Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Katarzyna Nowacka, „Król zaczarowanego lasu,” Miś 12 (1996): 6–7;
Katarzyna Nowacka, „Król zaczarowanego lasu,” Miś 13 (1996): 6–7;
Katarzyna Nowacka, „Król zaczarowanego lasu,” Miś 14 (1996): 6.
Courtesy of WSiP, the owner of the now-defunct periodical Miś since 2008.
Author of the Entry:
Summary: Ewa Wziętek, University of Warsaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Analysis: Marta Pszczolińska, University of Warsaw, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Katarzyna Marciniak, University of Warsaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elżbieta Olechowska, University of Warsaw, email@example.com
Photograph courtesy of the Author.
, b. 1960
A philologist and journalist. Author of two series of short stories for children: Opowieści Zaczarowanego Lasu [Witchwood Tales], 2010, and Opowieści z Bajkowego Osiedla [Tales from a Fabulous Estate], 2010. Contributor to Miś – a famous Polish magazine for kids. MA in Polish philology from Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań. Since 1994 has been working as a journalist for TVP Poznań (Polish Public Television’s regional centre for Wielkopolska [Greater Poland]). Privately a huge fan of an English rock band – The Strawbs, especially of their song From the Witchwood, which inspired the title of her first series of short stories. Interestingly enough, the Polish title of the Witchwood Tales is nearly the same as the title of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales translated into Polish (Opowieści z zaczarowanego lasu), but, as Katarzyna Nowacka says, there is no intentional connection between her short stories and Hawthorne’s book. Apart from the song by The Strawbs, another impulse to write was provided by the pre-school adventures of the author’s daughter.
Bio is based on the material kindly provided by the Author.
Bio prepared by Ewa Wziętek, University of Warsaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Based on: Katarzyna Marciniak, Elżbieta Olechowska, Joanna Kłos, Michał Kucharski (eds.), Polish Literature for Children & Young Adults Inspired by Classical Antiquity: A Catalogue, Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, Warsaw: University of Warsaw, 2013, 444 pp.
The King of Witchwood is the title of one of the short stories included in The Witchwood Tales. Griffin was walking through the woods and eating some forest fruits, but he forgot that they could be dangerous, especially the dragon berries. He absent-mindedly ate a dragon berry, looked at his reflection in the water and saw himself as a very handsome creature with a strong personality and truly exceptional intelligence. He knew he should be a king, the King of Witchwood. He told the witch about this self-appointment, but she did not care. Then, he declared himself King of Witchwood in the presence of all its residents. Sirens, creatures who are widely known for their malice, were laughing at Griffin. Unfortunately (especially for the Sirens), Griffin lost his sense of humour and proportion and exiled the Sirens from Witchwood. What is more, he decided to exile anyone who was green and had a tail. At first, no one reacted, even the Sirens. So Griffin decided to expel them by force. Witchwood citizens were desperate and tried to calm Griffin’s anger without success. Griffin’s lust for power was enormous; he wanted to expel everyone who did not want to tolerate his violence. In effect, almost everyone started hating Griffin. In the meantime, Dragon, Griffin’s best friend, put two and two together and uncovered the root of Griffin’s problem, which was, of course, the little dragon berry. Dragon knew how to cure Griffin’s narcissism and his need for domination. He asked Griffin to bathe in the Rainbow Stream with him. Griffin agreed, and… was cured. Unfortunately, Dragon forgot that the Rainbow Stream was bad for him. So the Witchwood residents had to bring him dragon berries – the cure for Dragon’s power lust.
The story presents the lust for power, not as a character trait, but as a result of swallowing a special berry. The mechanism of power as a corruptive force is shown as a simple consequence of unwise decisions. The person who made them may immediately regret them but is unable or unwilling to budge. What saved the situation was the wisdom and friendship of a dragon.
The author creates fairy-tale woods full of unusual creatures, most of whom are rooted in folk tales or originate in the writer’s imagination. However, some are classical mythical creatures, such as griffins and sirens. These display novel features that do not resemble traditional mythological beasts. Their names, however, retain their Greek origin.
The protagonist is a griffin, in Polish, Gryf, a species instead of a personal name. Having eaten a dragon berry, he looks at his reflection in the water. He sees “a wonderful eagle beak, slender silhouette and graceful wings” (12/81, p. 6), a description of what a griffin looks like: a lion with a head and wings of an eagle. The description is reinforced by the illustrator, Krystyna Michałkowska, who explicitly shows Nowacka’s version of the griffin. This scene brings to mind Narcissus’ self-admiration. Gryf (Griffin) is pleased with his appearance and views himself as handsome, strong and wise. He also takes pride in often being the creature figured on crests and coats of arms, in other words, in heraldic, so important for the venerable medieval traditions. When his dragon friend, Podpuszczyk [UnderWoodOwl], helps him lift the curse using the waters of the Rainbow Creek, we recall King Midas, who rids himself of the Golden Touch curse by bathing in the Pactolus river.
Podpuszczyk hardly resembles ancient reptilian dragons as we know them from decorations on ancient pottery, but looks like an unknown three-headed species of dinosaur, combining the look of Cerberus with a nine-headed hydra. While mythical dragons often acted as guardians – Podpuszczyk is the guardian of Witchwood – he looks unrelated to the terrifying dragon images from Greek vases. Nowacka’s Sirens* also have little in common with the Homeric half-bird, half-women creatures. They are presented as merry maidens with a fishtail, green in colour, without any trace of predatory instincts. There is no mention of their songs, so they evidently draw inspiration from the silent water creatures from Polish folklore.
* In Polish a single term, syrena, is used for both siren and mermaid.
"Hesperydy", "Midas", in Stanisław Stabryła, Słownik szkolny. Mitologia grecka i rzymska, Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne, 1997, 102, 150–151.
Andersen, Øivind, “Homer’s Sirens” inLutz Edzard, Jens W. Borgland, and Ute Hüsken, ed., Reading Slowly: A Festschrift for Jens E. Braarvig, 1st ed., Harrassowitz Verlag, 2018, 47–58.
Mayor, Adrienne, and Michael Heaney, “Griffins and Arimaspeans”, Folklore 104.1/2 (1993): 40–66.
Illustrations by Krystyna Michałkowska, courtesy of WSiP, the owner of the now-defunct periodical Miś since 2008, who gave the authors of the catalogue, Polish Literature for Children & Young Adults Inspired by Classical Antiquity, a blanket authorization to use their covers and illustrations.