Many legends exist that describe how the mermaid came to symbolize Warsaw. A popular version of this story tells of how the mermaid named Sawa was rescued from capture by a man named Wars. Because of Wars' kindness, Sawa vowed to protect the city. Warsawa (Warsaw) became the name of the city and the mermaid is shown with a sword and shield in recognition of her promise to protect the city.
In another story, a peasant man named Wars was directed to the location of the future city by Sawa, the mermaid. A related version of this tale explains how a prince, guided by a mermaid, traveled to a small village where he was given food by a mother with two children he named Wars and Sawa. The prince bestowed land to the family and the mermaid rose from the water to bless the future of the city that was to become Warsaw.
Warsaw's mermaid monument dates from the middle of the 19th century. However, the mermaid went missing from the square for the better part of the 20th century, finding her home in the square again only in the year 2000. A fountain that burbles at ground level under her stone pedestal reminds passersby of her connection with the nearby Vistula River.