The Witcher: Here's What Happens in the Beloved Fantasy Novel The Last Wish
Netflix's highly anticipated series The Witcher just dropped and it's already being compared to epic franchises like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. Produced and written by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and starring Henry Cavill, the series is an adaptation of author Andrzej Sapkowski's 1993 fantasy novel, The Last Wish. If you want to know what to expect from the series, but don't have time to read the book, we're here to fill you in on all the magical details.
But be warned, the show isn't exactly like the novel. In an interview with Cinema Blend, The Witcher showrunner Tomek Baginski explained that writers enhanced the story to make it more suitable for a TV audience. "In the show, you need to give the characters backstories that will interest the viewers," he told the outlet. "The show can't be exactly like the books. It's an adaptation. It's a version of this world and this story from Lauren and the writers."
So, when watching, keep in mind that there will be a few differences from the novel. Sapkowski's eight-book fantasy saga — known as The Witcher Series — begins with The Last Wish, a collection of seven short stories that introduces readers to the volatile fantasy world of a witcher (monster hunter) named Geralt of Rivia. Each story takes place within a larger framing story, called "The Voice of Reason," which appears at the beginning of each chapter. Here's a breakdown of each story:
"The Voice of Reason" - Part 1
As Geralt of Rivia rests in the Temple of Melitele in Ellander, he is visited by a priestess named Iola, who has taken a vow of silence. The chapter begins with Iola entering Geralt's room, and without saying a word, she climbs on top of him to have sex.
This story starts with Geralt entering a bar in Wyzim, where he ends up fighting and killing three men who are harassing him for no reason. He is subsequently taken by guards to the elderly castellan of the land, a man named Velerad. Rather than punish him, Velerad offers Geralt a reward for catching a monster that has been killing and eating people every full moon. He tells him a story about a King named Foltest, who got his sister Adda pregnant. Adda and her baby girl died in childbirth, and were buried together, but seven years later, the child was resurrected as a cursed monster called a Striga.
Geralt learns that everyone who has tried to kill the Striga has either run away in fear or gotten killed. And King Foltest, who hopes his child will turn back to normal, implores no one kill the Striga. After accepting Velerad's offer, Geralt spends the night in an old castle where the Striga makes its attacks. He comes across the monster, and uses his magic to fight her off and break her curse. Eventually, the Striga turns back into a little girl, but not before slashing Geralt's throat with her leftover talons.
Geralt wraps his injured neck, and later wakes up in the care of Velerad, who tells him that his reward and belongings are all safe, and that he can rest and recover with no worry.
"The Voice of Reason" - Part 2
A priestess named Nenneke wakes Geralt and Iola up, and after Iola leaves, Nenneke checks on Geralt's injury and talks to him about his faith. Nenneke is an old friend of Geralt, and after sensing that something is off about him, she suggests he go under a trance. When Geralt tells her that his lack of faith would make the trance a bad idea, she explains that it would actually be more powerful this way.
"A Grain of Truth"
This story begins with Geralt coming across two dead bodies while walking through the woods. He meets the nearby castle's owner, Nivellen, a beastly looking, but kind man who says he is cursed and that his curse can only be lifted by the love of a woman. The two dine together, and Nivellen tells Geralt about his history, his former lady friends, and his current girlfriend Vareena. But Geralt has a feeling they aren't alone.
The next morning, Geralt comes back to the castle where he finds a dangerous Bruxa (a vampire-like monster), who turns out to be Vareena. Geralt fights with the bruxa, but when he is taken by her speed, Nivellen distracts her to save Geralt's life. Geralt kills Vareena, but before she dies, her love for Nivellen breaks his curse.
"The Voice of Reason" - Part 3
On a mission from Prince Hereward, two knights of the Order of the White Rose — Falwick and Tallies — come to the Temple of Melitele and demand Geralt leave at once. Nenneke reminds them they have no right to demand such things, and in anger, Tallie challenges Geralt to a duel. After Nenneke dismisses Tallie's gesture as foolishness, the knights leave the temple, but promise to come back.
"The Lesser Evil"
This story follows a time when Geralt was in a place called Blaviken. After riding into the town to claim a reward for the dead kikimore he killed, Geralt reconnects with Stregobor, a wizard he once knew. Stregobor tells him about Renfri, a cursed woman hell-bent on killing him. The wizard asks his old friend to kill her, but Geralt refuses.
At a local tavern, Geralt comes face to face with Renfri and her crew. She says she is seeking revenge on Stregobor, and asks Geralt to kill him for her. Again Geralt refuses, and when he tells Renfri to leave town, she agrees. The two spend the night together.
But later, Geralt discovers that Renfri has no plans to leave, and that she and her group have plans to murder townspeople in order to lure Stregobor out. He fights off her men and kills her. But soon after, the town's people cast Geralt out, banishing him from Blaviken forever.
"The Voice of Reason" - Part 4
Geralt talks to Iola about himself and his past. He tells her about his home, a Witcher's Settlement called Kaer Morhen, and about Vesemir, the witcher that raised him. Geralt remembers his childhood, and talks about all the changes he went through as a result of witcher experiments. He tells her about his first monster kill, how he became known as the Butcher of Blaviken, and a mistake he made in Cintra. He also mentions a child born in May, and a name — Yennefer.
"A Question of Price"
In a land called Cintra, Geralt attends a formal gathering with Queen Calanthe, who is looking for a suitable match for her 15-year-old daughter, the crown-princess Pavetta. But during the party, when a masked knight named Urcheon of Erlenwald appears and demands Pavetta be married to him as promised by the late king, Geralt realizes that the queen has called him there to kill him. When Urcheon takes off his mask, he bears the head of an animal-like creature.
To everyone's surprise, Pavetta agrees to go with Urcheon, and a battle begins between the queen's guards and the knight. When Pavetta sees Urcheon under attack, she begins emitting a force of power that could hurt everyone around her. Noticing this, Geralt and a man called Eist Tuirseach go to defend Urcheon and then try to dampen Pavetta's force.
Eventually, when Pavetta calms down, she explains that she and Urcheon are in love and that the two want to get married. The queen sees this, and finally agrees to let the two wed. Before Geralt leaves, Urcheon asks him if there is anything he wants. To everyone's surprise, Geralt reveals that Pavetta is pregnant, and asks that the child be raised as a witcher.
"The Voice of Reason" - Part 5
Nenneke announces that Geralt's artistic and poetic friend Dandelion has come to visit. Dandelion tells Geralt that he came to visit after hearing about the injury he sustained from the Striga. Geralt tells his old friend that he has no plans on staying there, and is thinking of heading South. The two friends discuss the philosophy of life and Geralt mulls on the hardships of being a witcher. Dandelion asks Geralt if he remembers when they went on their first expedition to the edge of the world.
"The Edge of the World"
Dandelion and Geralt are journeying through a land called Lower Posada. They encounter a farmer named Nettly who tells them the village is need of a witcher. When reaching the village, they meet Dhun, an elder who insists there is a devil-like creature menacing their land. Geralt and Dandelion head out into the fields where they come upon the creature who begins to attack them.
Lillie, the village's wise woman, pulls out an old book that confirms the monster is not a devil, but a "sylvan," or elf. Geralt and Dandelion head back out into the field to talk to the sylvan, but get knocked over and tied up. Hearing the conversation of the sylvan, Geralt learns that his name is Torque and that he is friends with elves named Galarr and Toruviel.
When Toruviel breaks Dandelion's lute, Geralt manages to attack her and break her nose, causing the elves to draw their swords. They tie Geralt and Dandelion to a tree, but when the Queen of the Fields arrives, the elves turn their attention toward her. Torque secretly frees Geralt and Dandelion, and when the elves realize that Lillie has forbidden anyone be killed, they leave in peace. Torque, Dandelion, and Geralt sit around a campfire and talk about where they'll go next.
"The Voice of Reason" - Part 6
In the caves surrounding the temple, Nenneke tends to flowers and talks to Geralt about Yennefer. He tells her that he'd like for her to give the reward he received for killing the Striga to Yennefer so she can find a cure. Nenneke refuses to be a go between for the two. It is revealed that Yennefer is a sorceress who can cause and cure infertility, but can not have children of her own.
After telling him he is still unwell, Nenneke suggests that Geralt go under the trance, and admits that she sent Iola to him as therapy. She pleads with him to stay at the temple until he heals fully, and then asks him how he met Yennefer in the first place.
"The Last Wish"
While Dandelion and Geralt are fishing, they pull up a sealed ancient vase, which eventually falls to the ground and releases a genie. Dandelion attempts to ask the genie for three wishes, but the genie begins to strangle him. Geralt dives in to save his friend and uses an ancient exorcism to ward off the genie. Dandelion's neck and throat are seriously hurt, so Geralt takes him into town to find help. There, he meets two elves, Errdil and Chireadan, who tell him that it's illegal to use magic in the city. However, they mention that a lady, Yennefer, still manages to use magic, as she lives in a sanctuary home owned by Beau Berrant.
Geralt finds Yennefer at Beau's house and asks her to help heal his friend. She agrees, but insists on taking a bath first. Geralt is mesmerized by her beauty, and after she bathes, she magically takes them to where Dandelion is resting. After healing Dandelion, she asks Geralt for payment. She paralyzes him and traps him in his room, and then Geralt goes unconscious.
The witcher wakes up in a prison cell with Chireadan, who tells him that he is in jail because he went around town hurting people who spoke ill of Yennefer. When a guard comes by to harass them, Geralt wishes the guard would just burst, and to his surprise, he does. Geralt and Chireadan are then brought to the town's mayor, where they discuss what happened. Dandelion magically appears through a portal and tells everyone that Geralt was under Yennefer's spell when he went on the rampage, and that she planned to capture the genie for herself.
Upon hearing noises outside, they look out the window and find Yennefer battling the genie. Geralt realizes that the genie was fulfilling his wishes — like the exorcist chant he used to repel the genie and the wish he made for the guard to burst. After getting everyone out of harm's way, Geralt enters the portal and tries to help Yennefer, but she keeps pushing him away. Eventually, Geralt manages to pull Yennefer through the portal with him, and the genie continues to wreak havoc on the town.
A magical battle ensues between Yennefer and Geralt, and when she traps him, he tells her about the genie's wishes. She demands he use his last wish, and after realizing that she was a hunchback in true form, he makes a wish to save her. The genie makes a gesture towards Yennefer, and then escapes for good.
Yennefer is perplexed and in awe of Geralt's wish. The two embrace and make love in the rubble of the building they were fighting in. Dandelion hears moaning from the rubble and goes to see if the two are okay. Upon seeing them together, he decides to let them be alone.