Syrena and The Little Mermaid – The Legend

13 09 2009

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Last month (August 2009),  i had a chance to visit the city of Warsaw (Poland) for couple days.  The city of Warsaw architectural styles reflects the turbulent history of the city and country. During World War II, Warsaw was razed to the ground by bombing raids and planned destruction. After liberation, rebuilding began as in other cities of the communist-ruled PRL (Polish: Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, The People’s Republic of Poland).  Most of the historical buildings were thoroughly reconstructed.  However, some of the buildings from the 19th century that had been preserved in reasonably reconstructible form were nonetheless eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s (e.g. Leopold Kronenberg Palace).  Mass residential blocks were erected, with basic design typical of Eastern bloc countries.

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Walking to the old town seems very fascinating to me,  beautiful landscape with typical old town in Eastern Europe. At the middle Old Town Market Square, people can see a mermaid sculpture “Syrenka Warszawska” which was made in 1855 by Konstanty Hegel,  in the shape of half-woman and half-fish. It is the symbol of city and is featured in Warsaw’s coat of arms since the mid of 14th century. It is the second time i found mermaid as symbol of the city (Last year I found also mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark). I wondered if there is a link story between both mermaids.  When i search some literatures,  i found, indeed, both mermaids have a family relation.

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Once upon a time (which is when these things always take place) lived two mermaids in the Baltic Sea. These half-fish, half-women were beautiful sisters who had spent their whole existence in the sea, before apparently getting bored of the life aquatic. One day they both decided to come ashore. The first sister headed up to the Danish straits, and so she sits at the entrance to the port of Copenhagen to this very day. The other sister swam first to the port of Gdansk, from where she decided to swim the river Vistula to its end. Fortunately for in this  story, the mermaid decided to rest on a sandy bank on the foot of what is today Warsaw’s Old Town and, like oh so many ex-pats in the city, she loved it so much that she chose to stay.

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Soon though, fishermen from the neighboring village began to notice that someone was letting the fish out of their nets. Annoyed, they decided to capture the culprit and punish him. They didn’t expect to find the mermaid, however, and as soon as they heard her beautiful voice, they vowed never to harm her (another reminder that men can be so easily swayed by a cute Polish chick). Soon, the mermaid would fill every evening with her gorgeous songs to the merriment of the villagers.

One day, a rich merchant was walking by the Vistula and spotted the mermaid. He had the bright idea, as merchants do, to capture her and show her off at a fair, making himself a fat profit in the process. He tricked her and threw her in a wooden shed, but her cries for help were so loud that soon a young (and undoubtedly handsome) fisherman’s son heard her, and with the help of friends set her free. The mermaid, grateful for their aid, promised to defend them and their village, which would later grow into our beloved Warsaw.

Since then, the mermaid, armed with a sword and shield, has been protecting the city and its inhabitants. Today the mermaid of Warsaw can be seen all over the city, from the statue in the Old Town pictured to the city’s coat of arms.

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