With all of the hype surrounding Netflix’s new fantasy adventure series, The Witcher — which drops its first season on Friday, December 20 — you might be wondering “What the heck is a ding dang Witcher ?”
There’s a seemingly endless amount at Fandom’s Witcher wiki to explore, but for those wholly unfamiliar with the tale, we’ll break down the basic, bare-bones premise of the world for you.
As a saga, The Witcher actually began as a Polish fantasy short story series, by Andrzej Sapkowski, which was adapted into three acclaimed video games. The first was released in 2007 on PC while the third, and final, game, 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, was a massive award-winning hit.
Now all of this massive lore is coming to Netflix, with Henry Cavill starring as Geralt of Rivia. The world itself is a fantastical realm filled with kings, queens, rival empires, and all types of sorcery and monsters.
WELCOME TO THE WITCHER
So how does the show introduce us to The Witcher’s complex world? Well, as Cavill himself told Fandom, it does it by “following three characters throughout the show from the beginning.” With each of the central characters — Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri — representing a different aspects, and arenas, of the narrative. “They each have their own different story,” he said, “leading in different directions.” Touching on the themes of “xenophobia, colonialism, politics, love, family, and destiny.”
Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, speaking to Fandom, broke down her approach to bringing Geralt of Rivia to life. “There’s about 3000 pages of books,” she explained. “But the first book that I read was ‘The Last Wish,’ and it’s the one that I absolutely fell in love with. It’s a collection of short stories, and I knew that that’s where I wanted to begin.”
“It’s really the foundation of the world of The Witcher,” she said. “You meet Geralt, you meet a bunch of the monsters, you sort of see how he walks through the world, and eventually you meet Yennefer and Ciri as well. So I knew I wanted to start there.”
GERALT OF RIVIA
It’s only natural that we start with the headliner here. A Witcher. So what’s a Witcher?
“In short,” Cavill explained, “a super-soldier with no political affiliation. Designed to kill monsters.”
A Witcher is a person who’s gone to — well — Witcher school. In Geralt’s case, an old keep called Kaer Morhen. There, the recruits undergo grueling physical and psychological training, as well as intense alchemical mutations that make them sterile, immensely strong, and capable of living far longer than average humans.
Witchers also are granted night vision (via cat-like eyes) along with the ability to perform simple attack magic through the use of “signs” (it requires a free hand to wave). Their go-to weapons are swords – one steel (for humans) and one silver (for monsters).
“Witchers were created to solve a monster problem on the Continent,” Schmidt Hissrich said, “and of course, what happens over time is that the solution becomes a problem itself, and when we find Geralt, people are really hating witchers. People don’t want witchers to be part of the community anymore, and that’s kind of where we find him. Witchers are wanderers. They basically wander the Continent for months at a time and look for coin. Everything they do is about money.”
The life of a Witcher is “mostly having people hate you,” Cavill said. “Living in the mud, living in the woods, maybe the odd drink if you’re lucky. Trying to find a monster, and then killing it, and then hoping you get paid afterwards. But navigating the politics of human emotion and human society.”
YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG
Diving into the more magical aspects of The Witcher, Anya Chalotra plays Yennefer, an abused and impoverished young woman who’s forcefully taken into the sorceress academy at Aretuza on Thanedd Island and harshly trained by Tissaia de Vries.
Chalotra noted to Fandom, “She has elven blood, so she has magical powers. In the series, we see her from the age of 14. Andrzej [Sapkowski] wrote hints of her backstory, and so we’ve just developed that.”
Unlike Game of Thrones, this world’s magic isn’t just something that only some believe in. The Chapter of Sorcerers is a crucial element of the Continent, self-tasked with keeping balance and order among the world of magic – and the world of humans. Partnering with the separate countries, this magic circle assigns their mages out to positions as counselors to the rulers of various kingdoms. It’s their way of keeping an eye on everything while also influencing certain events so that the outcome is in their favor.
It’s probably a good time to mention too that those with magical abilities, like Witchers, have an extended lifespan.
CIRI OF CINTRA
Heading over into the world of politics and war — you know, the awful human stuff — Freya Allan plays Ciri, the princess of Cintra.
“She also has powers,” Allan shared. “And she’s very stubborn, very feisty, got a lot of determination. And she really values her choice.”
The ward of her grandmother, Queen Calanthe, and Calanthe’s second husband, Eist (a Jarl of the viking-like islands of Skellige), Ciri’s life is almost instantly thrown into turmoil thanks to an invading army from the empire of Nilfgaard – powerful enemies from the southern part of the Continent.
How is this type of all-out war able to happen under the eye of the magic council? Well, you’ll have to find out!
While one of The Witcher’s main themes, in any medium the story is presented on, is that monsters are often misunderstood while humanity can be truly monstrous – there are still dozens of types of vicious monsters roaming the Continent. Shown in the image above is a Kikimore, for example.
Vampires, werewolves, wraiths, hags, ghouls, griffins – anything mythological and terrifying that you’ve ever heard of exists in the world of The Witcher. Including curses and hexes and paranormal problems that can only be solved with specific potions and/or the proper weapons. Fortunately, for the ungracious denizens of the land, Witchers are schooled in how to deal with all these nasty monsters.