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 fantasy series of short stories and novels about the witcher Geralt of Rivia. In Sapkowski's books, "Witchers" are monster hunters who (through special training and body modification) develop supernatural abilities at a young age in order to battle deadly 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 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.

Books[edit]

The short stories in The Witcher series were 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 featured in a short story collection titled Wiedźmin, published in 1990 (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 was published after Miecz przeznaczenia, it replaced Wiedźmin as the first book, as it included all of the stories collected in Wiedźmin, excluding "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" (Something Ends, Something Begins), a non-canon story/alternate ending of the Witcher saga about Geralt and Yennefer's wedding written as a wedding gift for Sapkowski's friends, was later published in the book Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna. The rest of the stories in this book are unconnected to the Witcher series. 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 English edition: 2015)
  • 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 and a key pawn in international politics, becomes a Witcher-in-training. 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 (2010) – 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 with a different translation.

Setting[edit]

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 relationship with his sister is shown as a caring father – at least according to the standards of Sapkowski's world).

Sapkowski has never given an official name for the universe.

History and races[edit]

The Continent (where the stories take place) was settled a few thousand years prior to the stories by elves who came from overseas. Upon arriving on The Continent, the elves encountered the gnomes and the dwarves. After a period of war between the elves and the dwarves, the dwarves retreated into the mountainous regions of The Continent, and the elves settled in the plains and forests. Human colonists arrived about five hundred years prior to the stories' events, igniting a series of wars between the humans and the other races. The humans, victorious over the older races, became dominant. The non-human races are now considered second-class citizens in human societies and are often forced to live in small ghettos within human settlements. Those not confined to the ghettos are forced to settle in the most inhospitable regions of wilderness not yet claimed by the humans. In addition to elves, gnomes, and dwarves, other notable races on The Continent are the halflings and the dryads. Some other races – such as werewolves and vampires – appeared on The Continent due to a magical event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres.

Over the several centuries preceding the stories, most of The Continent's southern regions have been taken over by the growing Nilfgaard Empire. The north belongs to the fragmented Northern Kingdoms. The Witcher saga takes place in the aftermath of the first major war between the Nilfgaard Empire and the alliance of Northern Kingdoms, with a second war beginning in the middle of the series.

Geography[edit]

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

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, CD Projekt created a map for The Witcher video game, with Sapkowski himself consulting on it.

The Continent can be divided into four regions. The Northern Kingdoms, where most of the Saga takes place, consists of Aedirn, Cintra, Kaedwen, Kovir, Poviss, Lyria, Rivia, Redania, and Temeria. The Nilfgaard Empire takes up most of the area south of the Northern Kingdoms. The eastern part of The Continent is mostly unknown territory, such as the Korath desert, Zerrikania, Haakland, and Zangwebar.

Language[edit]

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, abilities and equipment[edit]

Witchers are taken in as children and subjected to a regimen of potions and ruthless martial training for most of their childhood. Ultimately, only about 5% of the children survive the trials to become full-fledged Witchers. Witchers-to-be are, once reaching maturity, subjected to the Trials; these include the Trial of the Grasses, the Trial of the Dreams, and the Trial of the Mountains. Those who react exceptionally well to the trials are subjected to further mutations and experiments, at the risk of an almost 100% mortality rate. Geralt is the only Witcher known to survive these additional experiments.

The process of the Trials gives a Witcher special powers, such as the use of low-level magical abilities called "Signs," faster movement and quicker reflexes, near-total resistance to disease and poisons, increased strength and stamina, and the ability to drink toxic potions that would kill normal people. In addition to these benefits, a Witcher's lifespan is also extended. One of the downsides to Witcher training is that it causes sterility in the participants.

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

Witchers typically carry two swords. One blade is silver, while the other is usually iron or steel. Both blades must be made of metal taken 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."

Translations[edit]

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]

See also: vedmak

The original Polish name for "witcher" is wiedźmin. The English translation preferred by Andrzej Sapkowski was initially "hexer." "Hexer" was 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. Danusia Stok subsequently used this version in her translation of the book The Last Wish. Sapkowski himself used the term "witcher" in his own 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), arguably describes the uniqueness of Geralt's profession better.

Adaptations[edit]

Comic books[edit]

From 1993 to 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 and made in collaboration with its developer, CD Projekt RED.[5] The first volume, The Witcher: House of Glass, was published in September 2014, with a 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, both directed by Marek Brodzki. Michał Żebrowski starred as Geralt in both the film and television series. In several interviews, Sapkowski laconically expressed his negative opinion of the screen adaptations: "I can answer only with a single word, an obscene, albeit a short one."[7]

Games[edit]

Tabletop role-playing game[edit]

In 2001 a tabletop role-playing game based on Sapkowski's books called Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni (The Witcher: A Game of Imagination) 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, such as moral choices and an experience point system.[8]

In 2007, Polish video game developer CD Projekt RED released a role-playing video game based on Sapkowski's saga called The Witcher. The Witcher was released in Europe on October 26, and the US on October 30 for Windows and OS X. It was advertised far more than its predecessor and, although it was CD Projekt's first game, it received critical acclaim in both Europe and North America. The game was published in Poland by CD Projekt, and published worldwide by Atari, Inc. (Atari, SA subsidiary). A console version, The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, using the same story, but a different engine and combat system, was scheduled for release in the fall of 2009. On April 29, 2009, it was announced that production had been halted.

The Witcher: Crimson Trail (Polish: Wiedźmin: Krwawy Szlak), also known as The Witcher Mobile is a mobile phone action game created by Breakpoint on license from CD Projekt in November 2007.[9] It features Geralt in his youth as a promising young student who 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. In the game, players create a character from one of three classes and challenge other players to deadly battles. This game has since been discontinued.

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

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, scheduled for release on May 19, 2015, will be the third game in the series developed by CD Projekt RED. It will feature an open world.[12]

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

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

Card games[edit]

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

Board game[edit]

In 2014, CD Projekt RED and Fantasy Flight Games released a board game titled The Witcher Adventure Game.[20] It was released in both physical and digital forms.[21] The digital version is available on Windows, OS X, Android and iOS platforms.

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 the Wiedźmin novels. The Russian band Династия (Dinastiya, 'Dynasty') has a song called "Yennefer" about the love between Geralt and Yennefer. Another Russian group, the symphonic rock band ESSE, created a rock opera "Road Without Return" based on Sapkowski's saga. New York metal band Gwynbleidd took its name from a nickname 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 English, the characters and world of The Witcher have recently started to become recognizable in Western Europe and North America.

References[edit]

  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. ^ https://www.darkhorse.com/Books/24-218/The-Witcher-Volume-1-TPB
  7. ^ "Анджей Сапковский: "Мне пришлось искать свое русло. И я его нашел..."". fantlab.ru. 
  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". Thewitcher.com. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  14. ^ "The Witcher Franchise Has Now Sold Over 5 Million, First Two Games Being Sold At A Discount « GamingBolt.com: Video Game News, Reviews, Previews and Blog". Gamingbolt.com. 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". bankier.pl. 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". gildia.pl. 
  19. ^ "Gry na zamówienie. Kuźnia Gier. Produkcja i kreacja gier planszowych na zamówienie klienta!". grynazamowienie.pl. 
  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
Games