Standing watch over Stavoren Harbor in the Netherlands, the statue of the medieval maiden known as the Lady of Stavoren was inspired by a famous folk tale that blames all of the city’s woes on the woman.
During the Middle Ages the city of Stavoren was a prosperous port city with a thriving harbor. Unfortunately the city’s fortunes took a turn to for the worse when an impassable sandbank formed at the mouth of the bay that prevented many ships from entering the harbor. Of course this slowly decimated the city’s former prosperity, and as was the custom in those days, the whole thing was blamed on a woman.
While countless variations of the tale exist, the basic beats of the Lady of Stavoren’s legend involve an extremely wealthy and somewhat malicious widow whose greed and cruelty forever cursed the town. Essentially she sent a traveller out to find her the greatest treasure in the world, and when he returned with wheat, noting that the crop could both feed the people of the city, but also be freely traded for a constant revenue flow, the Lady of Stavoren was unimpressed. In her spoiled hubris, the lady ordered the wheat to be dumped directly into the harbor waters. It was this wheat that is said to have formed the sandbar which damaged the city in reality. As the tale continues, the Lady of Stavoren is punished by a cruel and uncaring world as she falls into destitution for the rest of her days, as the wheat chokes the city of its trade.
Today Stavoren is a village of around 1,000 residents, but the Lady of Stavoren statue remains, forever looking out over the harbor for someone to bring her the great treasure that would be the city’s downfall.