Polish legends: Warsaw Mermaid

“Greetings from Warsaw”, an old postcard.

Legend from Warszawa (Warsaw), the capital city of Poland.

Once upon a time there was a sea mermaid who got lost and swam up the Wisła (Vistula) River. After a long journey she decided to take a rest on the riverbank and it happened to be the area where the modern-day Warsaw is located. She looked around, fell in love with the harmonious surroundings and decided to stay.

Local fishermen started noticing that something unusual was disturbing the river’s calm waters and releasing fish from their nests. Not deliberating much, they decided to catch the damage-doer.

To their surprise, they saw an unusual woman whose legs were covered in scales, looking just like a fish tail, captured in the trap they’ve prepared. She asked them to release her, and the mermaid’s melodious voice made them fell in love with her. They apologized and let her swim freely. From that day on they were often gathering on the riverbank after a hard day of work, listening together to the mermaid’s soothing songs.

One day a rich travelling merchant found out about the mysterious creature and sneaked to the riverside in the evening. After listening to the mermaid, his greedy heart and soul desired to own her. Merchant’s mercenaries put up a trap and captured the mermaid, then locked her in a nearby hut and were waiting for the further orders.

The mermaid started crying and her cry was like the saddest song of the nature. People’s hearts were bleeding with sadness. A brave fisherman’s son couldn’t stand the torment brought upon the mermaid and gathered the locals. Together they defeated the guards and set the mermaid free.

“I will never forget your deed” said the mermaid. “I can’t be coming to sing for you any longer, but whenever your people would meet overwhelming troubles, I will be ready with my shield and sword to protect you, just like you protected my freedom”. *

The mermaid had been in Warsaw’s coat of arms at least since the 14th century. Nowadays you can meet many statues of her all over the city:

Mermaid at the main square of the Old Town district in Warsaw, photo © Arturo Paredes S.
Mermaid on the Karowa Street in Warsaw, photo © tomasz.de.
Mermaid on the bank of the Wisła River near Świętokrzyski bridge in Warsaw, photo © Janusz Jędrosz.

And many more, hidden in various corners and architectural details of the city.

*There are various versions of the legend that differ in some details and this is the story as I know it since childhood.

Check also other Polish legends I described on my blog:

  1. Lech, Czech and Rus, legend about founder of Poland and the first Polish capital city
  2. Wawel Dragon, legend from Kraków
  3. Evil king Popiel and a Mouse Tower
  4. Mr Twardowski, a Renaissance alchemist who made a pact with a devil
  5. City turned into stone
  6. Legends from castles on the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests

My general sources / book recommendations [in Polish only].

Rebloggable version on my tumblr blog: [link].


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