Mysia wieża (Mouse Tower)

Mouse TowerAccording to an old fairy tale, this tower is where Prince Popiel, an 9th century Slavic ruler, and his German wife Brunhild were eaten alive by a horde of mice. This unsavory end was the consequence of the pair’s unholy deeds – they had poisoned several relatives out of greed. Mouse Tower is located on Lake Gopło in the town of Kruszwica, in central Poland. The tower was built in the 14th century, well after the legendary prince’s time, indicating that the tale might be a claque of the unhappy fate of Hatto the Archbishop Mainz. It is worth adding that Polish-German love affairs often meet a tragic end in Polish lore; for example, Princess Wanda of Kraków is known for having drowned herself rather than marrying a German ruler.

Dragon Cave

DragonAs tourists will have understood from the overabundance of dragon thatches on sale in Kraków, the city was once home to a dragon. The beast was a real nuisance to the townsfolk and eventually got what was coming its way. In the most popular 16th century version of this legend, the dragon is tricked into eating a dummy sheep filled with tar and other innutritious things by an astute young shoemaker, and subsequently dies of indigestion. As a reward, the cunning dragon slayer receives the hand of the daughter of Prince Krak, ruler of the city. Those wishing to see the dragon’s cave can visit it on the Wawel Castle Hill, where its entrance is marked by a sculpture of a dragon by Bronisław Chromy. Once upon a distant time back in 2007 the dragon sculpture could be prompted to breathe fire by sending a text message to a designated number. Unfortunately the dragon became too temperamental, and now it automatically breathes fire every three minutes.

The Devil’s Hand

Devil‘I would have had a fairer trial from the devil!’ once shouted an innocent widow in a Lublin courtroom, after a corrupt jury declared her guilty. The following night, the devil himself arrived at the tribunal in Lublin to request a fair verdict. The Lord of Darkness, possibly illiterate, then signed the new verdict with a handprint. A hand-shaped burn remains visible on the courtroom table from this fairy tale, which is on display in the Museum of Lublin.

 

The Golden Duck

DuckVisitors of the Fryderyk Chopin Museum cannot fail but notice a small and woebegone golden duck sitting in a fountain near the main entrance. According the first printed version this fairy tale, dating back to 1925, a poor shoemaker finds out that this golden duck in fact a princess held captive by a spell. She can only be reverted to human form if she finds a man able to spend 100 ducats without sharing any of his acquisitions. The thrifty shoemaker, unable to spend this staggering sum on him, eventually gives away most of the ducats to a beggar. This is no typical fairy tale; the princess is not saved by the poor shoemaker. The latter, on the other hand, has a happy ending of his own and finds wealth and love shortly after abandoning the golden duck to its fate.

Hercules’ club

HerculesA peculiarly shaped limestone pillar in the Ojców National Park is mentioned under the name ‘Falcon Rock’ in a fairy tale about Sir Twardowski penned by the 19th century writer and folklorist Kazimierz Władysław Wóycicki. The nobleman Twardowski sells his soul to the devil on condition that his soul is collected in Rome. The devil agrees and provides him with great riches and, to celebrate their agreement, turns a great rock upside down. This is the ‘Falcon Rock’ or, as it is more commonly referred to these days,  Hercules’ Club, a 25-meter-high rock which indeed looks as if it was standing upside down as it widens towards the top. Eventually Sir Twardowski is tricked by the devil into visiting an inn called Rome, where he has to fulfill his end of the deal.

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