plays with fire

With Fire and Sword

With Fire and Sword (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 (Pan Wołodyjowski, 1888), also translated as 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.

Plot summary

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. 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.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

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.


"1647 was a strange year in which signs on earth and the sky seemed to announce disasters and unusual events. Contemporary chroniclers recall the huge numbers of locusts swarming from the Wild Fields and destroying crops and grass, which forecast Tartar raids. There was a grand eclipse of the sun in the summer and shortly after, a comet appeared in the sky."

"Finally, there came winter, so mild that the eldest folks could not recall anything like it. The rivers did not freeze over in the southern provinces and the snow, which melted every morning, emerged from the river beds and flooded the banks."

See also


  • 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

External links

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