The Witcher – Books, Games, or TV Series?

    The Witcher has enchanted viewers since its first appearance on the small screens, and fans are already waiting for the next season, which is said to come out in early 2021. But, although very successful, the series has made some differences from the book series, as expected, some of them being from the point of view of the timeline as well as of the narrative perspective of the characters. Thus, three big differences between the books and the series are found in the story of the three main characters – the Witcher, known as Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Ciri.

    Andrzej Sapkowski – author of The Witcher

    The books, written by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, first appeared in a Polish fantasy magazine in the ’80s, under the form of short stories. Although winning only the 3rd place in the competition, the stories captivated a large audience, which led to Andrzej publishing them in full novels in 1993. The books translated into English appeared only later, in 2007, by Danusia Stok (the first two), and by David French (the third one).

    The books eventually turned into a series of videogames, the first one being released in 2007. The main story presents Geralt, or The Witcher, whose purpose is to fight beasts and monsters that threaten the people; as well as protecting Ciri, a princess who escaped from the hands of those who conquered her country.

    Lauren Schmidt Hissrich – the producer of the Netflix series

    If in the sourcebooks we have an approach to what happened from the point of view of Geralt of Rivia, in the series, the producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, gives the main characters a clear line of events, so that the viewer can understand the past and what led to present events.

    Lauren at MCM Comic Con London
    Ciri in the Netflix series

    The second difference is given by Ciri’s powers, which, in the books, are revealed much later, while in the series, we can see them from the first episode. In addition, she is given the company of Dara, an elf boy, who does not appear in the books at all. Asked why she created a new character, Lauren said at MCM Comic Con London that he was vital, a crucial character who “keeps her (Ciri) going.”

    Thus, the third and biggest difference is regarding Yennefer, because the story of her life is vaguely described in the books, even then, usually from Geralt’s perspective, while in the series the narrative thread of her life is complex, clear and explanatory. Furthermore, the series creates a link between Yennefer’s infertility and her desire for transformation, while in the books infertility comes from a completely different reason.

    Yennefer in the Netflix series

    But looking from another perspective, successful books were first transformed into a series of games known worldwide. They appeared in 3 stages: The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as Andrei said, a young man who played the games since their beginning. When asked what he thinks are the main differences between the TV series and the video games, he mentioned the way the series are built, as they are very rushed, compared to the video games: “There is a lot more information in them, even though they are video games and not the books themselves. All of this makes you more attached to the characters, as you get to know them way better.”

    Another difference that occurred in the series, and which Andrei thinks is a shortcoming, is given by all the diversity and multitude of little stories that appeared in the video games, which described the people: “Other than the main characters, there are so many stories that present the villagers; their stories, curses or fights. Not just one story – the main one – every each of them is different and exciting!”. He then continued: “Even with the main character, a fact I totally disagree with! You don’t see him hunting that much as it does in the books and video games. In the universe of the Witcher there are a lot of magical creatures, and spirits. There is a little story in every hunt he does – one of the most beautiful things about him.”

    Image from The Wither 3 video game

    When asked what he thinks about the difference regarding how characters look and act in the series, Andrei declared himself disappointed: “Playing the games, as they are so diverse and detailed, is like reading a good book or watching a really good movie: you get very attached to the characters. The way I knew Ciri and Yennefer from the videogames compare to the series left a bad taste in my mouth – especially Yennefer, as in the games she looks more mature and tougher compared to series where she seems stuck at the level of an angry teenager. The same with Ciri – she is way more complex, while in the series they made her a bit annoying. I don’t think they got the actress right; she seems too young. They look way better in the games.”

    Ciri in the Netflix series (left) and in the video game (right)
    Yennefer in the video game (left) and Netflix series (right)

    Even though the Witcher, as all the fans agreed, is more attractive in the TV series, Andrei, while agreeing, still prefers the one from the video games: “you get to know more about him and get even more attached because you understand why he does what he does, how he feels and what he thinks.”

    Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher) – Netflix series (left) and video game (right)

    Although different from the essence of the books, the series The Witcher is one that captivated and enchanted people in its spell, through the intensity of the characters, the interweaving of their lives and by bringing to life a magical and frighteningly beautiful and mysterious world, just as the video games did for so many years, and the books, from the very first pages, in the minds of their readers.