The Witcher series (Polish: cykl wiedźmiński) by Andrzej Sapkowski is a set of fantasy short stories (collected in two books, except for two stories) and six novels about the witcher Geralt of Rivia. The books have been adapted into a movie and two television series (The Hexer and The Witcher), a computer game franchise by CD Projekt, comic books and other media. The novel series (excluding the short stories) is also called the Witcher saga (Polish: saga o wiedźminie) or the Blood of Elves saga.
- 1 The books
- 2 Publishing history
- 3 Setting and story
- 4 Adaptations
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: 2008)
- Time of Contempt (Czas pogardy) (1995, English edition: June 2013)
- Baptism of Fire (Chrzest ognia) (1996, English edition: March 2014)
- The Tower of the Swallow (Wieża Jaskółki) (1997, English edition: May 2016)
- The Lady of the Lake (Pani Jeziora) (1999, English edition: March 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 collection was published after Sword of Destiny, 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 those 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. 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 Bulgarian, Czech, Serbian, Swedish, Russian, German, Italian, Lithuanian, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Finnish. An English translation of Ostatnie życzenie (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 initially decided to skip Sword of Destiny (Sword of Destiny, the second short story collection) and publish Krew elfów (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. In 2015, Gollancz finally decided to publish Sword of Destiny, timing it to coincide with the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
After a slow start, and a new translator, the rest of saga began to be translated. Time of Contempt was published in 2013, Baptism of Fire in 2014, The Tower of the Swallow in 2016, and The Lady of the Lake in 2017.
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 The Witcher computer game, 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 the spirit of Geralt's profession better.
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 (where all characters are more or less evil). Sapkowski tries to emphasize the scale of grays in everyone (e.g. one of the local rulers engaged in incestuous relation with his own sister is shown as a 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.
- Droga bez powrotu (The Road with No Return, based on the short story "Droga, z której się nie wraca")
- Geralt (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 and was released in 2011. 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. It is also based on the CD Projekt video game franchise.
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 initially considered a failure. It has since achieved cult status. 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 series
Polish publisher CD Projekt developed a 2007 computer role-playing game based on Sapkowski's saga called The Witcher, releasing the title in Europe on October 26, and the US on October 30. Although it was CD Projekt's first game, it received very positive reviews in both Europe and the US. It was considered very successful, especially for a PC-only title.
The computer game's plot is set 5 years after the end of The Lady of the Lake (the last book of the series). The sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, was released in May 2011. The third and final chapter in that series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was announced February 2013 and was released on May 19, 2015.
Two card games based on CD Projekt's The Witcher computer games have been also designed by Kuźnia Gier. One, Wiedźmin: Przygodowa Gra Karciana (The Witcher: Adventure Cardgame) has been published by Kuźnia Gier and is being sold in Polish gaming stores, while the other, Wiedźmin: Promocyjna Gra Karciana (The Witcher Promo Card Game) is a simpler game added to the collector's edition of The Witcher in some countries.
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