of fact the Faroese islands were subjected to the monopoly, first from Norway (beginning from the 1273), then (until 1856) of the Danish Crown. The last one involved the prohibition of construction (and the possession) of ships too. For centuries the villages resulted completely cut out from the world.

6 The great existential crisis of yesterday and today

6.1. The great Faroese crisis of the years '90 and the emigration

It should be underlined that for several centuries in the archipelago there was a kind of "demografic control" based on custom. So the number of inhabitants was costantly kept reduced and, therefore, limited, according those, after all, were only ecological intuitions, to some thousands individuals. So the human pressure (and, therefore, also animal) on land was artificially kept low , avoiding the danger of deadly famines. During the last two centuries, instead, population had the chance to triplicate every hundred years. Beginning from 1989, for the first time in its history, started a slow demografic fall, little noticed during the first year, but with a trend to heavily increase in the following years. Now the islands are facing an economic crisis. This is a period of recession that they had never experienced in the course of their history.There is to say that the Faroese fishing fleet , modernly equipped and provided with all the ultramodern and electronic inventionsin commerce, offered a more than tangible proof that was possible to go on, year after year, to fish always more. The produce had always being growing at least till the end of the '80. The Faroese behaved in the same way of the fishing fleets belonging to other nations, in north-Atlantic and elsewhere. In the past years it has been fishing excessively, without any "biological stop" that would have given the sea fauna the time to reproduce. In the years following 1989 the tons of Faroese fish began to decrease until to arrive to the strong drop of the 1993. The Faroese have confided in what could be their possibilities of renewal, innate in their know how, boldness and ability, as well as in the ultramodern implements on board of their oceanic vessels. Besides also their cultural tradition, a blend of boldness, perseverance, deliberate risk, in the long period would have played against! They have been always considered as the best, as regards all the other Atlantic fleets, but that evidently wasn't sufficient not to collapse. For years they have had the possibility to increase remarkably their overall standard of life, that became one of the highest in the world. The sufferings, the uneasiness, the risks, the insecurities, that characterized the historical luggage of each islander, became only bad memories and nightmares of the past. The causes of the actual period of depression lie in the fact that numerous Faroese have contracted mortgages and loans. In the same way acted the societies, the fish industry and the shipyards, the computer societies and the banks, etc. The excessive fishing led lastly to the rapid drop of fish and relative incomes, and so there was the bankruptcy of numerous societies and the loss of hundreds of jobs. At the institutional Faroese level many of the financings got for public works had to be refunded. And so there were many debts, not only with Denmark, but also with some foreign states. The Scandinavian state started to pay entirely the islands foreign debt, imposing at the same time special conditions, restrictions and behaviors, economic and financial, of method and of content.

6.2. Carnia land of temporary and permanent emigration up to the '60 and '70

Once the lands of Carnia were managed by the Vicinia, a council of heads of the original families of the place. The "others," the so-called foreigners were excluded from the enjoyment of government and towns goods. Thank to this subtle expedient in reality it was kept a perfect equilibrium man-environment. Pastures and woods were sufficient for a certain amount of people and no more. Each increase of population would have gone to damage the same survival of the inhabitants. A stranger could pay a tax to benefit of a pasture or to water the animals at a fountain, but he was excluded from the possibility to rent malgas or public pastures .Thanks to this hard regulation, it was kept low on purpose (and always under control) the number of the "fires" that a land could bear. The beginning of the 1800 represented the end of an era, that of the mountain economy, because of the heavy Napoleonic and Austrian taxations and of a dreadful economic crisis. About the 1860 Lupieri wrote that: " la Carnia in linea economica è nel languore del moribondo. Fiaccata dalla sterilità di molte annate, deserto quasi il commercio dei legnami, specialmente da fabbrica, isterilite le industrie, le arti, i mestieri, impoveriti dalle smisurate imposte, sono i popoli della Carnia" (Ganzer, 1990: 18). Peoples that were, more than before, forced to seek elsewhere their fortune. The Carnia, that had never been rich, became still poorer. Already from the XVI century (but again before), it was land of permanent emigration (up to the '60-'70), or of temporary separation (from the XIII century) when the men of villages, at the beginning of each autumn, went to foreign countries to work as woodmen, stone-cutters and in the sawmills. To come back to the beginning of the following summer. And not only. Many, the cràmârs, went from valley to valley, from country to country, going in the different areas of the Empire: Hungary, Bavaria, Slovenia, Carinthia. Having on their shoulders, carrying like a backpack, heavy wood containers (the cràme), that contained what the people was in need of: poor and small things, haberdashery above all. But a wealth in terms of mutual utility, of inter-communities human contacts, of acquisition of knowledges, of acceptance of the other. And were still the cràmârs (and the emigrants), once back in their beloved valleys, who adapted foreign models, inventing new ones, so at the beginning of the century the co-operative movement and the People's Houses had an exceptional development in Carnia. And the Carnians contributed, between the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX century, to build the trans-Siberian Railroad. Yes, excelling in the traditional activities connected to mountain and to woods, but also to weaving and the constructions, they were highly appreciated abroad.

6.3. Discussion

From the demografic point of view both the geo-cultural realities have had the possibility, thank to peculiar mechanisms, concerning the temporary and permanent emigrations, but also the impossibility to obtain lands and pastures at the time of the Vicinie (in Carnia), as well as the acquisition of fields in the Fær Øer, to keep on purpose low and, therefore, constant, the human pressure on land. Besides all the natural events, or caused by man, that have invariably and negatively studded life of the two communities, are a part of a kind of natural control: "A peste, fame et bello; a flagellu terremotus libera nos Domine" it was an invocation that once was frequently heard among the Carnian people (Rigamonti-Ros, cit.: 182-186).

7. Two communities at the mirror: Mykines (Fær Øer) and Sauris (Carnia)

7.1. Mykines (Fær Øer)

The island of Mykines has a surface of 10.3 square kilometres and is the most western and remote of the archipelago. Its coasts are vertical and inaccessible and are surrounded from cliffs, islets and submarine reefs, that make particularly difficult the approach. The homonymous bygd stands to the west of the high mountain of the Knúkur. At the time of the building of the white church (at the end of the eight hundred) around two hundred people lived in the village. The years '60, also if electricity had not yet arrived, were times of great changes: it started to run a school, an inn and three shops. It was built a swimming pool too. Today the fields are no more cultivated like once and the island has threatened with depopulation, also if peoples love coming back every summer for some weeks. Storms and isolation are still part of the daily life of Mykines, so remote an island, that despite the several endeavours made since the moment of my arrival in the islands, up to little before the re-entry in Italy, it was not possible for me going there. And the endeavours were unsuccessful mainly because of the persisting of the changeable, almost always very bad, atmospheric conditions. Despite that, Mykines represents one of the most important attractions in the Fær Øer, as from the cultural point of view, as from the landascape and environmental-ones. Indeed it the archetypical symbol of the Faroese island of times gone by: for its bygd, with its old multicolour houses roofed "with meadows", close to a brook, and for a tight man-environment relationship, besides the proximity to one of its most famous cliffs, where the men once, but still today, showed their virility making themselves being lowered to pick up eggs of birds or to fowl the guilleminots with the net. The island has given birth to the "father" of the Faroese art, the painter Samal Elias Joensen-Mikines. Thank to him the hard struggle of the islanders against the difficult environment has been known outside, through the chiaroscuros and the colours that mark his dramatic painting. That tells the struggle of its fishermen against the oceanic dangers and the adverse elements of nature. When the island could be completely isolated from the world for weeks. But also narrates of the sweet side of life: like the wood black walls and the "roofs of meadow" of the houses, the green fields that surround them. Mykines was therefore becoming a destination warmly suggested to me from the Faroese authorities. I couldn't remember how many times and with how many kind and enthusiastic Northern interlocutors I have discussed about the opportunity to arrive there. But also about the difficulties, not only to reach the place, but above all to be able afterwards to go back. The problem each time was always the same: taken for granted the arrival, the re-entry would not be so assured! Striking rainfall or fog can drastically change the conditions of the sea, unexpectedly stopping any admittance to the pierdock, after all pityless beaten from a strong surf.

7.2. Sauris (Carnia)

Sauris is a community of ancient Germanic language. Still today to reach its territory is not surely smooth, also if a modern road, with several tunnels, makes things easier than once. But it is just the road to represent a real visiting card, that make us guess which were once the communicative difficulties, when didn't exist a road that connected these valleys with the rest of Carnia and the world. The first-one, through the Pura Pass, goes back to the Great War. The road I travelled to the nearer 1934. Just the atavic geo-spatial isolation of this marginal area, within the Friulan Carnia, seems to be the more common explanation researchers give, about the persistence, through centuries, of this ethnic-cultural and foreign language speaking island. This settlement, that is stretching on the sides and valleys of high mountains, is the highest municipality of Friuli. And segregation was felt with pain from the whole community up to not many decades ago, especially in the rigid, long and snowy winter months. Reach it or leave it became, then, an authentic, heroic, venture. When a human chain of shovellers came loose along the route, that was opened through several metres of snow at the price of indescribable sufferings from the "donkeys" (the men). Allowing the women to reach, with their panniers, the bottom valley, to trade or barter. This is Sauris, with little more than five hundreds inhabitants, but Zahre in the ancient German local language, belonging to the south-Bavarian dialects, that preceeded the forming of an unitary German language. For the wretched life that was there leaded it was called, up to not long time ago, Zahrntol, the "valley of tears": "una serie dolorosa di amari sospiri, di fatiche e di stenti sofferti, con dolorose rassegnazioni ai travagli, sarebbe una lunga storia...che veramente si può chiamarla come i nostri vecchi l'hanno chiamata: Valle di lagrime" Sauris forms an island, in its turn, set in the other "island" of Carnia. The first German speaking farmers arrived here from the high valley of the Lesach before 1280, to cultivate. And isolation, that wasn't absolute, but nevertheless forced the community to try to be almost totally selfsufficient, allowed to preserve and perpetuate language and culture. Of course with all the changes happened in the long run, exogenous-one (for acculturation), as endogenous-one (cultural invention). There always have been contacts with the outside, especially during the good season. Also because up to the half of last century a relic of the Saint King of the Northumbria was worshipped in the Church of S. Osvaldo, destination of uninterrupted pilgrimages from Venetia and Germany. Very jealous of their own tradition and cultural identity, "different" from any other surrounding them, the Saurani after exactly twenty years from the beginning of the reconstruction (earthquake of 1976), with pride can show the valid use of the appropriated funds. With the involvement of the whole community, they are trying to valorize, as much is possible, such uniqueness (also with the creation of the "diffused hotel"). Inclusive of their special relationship with the environment, and the full and meticulous restoration of all damaged buildings, according to the traditional style: houses in wood from the characteristic stone baseboards. Close to the classical mountain horticulture, the Saurani raise pigs, from which they get valuable smoked hams. The cattle breeding is reduced to the minima terms, because of the EU disincentives, that has considerably contracted the economic spaces of the small population. Now obliged, not to emigrate like once, especially when the demografic pressure on land didn't anymore allow a life, poor but decorous, to the more deprived inhabitants, but to apply to a more systematic use of the stupendous beauties of its mountains and valleys. Thank to a more ecologically aware tourism, that knows how to show up the territory as a natural resource.


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Northern Atlantic Maritime Communities Program


ATLANTIC RESEARCHES: //Shetland and Orkney, Scotland, UK // Saint-Pierre, Miquelon (DOM, France), Newfoundland (Canada) // Svalbard, High Arctic, Norway // Faroe Islands, Denmark //Outer Hebrides -Western Isles- Scotland, UK / Iceland /

/ Arctic Research // African Research // Italy & Mexico /


GEOGRAPHIC:  Alaska / Canada/ Carnia / Egypt/ Italy / Kenya / Scotland / South Africa /Southern Sudan /Western Africa /  

THEMATIC:ADVENTOROUS WOMEN: Great travellers, Explorers, Anthropologists, Archaeologists / American Indians / Applied Anthropology / Environment /Explorations / Inuit/ Maritime Museums / Multiculturalism / Non EU Immigration and the School /North PolePIRATES AND PRIVATEERS IN NORTHERN ATLANTICRacism /SHIPWRECKS / Slavery in Southern Sudan /Trains / Urban Anthropology / Viking World / Volcanoes/

 / Whale Hunting / "West" / General /

Document 1 //Document 2 // Document 3 // Document 4 /

/ Northern Atlantic Islands and Archipelagos //

in Italiano: Programma Comunità Marittime Atlantico Settentrionale

Tutte le Pagine Web in lingua italiana di Franco Pelliccioni

RICERCHE ATLANTICHE: Shetland e Orcadi, Scozia, Regno Unito / Saint-Pierre, Miquelon (DOM, Francia), Terranova (Canada) / Svalbard, Alto Artico, Norvegia / Isole Faroer, Danimarca/ Ebridi Esterne (Western Isles), Scozia, Regno Unito / Islanda-Groenlandia

Ricerche Artiche / Ricerche Africane / Ricerche Italiane Ricerche messicane

LE BIBLIOGRAFIE: Bibliografia Generale 1966-2006

 AREALI:    Africa Occidentale/ Alaska Canada   /   Carnia / Creta   / Egitto / / Italia / Kenya /Lisbona, Portogallo  /Scozia / Sud Africa / Sudan meridionale /Tunisia 

TEMATICHE:    Ambiente /Antropologia Applicata Antropologia urbana /Balene Biografie antropologiche / Biografie archeologiche / Esplorazioni / Indiani d'America Inuit (Eschimesi) L’Avventura al Femminile: Grandi Viaggiatrici, Esploratrici, Antropologhe , Archeologhe  L'immigrazione extracomunitaria e la scuola Mondo Vichingo  / Multiculturalismo /    Musei Marittimi / Nei Mari del Sud / Naufragi / Pirati e Corsari nell'Atlantico del Nord  /  Polo Nord /Razzismo Schiavitù nel Sudan meridionale /  Treni Vulcani  "West" /

17   articoli on line di Franco Pelliccioni 

/ Documento 1 /Documento 2/ Documento 3 /Documento 4 /

Uomini, Genti e Culture del "Villaggio Globale": Una Lettura Antropologica dell’Ambiente    

Natura e Cultura nell'Alaska del Duca degli Abruzzi (1897) ;

Guerra o Pace: riflessioni di un antropologo su un eterno dilemma

Problemi socio-antropologici connessi allo sviluppo nel Mezzogiorno

Isole e Arcipelaghi dell'Atlantico Settentrionale

Updated 1,  27,  2006