Sunday, 19 July 2020

The Witcher: The Last Wish

I decided I'd delve into this because, why not? I thought the series was quite entertaining.

Geralt is a Witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good... and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

Yep. I totally get this. It was originally released in 1993, a couple of years before I started to explore online MUDs and fantasy games. If I'd found it back then, I probably would have loved it. Though, at that age, although I loved Terry Pratchett, my literary tastes leaned more towards horror. But reading it now, it really takes me back to that time. Mentally typing /me smiles nastily at regular intervals.

"Many of us had doubts, but we decided to accept the lesser evil. Now, I ask you to make a similar choice."

"Evil is evil, Stregobor," said the witcher seriously as he got up. "Lesser, greater, middling, it's all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I'm not a pious hermit, I haven't done only good in my life, but if I'm to choose between one evil and another, I prefer not to choose at all."


"There's no such thing as devils," yelled the poet, shaking the cat from sleep once and for all. "No such thing! To the devil with it, devils don't exist!"

"True," Geralt smiled, "but Dandelion, I could never resist the temptation of having a look at something that doesn't exist."

It's akin to King's Quest in that you don't need to know your fairy tales to enjoy it, but the better you know your fairy tales, the more you're likely to enjoy it. Snow White, Hans-My-Hedgehog, Bruxa and the Beast, they're all in there.

I wish I understood Polish, as it would be fascinating to read it in its original language. I love that literature in different countries and different languages can uncover shared understandings between readers of different cultures. A love of monsters, a shared terror of similar fears, global fantasy archetypes. I love fantasy as a unifying literary force in the world.

Years ago, I went on a writing retreat on the border of Germany and Poland. I crossed over to Wrocław one day, met an English busker, and gave him a lift down into Poland on my way to visit Auschwitz. I strongly remember Wrocław for its folklore: Rübezahl and Orange Gnomes. I was so fascinated that I included a Polish main character in Creeper's Cottage, stranded in the Hookland wilderness.

This book is a collection of short stories which helps to explain the origin of the witcher to some extent, and regales the reader with a few of his adventures. The Netflix series does seem to follow it very closely, and it helped to explain some of what was going on there for the uninitiated. 

Overall, good fun, and nice to read a story that also appreciates the loveliness of the word capercaillie. I don't think there are many books that manage to fit it in there. Kudos to those who do.

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