Legend of the stone bear
Once upon a beekeeper called Sędzimir lived in the Masovian forests. He had a wife and a daughter Milena and a son Gniewko. One day, when Sędzimir was making his rounds in the forest, he caught a honey thief red-handed and took him to court. The thief, after completing his sentence, took revenge on the beekeeper by burning his house down. The beekeeper got badly burned when he tried to save his family and property, and soon died of his injuries. Soon afterwards, his wife passed away from grief and the children were left to fend for themselves.
Milena took care of her little brother, but he was an inquisitive, lively child and it was difficult to take care of him. Gniewko was also very strong and tall for his age. When the girl left the house one day, the little boy forced open the cottage’s heavy oak door and escaped to the forest. Of course, he soon got lost. Tired of wandering in the forest, he lay down to sleep in a bear’s lair.
Fortunately, it belonged to a bear who herself had her own young. It is not known why she did it, by the bear mum raised the small child as her own.
Five years later, the Masovian Duke Janusz I and his wife, Danuta, set out to hunt in the forests of Zakroczym. At one point, the hunting dogs discovered the lair. The she-bear defiantly defended her little ones and the archers were already preparing to fire shots when suddenly the boy appeared, standing between his adoptive mother and them. The princess, touched by this sight, wanted to take Gniewko to her court, but he resisted. When he was assured that nothing would happen to his bear family, he went with Danuta.
Years passed, Gniewko grew up in the court, and the duchess treated him as her own son. Under the watchful eye of Danuta, he grew up to be a brave, powerful and handsome man. He had a good heart and he enjoyed respect among the burghers and knights. Many of the ladies sighed when they saw him.
Milena, meanwhile, lived in the forest with an old woman who knew about healing, herbs and magic. The young girl helped the herbalist and learned a lot from her. When she was an adult, she started her own family and moved to New Warsaw, where she willingly helped people and animals and shared her knowledge. During all these years she did not forget about her brother – she looked for him and asked about him. However, none of the people she met knew anything about him.
One day, when Gniewko was walking through Warsaw, he saw a beautiful girl – Jadwiga, a goldsmith’s daughter. He fell deeply in love with her and dreamed that he would marry her one day. The boy was very shy though. For a few months he carried the secret with him, he could not eat or sleep, and he thought about Jadwiga all the time. Half a year later he found the courage to ask her for her hand, but before that he decided to go to church to concentrate on the precise plan of the proposal.
However, when he was there a wedding ceremony was underway. When the happy couple left the church, the boy discovered that he was too late. The bride was his beloved Jadwiga, who had just married another …
Everything had fallen apart. In despair, Gniewko slumped to his knees, his heart bursting with regret. People rushed to help him but it was too late. Milena, who was also in the crowd, recognised the boy as her long-unseen brother. She ran to him and begged him not to die. After a moment she realised that his soul was leaving. She also knew that only a spell could stop it. She said the magic words:
“You will not die, you will just sleep in a stone form. This spell will be removed only by the power of true love. A girl who will sincerely and passionately love you will awaken you and you will find the longed-for happiness.”
At the moment, in front of everyone, the boy turned into a stone bear.
Today you will see Gniewko as a bear in front of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace at 10 Świętojańska Street. He is waiting for a true love that will remove the spell from him …