Wanda lived in 8th century Poland and was the daughter of Krakus, legendary founder of Kraków. Krakus had three children, two sons and a daughter. His eldest son was killed by his younger brother, who wanted the power for himself. This act of evil greatly angered the people Krakow and they banished the murderer from their country forever.
So the beautiful Wanda became the ruler of the country. She ruled wisely and justly over the people who looked upon her with the greatest of love and respect. Many princes sought to marry her, but she would not accept any of them. She had not yet found someone who was pleasing and help her rule wisely and well over her beloved country. She waged war against anyone who tried to invade her home, she would even lead her soldiers into battle.
Her name spread far and wide, and even a German prince, named Rytigier, heard of her beauty, her valor and, what was even more attractive to him, he heard that the lands of Poland were fruitful and rich. He sent messengers with a letter to Wanda. The messengers were received at Wanda’s court with courtesy and hospitality, as was always the custom in Poland. They presented Wanda the prince’s letter, all the while surveying their surroundings with greedy eyes.
Wanda read the letter and turned deathly pale. The contents were clear enough; Rytigier asked her for her hand in marriage, stipulating that as her dowry she should bring him the lands of Poland, and threatening war in the event of a refusal. Rytigier had a very powerful army, famed all over Europe as the strongest and best equipped of any prince. Wanda’s army had lost many in recent wars. If she accepted Rytigier’s proposal of marriage she would not subject her country to German rule. To wage war might be fatal with the armies so ill-matched. Defeat at the hands of the Germans would certainly bring terrible vengeance. But, in a firm voice, Wanda made her answer. She refused to surrender herself and her country to the Germans. She had made her decision. Wanda would sacrifice her life for Poland.
She retired to her room and prayed to the gods that they would grant Poland freedom from the Germans in return for her sacrificing her life. Her prayer was granted, and Wanda threw herself into the Vistula. When her body was recovered, she was buried with all honors. Tradition has it that she is buried in the large Wanda Mound next to her father.
The legend of Wanda is believed to originate in the 12th century by Polish bishop and historian, Wincenty Kadłubek, possibly based on Slavic myths and legends, although some historians see the legend rooted in Scandinavian or Ancient Roman traditions. The Kadłubek version has the German prince, not princess Wanda, committing suicide: according to Kadłubek, the princess lived a long and happy life, forever remaining a virgin. It was only in the 14th century Wielkopolska Chronicle that the variant with Wanda committing suicide was popularized by historian, Jan Długosz.