The seven short stories that set up the world of the Witcher. The six stories are wrapped in the seventh one and together give us the background of what’s to come. We get to meet the majority of our main protagonists but also on their own the stories hold. Each of them a gem in its own right, on one hand, a typical fantasy adventure on the other, like the best of the kind, makes us consider who really is the bad guy here. And they’re always cheered up by the unfailing Dandelion.
While on vacation in Poland in August I decided to go back to the whole series. The last time I read it was probably twenty years ago, and with the second season of the series upcoming it was time for a refresh.
The short stories in this collection were used as a base of the first season of the series, with some additions. And now after rereading them I can somewhat sympathize with people who were confused completely by the timeline of the series. It really is not easy to get your head around it, not reading the books.
We meet Geralt as he’s recovering from his wounds at Melitele’s temple in Ellander, under the watchful eye of Nenneke. As he drifts in and out of consciousness he has flashbacks of the past and they form the remaining six stories. Throughout them, we learn what does it mean to be a witcher, including the risks potions etc. But also get the initial feel of the world in which Geralt operates. Which may somehow resemble the collective imagination of Europe in the middle ages, just with some monsters thrown in.
I was wondering what makes those stories so appealing, both back then and now. And I think it’s the fact that no matter what costume we put on them they are ultimately stories about people. How they interact, but also how they often misunderstand one another and are unable to talk but jump to action that ends in violence.
There is also no way to ignore Sapkowski’s great storytelling skill. He can built-up tension and then deal with it swiftly. His language is often sarcastic, but it is visible that our witcher also cares about many things. We see how his relationship with Dandelion develops, but also how easily Geralt is seduced by other outcasts, looking for familiarity.
Of course most important of all we learn the story of the Lioness of Cintra and her daughter Pavetta. With Geralt in some very uncomfortable clothing. When you think of is all those stories have a monster at heart, but often the monster is simply misunderstood. And it constantly makes us question whether the next monster we see is an embodiment of chaos or are the people hunting it down the evil ones.
It is also the question that, as predicted by his friends, will become Geralt’s downfall. The witchers are not supposed to sit and consider moral complications, they’ve been mutated for one purpose only, to kill monsters. So with a sigh that’s what Geralt is doing most of the time.
It was a fun ride down memory lane, I am happy to report that the stories aged well and are still as entertaining as ever. At the same time, their focus on the outcasts shows lots of sensitivity to the plight of the weaker.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska