A Witcher (or Hexer) is someone who has undergone extensive training, ruthless mental and physical conditioning, and mysterious rituals (which take place at "Witcher schools" such as Kaer Morhen) in preparation for becoming an itinerant monster-slayer for hire. Geralt, the central character in Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher series and the subsequent games inspired by them, is said in the stories to be one of the greatest Witchers; he is certainly legendary, but whether famous or infamous is more open to interpretation (and/or subject to gameplay, as the case may be).
Taken in as children, Witchers-to-be are subjected to intense alchemical processes, consumption of mutagenic compounds and relentless physical and magical training to make them dangerous and highly versatile against their vast array of opponents, many of which possess superhuman speed, strength and/or other deadly powers. These procedures ultimately mean that each fully-trained Witcher is a mutant built specifically to hunt and kill inhuman prey. The key permanent results of mutations shared by all Witchers include:
- Sterility (which partially explains selection from the outsiders, as they cannot breed to pass on their traits).
- Amber cat-like eyes that grant very acute nightvision - the Witchers can constrict their pupils to see in blinding light or open them to see in near pitch black. This nightvision can be further enhanced with the cat potion but in general it is good enough by itself to not require further enhancement.
- Tremendous resistance to disease (which functions in most cases as complete immunity) and a boosted immune system allowing them to consume large quantities of potions that could prove easily deadly if consumed even in small amounts by a normal man.
- Dramatically increased strength, speed, reflexes and endurance, far beyond any normal or well-trained human. A Witcher's physical skills are sufficient to defeat most monsters if combined with extensive training and proper weaponry.
- Having the ability to perform simple yet incredibly versatile combat magic in the form of Signs. They also develop a sixth sense that allows them to "feel" things around them, be it items of importance or people's immediate intentions. This explains their uncanny ability to track and hunt people and monsters.
- Accelerated healing that grants quick recovery from injury.
- Incredibly long lifespan (Vesemir is said to be at least a few centuries old)
Though they cover proficiency in basically any weapon that comes to hand, a Witcher's training focuses on two primary tools -
which are typically carried on the back, a steel blade for more mundane beings, and a silver blade for beasts of the supernatural. Witchers are also frequent mixers and users of powerful potions, having developed an advanced tolerance to their inherent toxicity but still limited to a few at a time (even one of their weaker brews will be fatal to an ordinary human). Finally, their formal magical training deals with Signs, a low-level yet versatile form of magic that allows Witchers to cast spells and enchantments with simple hand gestures. Without extensive improvement and practice, these are mere tricks compared to what a sorceress can do, but they serve very well for someone with a sword in one hand to add a variety of edges to their efforts. Also, the more powerful magic utilized by mages often takes a lot of time to prepare while all signs are instantaneous. Additionally, Witchers are trained by seasoned mages in how to utilize these Signs to the best effect.
In general, a Witcher is a formidable and often overwhelming opponent to more mundane races thanks to their superhuman physical prowess, regenerative capabilities and magic. However they are not infallible, as they can still make mistakes, take a misstep in battle against mundane men or supernatural demons, or be overwhelmed by sheer numbers and individuals who have the skill to match a Witcher. Though rare is the individual who managed to slay a Witcher out of skill rather than dumb luck or by ambush.
Though a Witcher's eyes (see first glossary entry below) are one way to stick out, standard means of identification is the Witcher medallion; this device aids in the detection of monsters, and no Witcher would part with one willingly. (And of course, Witchers are known for being 'hard to kill' - Leo Bonhart boasts a collection of three such medallions as proof of his martial skill.) The form of an individual medallion (head of a wolf, cat, griffin, etc.) indicates the school at which its owner was trained.
It is a common belief, even among Witchers themselves, that they have no capacity for emotion. This may be debatable - and rather relative, considering the rigors of their training and the dangers they face as a matter of course. Perhaps they have simply never had the time (or exposure to society) to develop or recognize the reactions to mundane experiences that most take for granted.
Occasional references to Witchers as 'non-human' are somewhat at odds with the original stories (in which Geralt only identifies Witcher as a profession, never a race). There is certainly no official classification as such, and the relevant references (in the first game at least) are usually from Geralt identifying with the mistrust and/or hostility faced by elves and dwarves in human society. Likely it is used as a slur against the mutants, likening them to elves and dwarves. Though it's worth noting that an in-game text found in Wild Hunt mentions that the Cat School of witchers "are for the most part of elven stock," indicating that there are (or were at one time) indeed non-human witchers. Whether or not there actually are any elven witchers during the contemporary timeline of the story is unknown.
Known witchers in Andrzej Sapkowski's books are:
Trained by Witchers:
- Ciri - trained in witcher sword styles and given only non-magical herb mixtures; no mutations
- Wolf School
- Cat School
- Griffin School
- Viper School (appears only in Assassins of Kings and Wild Hunt)
- Bear School (appears only in Wild Hunt)
In the graphic novels only Edit
In Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni only Edit
- Leo - could not use Signs after breaking his fingers during training; not subjected to mutations
Glossary Entry Edit
- Despite my long friendship with Geralt, I know little more about this peculiar brotherhood or guild than learned tomes provide. On top of that, I am obliged to discretion, so I shall write nothing more than necessary on the subject. Once as numerous as the beasts they fought, today the witchers are seen as a relic of times long gone. The exact character of their training remains a mystery. It is known it consists, among others, of the Trials - processes that transform the organism using a specific combination of secret herbs and infusions. Those who survive them gain superhuman reflexes, speed of reaction, the ability to see in the dark and many other traits making them lethal foes. During their training they learn swordplay and basics of magic, known as Signs. Armed in this set of abilities, the witchers can effectively fulfill their objective, that is protect humans from the monsters inhabiting our world.
The original Polish name for "witcher" is "wiedźmin". The English translation preferred by Andrzej Sapkowski was initially "hexer" and is the name used in the international version of the film adaptation. However, CD Projekt chose to translate it to "witcher" in the computer game, and this word was subsequently adopted by Danusia Stok (in her translation of The Last Wish) and even by Sapkowski himself (in Historia i fantastyka).
Warlock has been used in informal English translations, though "witcher" - being a neologism in English (as wiedźmin is in Polish) - is arguably better at capturing the spirit of Geralt's profession.
In other languages Edit
- Wiedźmin (Polish)
- Zaklínač (Czech/Slovak)
- Hexer (German)
- Hekser (Dutch)
- Raganius (Lithuanian)
- Ведьмак/Vedmak (Russian)
- Sorceleur (French)
- Strigo (Italian)
- Brujo (Spanish)
- 狩魔獵人 (Chinese)
- Čarovnikar (Slovenian)
- Noituri (Finnish)
- Вещер (Bulgarian)
- Відьмак/Vidmak (Ukrainian)
- Vaják (Hungarian)
- Вештац (Serbian)
- Häxkarl (Swedish)
- Efsunger (Turkish)
- Bruxo (Brazilian Portuguese)
- Bruxeiro (European Portuguese)
- جادوگر (Persian)
- მხედვარი (Georgian)
In languages from the novel Edit
- Vatt'ghern (Elder Speech)
In languages from the game Edit
- Witchmolol-bool (Vodyanoi)
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