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Literature / Pan Tadeusz

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O Lithuania, my country, thou
Art like good health; I never knew till now
How precious, till I lost thee.
— translation by Kenneth R. Mackenzie

In 1811, young Tadeusz Soplica comes back home just in time to witness the resolution of the quarrel his paternal uncle and the count Horeszko have about a (not so ancient) castle. He then catches a glimpse of a very pretty girl...

The national epic poem of both Poland and Lithuania, written by Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), Pan Tadeusz, or Pan Tadeusz, czyli Ostatni zajazd na Litwie: historia szlachecka z roku 1811 i 1812 we dwunastu ksiegach wierszem ("Mr. Tadeusz, or The Last Foray in Lithuania: the story of nobles from year 1811 and 1812 in twelve rhymed books"), tells us of the struggle between the noble families of Soplica and Horeszko and its dissolution, or the titular "zajazd" (which meant one nobleman raiding another's lands, a XVI-XVII century custom, not really practiced anymore in the XIX).

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Written in 1832 and published in 1834, the poem was meant to comfort the members of the Polish emigration in France after the trauma of the lost November Uprising. It is set, though, before Napoleon's Russian campaign (and at its beginning, a little), which was a huge surge of hope for Poland's restoration (see the Other Wiki for more information on how that turned out for Poland), much like the Uprising was.

Gained a cult following among the Polish intellectual class ("inteligencja"read ), eventually becoming the Cult Classic of Polish literature.

Adapted into feature films.

Fun fact - the metre of Pan Tadeusz is 13-syllable alexandrine, a rather uncommon one in English (compare The Faerie Queene). The 1999 adaptation retains the rhymed dialogues, which doesn't make it any less realistic.

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An English translation (in prose) can be read here.


Pan Tadeusz contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: See Fully-Clothed Nudity.
  • Accuser of the Brethren: Gerwazy hates Jacek Soplica viciously for killing his beloved master.
  • Agent Provocateur: Father Robak, against the Russians.
  • All There in the Manual: The author wrote footnotes explaining in details many aspects of the story and describing some mentioned characters, items and events.
  • The Atoner: Father Robak, a.k.a. Jacek Soplica.
  • Badass Bookworm: The Count, well, counts.
  • Badass Grandpa: Maciej "The Rod" Dobrzyński, the patriarch of Dobrzyński family is still quite fit and delivers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Russian soldiers during the battle.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Robak. He's got a freaking scar across his face! The narrator openly states that his youth must have been spent somewhere else than seminar. Turns out true.
  • Big Damn Heroes: An uncharacteristically jolly monk may seem an odd harbinger of heroic rescue, but father Robak is.
  • Blue Blood: Set among country gentry.
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    • Though only the Count, a regular aristocrat, could be seen as this. The other characters are either middle-class landed gentry like the Judge and Podkomorzy, impoverished gentlemen like Rejent and Asesor, "grey" gentry (gentry so poor that they lived off farming, the only difference from peasants being their title, coat of arms and the way of clothing) like the Dobrzyńskis, and finally, "naked", that is landless gentry, whose only source of income was serving wealthier lords (Gerwazy to the Horeszkos, Wojski to the Soplicas).
    • But keep in mind all the aristocratic titles were given by the foreign monarchs (except Lithuania due to Grandfather Clause). Actual Polish gentry valued its equality very highly (i.e. you could have been a "naked" with naught but your sabre to your name, but still take no orders from any "prince").
  • The Clan: The Dobrzyński family.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The Count, which doesn't stop him from showing some feats of real badassery.
  • Cool Old Guy: Wojski - he's proficient at hunting, playing instruments, throwing knives, storytelling, settling quarrels, and he's the master of ceremony at the feasts organised by the Judge.
    • Also Jankiel, being a popular innkeeper, successful trader, sincere patriot and matchless musician. He basically serves as a grandfather figure to Zosia.
  • Cool Sword: Scyzoryk ("penknife"), Gerwazy's rapier.
  • Country Mouse: Praised throughout.
  • Crush Filter: When Tadeusz thinks Telimena is the girl he's seen before. Romantic Hilarity Ensues. Played for Laughs even more when the Count meets Zosia and gets dissappointed.
  • The Dandy: The Count, very, very much.
  • Deathbed Confession: Of Jacek Soplica to Gerwazy, who (finally and with some hesitation) forgives.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The main protagonist seems to be Tadeusz, the first few chapters seem to confirm this... and after a while we discover that the hero of this story is actually father Robak a.k.a. Jacek Soplica, his father.
  • Description Porn: Loads and loads. In 1999 adaptation it transforms into Scenery Porn.
  • Dirty Coward: Major Płut feels confident when arresting hungover gentlemen. When he later gets challenged to a duel, he frantically begs his second-in-command to take up the challenge claiming that, as the commander, he's irreplaceable.
  • Divided We Fall: Father Robak's opinion.
  • Driven to Suicide: Played for Laughs along with some other Romantic tropes. After his breakup with Telimena, Tadeusz feels an "unspeakable desire to drown in mud".
  • Duel to the Death: For an affront to his uncle, Tadeusz challenges the Count. It never has the chance to actually happen.
  • Empathic Environment: While father Robak is dying, there's a rainstorm outside.
  • Foil: Telimena to Zosia - an experienced, slightly vampish Mrs. Robinson who likes all things high and lofty and foreign against a sweet, shy, young homeboding The Ingenue.
    • Captain Rykov, a decent, honorable Russian officer who wants to release the raiders unpunished and later admits that Poland should belong to the Polish, to Major Płut - a Polish renegade who gleefully speaks about hanging, flogging and banishing to Siberia of the "Polish rebels".
  • The Empire: Russia.
  • Food Porn: The feast in the finale, described in detail.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: The Count, to Italy. He also seems to pose as a Dashing Hispanic.
    • Telimena, to Russia. Of course, cosmopolitan Russian upper-class, not Russian folk culture.
    • Averted in case of Tadeusz, the Judge and the whole Soplica family. Telimena ironically lampshades that.
    • According to Podkomorzy, the unconditional admiration for French culture and politics is what led to moral decay and the eventual downfall of Poland.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Zosia, in an idyllic sort of a way.
  • Friendly Sniper: Tadeusz in the final battle.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: Having arrived back home, Tadeusz enters his old room only to walk in on its current resident Zosia dressed only in her nightie - she runs away into the garden.
  • Good-Guy Bar: Jankiel's inn. He sells good drinks at reasonable prices and plays cimbalom better than anyone (supposedly he brought Mazurek Dąbrowskiego from his travels).
    • There is a whole literary theory that his innkeeping business is actually a cover-up for underground patriotic conspiracy and he is in fact Father Robak's second-in-command.
  • Gratuitous Latin: With a tendency to Canis Latinicus. Again, this is typical for Polish noblemen in XVI-XVII century. Example:
    Gerwazy: ogłosić Intromisyją Hrabi do zamku, do dworu\\Sopliców, do wsi, gruntów zasianych, ugoru,\\Słowem, cum gais, boris et graniciebus,\\Kmetonibus, scultetis, et omnibus rebus\\Et quibusdam aliis.
  • Greedy Jew: Defied. The narrator specifically states that while Jankiel likes making an honest buck as much as the next man, his dealings are so scrupulously straight even the most raging anti-semites around have never accused him of being greedy or a cheat.
  • The Grand Hunt: Book IV, "Diplomacy and hunting".
  • He Knows Too Much: Płut. Gerwazy... makes peace with him. Eternal peace.
  • Homeric Simile: Frequent. A bit tongue-in-cheek, though, as this is a comedic (as in, ends well and people fall happily in love) story.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Jacek Soplica was driven to drink by his beloved's father Parental Marriage Veto.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Russian soldiers, both in flashbacks and later in the battle.
    • Although they do manage to kill some Poles in the battle, the most notable being father Robak, they are easily shot one by one by Tadeusz. He demands a duel lest he kill all of them "like wolves in a den". Upon seeing this captain Rykov fearfully tells major Płut to do something or there will be no one left alive.
      • Even more ironic when we realise that we have trained soldiers against a 21-year-old boy who overslept a hunt a day before (Irony taken Up to Eleven: the name of their formation, the jegers, comes from a German word "Jaeger" meaning "huntsman").
  • Improvised Weapon: A cheese storage. Yes, really. See verses 7228-7258.
  • Jews Love to Argue: This trope could be called "Poles Love To Argue". Almost all of main and secondary plots revolve around people arguing. Truth in Television as one of goals Mickiewicz tried to achieve was to soothe bitter squabbles among Polish community in France.
    • Technically averted. Jankiel, the only Jew in the story, tries to take the Count's followers' minds off the raid on the Soplica family's manor.
  • Knife Nut: Wojski.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Jacek Soplica, or father Robak, to Tadeusz. The son isn't told that until the father's death.
  • Meaningful Name: The lady who came up with a better way of keeping fowl is named Kokosznicka, z domu Jendykowiczówna translation .
  • Meaningful Rename: Jacek Soplica, as part of his atoning takes upon himself the surname "Robak" - a worm.
  • Memetic Badass: Napoleon Bonaparte, for both the narrator and the protagonists. Also a result of Author Tract.
    • Also the late competing hunters, Tadeusz Reytan and duke Carl de Nassau are mentioned as this by Wojski.
  • Miles Gloriosus: The Count. He claims to have captured and executed a band of brigands in Sicily. Although he does show his prowess while dueling with captain Rykov, so perhaps Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass?
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Tadeusz, after Tadeusz Kościuszko (who led the insurrection in 1794).
  • Narrative Filigree: Much. The digressions deal with everything from coffee drinking culture to types of mushrooms found in a forest.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Tadeusz, upon inheriting Soplicowo, sets the peasants free. The Count is generally liked and respected because he's this, despite his artistic temperament.
  • Occupiers out of Our Country: Poland under Russian rule, so of course it's constantly lurking in the background. And sometimes getting out - father Robak's working on it all the time.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Of the old Mr. Horeszko against Jacek Soplica, who was keen on marrying his only daughter. Delivered in a particularily cruel way.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Tadeusz and Zosia, set up by Jacek as part of his atoning (the young lady is the daughter of his lost beloved, he's been financing her upbringing).
  • Picnic Episode: The mushroom hunting scene in the book III.
  • Planet of Steves: The Dobrzyński family, where men are named either Bartek or Maciej (their daughters' names are invariably Katarzyna or Maryna). For convenience sake, they use nicknames, usually given after their cool and weird weaponry.
  • Put Their Heads Together: The first, subtle sign of father Robak's badassery is using this trope to put an end to a row between two characters (in book II).
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Upon hearing that there is a bear in the forest, the Judge summons all men to a hunt next day.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Father Robak is embodiment of this trope.
    • Before going to the hunt, all participants attend Holy Mass "to Saint Hubert" (patron saint of huntsmen).
  • Retired Badass: Wojski, Gerwazy (although he does not seem retired at all) and father Robak (who's quite busy working on Occupiers out of Our Country).
  • Revenge by Proxy: Gerwazy hunts the family members of Jacek Soplica, challenging them to duels (or not - he set fire to a building once, because there was a Soplica inside).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After the death of his master, Gerwazy wages his own private war against Soplica family.
  • Romanticism: Gently poked fun at (bear in mind Mickiewicz had written some very lofty Romantic poems) - the Count and Telimena are Idle Rich Romanticists who keep clashing with the prose of life. Still, Tadeusz expresses a very Romantic view on esthetics (Polish cloudy skies are more beautiful than the Italian vast plain blue) which is laughed at by the Count and Telimena.
  • Romantic Comedy: The lovey part of the plot is rather lighthearted, involving mistaken identity and other such sillyness.
  • Romantic False Lead: Telimena for Tadeusz. The Count for Zosia.
  • Screw The Raid, We're Partying!: Aaand then the Russians come. Oops.
  • Shout-Out: Several to The Iliad.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Gerwazy, whose job used to be guarding the castle gates, still does that when there's no-one to open the gates for.
  • Story Within a Story: Apart from Flashbacks, Wojski tells us some of these.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: Telimena suffers this from ants.
  • Taking the Bullet: Father Robak, for the Count, in the final battle. It completes his atonement.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: With Gothic Horror vibes. The Count, upon learning of how the old mr. Horeszko was killed by Jacek Soplica, proclaims a wish that mr. Soplica should have a beautiful daughter he could be Star-Crossed Lovers with. This tells you all you should know about the Count.
  • Token Good Teammate: Captain Rykov, on Russian side.
  • True Art Is Ancient: In-Universe - the Count wants this castle because it's so gothic-looking (he's a Romantic artist).
  • Unreliable Narrator: Gerwazy tells the Count the story of his master's death, but he lacks several crucial details, which we learn alongside him later on.
  • Wartime Wedding: Tadeusz and Zosia get engaged in the ending, while he's wounded during the Russian campaign.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Gerwazy thinks so - courts are so expensive and take forever, after all.
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