With the HBO series Game of Thrones ending, fans of the fantasy genre were left with a void that needed filling. Enter the Witcher, which would capture the minds of binge-inclined fantasy fans. The series took the world by storm with its medieval and picturesque landscape, Slavic folklore, and traditions.
If you are just learning about the television series, then you might not know about the book series and the video game that catapulted it to its current stature. The Witcher is an epic tale that spans six fantasy novels and short stories by Sapkowski. It is centered around the eponymous ‘witcher’ Geralt of Rivia. In the books, witchers hunt beasts and develop special abilities when young, which they then use to battle monsters.
Having started as an entry to a writing contest for Fantastyka magazine, polish author Andrzej Sapkowski followed it up with 14 more stories due to reader demand. Since publishing the first story in 1986, The Witcher has gained a cult following in Poland and is considered one of the biggest cultural exports from the country.
The Book Series Behind the Netflix Show
With the stories gaining traction and bringing in more readers, Sapkowski set out to write a full fantasy saga. He noted that during this time, publishers found Anglo-Saxon authors to be more favorable to publish than their Polish counterparts as the latter was deemed to be a risky lot.
The first novel in the saga, Blood of Elves, was published by SuperNowa. The publisher took on the project as a risk, which paid off spectacularly. In this first release, the story follows Geralt of Rivia and Ciri. The two cross paths as they are linked by destiny. Ciri is a princess who recently got the mantle after recent conquest. The first book largely takes readers through the cavalcade of events that occur to the Witcher in his attempt to protect the princess.
After the first book’s success, the author followed it up with a succession of three more books, each released within a year. Time of Contempt was the follow-up released in 1995, then came Baptism of Fire in 1996 and the Tower of the Swallow in 1997. The Lady of the Lake came as a final addition to the saga in 1999. In 2013, Sapkowski released Season of Storms as a prequel to The Witcher books.
The Netflix Series
Most fans of the show found out about it after Netflix acquired it, but before the high-budget version we have now, the saga was first adopted into the silver screen in 2002. While fans liked this kitsch adaptation more for the storyline than production value, the Netflix adaptation featuring Henry Cavill has breathed a new lease of life into Kapowski’s literary masterpiece.
Henry Cavill, who also played Superman, delivers a masterful performance as the granite-muscled Geralt of Rivia. In addition to the costumes that capture the period, the voice acting caps off an all-around stellar performance.
With a second season in the offing, the series will not likely lose steam soon. Cavil comes back as Geralt of Rivia. The supernatural warrior, still on his travails along a faux-medieval backdrop, has new monsters to slay and kingdoms to protect. The second season is just as gripping as the first, with continental politics becoming even more complicated with an ever-expanding list of antagonists. There are also the nuances of the elven bloodlines to keep track of and knowing Vesemir from Vizimir.
Video Game Adaptations
Another set of Witcher fans is the lot who had played the PC games at a time when you didn’t have to worry about a game’s remastered versions and whether your computer could handle them. As one of the cornerstones of Poland’s literary works and pop culture, the Witcher saga’s influence was further expanded into the gaming realm. CD Projekt Red, a then-fledgling game studio, was the first to release a game based on the Witcher books in 2007. The game gained even more traction with the second release of the Witcher II: Assassin of Kings in 2011.
While the first two games enjoyed considerable success, the third installment, Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, released in 2015, brought the game to global consciousness. With this release, Sapkowski’s novels gained even more recognition, being translated into English. This series of games, having been developed by a Polish game studio, hold a massive cultural impact in the country. It is why the Netflix adaptation opted to shoot scenes of the show on location.
Other Game Adaptations Available on the Online Gambling Scene
The gamut of games has not stopped at fantasy and adventure games for PC gamers. The iGaming industry, known to give a slice of pop culture to online punters, also got in on the action. Various software providers have come up with games inspired by The Witcher. Games like these give fans who enjoy the occasional spin of the reel a way to enjoy the saga in another facet of entertainment. Punters can play epic adventures from the series at the best Polish online casinos with eye-catching graphics and lucrative winnings. These operators accept players from different parts of the world yet keep an authenticity about them that Polish players will identify with.
Drawing Tourists to Poland
While much of the show was shot in Hungary, some parts of it are shot in the author’s native Poland. Even though Hungary has been known as the ideal location for scenic medieval scenery, Netflix producers wanted to include locations in Poland in parts of the show in a bid to capture a bit of the video games.
Staunch fans of the saga who know everything about Witcher lore will fancy visiting locations in Poland where the series was shot. In the first season’s third episode, Geralt is called upon to battle a monster knocking workers off in the mines. The very first shots of the introduction to this scene show the Vizima castle where the story unfolds. For this shot, the show uses the Niedzica Castle, located in the southern end of Poland. Niedzica is just one of several castles lined along the Dunajec river that you can visit when you come to this part of Poland.
A raging battle between the protagonists and antagonists, dubbed the battle of Sodden, draws the first season to an end. The battle takes place at the Ogrodzieniec castle. Even before the series, the castle was already a big tourist attraction and only got more attention with the show’s release. The panoramic shots on the show provide glorious views of the Jura Upland and the grand inselbergs the Polish Jura is famous for.
This use of Polish elements is not only confined to the TV series but also the games. In the games, the Polish landscape and notable places are heavily included as part of the game world. The dock tower of Novigrad is a prime example of the Polish influence on the games. Having been developed by Polish game developers, the game also uses elements of the country on Redanian foot soldiers who spot banners on their shields with the Polish eagle and flag.
New Recognition for the Saga
Regarded as a national icon in Poland, The Witcher is a book series known to the young and old alike. One of the major honors the books have received in the country is the appearance of Geralt of Rivia on a Polish stamp. Kapowski will find it a great honor for the books to be recognized on such a level throughout the nation, cementing it as one of the foremost elements of culture in the country. It would be even more of a spectacle if the series made it to the list of successful NFTs currently taking over the blockchain world.
While the games were not an instant success, much of the success surrounding The Witcher saga can be credited to them. In the current state of things, the Netflix show has proven to be a timely revitalization of the books.
The Witcher may be another great dark fantasy story among fans, but the adoration is far much greater in the country of its origin. The world of dark magic and monsters has brought new attention to Polish culture and attractions in a way hitherto rarely achieved. The books describe a fantasy of Slavic Europe that comes to life and is very much relatable with the games and the TV shows. With much of the storyline steeped in romanticized Polish lore and culture, the books are set to be a prominent reference point for Polish art and ethos.