National Heroes and National Mythology in 19th and 20th Century Poland


Heroic myths of the 19th and 20th century Europe invented by Romantism resonate with echoes of Scandinavian sagas and mythological legacy from our European antiquity. Heroes appear in difficult times in order to deal with existential situations. The hero's birth is forseen and accompanied by special signs; his future deeds portended as early as his childhood; he must, however, pass through initiation rites which reveal his destiny and at the same time transform him into someone capable of undertaking tasks designated by fate: he need not die though he is not allowed to enjoy family life; he must struggle to the end. Polish national heroes retain their traits to this day - they express a specific historical situation which is linked to universal values. Tadeusz Kościuszko, Józef Pilsudski, Father lgnacy Skorupka, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, and, to some extent, Pope John Paul II belong to this group. Still we are awaiting the appearance of new heroes.

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Sokolewicz, Z., (1990) “National Heroes and National Mythology in 19th and 20th Century Poland”, Ethnologia Europaea 21(1), 125-136. doi:


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Zofia Sokolewicz (University of Warsaw,)



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