As Jaskier always says, “You can’t help them. Not after the sword of a witcher.” For one of the most famous people to have studied almost every subject at Oxenfurt Academy, that’s pretty basic knowledge, though.
OK, where did I lose you? If you’re an avid ‘Witcher’ fan, but the only thing that made any sense was “Oxenfurt Academy,” you might be in for a bit of a surprise when the Netflix Witcher series starts streaming later next year – or possibly 2020, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for 2019.
You see, a lot of “avid” Witcher fans are just that thanks to the video games – ‘Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt’ being the go-to for fans since the first two installments were strictly for PCs. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. CD Projekt Red, the developers of the games, created a masterpiece when they released ‘Witcher 3’ and the subsequent DLC expansions, ‘Heart of Stone’ and ‘Blood and Wine.’ The game won more than 150 awards worldwide, which is a nice way to end Geralt of Rivia’s story, as CDPR has said multiple times. No more Geralt video games, unless you count his appearance in the newly-released “Soul Caliber 6” game.
Sad fans might have perked up a bit when they found out a Netflix Witcher series based on the Butcher of Blaviken (hum … how DID he get that nickname, anyway? Hint: Read the short story “The Lesser Evil” in the book “The Last Wish”). Lauren Hissrich, who formerly wrote for such Netflix series as “Daredevil,” “The Defenders,” and Starz’s “Power,” is at the helm of “Witcher,” and has said from the beginning that the show would be based on the books, not the video games.
What’s the big deal, right? I mean, weren’t the games based on the books? The characters are the same, the plot is basically the same, so what’s the big deal? The “big deal,” as it were, is that while we don’t yet know how Hissrich will weave the story, “Witcher” creator Andrzej Sapkowski (who absolutely hates the video games and is in a fight with CDPR because he believes he’s owed an extra $12 million due to the success of “Witcher 3”) wrote seven books – two books of short stories and five novels. Needless to say, the man dubbed the “Polish Tolkien,” has given Hissrich and her team of writers a LOT with which to work.
You still have time to read the books before the series comes out. Or, you could ask your more knowledgeable friends to just give you some info along the way. OR, you could wait to read the books after the first season, just like many folks did after the first season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Before you do any of that, let’s take a look at how the show will probably/definitely differ from the games. Oh, possible spoilers ahead, so you’ve been warned.
Geralt, the Ever-So-Charming Ladies Man
There were a lot of different reactions when it was announced Henry Cavill had been cast to play the titular witcher – everything from, “Yeah, I can see that,” to “NO! DEAR MELITELE, NO! THE MAN CAN’T ACT!” (Writer’s Note: Henry, if you’re reading this, that was them saying that, not me. I’d prefer not to get my ass handed to me by an incredibly buff Brit, thank you very much.) If you’re thinking about how Geralt looks in the video game, OK, if Cavill has long, white hair – with or without matching beard – and the right set of scars, he’d look the part. That’s where a lot of fans draw the line at their support for casting Cavill.
Cavill is more than eye candy, however (even though the books mention Geralt is not the most handsome fella in the room). The former Man of Steel is a huge fan of the Witcher series and actively campaigned for the role of Geralt. Plus, here’s where video game Geralt and book Geralt differ: while he’s a bit of a ladies man in the games (Yennefer or Triss was such a tough choice, plus there were all those brothels) he really isn’t in the books.
True, in the books his fate is tied to Yennefer’s thanks to the events in the short story “The Last Wish,” but they spend much of the books apart, either trying to get away from one another after yet another fight or because they’re off doing different things. As for Triss, well, it can easily be said that Triss is madly in love with Geralt and, while they had one wild romp thanks to some nefarious acts by Triss that really aren’t mentioned much in the books, Geralt honestly doesn’t have any feelings for her one way or another. It’s cold, but it’s true.
Geralt does end up having a few intimate relations, most notably with (surprise!) another sorceress in Fringilla Vigo while he’s pouting in Toussaint, thinking Yennefer has betrayed him all-the-while she’s getting tortured in a dungeon. Ah, good times.
Other notable differences: Geralt sometimes wears a bandana around his head to keep his hair back and, while it might look cool in the video games, Geralt only ever wears a steel sword on back. The silver sword is wrapped up and carried by Roach until Geralt needs it.
Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon and Her ‘Loving’ Father
If you haven’t read the books, this next part might be harder to take than the Trial of the Grasses. Even though it is the “Witcher” series and everything you see says “Witcher,” this is not a story about Geralt. It simply isn’t his story – it’s Ciri’s. From the time Geralt and Ciri’s lives were intertwined thanks to Geralt invoking the Law of Surprise after basically saving Cintra from Ciri’s mother, Pavetta, after her betrothal party, until the final book, it’s Ciri’s story. If you’re confused by any of that, read the short story, “A Question of Price,” in “The Last Wish.” Seriously, you’re going to need to keep up.
In the video games, Ciri isn’t in the picture until “Witcher 3” and even then, Geralt spends half of the game tracking her down. That also happens in the book, but not in the same way. After finally taking her in (he abandons her more than once before realizing he actually cares about her), Geralt brings Ciri to Kaer Morhen where he, Vesemir, Lambert, Eskel, and Coën (who’s not in the game), try to raise her the best way they know how – like she was a witcher in training. She becomes pretty good, too, which is why she is referred to often as “The Witcher Girl.”
Sadly, a young girl is eventually going to turn into a young lady, and when all you have is five guys who know nothing about raising a girl, they’re going to need help. Do they call Yennefer? Nope. Instead, they call Triss. Triss gives the men quite the tongue lashing about the way they’ve treated Ciri, then proceeds to help Ciri deal with, well, puberty.
What isn’t immediately mentioned to Triss is that Ciri has been having episodes … seeing people’s futures, becoming somewhat possessed, stuff easily attributed to being a Child of the Elder Blood. I won’t go into the entire story, just know that at some point Yennefer tries to teach Ciri magic, but Ciri gives it up when she realizes she can’t control the Elder Blood. She also becomes very close to Yennefer, at one point saying she wished she could be Ciri of Vengerberg because she wanted Yennefer to be her mother.
Yet another major difference between the video game and the books? In the game, her father, Emhyr var Emreis, the ruler of Nilfgaard, will do anything to bring Ciri back so that she could sit on the Nilfgaardian throne. That and I guess he cares for her? It’s tough to tell. In the books, however, (SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THEM) you know Ciri’s mother and father were killed when their boat sank in Skellige and Pavetta and Duny (Ciri’s father) were never seen again. Except, that’s not quite right. You see, while Pavetta is indeed dead, Duny is not. If you played the video game and were wondering who this Duny fellow was they kept mentioning in the books, there you go. Duny is Emhyr, and the right bastard does want to find Ciri, but he wants to actually marry her. Yes, he wants to marry his daughter to keep the bloodline strong. Yep, I know.
A Dandelion By Any Other Name
For a little palate cleanser after that last part, I’ll wrap up with this little bit, even though there might be a part two down the road as more information about the show surfaces. The “Witcher” books are actually translated since Sapkowski is Polish and the original books were written in Polish. The troubadour’s name sometimes gets lost in translation.
While the books translated to English – and the video games – call him Dandelion, he is originally called Jaskier in the Polish books. Back in March, while listening to one of the audiobooks (I cannot stand the way the person reading the books pronounces Dandelion) I asked Hissrich if they would be pronouncing it correctly in the show. With a wink and a smile, she said they would be pronouncing the name … correctly. Fans went into a frenzy and she later confirmed yes, they would be calling him Jaskier in the show, not Dandelion.
I promise it will be pronounced… correctly.
— Lauren S. Hissrich (@LHissrich) March 19, 2018
Other notable differences: Dandelion … Jaskier … is not dumb or a sidekick, as he’s played out to be in the video game. In the books, it is mentioned that he studied just about every subject there was at Oxenfurt Academy, even going so far as teaching at the school. In his words, if you’re going to be the best troubadour in the world, you have to know a little bit of everything. Also, Jaskier is in his mid-to-late 40s.
That should be enough to at least soften the blow when the show airs if you haven’t read the books. There are still many other differences – while Yennefer is probably close to 100 or older, Geralt is in his late 50s, according to Sapkowski, while he’s supposed to be closer to Yennefer’s age in the video games. Also, although the Wild Hunt is real, as is the White Frost, neither have any major significance in the books – so again, if there’s interest, we might do a second part to this topic. Until then, for all the Witcher fans out there, good luck on the Path.