The Witcher (Polish: Cykl wiedźmiński) by Andrzej Sapkowski is a series of fantasy short stories (collected in two books, except for two stories) and five novels about the witcher Geralt of Rivia. The books have been adapted into a movie and two television series (The Hexer and Netflix's The Witcher), a video game series (The Witcher), a comic book and others. The novel series (excluding the short stories) is also called the Witcher Saga (Polish: saga o wiedźminie) or the Blood of the Elves saga.
Note: For books not yet translated into English, approximate translations are given in parentheses.
Short story collections
- The Last Wish (Ostatnie życzenie) (1993, English edition: 2007)
- Sword of Destiny (Miecz przeznaczenia) (1992, English edition: 2015; while the book was first to be published, it collects later short stories and takes place later than The Last Wish)
- Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna (Something Ends, Something Begins) (2000) - only two of the series are set in the Witcher world, and only one of them is canon
Witcher saga novels
- Blood of Elves (Krew elfów) (1994, English edition: 2009)
- Time of Contempt (Czas pogardy) (1995, English edition: 2013)
- Baptism of Fire (Chrzest Ognia) (1996, English edition: 2014)
- The Tower of the Swallow (Wieża Jaskółki) (1997, English edition: 2016)
- The Lady of the Lake (Pani Jeziora) (1999, English edition: 2017)
- Season of Storms (Sezon burz) (2013, English edition: 2018)
The Witcher series started as a series of short stories, at first published in Fantastyka, a Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine. The first short story, "Wiedźmin" ("The Witcher") (1986), was written for a contest held by the magazine, where it won third place. The first four stories of the witcher Geralt — and the story "Droga, z której się nie wraca" ("The Road with No Return"), which took place in the same world, but dozens of years before the witcher stories — were originally collected in a short story collection titled Wiedźmin (out of print and now obsolete; all fifteen short stories were later collected in three books published by superNOWA.)
The second short story collection to be published was Sword of Destiny. While The Last Wish was published after it, it replaced Wiedźmin as the first book, as it included all of the stories collected in Wiedźmin except "Droga, z ktorej się nie wraca" (the only one not featuring Geralt). Although new short stories were added in The Last Wish, they took place before the ones in Sword of Destiny.
"Droga, z której się nie wraca", along with "Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna", a non-canon story about Geralt and Yennefer's wedding, written as a wedding gift for Sapkowski's friends, were later published in the book Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna (Something Ends, Something Begins). The rest of the stories in this book are not connected to the Witcher series in any way. In some Polish editions, "Droga, z której się nie wraca" and "Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna" are added to either The Last Wish or Sword of Destiny.
The stories and novels have been translated into Dutch, Bulgarian, Czech, Serbian, Swedish, Russian, German, Italian, Lithuanian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian and Slovak. An English translation of The Last Wish, the first short story collection, was published in the United Kingdom by Gollancz in 2007 and in the United States by Orbit in 2008. Gollancz decided to skip Sword of Destiny, the second short story collection, and publish Blood of Elves, the first novel in the Witcher Saga in the United Kingdom directly after The Last Wish, even though the short stories in this collection take place earlier and introduce some of the characters that become major characters in the novels. Blood of Elves was published in 2009 by Orbit in the United States. As of 2018, all eight books (not including Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna, as it only partially features the Witcher world) have been translated into English.
The name "witcher"
The original Polish name for "witcher" is "wiedźmin". The English translation preferred by Andrzej Sapkowski was initially "hexer" and is the name used in the international version of the film adaptation. However, CD Projekt chose to translate it to "witcher" in The Witcher, and this version was subsequently used by Danusia Stok in her translation of the book The Last Wish, as well as by Sapkowski himself in the book Historia i fantastyka.
Alternatively, the word warlock has been used informally in English translations, while "witcher", being a neologism in English (as wiedźmin is in Polish) arguably describes better the spirit of Geralt's profession.
In the Witcher fictional universe, "witcher" was a derogatory term constructed from the word "witch" (an exact translation of Polish word "wiedźma") and used by the sorcerers to describe males with limited magical ability.
Setting and story
Both short stories and novels are widely claimed by fans to be blockbusters of Polish fantasy. Geralt's stories are praised for their slightly ironic sense of humor and subtle links to modern culture (e.g. one of the wizards taking part in the Gathering of the Wizards is constantly complaining about "ecological" issues). Moreover, quite contrary to the classical fantasy scheme, there is no black-white partitioning. On the other hand, Geralt's world is not a typical dark-fantasy. Sapkowski tries to emphasize the scale of grays in everyone (e.g. one of the local rulers engaged in incestous relation with own sister shows as caring father — at least according to Geralt's world standards).
The Blood of Elves series proper consists of the five novels about Geralt, in which Sapkowski links together the plotlines begun in the short stories, and adds new ones. Apart from Geralt himself, another central character is Princess Ciri. Their story is set against the background of the struggle of the Northern Kingdoms against the Nilfgaardian Empire.
Comic booksFor the main article, see The Witcher (comics).
- Droga bez powrotu (The Road with No Return, based on the short story "Droga, z której się nie wraca")
- Geralt comic (based on the short story "Wiedźmin")
- Mniejsze zło (Lesser Evil, based on a short story of the same title)
- Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish, based on a short story of the same title)
- Granica możliwości (The Limits of possibility, based on a short story of the same title)
- Zdrada (Betrayal, based on an "unused idea for a short story")
In 2011, two-issue miniseries titled Reasons of State was published by Egmont. It was not based on any of the novels or short stories but contained new adventures of Geralt. It was written by Michał Gałek, illustrated by Arkadiusz Klimek and colorized by Łukasz Poller. It is part of CD Projekt's The Witcher franchise.
In 2014, a new series of comic books, written by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Joe Querio and published by Dark Horse Comics was started. While the first storyline, House of Glass, is an original story, the second one, Fox Children, is an adaptation of one of the chapters of Andrzej Sapkowski's Season of Storms novel. Third, called Curse of Crows is an original story continuing The Witcher 3.
Film and television
The Hexer is the international title of both a Wiedźmin movie (2001) and television series (2002) directed by Marek Brodzki, written by Michał Szczerbic, and produced by Lew Rywin. The role of Geralt was played by Michał Żebrowski, and the music was composed by Grzegorz Ciechowski. The film was essentially the then-unreleased TV series chopped into about 2 hours, and received very poor reviews from both fans and critics.
The 13-episode TV series came out the following year. The series was much more coherent than the confusing movie, but was still considered a failure. The TV series has been unofficially released with English subtitles on the Internet.
In 2001 a pen and paper role-playing game called Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni (The Witcher: A Game of Imagination), based on Sapkowski's books, was published by MAG.
CD Projekt game seriesFor the main article, see CD Projekt's The Witcher franchise.
A 2007 computer role-playing game based on Sapkowski's saga called The Witcher was developed by CD Projekt, and was released in Europe on October 26, and the US on October 30. It was advertised far more than its predecessor, and although it was CD Projekt's first game, it was received very well by reviewers in both the EU and the US, and was considered very successful. CD Projekt utilized the large gap between the graphical capabilities of high-end PC hardware and the then current generation of consoles to provide a gaming experience beyond what consoles could support at the time.
The computer game's plot is set 5 years after the end of Lady of the Lake (the last book of the series). The sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, was released in May 2011. The latest game in the Witcher series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, was released in May 2015.