Twardowski The Polish Faust
Source: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.
Toward the close of the eighteenth century there was pointed out to
visitors in the old town of Krakau the house of the magician
Twardowski, who quite properly was called the Faust of Poland, because
of his dealings with the Evil One.
In his youth Twardowski had followed the study of medicine, and with
such industry, such eagerness and such a clear mind did he practice
his profession that it was not long before he was the most celebrated
doctor in all Poland. But Twardowski was not satisfied with this. He
craved greater and still greater power.
At last one day, as he was reading, he found in an old book of magic
that for which he had long been seeking--the formula for summoning the
devil. When night came a storm had risen, but caring not for that he
hurried away to the lonely mountain Kremenki. There, in a rudely
constructed hut, he began his incantations.
Before long there was an earthquake; great rocks were loosened, the
ground opened at Twardowski's feet and flames leaped out; and in the
flames appeared the Evil One himself, in the form of a man, clad in a
red cloak with the well-known pointed red cap.
"What do you wish?" the devil asked.
"The power of your most secret wisdom," was the answer.
"And how is this to be done?"
"You shall make me the most celebrated of all the learned men of the
century, and shall besides give me such happiness as no man has ever
enjoyed upon this earth before."
"So be it," said the devil. "But on condition that at the end of
seven years I gain possession of your soul."
"You may take me," answered Twardowski, "but only in Rome may you have
power over me. Thither, at the end of seven years, will I go."
The devil hesitated over this clause, but thinking of the fun he could
have in the holy city, finally agreed. Leaning against the wall of
stone he wrote the compact, which Twardowski, making a slight wound in
his arm, signed with his own blood.
When Twardowski descended from the mountain and made his way, book
under arm, through the valley, he heard the bells in all the towers of
the city ringing out clearly and solemnly on the still night air. He
listened, wondering at the unaccustomed noise, then hurried into the
town, inquiring from every one he met what the occasion was. But no
one seemed to have heard the sound.
Then a deep feeling of sadness came over him as he realized the
meaning of the bells. They were the funeral knell of his own soul.
When morning came, however, doubts were forgotten, and Twardowski was
glad to have the devil at his command. The first thing that he
demanded was to have all the silver of Poland gathered together in one
place and covered over with great mounds of sand.
Similar requests followed, and it was not long before the devil
repented of his bargain. One day it would please Twardowski to fly
without wings through the air; on another, to the delight of the
crowd, to gallop backward on a cock; on another to float in a boat
without a rudder or sail, accompanied by some maiden who for the
moment had inflamed his heart. One day, by the use of his magic
mirror, he set fire to the castle of an enemy a mile away. This last
feat made him greatly feared by people far and wide.
At last the seven years were up. The devil appeared to Twardowski and
"Twardowski, the time of our pact is over, and I command you to
fulfill your promise and go to Rome."
"What shall I do there?"
"Give me your immortal soul," was the answer.
"Do you think I am a fool?" asked Twardowski.
"You gave me your promise to go to Rome after seven years."
"That I have already done," said Twardowski, "and I did not promise to
stay in Rome."
"Noble deceiver!" exclaimed the Evil One.
"Stupid devil!" cried Twardowski.
Then after a struggle the devil vanished and Twardowski returned home.
For over a year he pored incessantly over his books of magic, until at
last he found a formula for warding off death. Then he called his
disciple Famulus to him and explained that he was going to test the
"You have always obliged me without question," said Twardowski, "and I
expect you to now. Take this knife and thrust it into my heart."
"God forbid!" cried Famulus.
"Why are you frightened? I know what I am doing. Take the knife and
kill me, as the parchment directs."
"You must," insisted Twardowski.
"It is impossible!"
"No more exclamations. Do as I tell you."
"Oh, oh, oh!" wailed Famulus.
"Strike!" thundered Twardowski, "or I will kill you this instant."
Then Famulus did as he was bid and forced the blade into his master's
Twardowski uttered a low cry, fell, and was soon dead.
Famulus dropped trembling into a chair and covered his face with his
hands. Then he remembered that he must read the remainder of the
parchment in order to find out what he must do to restore the body to
Then he set about the task, severed the limbs of the dead body, and
worked and brewed and distilled until the elixir described in the
parchment was prepared.
With the elixir he rubbed the members of the master's body, put them
together, and laid the corpse in a coffin. This he buried on the
following night, explaining to Twardowski's friends that such had been
the master's wish.
Now the parchment stated that the body must remain in the grave seven
years, seven months, seven days and seven hours; so Famulus could do
nothing but wait. At last the time had expired, and on a snowy, cold
December night he found his way to the grave. He dug out the coffin,
brushed off the snow and earth, opened the casket and found--not the
body of Twardowski, but that of a child who lay sleeping in a bed of
"The child is like Twardowski," Famulus thought, and he gathered him
up under his cloak and carried him home. The next morning the child
was the size of a twelve-year old; and after seven weeks he was a
Twardowski, who now seemed quite himself, only younger, and stronger,
thanked Famulus and resumed again his study of magic. He desired,
above all things, to be freed forever from his compact with the devil.
This, he read in one of the books, he might do if he would brave the
terrors of the underworld.
So Twardowski determined to enter the gates of hell. At his magic
speech the ground opened and he began the path of descent. Blue flames
lighted the way. Deeper and deeper he went through dark and winding
passages. At last he reached the underworld itself, and many awful
sights did he behold.
And the farther he went the more frightened did he become. He could
not help feeling that the devil had plotted something against him.
Finally he found himself in a small room, and cast a hasty glance
around, looking for a means of escape.
Seeing a child in a cradle in one corner of the room he seized it
hastily, threw his cloak around it, and was about to leave when the
door opened and the Evil One entered.
He made a respectful bow and said, "Will you be good enough to go with
"Why so?" asked Twardowski, obstinately.
"Because of our agreement."
"But," said the magician, "only in Rome have you power over me."
"Yes," replied the devil, "and Rome is the name of this house."
"You think to trick me by a pun; but you cannot. I carry this talisman
of innocence," and throwing aside his cloak, he disclosed the sleeping
Anger showed in the face of the devil; but he stepped nearer to
Twardowski and said softly:
"What are you thinking of, Twardowski? Have you forgotten your
promise? The nobleman's word is sacred to him."
Pride awoke in the breast of the magician.
"I must keep my word," he said, laying the child back in the crib, and
On the shoulders of the devil two wings appeared, like the wings of a
bat. He seized Twardowski and flew away with him, mounting higher and
higher into the night. The magician was so terrified and suffered
such anguish in the clutches of the Evil One that in a few moments he
was changed into an old man, but he did not lose consciousness. At
last so high were they that cities appeared like flies and Krakau with
its mighty turrets like two spiders. Deeply moved, Twardowski looked
down upon the scene of all his struggles and all his joys.
But higher and higher they went--higher than any eagle has ever
flown--and more lonely and more fearful did it seem to Twardowski.
Only occasionally bright stars passed by them, or fiery meteors,
leaving a long streak of light behind.
At last they came to the moon, which stared at them with dead eyes.
Then a song that Twardowski had read in his mother's hymn book rose to
his lips. And as he repeated mechanically the prayer his mother had
taught him an angel suddenly appeared and said:
"Satan, let Twardowski go; and you, Twardowski, hang you there between
heaven and earth, to atone for your sin until the Last Judgment. Then
will you be reunited with your mother in heaven. The prayer which you
remembered in your hour of need has saved you."
And so, according to the story, Twardowski is suspended in the vault
of heaven to this very day.
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