Training, weapons, signs, elixirs, legends and much more to know and discover the witcher profession.
The vast literary universe created by Andrzej Sapkowski revolves around the figure of Geralt of Rivia and it is precisely through this character that the author speaks to us of the profession that gives its name to the literary saga, that of witcher. But what is a witcher?
Geralt is a professional monster hunter and slayer, constantly traveling from one kingdom to another always looking for a new job. However, defining it as a simple bounty hunter does not do justice to the depth of the craft created by Sapkowski. In addition to being a perfect profession to adapt to the storytelling structure of the series, the witcher is a very old profession and as such it brings with it a fascinating story and rituals.
So let’s see all there is to know about witchers to better understand the protagonist Geralt, the books and even the TV series
Birth of the trade: from the conjunction of the spheres to the test of herbs
The figure of the witcher was born after the Conjunction of the Spheres, the founding event of Sapkowski’s fantasy universe, that is a collision between several parallel universes that caused the overflow of creatures into worlds other than those of belonging and where they were blocked. A large number of monsters and evil creatures found themselves trapped in a world where they were not welcome and (not wrongly) seen as threats. The need therefore arose to have professionals trained to fight and kill these monsters and ensure the quiet life of the other races.
Therefore witcher is not born, but becomes. And not only after long training, but rather after a profound and violent mutation. The procedures that make this change possible are known in full only by those directly concerned, but it is known that they are carried out on mostly human children, entrusted to witchers because they are orphans, abandoned by parents who cannot raise them or to live up to the Law of surprise
However, not all children manage to go all the way. In addition to the classic theory lessons on monsters to fight and physical training, they undergo various tests that change their organism. The Herb Trial is the latest and most brutal transformation that only the strongest survive. This genetic mutation allows them to acquire greater strength and endurance, to be more long-lived, quick and agile than ordinary humans and to have more developed and sensitive senses.
From the physical point of view, moreover, the mutation is reflected in the color of the hair and eyes, for example Geralt has white hair and beard and yellow, feline eyes, able to adapt immediately to changes in light and in the dark. However, everything has a price because this makes them sterile and, according to a very deep-rooted conception, unable to experience human emotions.
The training period takes place in Kaer Morhen, the great fortress of the witchers, hidden from anyone who does not know where it is. After completing their studies, witchers become wandering professionals, always on the road in search of a job and a client who pays them, returning to Kaer Morhen in winter, in the coldest and least profitable period.
Witcher armamentarium: swords, elixirs, signs and moral code
In order to carry out his profession, a witcher has several basic items. First of all, his two swords: one of common steel, and the other of silver, the most effective material for weakening and killing monsters.
They always carry a magic silver medallion with them, able to warn them of the approach of a danger or the presence of magic around them. The medallion has the shape of the animal with which the witcher identifies himself, in the case of Geralt it has the shape of a wolf head. For this and for the hair color it is also known as the White Wolf.
Witchers are not magicians and do not master this art, but they have signs, a more rudimentary form of magic that produces immediate effects. The Igni sign, for example, evokes flames, while the Aard sign is a sort of telekinetic shield.
Before a fight, then, they make use of elixirs that amplify their skills and make the senses faster and more effective. These elixirs or drugs are however of different types and in the escort they always carry with them are some that facilitate and speed healing or increase resistance to poisons.
Furthermore, witchers do not have a real professional code to follow but there are still imperatives that they are required to respect. First they must hunt exclusively monsters and therefore not humans. A witcher therefore cannot replace the law and do summary justice as he prefers. Therefore they are expected to be neutral to any human, political and military affairs that do not concern monsters. They are not mercenaries and cannot take sides.
Geralt is however a well-rounded character, the incarnation of a modern man who does not just passively perform his task, but who questions himself all the time about his role and the true meaning of good and evil. Therefore it poses far more hesitations than the witchers of the past did and does not always put hand to swords to face the so-called “monsters”.
Golden age of witchers and decline
Witchers have also lived through a glorious era in which they were welcomed and treated on a par with noble and heroic knights engaged in the defense of the innocent. Those days are long gone, however, and when Geralt’s story begins, witchers are considered mostly a necessary evil, brutal mutants that are best not to be trusted but to be addressed to stem the plague of monsters.
Geralt therefore acts in a world that is his enemy, he is forced to make a good face and play badly and to swallow the toad continuously, hiding behind an ironic and contemptuous cynicism. Like elves and monsters, people fear witchers precisely because they are mutants and have woven so many superstitious beliefs around them that it is difficult to discern reality.
That of the witcher is a profession in decay, just like the fortress of Kaer Morhen, once majestic but which now bears the signs of aversion towards its inhabitants. The fortress was in fact attacked and partially destroyed by the fanatic and frightened populace. The event is painfully remembered by the witchers, as many comrades perished in what was a real massacre.
The other witchers
When Sapkowski’s narrative begins, Geralt is one of the few witchers left on the continent. Although they play a minority role in the literary saga, there is still a way to get to know the other companions with whom Geralt grew up in Kaer Morhen.
Among them, Vesemir, the oldest of the group, survived the massacre and considered by everyone not only a teacher, but the closest figure to a father they ever had. The witcher with whom Geralt grew up and then Eskel, disfigured by a scar, but most of all the most peaceful and rational. Lambert and Coën are the youngest witchers, still idealists and convinced that their job is a mission.
In addition to that of the Kaer Morhen massacre, Sapkowski also speaks to us of other painful moments in the history of this profession, mentioning some witchers who had betrayed their mission to become assassins moved only by the god of money.