POLAND

The Legend of Cracow Dragon

Many, many years ago, when Cracow was still the capital of Poland, there lived in the castle on the Wawel mountain King Krak with his daughter Wanda. All the citizens in Cracow loved their kind-hearted King and the loving Wanda. For many years everyone lived peacefully and provided for the well-being of their town. Amongst them lived one of the cobbler's family, a capable and hard-working apprentice by the name of Dratewka. One day the in a cave in the Wawel mountains, an evil dragon had settled. He had three heads and his body was covered in scales. When he was angry he went into such a rage that the mountains shook and he breathed fire and smoke from his mouth. He made the whole town afraid. In order to calm him down the people put a sheep in front of his cave everyday. But this was not enough for him. Once a year even a small girl had to be sacrificed.

Many of the citizens tried to fight against the dragon. However, no-one was able to beat him. The council of elders spent days and nights trying to find a solution but they couldn't find one. At long last there were no more girls left in Krakow, only Princess Wanda. The dragon became more and more impatient. Since there were no other girls to be found everyone knew that it was the king's daughter's turn. 

There was great mourning all over Cracow. The king announced to the whole country that he was looking for a brave knight who could defeat the dragon. Many courageous knights came and fought without success against the beast. Most were killed in their fight. When all hope had been abandoned, the cobbler's apprentice, Dratewka, appeared before the King. He asked for permission to fight the dragon. The king listened and agreed to what he was intending to do. The young man got to work on his plan straight away.

From the butcher he got himself a sheepskin. From all the citizens he collected brimstone, salt, pepper and pitch. He filled the sheepskin with these and sewed it up tightly so it looked like a real sheep. At night he put the "sheep" in front of the entrance to the cave. The next morning the hungry dragon came out of the cave and ate up the sheep straight away. Shortly afterwards he felt a terrible burning all over his body. He tried to stop the burning by drinking massive amounts of water. He drank so much that the bed of the river Wisla could be seen. He carried on drinking until eventually he exploded with an enormous bang. There was great joy throughout Cracow.

Dratewka married Wanda and they lived happily together for a very long time to come.

 

The story of the Warsaw Mermaid

One day, Prince Ziemomysl who ruled in this region, went out on a hunting trip and lost his way in the forest. He tried and tried to find a way out until he got to the overgrown rushes on the banks of the Vistula river.A long time ago, a dense and impassible forest covered the region of Mazowsze.

In the gentle waves of the river’s waters, the Prince spotted a beautiful creature. The top half of her body was woman-like and the other half from waste right down to the very tip of her fish tale, was covered in fish scales. Even though she had a bow and arrow in her hands, she did not aim at the Prince. Her arrow shot through the air and flew far, far ahead and out of the Princes‘ sight. Then she spoke to him:“follow my arrow and you will find good people who will give you shelter, food and help you find the way back home“. And then she dived into the gentle waves of the river.

Prince Ziemomysl did as Mermaid said. He followed the arrow until he stood at the front of a poor fisherman’s hut. There wasn’t much to share, but the fisherman and his wife made the Prince very welcome not knowing who he really was. Their twins, Wars and Sawa cheerfully played their favourite games with the Prince. He was happy to find such good people living on his land.

The next day it was time to say goodbye but before he left, the Prince told his subjects who he really was. He promissed to build a grand town where the fishing village was and to nominate the poor fisherman to be the castellan, who would rule the town on the Princes‘ behalf.

Years passed, many houses were built and the town was called Warszawa after the names of the poor fishermans twin children, Wars and Sawa. On the town’s crest, the Prince placed the beautiful Mermaid who showed him the way to the fisherman’s hut.

No one ever saw the legendary Mermaid. But they all heard her evening singing and they loved it. Except for the old hermit who lived in the forest on his own. He hated the Mermaid and her singing and believed that she stole peoples souls. He managed to persuade some fishermen that the Mermaid is dangerous and must be caught and brought to justice.

One night they waited for her on the river bank and when she had just started her beautiful lulaby, they threw a fishing net over her. They put her into the hay barn for the night and waited to bring her into the courts early in the morning.

The Mermaid started singing. She knew it was her last song and it was the saddest melody she had ever sung in her life. A young shepherd heard the song and it melted his heart. He felt very sorry for the beautiful creature and decided to free her. He opened the door of the hay barn and let her go.

She was never to be seen after that and no one has heard her singing since. The only proof of her existance is the image in the crest of the city of Warsaw.

The legend of White Eagle

A many, many years ago, or maybe even more, there lived three brothers, Lech, Czech, and Rus. For many years they had been living happily in their villages, but the families grew larger and they needed more space to live and more land to feed themselves.

The brothers decided to travel in different directions to search for new homes. Lech, Czech, and Rus traveled with their troops for many days. They rode their horses over mountains and rivers, through forests and wild country. There were no people to be found anywhere, not a town or tiny village. On the crest of a mountain top, they separated, each going in a different direction. Czech went to the left, Rus went to the right and Lech rode straight ahead, down the mountain and across vast plains.

One day Lech saw a splendid sight. He and his troops had come to a place where a meadow surrounded a small lake. They stopped at the edge of the meadow as a great eagle flew over their heads. It flew around in great swooping circles, then perched on its nest, high on a craggy rock. Lech stared in awe at the beautiful sight. As the eagle spread its wings and soared into the heavens again, a ray of sunshine from the red setting sun fell on the eagle's wings, so they appeared tipped with gold, the rest of the bird was pure white.

"Here is where we will stay!" declared Lech. "Here is our new home, and we will call this place GNIEZNO ... (the eagle's nest).

He and his people built new houses and it became the center of his territory. They called themselves Polonians, which means "People of the Field". They made a banner with a white eagle on a red field and flew it over the town of Gniezno, which became the first historical capital of Poland.

And, now you know how Poland began . . .