It’s fair to say that anticipation is high for upcoming Netflix series The Witcher, which stars Henry Cavill as monster hunter-for-hire Geralt of Rivia, a character made popular by a series of bestselling videogames – though from the first few announcements, fans have been a little concerned about the version presented on-screen.
For example, unlike the popular Witcher game series, Cavill’s character has no beard, and carries just one sword on his back instead of two. Meanwhile his surrogate daughter Ciri (Freya Allan) is younger, unscarred and far from the capable warrior fans of the game are used to.
So what gives? Is this a choice of the people adapting the characters, and if so, why have they made these changes?
Well, the truth is simple – they’re not adapting the Witcher games at all. While the games are definitely the most popular and widely-experienced version of the characters, Geralt and co were actually first created by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in a series of books and short stories from the 1990s. That’s what the series is adapting – the books, not the game – which is why some of the characters are different.
Specifically, the characters are younger, because (in an unusual move) the Witcher games are actually sequels to the books, with the events of Sapkowski’s saga used as backstory for the videogame characters. In other words, Ciri is different because she’s younger, Geralt hasn’t grown his beard yet and as for the swords… well, in a videogame it’s probably easier to have a character carrying two weapons rather than switching them out from his saddlebags, like Geralt does in the books.
So how did this weird doubling of The Witcher come about? Well, after finding success in Poland and many other countries, the Witcher book series was developed into a videogame in 2007 by Polish company CD Projekt Red, followed by sequels in 2011 and 2015.
The games went worldwide – but Sapkowski’s books had only just begun to be translated into English at the time, so the digital version of Geralt became more well-known than his print counterpart. The first collection of short stories, The Last Wish, had its first English translation in 2007, while later books in the saga only became available over the last few years.
Now, thanks to this Netflix series that (comparative) lack of notoriety might be about to change (the books are still very popular, just not “33 million games sold” popular) – and really, fans of the Witcher games should be grateful.
Given that the whole series will be set before the plot they’re used to, there’s no danger of it ruining the version of the characters and world they love, changing the details in adaptation or cutting out favourite moments (though it appears there’ll be the odd reference to the game, as we’ve noted previously).
In other words, they’re just getting a Witcher prequel instead of a rewritten version of the story. And who knows? If the series goes long enough, maybe an adaptation of the games could be on the cards one day anyway…
The Witcher streams on Netflix UK from Friday 20th December