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The legend of Pan Twardowski

Most probably each country has its own tale about sorcerer who could boast of his magic powers. Poland has the folklore legend about Mister (or Sir) Twardowski who, just like the character of Goethe’s book called Faust, sold his soul to achieve great knowledge of the world and magic. He was a nobleman living in Krakow in 16th century.

Twardowski while signing the pact with the devil he agreed to give his soul only in Rome, where he actually never intended to go. He thought that this way he would be able to outwit the devil and would be freed from his promise.
Mister Twardowski, called sometimes also Master Twardowski, with the help of the devil managed to gain wealth and fame. He even became royal courtier of Polish king Zygmunt (Sigismund) August who, after the loss of his beloved wife Barbara, surrounded himself with magicians and astrologers. Legends say that it was Twardowski who managed to summon the ghost of Barbara Radziwill, using the magic mirror, in order to comfort the king.

After many years the devil managed to achieve the soul of Twardowski – he, however, used the trick by getting him to the inn called Rome (instead of the country which the magician had in mind when signing the pact). As Twardowski started to sing religious song, the devil happened to lose him on the way to hell. The magicians managed to jump on the moon where he stays till now and watches doings of people on the earth. Another legend says that the pact included the clause that the devil must withstand one year with Twardowski’s wife, before he takes him to hell. The devil eventually decided to give up on Twardowski and ran away.

The folklore character of Twardowski is most probably based on actual person – Jan Twardowski – who was the sorcerer of Sigismund August and is indeed believed to have summoned the ghost of late queen Barbara. He left two books, one about magic and encyclopedia, however none of them endured the time. It is also believed that real Twardowski was a German who was called Laurentius Dhur. As Latin word Durentius means ‘hard’ what is translated in Polish as ‘twardy’, this gave probably the origin for the Polish version of the surname.

No one can know how much truth there is in each legend. Magician Twardowski, however, inspired numerous Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and German poets and novelists. There are also two mirrors kept in churches in Wegrow and Sandomierz, that are believed to be the magic mirrors that belonged to Twardowski.

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