My informant is a family member in Lebanon that has lived in the mountains for her entire life which plays a large role in this important narrative that has “become part of her identity forever.”
My informant states that they “lived in a village named Sawfar, far into the mountains of Lebanon. Although, it wasn’t different to many other villages, on top of our mountain stood a castle that belonged to our beloved Donna Maria.” The woman who was known to be “the most generous and beautiful of all” lived in a small castle built by her husband, Albert to live out her fairytale dreams. However, after the passing or disappearance of the family for some unknown reason, the castle was “torn apart by the militia in 1975 and left in ruins.” My informant describes her childhood on the open castle grounds as magical and “some of the best moments of [her] life” even in it’s fractured state. After many years, weddings had begun to take place in the castle gardens and some describe “seeing Donna peering from the balcony, sending her wishes to the newlyweds and then it became a tradition, blessing each couple that keeps her memory alive.” The music of the weddings “erupted through the valleys, filling the mountains with the magic of Donna’s castle” However, the informant describes playing in the grounds once as a child and revealing part of the house that had been covered, “it was a dungeon filled with unknown bones. Nobody had known until [she] found it and it became a horror, even Donna may have had a darkness to her and skeletons in her basement”.
She states that this became known to the entire village but the weddings never stopped, because it would tamper the ‘magic’ that Donna had given them. Her story and castle history was passed on for generations as children were even brought to learn about Donna and her past as “she is a vital part of Sawfar history” It has become an integral part of her family history and her children’s lives as she says “even though I never met Donna, her descendants and their ground are a big part of my upbringing in making me the person I am today” The castle is not only grounds for the descendants of Donna Maria but the rest of the village to enjoy and pass the joy that the bricks and gardens brought to others.
The narrative that my informant presents seems to be a pivotal part of her upbringing in the village as she had lived through most of the experiences at the Donna Maria castle. The element of the fairytale castle on top of the mountain allowed Donna and her family to thrive and incorporated that into the village. When the story was described, the informant said she passed it on to her children and brought them to the castle grounds to experience it. This allows the children to gain a sense of what their heritage is and a glamorized version of a story such as a castle encourages the learning of their culture and gain a patriotic view of their country and specifically the village. Adults are able to have a stable grounding in their village, even in unfortunate circumstances such as wars and attacks on their homes, they are able to look to the withered castle, with so much mixed history, and see it still standing. The castle represents the hope of what their village was, what it still is and what it will continue to be as the beauty of the story and the gardens is presented to residents of the village, their descendants and tourists who hope to see the history of what brought this village together. The ‘ghost’ of Donna Maria symbolises the blessing of eternal life, especially for married couples and children that still have growth to come as they not only learn about her beauty but also the dungeons that lie beneath her gardens. At times when married women struggled with events in their lives, they regret not getting married at the blessed grounds and being led by Donna who seems to have been viewed not only as a privileged woman but a queen atop the village that was a guiding light in the darkness of wars in Lebanon. Even after all the trials and tribulations that the entire country experienced, Donna’s damaged castle stood as a landmark in the people’s hearts and identities.