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The legendo of Skarbnik - Miner's guardian

Original version
People in Silesia pass around a story of a miner who met Skarbnik (Treasurer). The miner wasn’t lucky, because he didn't know how to say "no", so others were using him. He always had to work in places where he had very hard work and where he couldn't find good coal. It was painful for him and his family because he couldn't earn enough money. His family was starving and he felt worse every day. He knew that his hard work won’t give him wealth… but he didn't know that someone was watching over him. Once he had to work in a place where he couldn't even stand straight. He was so helpless that he started crying. At that moment Skarbnik decided to help him, although he didn't like showing up to people. -Why are you crying?-asked Skarbnik The miner wasnt’t afraid, but he knew that this was not a good sign. Skarbek looked like a nice old man with silver beard. The miner told him everything about his misfortunes. Skarbek calmly listened to the complaints of the poor man, and told him to turn around and hammer into the wall. The miner was confused but he did that. He knew that there wasn't a lot coal. He was shocked when he found most expensive coal. He and his mates couldn't believe when he showed them the coal. Some rubbed their eyes in amazement, and more than one realized that this could happen only with the help of Skarbek. It was the first time when the miner came home with smile on his face, because he got a lot of money. On the way he met an old man who reminded him of someone ... He realized that it was his good fate. He offered him a greater share of the money. Skarbek didn’t want it but as he saw that the miner didn’t turn greedy, he kept watching over the man’s fate.
Alternative versions
In one of silesian towns, Olkusz, there as a miner Paweł, who wanted to get rich on coal. He opened his mine near the church. He damaged the fundations of the building and his miners refused to keep digging. He decided to carry on himself. One day he got lost undergound and he feel asleep, exhausted. He was woken up by Skarbnik who promised to help him if Paweł promised to give him something that he hadn’t had when he left the house. In the meantime his wife gave birth to a son. Paweł wanted to outsmart Skarbnik, but after three years he decided to make a claim. Paweł wanted to rescue his son and went to the damaged church calling St John for help. The next day miners found Paweł dead but his son – alive. ****** According to one version, Skarbek is the ghost of a dead miner. He had a gift for predicting collapses and explosions. Therefore, before each shift, the master would go down in the mine and, if he felt something was wrong, he warned of the danger. Hence, the name coal miners called the spirit that comes to them to help in a dangerous hour. **** In the mining towns, many stories go, people have seen this spirit with their own eyes. Once, when a man was in the mine, the lights went down. He was in complete darkness, lost his orientation, and could not find the exit. He fell into despair but suddenly he saw lights far away. The spirit drew near, holding a flashing beacon. The man was afraid, but obediently followed until he was removed from the labyrinth of darkness. Some miners say that Skarbek can be good or bad, depending on which person he meets. ***** Not all legends about Skarbek depict him as the good one - some claim that this ghost is vindictive and often plagues them with accidents in the mines. There is a legend that once, long ago somewhere in Donbass, a man came in search of a better life. He visited the tavern to request help in finding a job. Drunken miners said they would give him a test. The newcomer would have to go down the mine, light a torch, and walk a few meters. If he was not afraid, he could become a miner. In fact, the miners wanted to see if therw was gas in the mine . The newcomer did as was told and unfortunately, there was an explosion. Since then, a man's spirit has haunted the mines, taking vengeance for the wrong that was done to him. Sometimes it is voracious and causes terrible accidents that take the lives of dozens of miners.
Main characters
Miner, Skarbek (mine's ghost) Skarbnik - live in mines and underground workings and are the guardians of gems, crystals, and precious metals. It is said that they will protect miners from danger and lead them back when they are lost. They will also lead them to veins of ore. To people who are evil or insult them they are deadly; pushing them into dark chasms or send tunnels crashing down upon them
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
Poland is a country of mines. Salt, coal, copper, iron ores were excavated here for centuries. It is also a country of miners. Mining is a very dangerous profession. Miners were usually very religious people, they believed that the protection of saints could help them to survive the accidents. There are many underground chapels built for miners' saints (St. Kinga was a guardian saint of salt miners and St. Barbara was a guardian saint of coal miners). Miners believed that saints would protect them from accidents and deaths. But besides being religious miners were also superstitious and they believed with their whole heart in so called "Skarbnik". Skarbnik (Treasurer) was believed to be a guardian over miner life - something like a guardian angel. Skarbnik was supposed to look like a miner, talk like a miner and wear miners' cloths but he was a ghost. The belief in Skarbnik was very vivid among miners.
Local traditions or historical connections
In the region of Silesia there are various mines (salt and coal) in which miners believe in Skarbnik. Most famous of them are Wielkiczka salt mine, which is also a museum of mining and Guido coal mine, where tourists can go undrground as deep as 350 meters and see a reality of miners work. Silesian miners are quite superstitious and th believe that Skarbnik will protect them, but also punish, if they treat their mates badly or dishonestly. Another patron of miners is Saint Barbara, however she is not believed to have a dark side.
Didactical Relevance
While working with the legend students will find out about a very unique tradition, typical strictly for the region of Silesia. The region itself is reach in folk aspects – not only traditional clothes but also a dialect, characteristic for Silesians. The process of deconstructing the legend will teach students creative attitude towards their learning, arouse imagination and creative expression, help them discover their talents and passion and find bonds with cultures of other countries. In the terms of education students will develop their reading, analyticals and descriptive skills, as well as IT skills for research and compiling information
Didactical Activity
Activity: (for the whole class or group work) geographical – in the region of Silesia look for mines and also for Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec – two oldest miners’ settlements historical – Silesia has very rich and tormentous history – it may be an optional activity to understand the mentality of silesian miners art/architecture – focus on Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec, and on silesian art, as the region is also rich in folklore literature – read the legend and check for proper understanding especially if any folk or regional terminology appears - read the legend again and look for connections with the geographical/historical/art information that were found - a trip to Guido coal mine and Wieliczka salt mine - virtual and in reality.


Images of Skarbnik
Unfortunately it is really difficult to find contents in English about this fascinating and deeply-rooted character, but the words in the video say (from 0:14) -images of silesian daemon - sculpture by Tomasz Wenklar in Chudów castle - scenes in historical parade in Tarnowskie Góry town

PDF version of the legend in national language

Polish version (779,8 kb)