The Meaning of Netflix’s The Witcher

At the end of 2019, Netflix launched The Witcher series based on the book series of the same name by Polish science fiction writer Andrzej Sapkowski. Previously, The Witcher universe has already received various incarnations – in the form of a Polish series, fan films and, of course, a multi-part computer game that has become a real legend. Needless to say, with these prerequisites, the Netflix series instantly gained popularity and became one of the most high-profile projects of the year. Thanks to what did The Witcher series significantly replenish the fan base of the Sapkowski universe and what meaning can be found in the plot of the released first season?

Let’s get back to the plot of the show. In December 2019, eight episodes of the first season were released. Their action takes place in three lines of time, which gradually intersect at one point. The main line is dedicated to the witcher Geralt of Rivia, a mutant whose life is spent hunting monsters and making money from it. At the very beginning, Geralt is forced on assignment to kill Renfri, a young princess who has become the leader of the robbers. This predetermines his future fate – from now on he is called the “Butcher from Blaviken”, because in the process of doing his job he made a real massacre in the city.

A little later, Geralt meets the sorceress Yennefer, who becomes his lover. With the help of the genie’s magic, he “binds” her to himself, and they are forced to constantly meet again, no matter how far fate brings them from each other. Yennefer and her formation as a sorceress is dedicated to the second timeline. The viewer will learn how from a helpless hunchback she turns into the greatest sorceress, and also at what cost her strength and beauty were given to her. Like all sorcerers, Yennefer is unable to have children, and over the course of the season, she tries to find a way to get back what she has lost. The third timeline tells of Cirilla, the young princess of Cintra, who is forced to flee her kingdom because of the war with Nilfgaard. Her grandmother, Queen Calanthe, dies after ordering her granddaughter to find Geralt, who is her destiny.

In the future, the viewer learns that many years ago Geralt attended the wedding of Calanthe’s daughter, Pavetta, who wanted to enter into an unwanted marriage with the damned Prince Yozh. The Witcher defended the union of young people, and in return, Jozh, without realizing it, promised to give him his child, who turned out to be Princess Cirilla. A brutal war with Nilfgaard begins, and Cirilla finds herself completely alone on the run. Driven by the desire to find the witcher, she demonstrates the presence of incredible magical abilities. In the last episode of the season, Geralt and Ciri find each other, thus proving that the destiny really exists.

At first glance, The Witcher is a simple fantasy story about the adventures of heroes, battles with monsters and the conquest of beauties. However, important motives run through the entire plot, which we will discuss later. From the very first episode until the end of the season, the viewer is faced with the question of humanity and cruelty. It would seem that Geralt fights various creatures that are definitely evil, and protects people. But every now and then the question arises: who in this world is actually a monster? This dilemma is demonstrated in the story of Princess Renfri: a young girl who is destined to become a murderer and a monster, undergoes experiments on herself all her childhood, isolates her from society, and then takes her to the forest to kill (an attentive viewer will notice in this story the reference towards the tale of Snow White).

All she wants now is to take revenge on her tormentor, the magician, who orders the witcher to kill Renfri. Is it possible to say unequivocally which of them is a real monster: a magician who experimented on a defenseless child, and then orders to get rid of her, or a girl who was forced to become a brutal killer in order to survive? And of course, Geralt himself is often perceived by people as a monster. Despite the fact that he nevertheless completed the task of the magician and killed Renfri, he is driven out of the city, dubbed the “Butcher of Blaviken”. Enchantress Yennefer is responsible for the “women’s issue” in the series. The creators put into her mouth thoughts about the female lot, about the impossibility of choosing one’s destiny, about beauty and ugliness. Her impossibility to have children as a price for power sounds metaphorical: Yennefer can become a leader in the world of men only by giving up her femininity. And of course, one of the most important motives is the power of purpose.

The Witcher Geralt was “promised” Princess Cirilla, and the girl herself, in turn, was born to fulfill a great mission. Yennefer also again and again, driven by the power of destiny, returns to the witcher. “The sword of destiny has two points” – this phrase appears in the plot every now and then, recalling the fatal fate of the characters. The destination will certainly be fulfilled, and it is better not to stand in his way. The finale of the first season proved the truth of this statement: Geralt and Cirilla were able to find each other in the chaos of war. The power of destiny was able to demonstrate that the purpose of a witcher’s life is not in an endless series of murders and orders for monsters, and that everything a person does has its own sacred meaning.

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