The Witcher

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The Witcher
Andrzej Sapkowski - The Last Wish.jpg
Cover of the first book.

The Last Wish (1993)
Sword of Destiny (1992)
Blood of Elves (1994)
Time of Contempt (1995)
Baptism of Fire (1996)
The Tower of the Swallow (1997)
The Lady of the Lake (1999)
Season of Storms (2013)
AuthorAndrzej Sapkowski
CountryPoland
LanguagePolish
GenreFantasy
PublisherGollancz, Orbit Books

The Witcher (Polish: Wiedźmin, Polish pronunciation: [ˈvʲɛd͡ʑmʲin]), 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 (with training and body modification) develop supernatural abilities at a young age to battle deadly beasts. The books have been adapted into a film, a television series, video games, and a graphic novel series. The series of novels is known as the Witcher Saga. The short stories and novels have been translated into numerous languages, including English.

The books have been described as having a cult following in Poland,[1][not in citation given][2] the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and other Central and Eastern European countries.[2]

The video games have been very successful, and as of March 2018, they have sold over 33 million copies worldwide.[3]

Books[edit]

The Witcher short stories were first published in Fantastyka, a Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine, beginning in the mid-1980s. The first short story, "Wiedźmin" ("The Witcher") (1986), was written for a contest held by the magazine and won third place. The first four stories dealing with the witcher Geralt were originally featured in a 1990 short story collection entitled Wiedźmin — now out of print — with "Droga, z której się nie wraca" ("The Road with No Return"), which is set in the world before the Witcher stories and features Geralt's mother to be.

The second published short story collection was Miecz przeznaczenia (Sword of Destiny). Although Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish) was published after Sword of Destiny, it replaced The Witcher as the first book since it included all the stories in The Witcher, except "The Road with No Return" (the only story without Geralt). Although new short stories were added to The Last Wish, they took place before those in Sword of Destiny.

Although "The Road with No Return" and "Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna" ("Something Ends, Something Begins", an alternate ending of the Witcher saga about Geralt and Yennefer's wedding written as a wedding gift for Sapkowski's friends) were later published in 2000 in Something Ends, Something Begins and in 2012 in Maladie and Other Stories (Maladie i inne opowiadania) collections, the other stories in those books are unconnected to the Witcher series. In some Polish editions, "The Road with No Return" and "Something Ends, Something Begins" are added to The Last Wish or Sword of Destiny.

The Witcher stories[edit]

  • Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish) (1993, English edition: 2007) – Note that while The Last Wish was published after Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before Sword of Destiny.
  • Miecz Przeznaczenia (Sword of Destiny) (1992, English edition: 2015)

Saga[edit]

The saga focuses on Geralt of Rivia and Ciri, a child of destiny. Ciri, princess of a recently conquered country and a pawn of international politics, becomes a witcher-in-training. Geralt is drawn into a whirlwind of events in his attempts to protect her.

Standalone novel[edit]

  • Sezon burz (Season of Storms) (2013, English edition: 2018) – Set between short stories in The Last Wish, but containing a few hints on events which follow the original pentalogy.

Non-Witcher anthologies[edit]

In Polish:

  • Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna (Something Ends, Something Begins) (2000) – Stories by Sapkowski, including two Witcher stories: "The Road with No Return" and "Something Ends, Something Begins".
  • Maladie i inne opowiadania (Maladie and Other Stories) (2012) – Stories by Sapkowski, also including "The Road with No Return" and "Something Ends, Something Begins".

In English:

  • Chosen by Fate: Zajdel Award Winner Anthology (2000) - English anthology, by SuperNOVA in cooperation with the Silesian Club of Fantasy Literature, included a translation by Agnieszka Fulińska of "The Witcher" short story entitled "The Hexer". The story also appears, with a different translation, in The Last Wish as well as in A Polish Book of Monsters.
  • A Polish Book of Monsters (2010) – English anthology edited and translated by Michael Kandel, with a translation of "The Witcher" short story entitled "Spellmaker".

Spin-offs[edit]

In 2013, the Polish publishing house Solaris published a collection of eight short stories, Opowieści ze świata Wiedźmina, written by eight Russian and Ukrainian fantasy writers (including Andrei Belyanin and Vladimir Vasilyev) set in the world of The Witcher and/or featuring characters from the saga.[4] In 2017, a similar collection of eleven short stories by eleven authors, chosen through a competition organized in 2016 by the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka, was published by SuperNowa.[5][6][7]

Setting[edit]

Background[edit]

The stories are set on the Continent,[8] which was settled several thousand years earlier by elves from overseas. When they arrived, the elves encountered gnomes and dwarves. After a period of war between the elves and dwarves, the dwarves retreated into the mountains and the elves settled in the plains and forests. Human colonists arrived about five hundred years before the events in the stories, igniting a series of wars. The humans were victorious, and became dominant; the non-human races, now considered second-class citizens, often live in small ghettos within human settlements. Those not confined to the ghettos live in wilderness regions not yet claimed by humans. Other races on the Continent are halflings and dryads; werewolves and vampires appeared after a magical event, known as the Conjunction of the Spheres.

During the centuries preceding the stories, most of the Continent's southern regions have been taken over by the 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 Northern Kingdoms, with a second war beginning in the middle of the series.

Major characters[edit]

Geralt of Rivia (Polish: Geralt z Rivii), known also as Gwynnbleid (Elder Speech: "White Wolf") and the Butcher of Blaviken,[9] is the protagonist of the series and its adaptations. A witcher, he travels the Continent and makes a living hunting monsters that plague the land. Péter Apor argues that he embodies the "neo-liberal anti-politics" spirit of the Polish popular culture of the 1990s.[10]

Yennefer cosplay

Yennefer of Vengerberg (Polish: Yennefer z Vengerbergu) first appeared in the collection of short stories, The Last Wish, featuring in both "The Last Wish" short story and "The Voice of Reason" frame story. She went on to appear in numerous other Witcher stories as the "soul mate" of Geralt and is one of the main characters of the Witcher saga.[citation needed]

Ciri cosplay[11]

Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon (known as Ciri, from the name Zireael in the Elder Speech (meaning "Swallow"; Jaskółka in Polish original), also known as the Lion Cub of Cintra, Child of the Elder Blood, and the Lady of Time and Space), is the princess of Cintra, daughter of Pavetta and Duny (also known as the Urcheon of Erlenwald) and granddaughter of Queen Calanthe. She is also Geralt's and Yennefer's adopted daughter, around whom much of the plot is centered. Ciri is a descendant of Lara Dorren and has the Elder blood which gives her access to powers that allow her to cross space and time. Ciri has ashen grey hair and green emerald eyes, a trait that runs in her family.[citation needed]

Dandelion (Polish: Jaskier) is a poet, minstrel, bard and Geralt's best friend. The Polish word jaskier actually refers to the Buttercup flower (Ranunculus). Some of his more famous ballads were about the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer. By the time of the saga he is already in his 40s though it is said that he appears to be in his 30s and is sometimes mistaken for an elf. He accompanies Geralt in many of the short stories and ends up joining his hansa while searching for Ciri.[citation needed]

Geography[edit]

Although no map of the universe created by Sapkowski has been released, several maps have been created by fans. According to Sapkowski, the existing maps are "mostly accurate" and he uses a version created by Czech translator Stanislav Komárek.[12]

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

The Continent can be divided into four regions. The Northern Kingdoms (where most of the saga takes place) consists of Aedirn, Cidaris, Cintra, Hengfors League, Kaedwen, Kerack, Kovir and Poviss, Lyria and Rivia, Redania, Temeria and Verden and several minor duchies and principalities such as Bremervoord or Ellander. The Nilfgaard Empire occupies most of the area south of the Northern Kingdoms. The eastern part of the Continent, such as the Korath desert, Zerrikania, Hakland and the Fiery Mountains, is mostly unknown. The book series mentions overseas countries with whom the Northern Kingdoms trade, including Zangvebar, Ofir, Hannu and Barsa.[citation needed]

Language[edit]

Sapkowski created a language for the series known as Elder Speech,[13][14] based on English, French, Irish, Latin and other languages. Dialects are spoken on the Skellige Islands and in Nilfgaard. In an interview Sapkowski explained that he wanted the language to be reasonably legible to a reader, to avoid footnotes. As he said: "In my book, I do not want for an orc telling to another orc 'Burbatuluk grabataluk!' to be supplied with a footnote: 'Shut the door, don't let the flies in!'"[15]

Translations[edit]

The stories and novels have been translated into Slovak, Czech, Danish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Finnish, French, Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Swedish, Hungarian, Dutch, Chinese, Georgian,[citation needed] English and Persian.[16]

English translations[edit]

Title Publication date[17] Publisher
The Last Wish
(Ostanie życzenie)

Translated by Danusia Stok

2007 Gollancz
2008 Orbit
Sword of Destiny
(Miecz przeznaczenia)

Translated by David French

2015[18] Gollancz
Orbit
Blood of Elves
(Krew elfów)

Translated by Danusia Stok

2008 Gollancz
2009 Orbit
Time of Contempt (UK)
The Time of Contempt (US)
(Czas pogardy)

Translated by David French

2013 Gollancz
Orbit
Baptism of Fire
(Chrzest ognia)

Translated by David French

2014 Gollancz
Orbit
The Tower of the Swallow (UK)
The Tower of Swallows (US)
(Wieża jaskółki)

Translated by David French

2016[18][19] Gollancz
Orbit
The Lady of the Lake
(Pani Jeziora)

Translated by David French

2017[18] Gollancz
Orbit
Season of Storms
(Sezon burz)

Translated by David French

2018[20] Gollancz
Orbit

The name "Witcher"[edit]

Sapkowski chose wiedźmin as the male equivalent of the Polish word for witch (wiedźma).[21] In his book 2005 book-interview Historia i Fantastyka Sapkowski noted that the word "witcher" is a natural male version of the English word "witch", and implied that the similarity between those two words, as well as between the German terms, was the inspiration coining wiedźmin as a new Polish word.[21] Polish video game designer Adrian Chmielarz claimed to have invented the translation of wiedźmin into English as witcher around 1996-1997.[22]

Although wiedźmin is now usually translated into English as "witcher", an earlier translation of the title was "hexer" (the title of the 2001 film adaptation and the first official English translation in the 2000 short story collection Chosen by Fate: Zajdel Award Winner Anthology)[23]; Hexe and Hexer are the German words for "witch" and "warlock" respectively.[21] CD Projekt used "witcher" for the title of its 2007 English release of the video game,[22] and Danusia Stok used it in her translation of Ostanie życzenie that was published the same year.[24][25] Michael Kandel however used "spellmaker" in his 2010 translation of "Wiedźmin" short story for A Book of Polish Monsters anthology.[26]

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:[27]

  • 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)
  • Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish)
  • Granica możliwości (Border of Ability) – Based on short stories with the same titles
  • Zdrada (Betrayal) – Based on an "unused idea for a short story"[citation needed]

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 CD Projekt Red.[28] The first volume, The Witcher: House of Glass with a cover by Mike Mignola, was published on September 24, 2014.[29] A second comic-book series, The Witcher: Fox Children, was published on December 16, 2015.[30] The third comic-book series The Witcher: Curse of Crows was released on June 21, 2017.[31]

Film and television[edit]

The Hexer is the title of a 2001 film and a 2002 TV series, both directed by Marek Brodzki. Michał Żebrowski played Geralt in both. In several interviews, Sapkowski criticized the screen adaptations: "I can answer only with a single word, an obscene, albeit a short one."[32]

In 2015, Platige Image planned an American film adaptation of the novel series to arrive in 2017.[33] In May 2017 they announced that they would be producing a The Witcher TV series in cooperation with Netflix and Sean Daniel Company, with Tomasz Bagiński as one of the directors and Sapkowski as a creative consultant.[34][35][36] Henry Cavill will be portraying Geralt of Rivia in the Netflix adaptation.[37][38][39][40] On October 10, 2018, it was announced that Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra had been cast as main female characters, Ciri and Yennefer.[41] On October 31, 2018, without that female character Triss with a cast of Anna Shaffer.

Games[edit]

Tabletop role-playing games[edit]

A tabletop role-playing game based on Sapkowski's books, Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni (The Witcher: A Game of Imagination) was published by MAG in 2001. Another tabletop game based on the video games, produced by R. Talsorian Games, was planned for release in 2016[42] but was delayed and finally released in August 2018.[43]

Video games[edit]

In 1996 and 1997 a Witcher video game was being developed by Metropolis Software in Poland, but it was cancelled. The game's director was Adrian Chmielarz, former People Can Fly co-owner and creative director, who coined the translation "The Witcher" during its development. According to Chmielarz, the game would have been a 3D action-adventure game with role-playing elements such as moral choices and experience points.[44] In 2003, Polish video-game developer CD Projekt Red negotiated with Sapkowski for rights to The Witcher, given the languishing work at Metropolis,[45] and released The Witcher, a role-playing game based on the saga in October 2007 for personal computers. It was well-publicized and, although it was the developer's first game, it received critical praise in Europe and North America. The Witcher was published in Poland by CD Projekt and worldwide by Atari. A console version, The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf with the same story and a different engine and combat system, was scheduled for release in fall 2009 but was cancelled that spring.

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.[46] It features a young Geralt as a promising student who has completed his training to become a monster-slayer – a witcher. The Witcher: Versus was a Flash-based multiplayer fighting browser game, developed for CD Projekt Red by one2tribe and released in 2008. In the game, which has been discontinued, players created a character from one of three classes and challenged other players in battle.[citation needed] 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 introduced, a video of the game was leaked;[47] two days later, CD Projekt Red confirmed that it was in development.[48] Assassins of Kings was published in Poland by CD Projekt, by Namco Bandai Games in Europe and by Atari in North America. The game was also distributed digitally through Steam and DRM-free on Good Old Games. CD Projekt Red announced The Witcher: Battle Arena, a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena game for mobile devices, on July 1, 2014.[49] The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released on May 19, 2015, and has become one of the highest-selling games of all time, shipping over ten million copies by March 2016.[50] By March 2018, the series as a whole has sold over 33 million.[51] Geralt appeared as a guest character in the 2018 fighting game, Soulcalibur VI.[52]

In October 2018, Sapkowski sent notice to CD Projekt demanding he be remunerated for sales of The Witcher video games, asking for more than 60 million Polish złoty (more than US$15 million) representing between about 5% and 15% of the game's revenues over the years. Sapkowski had originally provided the license to CD Projekt based on a lump sum payment, but now believes he is due more since the series has become much more successful than expected. CD Projekt stated that while they had met all obligations on the initial acquisition of the license, they will work amicably with Sapkowski's legal representatives to come to a fair outcome for all parties.[53]

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;[54] the other, Wiedźmin: Promocyjna Gra Karciana (The Witcher Promo Card Game) was added to the collector's edition of The Witcher in some countries.[55] A card game, known as "Gwent", was included in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as an in-game activity. A stand-alone game based on it, titled Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, was released in 2018.[56]

Board game[edit]

CD Projekt Red and Fantasy Flight Games released The Witcher Adventure Game, a board game designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek,[57] in 2014[58] in physical and digital forms.[59] The digital version is available on Windows, OS X, Android and iOS.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Novel series
Video game series