The Witcher (Polish: Wied?min, Polish pronunciation: ['vdm?in]) is a fantasy series of novels and short stories written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The series revolves around the titular "witcher", Geralt of Rivia. In Sapkowski's works, "witchers" are beast hunters who develop supernatural abilities at a young age to battle wild beasts and monsters. The books have been adapted into a film (The Hexer), two television series (The Hexer and The Witcher), a trilogy of video games (The Witcher, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt), 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, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.
The books have been described as having a cult following in Poland and in Central and Eastern European countries. The video games have been very successful, and as of March 2018, they have sold over 33 million copies worldwide.
The Witcher short stories by the author Andrzej Sapkowski were first published in Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine Fantastyka, beginning in the mid-1980s. The first short story, "Wied?min" ("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 of Rivia were originally featured in a 1990 short story collection titled Wied?min (The Witcher) -- now out of print -- with "Droga, z której si? nie wraca" ("The Road with No Return"), which is set before the Witcher stories and features Geralt's mother-to-be.
The second published short story collection was Sword of Destiny (orig. Miecz przeznaczenia). Although The Last Wish (orig. Ostatnie ?yczenie) 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 "Co? si? ko?czy, co? si? 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 Last Wish (orig. Ostatnie ?yczenie, 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.
The saga focuses on Geralt of Rivia and Ciri, who are linked by 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.
Co? si? ko?czy, co? si? 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, not to be confused with the English e-book sampler of the same name) (2012) - Stories by Sapkowski, also including "The Road with No Return" and "Something Ends, Something Begins".
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 Fuli?ska 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".
Maladie and Other Stories (2014) - English e-book sampler with a translation of "The Witcher" and "The Edge of the World" short stories, and also the first chapters of Blood of Elves and Baptism of Fire.
In 2013, with Sapkowski's permission, the Polish publishing house Solaris published a collection of eight short stories, Opowie?ci ze ?wiata Wied?mina, 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. In 2017, Szpony i k?y, 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.
The stories are set on an unnamed Continent, 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.
Geralt of Rivia (Polish: Geralt z Rivii), known also as Gwynnbleid (Elder Speech: "White Wolf") and the Butcher of Blaviken, is the protagonist of the series and its adaptations. A witcher, who travels the Continent and makes a living hunting monsters that plague the land. He is linked to Ciri by destiny. Péter Apor argues that he embodies the "neo-liberal anti-politics" spirit of the Polish popular culture of the 1990s.
Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon (known as Ciri, from the name Zireael in the Elder Speech (meaning "Swallow"; Polish: Jaskó?ka)), 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 destiny and 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. In Polish 2002 film and 2002 TV series she was played by Marta Bitner [pl].
Yennefer of Vengerberg (Polish: Yennefer z Vengerbergu) first appeared in the collection of short stories, The Last Wish, featuring in the short story of the same name. She becomes Geralt's lover. In Polish 2002 film and 2002 TV series she was played by Gra?yna Wolszczak.
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. He is played by Joey Batey in The Witcher TV series. In the 2001 Polish Wied?min he was played by Zbigniew Zamachowski.
Triss Merigold of Maribor, a sorceress and a friend of Geralt and Yennefer. She took care of Ciri for some time and is like an older sister to her. She was member of the Lodge of Sorceresses. Triss is in love with Geralt. The image of Triss Merigold from The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings appeared as cover girl in the Polish edition of Playboy in May 2011. She also appeared in a live model calendar for the game in Russia.
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.
Kovir & Poviss
Lyria & Rivia
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.
Sapkowski created a language for the series known as Elder Speech, based on Welsh, 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!'"
The stories and novels have been translated into various languages, including Slovak, Czech, Danish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Finnish, French, Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Swedish, Hungarian, Dutch, Chinese, Georgian, English and Persian.
The name "Witcher"
Sapkowski chose wied?min as the male equivalent of the Polish word for witch (wied?ma). 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 wied?min as a new Polish word. Polish video game designer Adrian Chmielarz claimed to have invented the translation of wied?min into English as witcher around 1996-1997.
Although wied?min 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);Hexe and Hexer are the German words for female and male 'witch' respectively.CD Projekt used "witcher" for the title of its 2007 English release of the video game, and Danusia Stok used it in her translation of Ostatnie ?yczenie that was published the same year.Michael Kandel however used "spellmaker" in his 2010 translation of "Wied?min" short story for A Book of Polish Monsters anthology.
The Hexer is the title of a 2001 film and a 2002 TV series, both directed by Marek Brodzki. Micha? ?ebrowski 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."
In 2015, Platige Image planned an American film adaptation of the novel series to arrive in 2017. 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 Bagi?ski as one of the directors and Sapkowski as a creative consultant.Henry Cavill portrays Geralt in the Netflix adaptation. On 10 October 2018, it was announced that Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra had been cast as main female characters, Ciri and Yennefer. The first season released on 20 December 2019, with all eight episodes available. A second season was announced on 13 November 2019. On 23 January 2020, Netflix confirmed that an animated film with a new story was in the works. The film, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, features series showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and series writer BeAu DeMayo involved. Animation production would be provided by Studio Mir.
Tabletop role-playing games
A tabletop role-playing game based on Sapkowski's books, Wied?min: Gra Wyobra?ni (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 but was delayed and finally released in August 2018.
In 2003, Polish video-game developer CD Projekt Red negotiated with Sapkowski for rights to The Witcher, given the languishing work at Metropolis, 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 canceled that spring.
The Witcher: Crimson Trail (Polish: Wied?min: 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. 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.
Promotional models dressed as Geralt and Triss at IgroMir 2010
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is the sequel to The Witcher, developed by CD Projekt Red. On 16 September 2009, before Assassins of Kings was introduced, a video of the game was leaked; two days later, CD Projekt Red confirmed that it was in development.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.
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 z?oty (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. By February 2019, CD Projekt worked out a settlement agreement that would provide Sapkowski additional royalties for their video game series, though not as great as those Sapkowski had asked for, as to maintain a working relationship with the author for future Witcher projects. The settlement was finalized by December 2019.
In 2007, Ku?nia Gier developed two card games based on CD Projekt's The Witcher video game. One, Wied?min: Przygodowa Gra Karciana (The Witcher: Adventure Cardgame), was published by Ku?nia Gier; the other, Wied?min: Promocyjna Gra Karciana (The Witcher Promo Card Game) was added to the collector's edition of The Witcher in some countries. A card game, known as "Gwent", was included in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as an in-game activity. Two stand-alone games based on it, titled Gwent: The Witcher Card Game and Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, were released in 2018.
CD Projekt Red and Fantasy Flight Games released The Witcher Adventure Game, a board game designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, in 2014 in physical and digital forms. The digital version is available on Windows, OS X, Android and iOS.