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Literature: Sienkiewicz Trilogy

Known simply as "the Trilogy" in Poland, its a series of novels by Henryk Sienkiewicz covering the lives and adventures of a group of Polish and Lithuanian nobles in the 17th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Originally published in parts, in a magazine, the Trilogy consists of three books — With Fire and Sword (Ogniem i mieczem), which takes place during Bohdan Khmelnytsky's 1647 Cossack rebellion; The Deluge (Potop), occurring during the 1655 Swedish invasion of Poland; and Pan Wołodyjowski (lit. Sir Wołodyjowski, sometimes translated as Fire in the Steppe), which concludes the saga during the Polish-Turkish wars of the 1670s.

Written between 1884 and 1888 with the intent of "lift[ing] up the hearts" of the Polish people, "the Trilogy" immediately became a sensation in its homeland, where it was eventually adapted to film, the most famous being Jerzy Hoffman's versions of the saga, and is now seen as one of the masterpieces of Polish literature. It has received considerable acclaim outside its country. Its author won the Nobel Prize In Literature, after all. In some countries, though, such as Ukraine, and perhaps Lithuania, it is disliked if not reviled for its negative portrayal of the Commonwealth's opponents.

This saga gives examples of:

  • Action Girl: Basia from Pan Wołodyjowski is as action girl as a 17th century woman in a 19th century book can get.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Or more than ambiguously. Horpyna the witch in the 1999 film adaptation of With Fire and Sword. She nearly molests Helena, implying that she would were it not for her fear of Bohun. Crossed with Bury Your Gays when she gets shot, and then stabbed through the chest with a stake, a few minutes later.
  • Anyone Can Die: Sienkiewicz wasn't above killing a popular character to remind the readers that the danger faced by the heroes is real.
  • The Atoner: Kmicic
  • Badass Mustache: Though most, if not all of the male characters have mustaches, and many are badasses, Sienkiewicz pays special attention to Wołodyjowski's badass mustache.
  • Badass Unintentional: Zagloba, in so many occasions
  • BFS: Longinus's hereditary sword. Normal people require a demonstration to believe that fencing with this is possible. This became Running Gag.
  • Bad Export for You: English versions of the books and film(s) tend to have... issues.
    • Jeremiah Curtin wrote an awkward and extremely literal translation around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. He wasn't fluent in Polish and relied heavily on dictionaries and his knowledge of Russian. This translation is in the public domain, so it's fairly easy to get a copy of this version. For starters, he seems to confuse Russians and Ukrainians...
    • Samuel A. Binion translated With Fire and Sword a few years after Curtin did... but he didn't translate either of its sequels.
    • Polish-American novelist W.S. Kuniczak wrote another translation in the 1990s, with the intent of creating a "modern, more accessible" version. However, unlike Curtin's overly literal translation, his translation suffers from the opposite problem: he freely deleted passages and added many of his own. Kuniczak is himself an award-winning writer, so his changes do fit seamlessly into the rest of the text, but they are changes. Kuniczak's translation is currently out of print, and used copies can be expensive.
    • The English-subbed version of the With Fire and Sword movie is decent... until someone speaks in Ukrainian. For some reason, the Ukrainian lines are dubbed in Polish, but both the Polish and Ukrainian lines are spoken at once! What's worse is that the Polish dubbing is done by the same male voice, even for female characters. It's extremely distracting to someone who cannot understand either language to begin with.
      • Such voice-overs (also known as Gavrilov translation) are actually the standard in Polish translated movies. See Voiceover Translation.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Jan Zagłoba — much more 'boisterous' than 'bruiser' but still.
  • Bring Help Back: Podbipięta and Skrzetuski are sent through enemy lines to do this during the siege at the end of With Fire and Sword.
  • The Cavalry: In an aversion of Deus ex Machina and possible deconstruction, Podbipięta and Skrzetuski have to go through a virtual suicide mission to call for it at the end of With Fire and Sword. Podbipięta actually does die, but Skrzetuski makes it.
  • Celibate Hero: Longinus Podbipięta, who is sworn to celibacy until he decapitates three heathens at once with his sword, as one of his forefathers did. Though with his sword it's technically possible.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: It's easy for a casual onlooker to get the impression Zagłoba is a fat, aging drunk with a tendency to tell shaggy dog stories. This is because he is. Just don't get him mad or desperate...
  • Darker and Edgier: The third book, Pan Wołodyjowski
  • Downer Ending: Wołodyjowski's fate at the end of the third book
  • The Dragon: Horpyna has an dwarf, Czeremis as her dragon. She herself is sort of The Dragon for Bohun.
  • Duel to the Death: Played straight in With Fire and Sword with Wołodyjowski and Bohun, until we learn Bohun survived.
  • Expy: Jan Zagłoba bears more than a passing resemblence to Falstaff when he first shows up. And then, he comes into his own.
  • Fate Worse than Death: You would not want to be captured by the Turks in the 17th Century, especially if you are a woman.
  • Father to His Men: Jeremi Wiśniowiecki, particularly to Skrzetuski.
  • Five-Man Band: With Fire And Sword, characters form one:
  • Flynning: Subverted. Wołodyjowski's duel with Kmicic shows actual skill despite what it looks like to an untrained eye. Since Kmicic is no match for Wołodyjowski, the later keeps humiliating him by easily parrying all attacks and in the process turning their fight into elaborate flynning.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: In With Fire and Sword, Jan is choleric, Zagloba is sanguine, Longinus is phlegmatic, and Michal is melancholy.
  • Gentle Giant: Podbipięta
  • Get It Over With: Kmicic, when his duel against Wołodyjowski turns out to be a Curbstomp Battle, begs him to stop humiliating him. It's probably the most famous Memetic Mutation from whole Trilogy in Polish language.
  • Heel Realization: Andrzej Kmicic
  • Heroic BSOD: Skrzetuski, when he finds his love's house burned to the ground and thinks she has died.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Jeremi Wiśniowiecki; the man was so brutal that Sienkiewicz is not able to write around all the unsavory details in With Fire and Sword
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Bogusław Radziwiłł in The Deluge. While his cousin Janusz manages to get a Redemption Through Death, Bogusław is so evil that it's not hard to imagine him twirling his mustache in sinister ways.
  • Honor Before Reason: Several characters take any vows they make very seriously, which puts some of them in unwinnable situations.
    • An interesting example occurs in With Fire and Sword, when one of the armies switches sides during the war and a unit that remains loyal is forced into a Last Stand. Ironically, its a mercenary unit — the commander calmly informs his enemies that he will gladly switch to their side but only after his current contract has expired.
    • Wołodyjowski and Ketling choose to die rather than break a vow to not let the Turks in the fortress.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Used as a form of death penalty — many mooks and several named characters dies this way.
  • Inspired By: Apparently, there was a real Jerzy Michał Wołodyjowski that died at Kamieniec Podolski in 1672. Sienkiewicz took these facts and wrote the whole trilogy around them.
  • Karma Houdini: Bogusław Radziwiłł
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Azja Tuhaj-Bejowicz's execution is extremely brutal and written in the most graphic detail, but whatever any sympathy the reader had for him is long gone by the time it happens.
  • La RÚsistance: The Poles and Lithuanians rise up against the Swedes in Potop. Also, from a different point of view, Khmelnytsky's rebellion might be counted as this.
  • Last of His Kind: Podbipięta is the last of his clan.
  • Love at First Sight: Jan Skrzetuski and Helena Kurcewiczˇwna, Andrzej Kmicic and Alexandra Billewiczˇwna. Subverted in the third book with Wołodyjowski and Basia.
  • Master Swordsman: Wołodyjowski. Also, every other hero, and good chunk of the supporting cast. It's 17th century Poland, people.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Bogusław Radziwiłł. In the book we are informed that he is a competent fighter. But in the movie, this info doesn't show up, making him look like an effeminate spoiled nobleman... until he manages to shoot his would-be kidnapper with his own gun.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Andrzej Kmicic and Aleksandra Billewiczˇwna
  • Poles With Lances
  • Politically Correct History: In the film version of The Deluge, released in Soviet-dominated Poland in 1974, not one mention is made of the Russians, who were at war with Poland in the original novel and in Real Life.
    • Well, duh. The original novel did not mention Russians at all, since it was written in Russian-dominated Poland.
    • There're definitely Russians in The Deluge. Kmicic was fighting them in Smolensk.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Everybody!
  • Redemption Equals Death: Janusz Radziwiłł
  • Reed Snorkel: Near the end of With Fire and Sword
  • Shown Their Work: Sienkiewicz did an incredible amount of research when writing his novels, delving into memoirs and chronicles of the time, even shaping the dialogue to resemble 17th-century Polish rather than its 19th-century successor, though he fell short of that mark. He did, however, sometimes fudge historical accuracy in favor of epic plots and heroism, and the fact that he thought model the Ukranian steppe on the American West, even modelling the Cossacks on Native Americans rather than actually looking into the Ukranian side of the story, might count as a Critical Research Failure.
  • Smug Snake: Azja Tuhaj-Bejowicz
    • Also, Bogusław Radziwiłł who, despite his Badass act of shooting a man with his own gun, blows his opportunity to make northern Poland into his family's own personal demesne, just so he can try—and fail—to make it with the heroine.
  • The Siege: Zbarajh in With Fire and Sword, Jasna Gora in The Deluge, Kamieniec Podolski in Pan Wołodyjowski.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Basia and Krzysia, respectively, in Pan Wołodyjowski.

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alternative title(s): Sienkiewicz Trilogy
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