Legends are an indispensable part of the culture, tradition and literature of each country. Oral or written express emotions, moods, fears and hopes of ordinary people, rulers, noblemen living in rural and urban areas. Legends describe everyday situations and contain a number of aspects and problems faced by their heroes.
In this essay, typical situations and challenges appearing in Polish legends will be described and compared with the translation of legends of other countries. The most common recurring topics are:
- the struggle between good and evil
- difficult natural conditions and overcoming the adversities associated with them
- supernatural forces and phenomena difficult to explain
- emotions and feelings that help or are an obstacle in achieving the goal
- work ethos, family support, earning money
- overcoming weaknesses.
The heroes of Polish legends are most often ordinary people, workers, farmers, who in their daily work must face the difficulties typical of their profession, and also overcome these difficulties to achieve the set goal. They are poorly paid for their work, they must give some of their money as a tribute, they lose their possessions or are robbed. In contrast, characters in legends tend to be wealthy, use their service and subjects, treat them unfairly, and do not provide them with decent living conditions. Often, simple people have to abandon their homes in search of a better existence and free themselves from injustice.
In other studies, fairy-tale characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, goblins and mermaids appear. They support people and cooperate with them, while in other situations they pose a threat and are a reason for struggle. These creatures often symbolize the inscrutable and mysterious part of human nature, reflect their weaknesses and the powers to which they can turn in difficult situations, counting on help. Fairytale characters are guardians of simple, weak and people in need.
The symbolism of forces of nature such as wind, water, fire, storm is another aspect appearing in Polish legends. Water is the personification of the force on which people depend, who give this force great respect and humbleness. The forces of nature cooperate with people, provide them with the elements necessary for life. Opposing such great forces is almost always doomed to failure. The enormous power that flows from nature symbolizes Mother Earth, who is a guardian, but also, she can punish for wrongdoing and opposing her will.
Very often in Polish legends there are supernatural forces, presented in the form of devils, ghosts, and evil spirits. They usually symbolize death and everything associated with it. People know that they have no chance to fight with such great powers. There are, however, situations in which, brave heroes make an attempt to beat them, hoping that they will overcome death and evil, providing everybody with peaceful life without problems and adversities.
Family members, brothers, sisters, stepmothers, mothers and godfathers are another aspect. The presented situations of family life symbolize the basic unit of the average family and describe typical situations and problems related to relationships between individual family members. There are topics such as: love, jealousy, betrayal, greed and how they affect the formation of happiness or lead to unfortunate situations for which a man is responsible. Mutual responsibility plays a key role in resolving family conflicts and strengthening interpersonal relationships.