It’s Multicultural Blogging Carnival time again- and this time, it’s hosted by Cordelia of Multilingual Mama. The topic is Culture and Cities and I decided to write about my favourite city of all time- Warsaw. And is there a better way of teaching kids about culture and cities than through stories?
Warsaw is a city full of legends and amazing stories, many of them I think are virtually unknown to people who come to visit Warsaw. Here they are: the legends of Warsaw.
- The Mermaid- syrenka
You may have heard that the mermaid is the symbol of Copenhagen- but Warsaw’s symbol is also a mermaid! Legend has it that these two were sisters, one of which went to Copenhagen and the other one swam up the Vistula River right to Warsaw. There, she decided she loved the place so much that she wanted to stay there forever. However, the fishermen saw that someone would free the fishes from their nets and wanted to see what was going on. They heard the mermaid’s beautiful voice and allowed her to stay with them. One day, a rich merchant kidnapped her and kept her closed in a barn. Luckily, a young fishermen’s son heard her singing and freed her. From there on, the mermaid promised to stay in Warsaw and protect the city from danger- that’s why she holds a sword and a shield. I wish to tell you that her protection worked but unfortunately, history taught us otherwise. Nevertheless it makes a nice story that is connected to Warsaw. The mermaid can be seen in many places, including on the Old Town and on Warsaw’s coat of arms.
- The Basilisk
You may know the Basilisk from the Harry Potter stories but there is also one living in Warsaw. There are many versions of this legend, but my favourite involves the one where a convicted man is given a chance for freedom. Once Upon a time, on Krzywe Koło (it means Crooked Circle and is a street in Warsaw’s Old Town), there lived a Basilisk. He was looking after treasures and riches kept in one of the old houses. Many a man tried to steal the gold and kill the beast, but they all turned to stone under the basilisk’s stare. One day, a man (some versions say it was a wandering tailor, others that it was an armorer whose children hid in the basilisk’s lair and he wanted to rescue them. The version I remember included a man who was sentenced to die. He went into the house, armed with nothing but a mirror. When the basilisk saw his reflection, he turned to stone himself. The man was given back his freedom. I couldn’t find any retelling of this version, but there are plenty of others-this one being a great one from the Smithsonian Institute.
- The Golden Duck
A very educational story. Once upon a time, there was a princess turned into a golden duck who was hiding under the Ostrogski Palace. Legend has it that she could made rich whoever found her. One day, a poor young tailor saw her. She gave him a sack of money he could spend as he pleased but there was one condition: he had to spend the money in one day and he was not allowed to share it with everyone else. The young tailor almost spent all the money but gave the last of it to a poor soldier. His riches disappeared but he realized that money couldn’t buy happiness but good work and health did. He lived his life as a tailor- but no one has heard about the golden duck ever again.
- Wars and Sawa
Noone really knows where the name Warszawa (pronounced Varshava) comes from but this story tries to provide an explanation.There are two versions of this story- one of them saying that Wars and Sawa were twins and the king gave lands to their father in return for hospitality. The version I know is that Wars was a fisherman and lived with his wife Sawa in a little hut at the Vistula river. One day, the King got lost and found their little hut. Although Wars and Sawa were poor, they provided the king with food and let him stay the night at their house. The next morning, the king gave them lands on which Warsaw was later build.
- The Stone Bear
I’m a little but ashamed but must admit I didn’t know this story. It’s kind of cute though. Once upon a time, there was a Prince. He was big and strong as a bear, so they called him Bear. Unfortunately, he was also very ugly. I picture him a little bit like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. One day, he fell in love with a beautiful woman but because of his bad looks, he was afraid to pronounce his love for her. One day, he saw the lady of his dreams, leaving the Jesuit Church in a wedding dress, a beautiful young man at her side. The Prince was heartbroken and turned into a stone bear. Legend has it that if a lady falls in love with him, and her love is as strong as was his love for his lady, he will become human again. Unfortunately, he is still waiting. However, if you’re passing through the Jesuits’ church in Warsaw, you can pat his snout. Maybe this show of affection will make his wait sweeter.
Find more info on Warsaw and the legends of Warsaw here.
Are there similar stories and legends where you live?