The Witcher

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For the video game based on the book series, see The Witcher (video game).
Cover of the American edition of the first Witcher book – The Last Wish

The Witcher (Polish: Wiedźmin) by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski is a series of fantasy short stories (collected in two books, except for two stories) and six novels about the witcher Geralt of Rivia. In Sapkowski's books, witchers are monster hunters who receive special training and have their bodies modified at an early age to provide them with supernatural abilities so they can cope with dangerous monsters. The books have been adapted into a movie and television series, a video game series, and a graphic novel series. The novel series (excluding the short stories) is also called the Witcher Saga (Polish: Saga o Wiedźminie). The Witcher short stories and novels have been translated into several languages. The books The Last Wish, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, and Baptism of Fire have been officially translated into English.


The Witcher series is a series of short stories, at first published in Fantastyka, a Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine. The first short story, "Wiedźmin" ("The Witcher") (1986), was written for a contest held by the magazine, where it won third place. The first four stories of the witcher Geralt – and the story "Droga, z której się nie wraca" ("The Road with No Return"), which took place in the same world, but dozens of years before the witcher stories – were originally collected in a short story collection titled Wiedźmin (out of print and now obsolete; all fifteen short stories were later collected in three books published by superNOWA).

The second short story collection to be published was Miecz przeznaczenia (Sword of Destiny). While The Last Wish collection was published after Miecz przeznaczenia, it replaced Wiedźmin as the first book, as it included all of the stories collected in Wiedźmin except "Droga, z ktorej się nie wraca" (the only one not featuring Geralt). Although new short stories were added in The Last Wish, they took place before the ones in Miecz przeznaczenia.

"Droga, z której się nie wraca", along with "Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna", a non-canon story/alternative ending of the Witcher saga about Geralt and Yennefer's wedding, written as a wedding gift for Sapkowski's friends, were later published in the book Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna. The rest of the stories in this book are not connected to the Witcher series in any way. In some Polish editions, "Droga, z której się nie wraca" and "Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna" are added to either The Last Wish or Miecz przeznaczenia.

The Witcher Stories[edit]

  • Miecz Przeznaczenia (The Sword of Destiny) (1992)
  • Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish) (1993, English edition: 2008). Note that, while "The Last Wish" was published after "The Sword of Destiny," the stories contained in "The Last Wish" take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before "The Sword of Destiny."

The Saga[edit]

The Saga focuses on the story of Geralt of Rivia and Ciri, the Child of Destiny. Ciri, a princess of a recently conquered country, becomes a witcher-in-training, and a key pawn in international politics, and Geralt is pulled into a whirlwind of events in his attempts to protect her.

In non-Witcher anthologies[edit]

  • Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna (Something Ends, Something Begins) (2000) (this collection contains various stories by Sapkowski, including two from the Witcher saga).
  • A Polish Book of Monsters, an English anthology edited and translated by Michael Kandel, contains a unique translation of "The Witcher" short story, translated as "Spellmaker". The same story is found in The Last Wish but a different translation was used. (2010)


Sapkowski's short stories and novels are praised for their ironic sense of humor and subtle anachronisms (e.g. one of the wizards taking part in the Gathering of the Wizards is constantly complaining about "ecological" issues). Sapkowski tries to emphasize the shades of gray in everyone (e.g. one of the local rulers engaged in an incestuous relation with his own sister is shown as a caring father – at least according to the standards of Sapkowski's world).

The universe was never officially named by the writer.

History and races[edit]

The Continent was settled a few thousand years ago by the elves who came from overseas, meeting the gnomes and the dwarves. After a period of elven-dwarven wars, the dwarves retreated to the mountainous regions, and the elves settled in plains and forests. The story repeated itself about five hundred years ago, when human colonists arrived. The humans defeated the older races, and are now the dominant race; the others are considered second-class and often are forced to live in small ghettos inside human settlements, or in the most inhospitable regions of wilderness, not yet claimed by the humans. In addition to elves, gnomes and dwarfs, other notable races on The Continent are the halflings and the dryads. Some other races – such as werewolves or vampires – appeared on The Continent due to a magical event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres.

Over the past several centuries most of the south-west and south-center of The Continent has been taken over by the growing Nilfgaard Empire. The north belongs to the fragmented Northern Kingdoms. The Witcher saga takes places in the aftermath of a major war between the Nilfgaard Empire and the alliance of Northern Kingdoms, and the second war begins in the middle of the series.


Kovir&Poviss COA.svg
Kovir & Poviss
Caingorn COA.svg
Kaedwen COA.svg
Redania COA.svg
Mahakam COA.svg
Aedirn COA.svg
Cintra COA.svg
Temeria COA.svg
Lyria&Rivia COA.svg
Lyria & Rivia
Nilfgaard COA.svg

No official map of the universe created by Sapkowski has been released, but several fan-made maps have been created. Sapkowski has refused to create a map, having stated that the existing maps are 'mostly accurate'. Most recently, a new map was created by CD Projekt for The Witcher video game, and Sapkowski himself was consulted on it.

The Continent can be divided into four regions. The Northern Kingdoms are the area where most of the Saga takes place; they are Aedirn, Cintra, Kaedwen, Kovir, Poviss, Lyria, Rivia, Redania and Temeria. South of the Northern Kingdom lies the Nilfgaard Empire. East of these areas are mostly unknown territories, such as the Korath desert, Zerrikania, Haakland and Zangwebar.


Sapkowski created a special language for the series, called the Elder Speech.[1][2] It is based on English, French, Welsh, Irish, Latin and other languages. One of the most important dialects is the one from the Skellige islands.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Witchers are taken in as children and subjected to potions and martial training for most of their young life. Ultimately, only about 40% of the children survive the final trial and potion.

The process gives a Witcher special powers, such as the use of low-level magical abilities called "Signs", faster movement, quicker reflexes, near-total resistance to disease, increased strength and stamina, and the ability to drink toxic potions that would kill normal people. Also their lifespan was extended. Downside is that witchers become sterile when they pass the trials.

Witchers also wear a magical medallion that will vibrate when magical creatures are nearby.

Witchers typically carry two swords. One is a silver blade; the other is an iron or steel blade, both of which can be made of metal from a meteor. As Geralt of Rivia said to Iola in The Last Wish, "It's said, spitefully, the silver one is for monsters and the iron and steel for humans. But that's wrong. As there are monsters which can be struck down only with a silver blade, so there are those for whom iron is lethal. And, Iola, not just any iron, it must come from a meteorite."


The stories and novels have been translated into Czech, Portuguese, German, Russian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Finnish, French, Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Swedish, Hungarian, Dutch and Chinese.

English translations[edit]

Title Publication date[3] Publisher
The Sword of Destiny
(Miecz przeznaczenia)
May 2015[4] Gollancz United Kingdom
TBA Orbit United States
The Last Wish
(Ostanie życzenie)
2007 Gollancz United Kingdom
2008 Orbit United States
Blood of Elves
(Krew elfów)
2008 Gollancz United Kingdom
2009 Orbit United States
Time of Contempt
(Czas pogardy)
2013 Gollancz United Kingdom
Orbit United States
Baptism of Fire
(Chrzest ognia)
2014 Gollancz United Kingdom
Orbit United States
The Swallow's Tower
(Wieża jaskółki)
2016[4] Gollancz United Kingdom
TBA Orbit United States
Lady of the Lake
(Pani Jeziora)
2017[4] Gollancz United Kingdom
TBA Orbit United States

The name "Witcher"[edit]

The original Polish name for "witcher" is wiedźmin. The English translation preferred by Andrzej Sapkowski was initially "hexer" and is the name used in the international version of the film adaptation. "Hexe" and "Hexer" are the German terms for "witch" and "warlock". However, CD Projekt chose to translate "Hexer" literally to "witcher" in The Witcher computer game, and this version was subsequently used by Danusia Stok in her translation of the book The Last Wish, as well as by Sapkowski himself in the book Historia i Fantastyka. Michael Kandel used "spellmaker" in his translation of the story "Wiedźmin" in 2010.

Alternatively, the word warlock has been used informally in English translations, while "witcher", being a neologism in English (as wiedźmin is in Polish – derived from wiedźma – "witch") arguably describes the uniqueness of Geralt's profession better.


Comic books[edit]

In 1993-1995, Sapkowski's stories were adapted into six comic books by Maciej Parowski (story), Bogusław Polch (art), and Sapkowski himself. They are:

  • Droga bez powrotu (The Road with No Return, based on the short story "Droga, z której się nie wraca")
  • Geralt (based on the short story "Wiedźmin")
  • Mniejsze zło (Lesser Evil, based on a short story of the same title)
  • Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish, based on a short story of the same title)
  • Granica możliwości (Border of ability, based on a short story of the same title)
  • Zdrada (Betrayal, based on an "unused idea for a short story")

On October 11, 2013, Dark Horse Comics announced a comic book series called The Witcher based on the video game series in collaboration with its developer, CD Projekt RED.[5] The first volume, The Witcher: House of Glass, was published in September 2014, cover by Mike Mignola.[6]

Film and television[edit]

The Hexer is the international title of both a 2001 movie and a 2002 TV series, directed by Marek Brodzki, and Michał Żebrowski starring as Geralt.

Sapkowski in several interviews laconically expressed his negative opinion about the films: "I can answer only with a single word, an obscene, albeit a short one."[7]


Tabletop role-playing game[edit]

In 2001 a tabletop role-playing game called Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni (The Witcher: A Game of Imagination), based on Sapkowski's books, was published by MAG.

Video games[edit]

In 1996 and 1997 a Witcher video game was being developed by Metropolis, a development studio in Poland, but was eventually cancelled. The game's director was Adrian Chmielarz, former People Can Fly co-owner and creative director. He coined the translated term "The Witcher" during the development of the game. The game was going to be a 3D action-adventure game with some role-playing game elements like moral choices and experience point system.[8]

A 2007 role-playing video game based on Sapkowski's saga called The Witcher was developed by CD Projekt RED, and was released in Europe on October 26, and the US on October 30. It was advertised far more than its predecessor, and although it was one of CD Projekt's first games, it was received very well by reviewers in both Europe and North America. The game contains mature content. The game is published by CD Projekt itself in Poland, and worldwide by Atari, Inc. (Atari, SA subsidiary). The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, using the same story, but a different engine and combat system was to be released in Fall 2009 for video game consoles. On the 29th of April 2009 the production of the console game was announced to have been halted.

The Witcher: Crimson Trail (Polish: Wiedźmin: Krwawy Szlak), also known as The Witcher Mobile is a mobile phone action game created developed by Breakpoint on the license from CD Projekt in November 2007.[9] It features Geralt in his youth as a promising young student, has just completed his training to become an elite monster slayer – a witcher.

The Witcher: Versus is a Flash-based multiplayer fighting browser game, developed for CD Projekt RED by one2tribe and launched in 2008. The game has you create a character from one of three classes and challenge other players to deadly battles. When you first sign up for Versus, which is tied into your forum account if you have one, you choose from one of three character classes: Witcher, Sorceress and Frightener. This game has been discontinued.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is the sequel to The Witcher, developed by CD Projekt RED. Before Assassins of Kings was officially announced, a video showing the game was leaked on 16 September 2009.[10] On 18 September 2009, CD Projekt RED officially confirmed that the game is in development.[11] The game is published by CD Projekt itself in Poland, by Namco Bandai Games in Europe and by Atari, Inc. (Atari, SA subsidiary) in North America. The Witcher 2 is also distributed digitally through Steam and DRM-free on Good Old Games.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be the third game in the series developed by CD Projekt RED. It is scheduled to be released May 19th, 2015 on "all high-end platforms available", will feature an open world.[12]

As of July 11, 2012, both Witcher games have sold a combined worldwide total of four million units across Windows, Mac, and Xbox 360.[13] As of February 6, 2013, the series has sold over five million copies.[14] As of October 25, 2013 the sales were at six million copies.[15] The franchise has sold more than 8 million copies of both games to date.[16]

On July 1, 2014, CD Project Red announced The Witcher: Battle Arena, a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena game for mobile.[17]

Card games[edit]

Two card games based on CD Projekt's The Witcher video game have been designed by Kuźnia Gier in 2007. One, Wiedźmin: Przygodowa Gra Karciana (The Witcher: Adventure Cardgame) has been published by Kuźnia Gier,[18] while the other, Wiedźmin: Promocyjna Gra Karciana (The Witcher Promo Card Game) is a simpler game added to the Collector's Edition of The Witcher in some countries.[19] CD Projekt has also announced a card game called Gwent will be released alongside The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game as an in game card mini game.[citation needed]

Board game[edit]

A board game titled The Witcher Adventure Game was released in 2014 by CD Projekt RED and Fantasy Flight Games.[20] It was released in both physical and digital form.[21] The digital version is for Windows, OS X, Android and iOS.

In popular culture[edit]

Andrzej Sapkowski's saga has had widespread influence on popular culture, predominantly in Poland and Russia. Many bands in Poland and Russia name songs or themselves after things in the saga. For example: the Polish folk metal band Percival Schuttenbach is named after a gnome from Wiedźmin novels, whilst Russian band Династия (Dinastiya, 'Dynasty') has produced the song "Yennefer" about the love between Geralt and Yennefer. Another Russian group, the sympho-rock band ESSE, created a rock-opera "Road without return" based on Andrzej Sapkowski's saga. A New York-based metal band also took the name "Gwynbleidd", after the name that was given to Geralt of Rivia by the Dryads of Brokilon, meaning "White Wolf".

The books have been described as having a cult following.[22] This is especially prevalent in Poland, but has also spread to Russia and other Eastern European countries. With the release of The Witcher video game series, as well as the subsequent translation of some of Andrzej Sapkowski's works to the English language, the characters and world originally created by the author have recently started to become recognisable in Western Europe and North America.


  1. ^ Marek, Ruszkowski (2004). Wielojęzyczność w perspektywie stylistyki i poetyki. Wydawnictwo Akademii Swiętokrzyskiej. p. 98. ISBN 83-7133-232-7. 
  2. ^ "Projekt słownika Starszej Mowy". Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "superNOWA - Andrzej Sapkowski" (in Polish). 
  4. ^ a b c "Gollancz Acquire Three More Witcher Novels". Gollancz Blog. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  5. ^ "NYCC 2013: THE WITCHER COMES TO DARK HORSE". Dark Horse Comics. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Анджей Сапковский: "Мне пришлось искать свое русло. И я его нашел..."". 
  8. ^ Purchese, Robert (16 June 2014). "The Witcher game that never was". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Witcher: Crimson Trail". GameBanshee. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  10. ^ The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings video leaked, possibly at Destructoid
  11. ^ The Witcher official Facebook page
  12. ^ "March Cover Revealed: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt". Game Informer. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  13. ^ "The Witcher® 3: Wild Hunt". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  14. ^ "The Witcher Franchise Has Now Sold Over 5 Million, First Two Games Being Sold At A Discount « Video Game News, Reviews, Previews and Blog". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  15. ^ Purchese, Robert (25 October 2013). "CD Projekt Red announces 6 million The Witcher sales". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  16. ^ "CD Projekt Red sold 8 million copies of the Witcher". Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (1 July 2014). "The Witcher: Battle Arena is a F2P MOBA for mobile". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "Wiedźmin: Przygodowa Gra Karciana". 
  19. ^ "Gry na zamówienie. Kuźnia Gier. Produkcja i kreacja gier planszowych na zamówienie klienta!". 
  20. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (8 January 2014). "The Witcher gets a board game spin-off". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  21. ^ Purchese, Robert (27 November 2014). "The Witcher Adventure Game has been released". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Ewa Mazierska (2007). Polish postcommunist cinema: from pavement level. Peter Lang. p. 17. ISBN 978-3-03910-529-8. 

External links[edit]

Witcher series