Introducing The Mermaid Of Warsaw

by Esme Addison

Lately, I’ve been discussing my new book A Spell For Trouble, because… well, it’s coming out soon. (May 12th! Wherever books are sold!) and the number one question I get is…

So, why mermaids?”

Okay, let’s back up a bit. I’ve written a cozy mystery set on the beach in North Carolina (sounds normal so far, yes?). The main character, Alex Daniels has just left the big city and a stressful job for the normalcy of a small town and the love and support of her last remaining family (Hallmark, anyone?).  Still basic cozy mystery fare, right? And… they own an herbal apothecary. So cozy! I know that’s what your thinking…

But.

Wait for it.

There are… mermaids.

What the what?

Yes! Mermaids! How awesome is that? Wait, why you ask are there mermaids?

I am so glad you asked! Because that gives me the opportunity to share my inspiration for this series.

Like most countries, Poland has a rich cultural and literary history full of myths, fables, folklore and fairytales. I did a deep dive into Polish folklore, with the explicit plan to find an idea for my Polish family cozy. I wanted something interesting and fun – and if it could be something never done before – all the better. When I discovered that Warsaw has a mermaid on their coat of arms since at least 1390 AD, I had to find out why.

So first, let’s get our terminology correct. In Poland, mermaids are called syrenka or syrena, obviously derived from Greek mythology’s sirens. However, according to lore, Warswaw’s mermaid is more mermaid, less luring-sailors-to-their watery-grave siren. And this mermaid has been the symbol for Warsaw for a very long time.

Except when she wasn’t.

A mythological being has been on Warsaw’s coat of arms since 1390. Not a mermaid, but an animal with bird’s legs and a torso covered with dragon scales – a griffin actually (and that’s a whole other story!). The seal of 1459 had feminine characteristics, a bird torso, human hands, a fishtail, and bird legs and claws. The first appearance of a mermaid dates from 1622.

There are many different legends about the mermaid of Warsaw and I have read them all. After doing endless hours of research and cross-referencing similar myths in other countries (basically, every country and culture has some sort of mermaid mythology) I selected one that resonated with me the most. And that is the story used in the Enchanted Bay series, and the one I will share with you here.

Mermaid of Warsaw, Near the Swietokrzyski Bridge

Once upon a time, there were two mermaids, sisters. Swimming in the Baltic Sea they parted ways at Gdańsk, with one swimming to Copenhagen (immortalized in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Little Mermaid), and the other to Poland’s Vistula River. 

The Vistula river is long, the longest in Poland and after days of languidly swimming down the waterway, the mermaid found an area that she loved and wanted to make her new home. This area, then only a village would eventually become Warsaw.

She spent her days sunning herself on large rocks in the river and sometimes on its banks. She amused herself by singing songs of her people and, because she was kind and compassionate,  releasing fish from nets whenever she heard their cries for help.

One day a small group of fishermen discovered who was releasing their fish from its nets, and they conspired to sneak upon her and trap her in a net, just as they would their fish. But once they were close enough to see her face and form, and hear her lovely voice, they decided to let her be.

A few more days passed, and eventually, a local fish market owner noticed that the fishermen weren’t bringing in fish for him to sell. He discovered for himself, for the mermaid was easily seen on the banks of the river. The market owner riled up the fishermen, telling them that she was evil, a danger to the villagers and that she must be imprisoned. The market owner caught the mermaid and kept her in a prison with a plan to take her on tour for curiosity seekers.

The mermaid cried for her freedom day and night. And just as she had freed fish from their net, she hoped someone would hear her pleas and liberate her.  A few days passed and a young fisherman heard her crying. He asked his friends to help free here and they released her from her prison.

After her rescue, she was so grateful to the kind men that she promised to help the people of the city whenever they needed it. From then on, because she was just as loyal and protective of those she loved, as she was kind and caring, she carried a sword and shield with her ever ready to protect the city of Warsaw and its people.

Mermaid of Warsaw, Old Town Warsaw

So.

That is the myth of the mermaid of Warsaw. From that humble story over a thousand years old, her statue is placed all of the city to this day, you can buy mugs, t-shirts and all sorts of tchotchkes with her image on it. You can find her image engraved on the city’s architecture and inside government buildings. And you can read about her in my mystery, A Spell For Trouble.

The first story in the series is… not as mermaid-tastic as you might think or want (the publisher asked me to tone down the mermaid elements. I know! Right???) So, this mermaid’s descendants are… water witches with powers of healing and command of water and other fun stuff. But don’t fret, the myth of this mermaid is central to the store. And there’s much more mermaid-magic to come!

Oh. And there’s a mystery. So, a cozy mystery with paranormal elements, a beach setting, herbal remedies and lots of Polish food. Basically exactly what I wanted to create when I set out to write this novel.

A Spell For Trouble, the first novel in the Enchanted Bay Mystery series is available now.

79 thoughts on “Introducing The Mermaid Of Warsaw

    1. I didn’t know the history behind this and it’s very fascinating! I love Mermaids and I don’t think you can ever have enough of them. 😂 I loved your first book and I love how you turned them into water witches. It was the perfect added element to the story.

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  1. This is intriguing. Being of Danish descent, I have a great love for Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. I’ve got to check out your series.

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  2. I can’t believe the publisher wanted less mermaid?! That’s part of what makes your series so unique and special. I look forward to your next book (and maybe hearing more about this griffin too…).

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    1. Thanks, Lysette. Book two, A Hex For Danger has more mermaids and as the series progresses it will only increase. 🙂 That griffin – yes – that is also interesting. Apparently the very first image of the Mermaid of Warsaw was not of a mermaid but of a griffin and then it was changed. Lots of interesting history to explore. 🙂

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  3. I read A Spell for Trouble and loved the magic of water witches I can wait to read the next book for more mermaid magic! And I love the photo of you in front of the statue, I did not do my research, I had no idea this was a real place, thank you for the education and fun!

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  4. I haven’t yet had the chance to read your books but they fascinate me! The stories of mermaids and a little magic sound so exciting and intriguing! That mermaid statue is cool, she’s like a warrior! Thanks!

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  5. How intriguing. Thank you so much for sharing what you discovered. Thank you for sharing your time and your talent. God bless you.

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  6. I never thought I really liked mermaids until I read A Spell for Trouble. Thank you for this article and your mystery series.

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  7. I’ve read the first book and can’t wait to see where the story goes. I love the reuniting of the family and the legend of the mermaid.

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  8. I actually really liked how you incorporated the myth into A Spell…because think of the possibilities–if there are water witches, then there are earth, fire, air, etc. witches that might appear in your future books!

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  9. Wow you have done a ton of research. And then to be told to tone t down! You will just need to keep adding to this series until you have added it all.

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    1. It’s okay. 🙂 I’m happy with the way A Spell For Trouble turn out and A Hex For Danger has more mermaids. I think the mermaid theme will grow as the series progresses. I love that there’s a mermaid on the cover of A Hex For Danger – that’s progress!

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  10. Never knew the history of mermaids in details like this. Only from fairytale perspective or story. Great idea on using them as mermaid witches with healing powers. Never read your series before but it’s already been added to my tbr list some time ago. After reading this, I’m really looking forward to this series and how it ties in with a murder mystery. Sounds great!

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  11. I love Mermaids and had not heard the myth. Very interesting. I loved Spell for Trouble and cannot wait to read the new one!

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  12. I prefer this mermaid tale versus the little mermaid story. I cannot wait to read this story! I know I will be hooked, the idea of taking power from water for healing makes my heart smile. 🙂

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  13. I love how this myth correlates with the Little Mermaid. And I thought it interesting even though a man who lived in town conspired to kidnap the mermaid, when others from town let her go, she decided to help them from then on… I don’t know if I would have been so nice. 😉

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  14. I heard about the mermaid of warsaw from my grandmother’s neighbor who emigrated from Poland as a child before WWII.

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