The Real Mythology Behind The Witcher Explained

The Real Mythology Behind The Witcher Explained

The Witcher is a book series-turned-hit Netflix
show starring Henry Cavill in a world filled with magic-users and monsters. Many of the series’ creatures aren’t just
pulled from thin air; they’re deeply rooted in mythology and folklore. Here’s the real mythology behind The Witcher. The Witcher’s Kikimora shows up straight away,
a terrifying swamp monster that looks like it’s part spider, part crayfish, and all angry. While the Kikimora is a very “real” mythological
creature that shows up in Russian folklore, the more traditional version of it looks quite
different. According to the New York Public Library,
a Kikimora looks more like tiny, but grotesquely shaped, woman than the crab-monsters of Netflix’s
show. They traditionally haunted homes, but could
also be found living in lakes and ponds in the wilderness. Mostly, though, they preferred houses, and
if residents started hearing strange sounds, the sort of sound that made blood run cold
and anxiety go through the roof, there was a good chance a Kikimora had taken up residence. A home was more likely to attract a Kikimora
if a child had died or been buried there, and they were frequently linked to the misfortunes
of a mother. They were more mischievous than evil, known
for leaving wet footprints across floors, tormenting animals, and interfering with the
spinning of yarn. It’s not all bad news. They were typically married to a Domovoi,
a more benevolent male creature that resembled a tiny imp, was born old and aged backwards,
and protected his house from evil. The Witcher, Geralt, is known by many names,
including the unflattering “Butcher of Blaviken.” He gets that particular moniker after being
approached by both the mage Stregobor and the estranged princess Renfri, each one wanting
him to kill the other. Geralt, neutral in the affairs between humans,
refuses. Things go sideways, and, well, he ended up
with a new nickname. The intriguing thing about this portion of
the story is that Renfri was supposedly cursed. She’d been born during an eclipse known as
the Black Sun, and according to a prophecy, girls born at that time would ultimately bring
about the end of civilization, and that’s not something author Andrzej Sapkowski made
up. “I studied the girls born around the Black
Sun, and I found horrendous internal mutations among them.” Eclipses have traditionally been signs of
ill omens. That’s not surprising, ancient cultures were
reliant on the sun and the moon for survival, and when something unusual happened, it was
a terrifying deviation from the norm. There are stories of civilizations ending
and warring people making peace, both because they thought the eclipse heralded the end
of the world, and there were plenty of warnings given to pregnant women, too. Dr. Sujata Mittal told Romper that traditional
Indian beliefs say the negative energy given off by an eclipse has a negative impact on
an unborn baby, and according to the Farmers’ Almanac, it was widely believed that an eclipse
would place a curse on an unborn child. When Geralt realizes the monster he was hired
to kill isn’t as monstrous as he first thought, he refuses to fulfill the contract on Torque
the Sylvan. It was touch and go for them at first, with
his horns and his goat’s legs. But then he starts to speak. “I am Torque the Sylvan, a rare and intelligent
creature!” The idea of spirits with distinctly goat-like
features is a major motif throughout Greek mythology; the Panes were a group of creatures
that looked just about exactly as Torque does. They were sometimes the sons of the nature
god Pan, and sometimes of Hermes or Zeus, but they were always pastoral spirits who
looked over the herds and tended to get really, really frisky. They’re similar to the Satyrs, who had the
features of a donkey rather than a goat, and there’s a lesser-known Slavic version of the
idea, too. He’s known as the Old Man of the Forest, and
while he watches over the animals and is, for the most part, indifferent to people,
he does have something of a trickster streak that makes him a danger to travelers. He typically lives alone or with his family
of adopted foundlings, and he’s often depicted as more human than Torque. He does, however, have horns and hooves in
some stories, and in case you run into him, the best course of action is to try to make
him laugh. There’s a huge plot point that’s been confusing
a lot of people in The Witcher lore called the Law of Surprise. It’s basically a bargain: if someone’s life
is saved, they offer their savior a reward, without knowing what that reward is. “The Law of Surprise has been called. You kill them? You kill me.” Still confused? It’s inspired by a tradition in Slavic folklore
called the Right of the Unexpected. It dates back to stories in at least the 9th
century, and it’s a common way to explain the transfer of control of people in particular. There’s another commonly retold version, too,
where someone is promised the first thing that greets a traveler when he returns home,
or the first person to speak to him. Here’s how the stories usually go, in a simplified
form: a man saves the life of another man, say, a merchant. The man accepts the Right of the Unexpected
as payment, and the merchant returns to his home. There, he finds his wife is pregnant. The unborn child is the “unexpected,” or the
“surprise,” and ends up in the care of the man as a ward, or eventually wife. The Witcher gives the idea a few extra layers
than that, but knowing that it’s a very old concept in our world helps to explain why
it’s taken so very seriously in Geralt’s world. Geralt’s toe-to-toe with the Striga is one
of The Witcher’s epic fights, and the creature involved is one that dates back to Roman mythology. There’s a few different versions of this one,
according to the Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology: the Striga, Strigen, or Strega was a cross
between a vampire and a witch, often said to be the spirit of a witch returned from
the dead. She could turn into an owl and fed on the
blood of children. Those that didn’t die immediately often wasted
away. Honey cakes, chicken hearts, and, sadly, puppies
were often given as offerings to keep her away from human children. Similar tales were told in Macedonia and Romania;
in the later tales she was called a Strigoiu, and just speaking her name was enough to summon
her. She would typically settle into an abandoned
house, taking the form of a red-headed woman who could only be vanquished by nailing her
to the bottom of her coffin. Strangely, there’s also a Strigoii Morti. This creature is male, often the seventh son
of a seventh son, and while he’s just as terrifying as his female counterparts, he’s thought to
be a friend of the Roma clans. When Geralt takes on the Striga, he’s not
just taking on some random monster, this one has a backstory. She’s actually a princess, and things get
complicated when it’s revealed that her mother was hooking up with the king. Ordinarily, that’s not a problem, but King
Foltest and Adda were brother and sister. Icky? Absolutely, but it’s also ridiculously common
in mythology and folklore. Take Zeus and Hera, the rulers of the pantheon
of Greek gods. They were brother and sister. Zeus hooked up with his sister Demeter, too,
and they had Persephone…who later had two children with her father. Persephone is the figure at the heart of one
of Greek mythology’s most well-known love stories: the myth that explains the seasons. After Hades falls in love with her and spirits
her away to the underworld for a few months out of the year, that’s when winter happens. Oh, and Hades? That’s her uncle. And it’s not just the Greeks, either. King Arthur, the most chivalrous of them all,
had a son, Mordred, whose mother was Arthur’s half-sister, Morgause. Most versions of the tale say that they weren’t
aware of their relationship before Arthur tricked her into sleeping with him by pretending
to be her husband, and…that somehow just got even worse. The Doppler shows up in Episode 5, and he’s
essentially a creature that can take the form of anyone else. The Witcher’s lore allows for some stipulations;
they had to have met the person, and be of a similar size. “We’d planned on wearing this one for a while.” The name is a hint as to the inspiration:
the doppelganger. While the term was only coined in the 18th
century, the idea of having a double dates back to ancient Egypt. There we have the “ka,” where the soul takes
a form that was seen as a spiritual version of the physical body. Other cultures believed it was simply a harmless
premonition, while English and Irish traditions describe the creature as a “fetch,” an apparition
that signaled the death of the original. Strangely, this is one monster that’s had
a basis in science. According to BBC Future, there have been instances
of people who have seen their doppelgangers. One 21-year-old man described getting up one
morning, then turning to see he was still laying in bed. Unable to reconcile what he was seeing, he
threw himself out a window in an attempt to realign realities. He survived, underwent surgery for a brain
tumor, and the phantoms disappeared. The Witcher’s djinn shows up in the episode
conveniently titled “Bottled Appetites,” and it’s a creature that’s familiar to almost
everyone, everyone who’s ever seen Aladdin, at least. “I’m looking for a djinn.” “For a djinn? Like a genie? The floaty fellas, with the bad tempers and
the banned magics, that kind of genie?” That’s the popular image of them, but the
djinn from mythology and folklore are less like Aladdin’s genie and more like the one
from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. According to Vice, the first mentions of the
djinn date back to the pre-Islamic Arabian world. They’re neither good nor bad, they can take
the form of humans and animals, and even though they’re spirits, they’re very physical spirits
in that they can eat, sleep, and love, when they’re in the human world, at least. The original djinn could pass between the
human realm and their own spirit realm freely. In the 7th century, they were worshiped as
the masters of certain crafts and protectors of nature. Farmers were particularly fond of them, as
it was said they had the ability to make the land fertile. Poets were likely to meet one, and those that
were inspired by these otherworldly beings were called sha’ir. Later, djinn made the jump from folklore to
mainstream religion: they’re mentioned in the Qur’an. According to LiveScience, it’s now not uncommon
for psychiatric patients to blame a djinn for things like hallucinations. The very first episode of The Witcher is a
retelling of one of the original short stories in the series, and it’s also a seriously dark
retelling of the classic tale of Snow White. In Sapkowski’s version, Renfri is Snow White
and, as she mentions in the show, she killed the Hunter sent to kill her, and then continued
down the path of death and destruction. “I had to survive. I stole rather than starve. I killed rather than be killed.” She’s an assassin in the books, and travels
with a band of equally deadly dwarves. Today, most people are more familiar with
the Disney version of Snow White, but the version chronicled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
and finalized in 1857 was pretty different. That starts with the stepmother telling the
Hunter to bring back Snow White’s liver and lungs, he brings back the organs of a boar,
which she eats. The dwarves have no names, the poison apple
is still there, and the prince? He buys the seemingly dead Snow White, and
she’s only revived when the servants drop her. There’s also a reward comeuppance at the end,
when the evil stepmother is given iron slippers, heated to red-hot, to dance in until she collapsed
and died. And that’s the version the Grimms dialed back
a bit. In earlier versions, the prince slaps the
poisoned apple out of Snow White’s mouth when he hits her sleeping form, and it’s her mother
who demanded her death. Yikes. Whatever you call him… “Don’t call me human.” Newcomers to the franchise might find themselves
wondering what, exactly, Geralt of Rivia is, if he’s not human. The idea that witches, and witch-hunters,
are something other than human is one that’s rooted in Slovenian myth. Some of the oldest sources written on witches
and wizards describe them as demonic creatures rather than human ones. And sometimes, they were actually a gift from
God. Traditions and tales surrounding wizards have
more elements of a shaman or a druid than a typical magic-user we think of today. A kresnik was something similar. These magical beings from old folklore are
often more shamanic than the fire-and-ice magic users we think of today, and were said
to fight witches and other demonic creatures. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it? Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
movies and TV shows are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
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About Nicklaus Predovic

24 thoughts on “The Real Mythology Behind The Witcher Explained

  1. The pagan habit of deifying incest between brothers and sisters in myths, is probably why it became illegal in Jewish/ Christian/ Islamic laws.

  2. The real Snow White was a princess who was murdered, by her family, in Eastern Europe and her family were tortured and executed by the authorities.

  3. this will be Grunges greatest video of all time. All of this channel's existance has led up to this moment. Congratulations Grunge, you have arrived.

  4. “A real mythological creature”

    Hmmm oxymoron and falsehood that millions believe in…anything that isn’t good, people yuck it up…go figure.

  5. Anyone else find this show boring AF? I forced the whole episode one on myself and just rejoiced when it was finally over. Maybe I was expecting Vikings or GOT but damn. What am I missing? I’m bummed because I was excited for this to come out.

  6. You will have noticed the Goat of Mendes as well and the fact that Hellboy has goat's horns and feet. right? This Satanic figure is often miscalled "Baphomet"" but "Baphomet" a misspelling of an Arabic word meaning "Father of Wisdom" that could be anglicized roughly as "Abufimat" comes from the Templar legend about a talking head that was born from a corpse and was "the source of all good things."

  7. Sapkowski is not Andriey (russian name) but Andrzej (polish christian name) Why you look for russian root of the story and Estern Europe when it is rathe rrelated to polish pre christian mythology (Central Europe)

  8. @ 9:49 The snow white scene where she let the bird fly away and seeing the bird I notice something.

    Where's the bird's shadow?!

  9. In my family a striga is an insult, especially to my grandmother as she was always called one by her sister in law who hated her. But a lot of people in my family don't know what one is.

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