Season 1 of Netflix’s The Witcher is mostly based on two books of the series, but it had to make a couple of changes. Let’s take a look.
Netflix’s The Witcher is based on two books from the series by Andrzej Sapkowski, but it made some big changes to better adapt them to the format and the narrative style the series was going for. The Witcher made its debut on Netflix in December 2019 and it was one of the platform’s most anticipated releases of the year. The series was a big success, possibly being Netflix’s biggest first TV season ever, and it was renewed for a second season before the first one was out.
The Witcher had an unconventional narrative, following three characters in different places and points in time, with their paths converging by the end of the season. Those characters are Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), an enhanced monster hunter; Yennefer of Vengerbeg (Anya Chalotra), a powerful sorceress with a difficult past; and Ciri (Freya Allan), the crown princess of Cintra who is beginning to discover her own powers. Season 1 of The Witcher is based on the collections of short stories The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which come before the main saga (Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow, and The Lady of the Lake).
As it happens with all books that make the jump to either film or TV, many changes had to be made, and reasons vary: sometimes it’s about the budget, format, or simply, the writers are going for a different narrative style than the one from the source. The Witcher was no exception and those who are familiar with the books noticed right away that the series made some big changes – some for the best, and others not so much. Here are the biggest changes season 1 made from the book.
Geralt Talks Less
To the surprise of those who haven’t read the books, Geralt isn’t as quiet as he is in the series. Cavill’s version was more into grunts and facial expressions (that ended up becoming memes) than words, but that’s not how Geralt is in the books. Geralt is actually quite talkative, which some have said has more to do with the format than the character, as he obviously needs more dialogues when in paper so the reader can better understand him and the story. The decision to make Geralt less talkative came a bit late, and a big part of his dialogue in the first episode ended up being cut because it didn’t feel real nor natural.
Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich has also explained that Cavill’s performance brought such depth and layers to the character that it wasn’t necessary for him to talk a lot, and he could very well show everything Geralt was feeling or thinking through facial expressions. As for the grunts, Cavill has shared he added those mostly as a way to let the other actors know he wasn’t going to say anything, and ended up becoming one of the most talked-about elements from Netflix’s The Witcher.
Different Points of View
As mentioned above, The Witcher followed three characters at different points in time, each one dealing with their own problems until they had one common obstacle. Thanks to this, The Witcher had more than just Geralt’s point of view, as there were also Yennefer’s and Ciri’s. In the books, however, readers have Geralt as guide, as the stories are told from his point of view. This was done as Hissrich wanted Ciri and Yennefer’s stories to stand on their own and not depend on Geralt telling everything, and she also wanted the audience to meet them individually and not through Geralt’s lens.
One of the biggest differences from The Witcher books is the addition of Yennefer’s backstory. Yennefer is introduced in The Last Wish and became a main character in the saga as well as Geralt’s greatest love, and even though her past was hinted at in the books, not much was known about her life prior to becoming a powerful sorceress. The series decided to properly explore Yennefer’s backstory, explaining she was born with various physical deformities which drove her family to be abusive to her, with her father blaming her mother and Yennefer’s part-elf nature for everything that was wrong with her. Her father ends up selling her to Tissaia de Vries and is taken to Aretuza, where she begins her training to become a sorceress.
The books make it clear that witchers and sorceresses are sterile – witchers due to the many mutations they go through, but exactly why sorceresses are infertile isn’t explained. The series decided to explore the process in a very graphic way by showing Yennefer getting her reproductive organs removed, all while she’s wide awake as the enchanter didn’t have the necessary herbs to sedate her.
Ciri’s Introduction & Powers
Ciri is introduced right away in Netflix’s The Witcher, but she didn’t appear in the saga until Sword of Destiny, though she’s mentioned in The Last Wish. In addition to that, in the books her powers don’t show up right away and as strong as they do in the series. Her powers are hinted subtly, such as knowing they’re going the wrong way, and she’s also immune to the powers of the Brokilon waters. Her powers as seen in the series don’t manifest as strongly until Time of Contempt and in later books, so the series decided to speed things up a little bit.
Jaskier became an instant fan-favorite thanks to his personality and catchy songs, particularly “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher”. Jaskier went through some changes as well (he doesn’t really follow Geralt everywhere all the time) but the biggest one was his name, which is actually more in line with the original Polish version. In the English version of the books, Jaskier’s name was changed to Dandelion, all because the bard’s original name was a bit hard to translate properly. As it turns out, “Jaskier” in English means “buttercup”, so the editorial team decided it wasn’t a fitting name, and instead of keeping the Polish one, they changed it to a different flower with similar characteristics, and thus “Dandelion” was chosen. This caused a bit of confusion among those familiar with the books and/or video games as some thought Jaskier and Dandelion were different characters, but they’re the same.
Triss Merigold’s Early Introduction
Triss Merigold is another character that doesn’t show up in the first books – in fact, she doesn’t appear until Blood of Elves, but Triss is a fan-favorite character thanks to her role in the books and the video games. Speaking to ComicBook, Hissrich shared there’s stuff she knows she wants to happen to Triss in season 2, and for that, they had to set some things up, so her early introduction in the series was necessary.
The Fall of Cintra & The Battle of Sodden Hill
The fall of Cintra was shown in the first episode, but in the books, it wasn’t seen until the last story in Sword of Destiny. Before that, the events were only told through Jaskier’s tales, and Geralt wasn’t present during the attacks. As for the Battle of Sodden Hill, shown in the season finale, it was only heard of in the books after it was over. Geralt actually went back looking for Yennefer, hoping to not find her name on the memorial obelisk, but readers didn’t get to follow the battle like in the series.
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