Legend of Warsaw Mermaid

Original version
Once upon a time there was a sea mermaid who got lost and swam up the Wisła (Vistula) river. She took a rest on the riverbank. 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 won't sing for you any longer, but whenever your people would meet overwhelming troubles, I will protect you".
Main characters
The alternative version says that mermaid from Kopenhagen is a sibling od Warsaw mermaid and that thet decided to separate in Gdańsk
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
The oldest trace of Siren is an official stamp of City Council from 1440 year. The meaning of Siren for Warsavians cannot be properly desribed. In times of war and uprisings she was treated as a symbol of victory, as the goddess who would guide and protect the city and its dwellers. In 1948 Pablo Picasso, during his stay in warsaw draw the Siren on a wall of an apartament in one of block of flats in the city, before the building was inhabited. The family who received this particular flat had to bear up to 400 visitors a day, so in 1953 they covered the Siren with paint.
Local traditions or historical connections
When walking through the streets ofWarsaw it’s hard to miss the fact that the city is covered with mermaid statues, drawings, carvings, and other forms of decoration. This is no coincidence, as the fish-tailed mythological creature has been seen on the Varsavian coat of arms from as early as the 14th century. The Old Town Market Place Powiśle The Markiewicz viaduct The Sejm Inżynierska Street, and many other decorations, neons, etc. ‘Syrena’ is such a well-known symbol for Poles that a car produced in Poland in the years 1955 – 1983 was named after her.
Didactical Relevance
While working with the legend students will get to know Warsaw, capitol of Poland. They will understand better local traditions and beliefs, and most mportant historical events, as the symbol of Syrenka was present since 14 century in Warsaw coat of arms. 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 – find Warsaw on the map, ask students what they know about the place or let them find information online historical – easily connected to geographical, especially when seeking information online. art/architecture – look for monuments, places of interest and historical sites 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 trip to Warsaw (if possible) if not – a virtual trip, on google earth for example

Video

a guided trip in Warsaw
a very interesting historical information about the meaning of Warsaw mermaid in our history
Warsaw mermaid - animation
illustration of the legend

PDF version of the legend in national language

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