Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
With Fire and Sword is the first volume of Sienkiewicz’s celebrated trilogy of life under the Polish Commonwealth of the seventeenth century. It opens almost in the midst of battle between the rebellious Cossacks of the Ukraine, in the southeasternmost reaches of Polish-ruled territory. Led by Bohdan Hmyelnitzki, the rebellious Cossacks press into the interior of the commonwealth from the wild lands on the border. Hmyelnitzki has allied himself with the foreign Tartars, which appalls Pan Yan, the Polish officer sent by Prince Yeremi to keep order. There are all sorts of shifts and maneuverings, along with murders, as the two sides sort themselves out. Hmyelnitki first must get rid of some Cossack rivals, which he does by accusing them of traitorous association with a Polish spy. To a certain extent, Hmyelnitzki seems more concerned about internal rivals than the ostensible enemy.
Intertwined with the military adventure story is the story of Pan Yan’s love for the princess Helen, a sweet and pure girl mistreated by her greedy relatives. Throughout the book Pan Yan is both trying to defeat the Cossack rebellion and get back together with Helen, who has fallen into Cossack hands. He has trouble doing this, however, because he himself is captured at one point and at another point is ill and exhausted, so it is his servant Jendzian and his friend Zagloba who rescue Helen.
Zagloba, who is often compared to William Shakespeare’s...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition, European Fiction Series)
It was December, 1647, in the wilderness of steppeland and marsh, when Lieutenant Yan Skshetuski found a Cossack traveler who had been attacked by unknown enemies. Grateful to Skshetuski for assisting him, the Cossack rode off after pledging friendship with the young officer.
Prince Yeremi Vishnyevetski had sent Pan Yan Skshetuski to the Khan to obtain that ruler’s aid in punishing certain Tartars who had raided the prince’s estates beyond the Dnieper. Pan Yan broke his return journey at Chigirin. There, at the inn of Dopula, he learned that the man whose life he had saved was a rebel Cossack who had escaped to the Saitch, the Cossack territory, where he too could threaten Prince Yeremi’s domain.
When Pan Yan left Chigirin, he was anxious to get to Lubni, where a pleased prince awaited him. Along the way, Pan Yan had occasion to aid the widow of Prince Constantine Kurtsevich and her orphaned niece, Princess Helena, with whom the lieutenant fell in love. The five sons of Princess Kurtsevich and a young man named Bogun joined them. Bogun’s animosity toward Pan Yan convinced the lieutenant that the man was jealous because of Helena. Bogun was an adopted sixth son of the Princess Kurtsevich.
The party stopped at the family estate, Rozlogi, which rightfully belonged to Helena but which was in the hands of the aunt and her sons. Pan Yan offered not to interfere with the present ownership of Rozlogi if the princess would give him...
(The entire section is 1503 words.)