With Fire and Sword
|Original title||Ogniem i mieczem|
|Followed by||The Deluge, Fire in the Steppe|
With Fire and Sword (Polish: Ogniem i mieczem) is a historical novel by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, published in 1884. It is the first volume of a series known to Poles as the Trilogy, followed by The Deluge (Potop, 1886) and Fire in the Steppe (originally published under the Polish title Pan Wołodyjowski, which translates to Colonel Wolodyjowski). The novel has been adapted as a film several times, most recently in 1999.
With Fire and Sword is a historical fiction novel, set in the 17th century in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. It was initially serialized in several Polish newspapers, chapters appearing in weekly instalments. It gained enormous popularity in Poland, and by the turn of the 20th century had become one of the most popular Polish books ever. It became obligatory reading in Polish schools, and has been translated into English and most European languages.
The series was a vehicle for expressing Polish patriotism in a Poland partitioned and deprived of independence, while avoiding censorship by having a historical background concerning wars with past enemies other than the countries ruling parts of Poland at the time of writing (Russia, Germany and Austria).
Despite some deviations, the book's historical framework is genuine and the fictional story is woven into real events. Many characters are historical figures, including Jeremi Wiśniowiecki and Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Pol. Bohdan Chmielnicki). Sienkiewicz researched memoirs and chronicles of the Polish nobility, or the szlachta, for details on life in 17th-century Poland. The book was written, according to the author, "to lift up the heart" of the Polish nation in the unhappy period following the failed January Insurrection during the era of the partitions of Poland. Thus it often favors epic plots and heroic scenes over historical accuracy. Nonetheless, Sienkiewicz's vivid language made it one of the most popular books about that particular place and era.
Chapters I - VIII
Jan Skrzetuski (Yan Skshetuski), lieutenant of the armoured regiment of Prince Jeremi Wiśniowiecki (Yeremi Vishnyevetski), gives assistance to Bohdan Zenobi Chmielnicki (first posing as Abdank) as his party are returning from a mission to the Khan through the Wilderness. At Czyhryn (Pol. Czehryń) the next day, Skrzetuski learns that Chmielnicki was escaping to the Sitch. In a tavern he throws Czapliński (Chaplinski), a voluble under–starosta (and Chmielnicki's deadly enemy), out through the door. It is here that he also becomes acquainted with Zagłoba and the Lithuanian Podbipięta (Podbipienta), who wishes to join the service of Prince Jeremi in order to fulfil his family vow of cutting off the heads of three infidels, all at the same time with one blow.
On their way to Lubni, the party comes to the assistance of two women, one of whom is Helena Kurcewicz (Kurtsevich), returning to her aunt’s home that really belongs to her. Jan’s party are invited back to Rozlogi where Jan meets Bohun, a Cossack, adopted as a sixth son by the old princess (Helena's aunt). Bohun wants to pick a quarrel but is sent away and Jan is able to declare his love for Helena. Skrzetuski realizes the girl is being mistreated and denied her rights so gets the princess to promise Helena to him instead of Bohun or he will have Prince Jeremi help her recover home. The lieutenant finally arrives at Lubni and tells his comrades about his mission to the Crimea. Prince Jeremi returns and entertainments are laid on. To while away the time, Skrzetuski fences with his friend, Michał Wołodyjowski (Volodyovski), and receives a response to his letter sent to Helena via Rzędzian (Jendzian), his assistant.
Revolution is now afoot. The prince decides to send an envoy, in a group led by Pan (Sir) Bychowiec (Bykhovets), to the Sitch to find out about Chmielnicki. Jan persuades him to let him go in his place as he wants to see Helena and receives permission from the prince. He meets Helena once more at Rozlogi and then sets out for Czyhryn. Here, he meets Zaćwilichowski (Zatsvilikhovski), an old colonel, who says he expects revolt in the Ukraine. He also re-encounters Zagłoba who tells him that he has befriended Bohun. Further on his travels he decides to send Rzędzian with a message to Helena to flee the impending hordes. His party encounters some Cossacks and Tartars and a fight breaks out in which Jan’s soldiers are slaughtered and he severely wounded. The alliance between the Cossacks and Tartars had been brokered by Chmielnicki, who understood that Cossacks, while having an excellent infantry, could not hope to match the Polish cavalry, the best in Europe. By combining Cossack infantry with Tartar cavalry, the uprising had balanced military force and a chance to beat the Polish army.
Chapters IX – XV
Jan is taken to Hassan Basha to the Sitch. The messages to the friends in the court are discovered and two, Barabasz (Barabash) and Tatarczuk (Tatarchuk), are murdered by the Brotherhood of Cossacks. Tuhaj-bej (Tugay Bey), the Tartar leader, is given Jan as a ransom captive and news arrives that the Great Hetman, Mikołaj Potocki (Pototski), has sent his son Stefan (Stephen) with his army against the Brotherhood, so Chmielnicki is chosen as their leader. The Zaporojians and Tartars march out of the Sitch to meet the Poles marching from Czyhryn. Chmielnicki avoids besieging Kudak. Krzeszowski (Krechovski), a Cossack, is sent to support Potocki but is won over by talks with Chmielnicki and massacres the German mercenaries who refuse to support his betrayal. At Żółte Wody (Zhovti Vody) the Polish hussars become bogged down in the soft mud and cannot attack on the second day of the battle, so Chmielnicki wins it and another at Kruta Bałka (Krutaya Balka).
Chapters XVI – XXVII
Chmielnicki frees Jan to parley with the Prince. Skrzetuski passes through a devastated landscape to Czyhryn and then to Rozlogi but discovers, mistakenly, that Helena has been spirited away by Bohun. After discovering from a captive Rzędzian about Skrzetuski’s plan to marry Helena, Bohun went immediately to Rozlogi to wed her. However, Zagłoba, who accompanied him, managed to spirit her away after Bohun is wounded by Mikołaj (Nicholas), one of the old Princess’ sons. Instead of heading for Lubni, they headed for Czerkasy (Cherkasi) but are caught between Bohun’s force and Chmielnicki’s advancing army. To disguise themselves Zagłoba pounces on an old blind minstrel and a young boy and steals their clothes. At a village named Demianówka (Demianovka), Zagłoba persuades the villagers to flee to Chmielnicki’s force taking himself and Helena with them. Zagłoba eventually decides the safest place is on the right bank of the Dnieper and, just as they are crossing, Bohun's Cossacks appear at the river's bank but it is too late to stop the runaways.
Prince Jeremi’s army arrives at Rozlogi and Skrzetuski is reunited with Wiśniowiecki. After returning to Lubni, preparations are made to march and Lubni is abandoned to its fate. They end up marching through the forests to Czernihów (Chernigov) where Chmielnicki attempts to burn the wood. They eventually cross the Dnieper and go through the Pripet Marshes, and reach the region of revolt where they wreak revenge on the Cossacks. The Brotherhood meet to determine how to respond and eventually Maksim Krzywonos (Krivonos) agrees to lead a 60,000 army to Machnówka (Makhnovka) to fight the Prince. His son besieges the castle but the Prince’s hussars eventually crush the rebels.
Chapters XXVIII - XLV
Skrzetuski is dispatched to persuade some German infantry to the Prince Jeremi’s side but they refuse. On his way back he attacks an outlaw camp and finds Zagłoba amongst them; he tells Jan Helena is safe in the castle in Bar. The Polish army passes Konstantynów (Konstantinoff) and halts at Rosołowce (Rosolovtsi) where they are now joined by the German infantry fleeing from Chmielnicki. Krzywonos arrives with his forces – the battle starts with single hand to hand combat - and then Krzywonos’ force is eventually defeated. Rzędzian is reunited with his master.
The King dies and a disputed succession takes place. Jeremi and his army rest at the castle of Zbaraż (Zbaraj) where, after much internal struggle, the Prince announces he will put himself under the commanders. Bohun captures Helena at Bar and hides her with a witch, Horpyna, at her (Horpyna's) house. Helena threatens she'll stab herself when Bohun speaks to her about marriage. Skrzetuski and his colleagues go out to crush marauding bands. He is forced to split his force and Zagłoba is captured by Bohun’s Cossacks after he and his men get drunk at a peasant wedding but is freed by Wołodyjowski.
The four Polish officers return to Jarmolińce (Yarmolintsi) and Zagłoba reveals that he overheard that Helena is hidden somewhere between Jampol (Yampol) and Jahorlik (Yagorlik). Wierszułł (Vershul) arrives and reveals that the Poles, under Prince Dominik Zasławski, have been ignominiously defeated. They make for Lwów (Lviv) where Prince Jeremi is elected leader and heads for Zamość (Zamost) and then to Warsaw with his wife, Princess Gryzelda (Griselda). Wołodyjowski gets into a quarrel with Charłamp (Kharlamp) over Anusia Borzobohata. Kazimierz (Kazimir) and his brother Karol (Karl) are disputing the election and the former is elected King. Zagłoba and Wołodyjowski also meet Bohun, travelling as an envoy, and Michał Wołodyjowski leaves him for dead in a duel.
XLVI – LVII
Chmielnicki’s army is besieging Zamość but withdraws for peace negotiations. Zagłoba and Wołodyjowski now head to the castle and Wierszułł tells them that Skrzetuski is looking for Helena, travelling with some Armenian merchants to Jampol. The commissioners are sent by the Commonwealth to negotiate with Chmielnicki, led by voievoda Kisiel (Kisel), and Skrzetuski joins their party. They are rudely received by the Cossack hetman at Perejasław (Pereyaslav), despite him being granted a baton by the King. Chmielnicki is pleased to see Jan and promises him 200 Cossack horsemen to accompany him to Kijów (Kiev) and beyond.
An armistice is concluded but Cossack attacks continue. Skrzetuski ends up with Prince Korecki at Korets where he lies ill, believing Helena to have been murdered in a monastery with some nuns. Rzędzian reappears and confirms to Zagłoba that Helena is hidden in a ravine at Waładynka river (Valadinka) to which he was sent by Bohun after he (Bohun) was wounded by Kurcewicz. Wołodyjowski, Zagłoba and Rzędzian make for Waładynka, where they kill the witch and her servant Czeremis (Cheremis), and rescue Helena. Using Bohun’s baton, they make for Zbaraż. Just before it they are pursued by Tartar horsemen – Rzędzian splits off with Helena into a wood and the two officers are rescued by Kuszel (Kushel) and Roztworowski (Roztvorovski) with two thousand horses. All the Ukrainian forces of the Crown are assembled at Zbaraż – Skrzetuski is also there - and Jeremi finally arrives, and at last battle can take place between him and Chmielnicki.
In the ensuing fighting Zagłoba is nearly captured by Burłaj (Burlai), the Cossack leader, but instead kills his pursuer. The Cossacks are defeated but Chmielnicki appeals to the Khan’s pride to keep fighting.
LVIII – LXIII
The battle continues but the valiant Polish force holds out against the Cossacks and Tartars. Huge assault towers are burnt to the ground by a sally led by Skrzetuski; in the action the Polish soldiers are nearly taken but are saved by the hussars. Chmielnicki summons Zaćwilichowski for negotiations but his monstrous demands are rejected by Prince Jeremi and the fighting continues. Hunger sets in and Longin decides to steal through the enemy’s lines and, discovered after stumbling into some Tartar horse-herders, is killed by Tartar arrows. His naked body is hung from an assault machine and the Poles rush out to cut him down and he is given a military funeral.
Skrzetuski goes next and, working his way through the swamp, finally makes it through the tabor to Toporów (Toporov) and King Jan Kazimierz who resolves to rescue Zabraż. Skrzetuski falls seriously ill but is nursed by Rzędzian and learns that Helena is safe. The victorious Polish army returns to Toporów and Skrzetuski and his colleagues jump on horses to ride out to meet the lady of Sandomierz (Sandomir) in whose carriage Helena is travelling. Returning home, the whole happy party stop for a picnic at Grabowa (Grabovo) castle, which has been burnt, and Skrzetuski and his loved one are happily cheered by the soldiers.
- John Casimir
- Jeremi Wiśniowiecki
- Bohdan Khmelnytsky
- Adam Kisiel
- Ivan Vyhovsky
- Ivan Bohun
- Tugay Bey
- Islam III Giray
- Jan Skrzetuski (based on Mikołaj Skrzetuski)
- Jan Onufry Zagłoba
- Michał Wołodyjowski (based on Jerzy Wołodyjowski)
- Longinus Podbipięta
- Yuri Bohun
- Helena Kurcewiczówna
The novel was initially translated by Jeremiah Curtain in 1898. Curtain was Sienkiewicz's "authorized" translator, meaning the publisher, Little, Brown and Co., paid a commission to Sienkiewicz for his endorsement because at the time, as a foreign work, it was not copyright in the USA. Thus another translation by Samuel A. Binion (who translated many other books by Sienkiewicz) was published by R. F. Fenno and Co. around the same time as Curtain's, but without Sienkiewicz's endorsement. Both translations have since lapsed into the public domain.
A modern translation was published in 1991 by W. S. Kuniczak, at the behest of the Copernicus Society of America, as part of a series of Polish classics in modern translation.
The most recent film version of the novel, With Fire and Sword, was directed by Jerzy Hoffman and released in 1999. At the time, it was the most expensive Polish film ever made (since surpassed by Quo Vadis, 2001). Although the novel is the first part of the Trilogy, the film was the last part of Hoffman's version of the trilogy to be made, following The Deluge, which was filmed in 1974, and Colonel Wolodyjowski, which was filmed in 1969.
- With Fire and Sword (film)
- Mount&Blade: With Fire & Sword
- Dzikie Pola
- Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
- List of historical novels
- "With Fire & Sword". TaleWorlds Entertainment. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- Henryk Sienkiewicz, With Fire and Sword, Fredonia Books 2002, ISBN 1-4101-0057-X
- Jerzy R. Krzyanowski, The Trilogy Companion: A Reader's Guide to the Trilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz, Hippocrene Books, 1992, ISBN 0-87052-221-3
- Sienkiewicz Trilogy DVD edition, 2004
- With Fire and Sword, translations by Jeremiah Curtain, and by Samuel A. Binion, at Internet Archive
- The full text of the book in Polish