Legends like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have been passed down for centuries. In these tales, magic, medieval romance, political intrigue, and the hearty thrust of the blade and spear provide the backdrop against which larger-than-life characters play out their roles: Mordred, Morgan Le Fay, Merlin, Lancelot, The Lady of the Lake, and even a deathless adversary faced by Arthur’s own nephew, Gawain. Elements of these stories continue to permeate and influence new stories, encouraging our fascination with magic and epic sword and sorcery tales.
A warrior roaming the lands has gained notoriety among the commonfolk. Word of his deeds has spread far, and his approach strikes fear at the heart of the most formidable opponent. Known as the “Butcher of Blaviken” or the “White Wolf,” Geralt of Rivia’s reputation as a killer of men and monsters has earned him appreciation and disdain in equal measure. Better known by his famed moniker The Witcher, Geralt goes where no man dares. He answers bounties and notices posted by the citizens of the continent, calls for aid in ridding their towns of haunting menaces or in breaking curses that trouble the innocent: blood for coin. And in his mastery of the sword— rumours telling of a steel blade for men, a silver blade for non-humans—he is almost unrivaled.
Geralt hails from Kaer Morhen, a once-formidable fortress that in ages past served as a witchers’ settlement. It was a place where, in Geralt’s words, “the likes of me was produced.” Many young witchers used to train rigorously there…but by his own admission, it is not a thing that’s done anymore. In The Last Wish, Geralt and Queen Calanthe talk at length about the process and the possibility of her grandchild becoming a witcher. In Blood of Elves, however, it is revealed that a renegade wizard created the mutagenic elixirs used in the witchers’ rituals which were perfected over time, yet none of the witchers know how to use them. Because of this, few now go through the many challenges, including the Trial of the Grasses and Trials of the Herbs—alchemical processes that would mutate the student (assuming they survive the incredibly painful ordeal) into a witcher. In the past, those that were fortunate to survive the process went through irreversible transformations. Geralt’s own identity changed from that of a human boy to a dispassionate, ruthless warrior with heightened reflexes and an instinct to kill and savage. And yet, despite all of this, there is another, gentler side to the Witcher, one which would refrain from striking down non-humans deemed innocent and peaceful. To those that know him, those that call him friend, he is also champion of the downtrodden, some of whom see him as their defender.
Read on to discover where to start with The Witcher, and the basics you’ll need to know in the lead-up to the new, highly anticipated Netflix television series.
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