In this part of The Daily Fandom’s retrospective on The Witcher Saga, Kyle and Claudia have their usual Q&A session. Since this is on the last book, The Lady of the Lake and The Witcher Saga’s alternate ending, Something Ends, Something Begins, their thoughts are certain to be very interesting.
You can find the previous parts of the retrospecive here.
Convening The Conclave On The Lady of the Lake
KYLE: What is your opinion of The Lady of the Lake and of The Witcher Saga as envisioned by Andrzej Sapkowski?
CLAUDIA: That was such a good ending! I have small qualms here and there, mainly that we have seen Geralt take a huge amount of damage from multiple sources at this point. So, for him to just go down to a pitchfork seems a little unlikely. Seriously, you had three people that could use magic and none of them could do anything to help him? Maybe I missed something in the earlier books, but he gets beaten up a lot, so it was surprising that that was all it took to take him down. I agree with the decision to kill him; I just think he needed to be dead before they got there to justify it.
KYLE: It’s worth noting that there were only two people that can use magic. Ciri forsakes magic back in Time of Contempt.
CLAUDIA: Yeah, but they repeatedly talk about how she has other powers. While I get that it’s not magic the way the sorcerers use magic, you can’t just give someone mystical abilities with defining the limitations of them and just saying they can’t do this thing. We know what the main part of her power is, but in terms of putting a cap on her abilities, I mean the chick can fucking talk to unicorns. There is a tiny bit of that, but I’ll let that one slide because I liked the ending. So, while they introduced Nimue early on, I feel like the King Arthur parallels did not come out of the blue by they were not hinting at them quite enough. I think it was the fact that she was talking to Galahad at the end.
Galahad And Ciri’s Destiny In The Witcher
KYLE: There is a particular reason she is talking to Galahad though. Galahad is the chosen one of the roundtable. He was born to find the Holy Grail. It’s worth noting that her meeting him leaves the ambiguity of whether she will fulfill her destiny or not because he is the virgin knight. So, did she have a child or not? That’s the question.
CLAUDIA: I didn’t read into it that way. Nothing about that situation led me to believe she was going to have a kid.
KYLE: There are hints that she is attracted to him.
CLAUDIA: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean she is going to have a kid.
KYLE: But her entire destiny is to have a kid that will stop climate change.
CLAUDIA: Well, a kid that will allow them to flee the world when climate change hits. Overall, I really liked it. It was surprisingly well done. He is not the strongest author sometimes, when it comes to doing things that are eloquent or well thought out. I’ve complained about Philippa enough that you get my feelings on his ability to sow the storylines together. There was a point in that book where it gripped me, and I had to keep reading. Which is the first time that has happened in the entire series.
Emhyr var Emreis/Urcheon of Erlenwald/Duny.
CLAUDIA: So, that plot twist with Ciri’s dad was super good! He could have done it in such a way that I didn’t buy it for a second, but once it was brought up, I did buy it even though I wouldn’t say it made sense. He managed to write it in such a way where I was like “Ok, this seems like something that would happen in this world.” It took this story from weird and not making sense to “Oh, it all makes sense.”
KYLE: I didn’t get to experience that plot twist. I started the series with The Witcher 3, which makes the fact that Emhyr is Ciri’s father public knowledge. Since I knew it going into the books, I got to see all the setup and he’s been seeding it forever. You can go way back to Blood of Elves and see it being seeded. I made sure to never bring up Emhyr in the context of Ciri to avoid letting slip that he is her father so that you could experience the reveal.
CLAUDIA: Thank you! Everything in here I had spoiled to me or seen coming, but that was a genuine plot twist. It was one that didn’t make me angry, I was highly entertained. I don’t know how to explain it, but it brought the book into a level of normalcy that made everything seem much more real and much more rewarding in the long run. What an amazing character arc too. You have this character you have known since the first book and you got to watch him through all the books, that’s kind of amazing.
KYLE: And I love that his name, Emhyr, means hedgehog. Because he had a hedgehog head when he was Urcheon of Erlenwald/Duny.
The Battle of Brenna’s Historical References
CLAUDIA: What did you think of the Battle of Brenna? That part of the book was very different from the rest. It was very well written, but I will admit it was the part that I skipped the most. I wanted to get your opinion on that especially because you tend to glom onto the historical parallels that prop up so much.
KYLE: One thing I like about the Battle of Brenna is how realistic it is. It portrays combat from different perspectives from both sides. From the dwarven unit to the medics to the generals. As you brought up, there is a lot of historical parallels. The way Field Marshal Coehoorn dies the exact same way Stanisław Żółkiewski, a Polish general, died and directly quotes the Roman Emperor Augustus. He is even named after Menno van Coehoorn, a seventeenth-century Dutch soldier and military engineer. The next thing he writes is a historical fiction series set during the Hussite Wars, so he was already doing research for that.
I think it’s one of the most realistic portrayals of combat, specifically large-scale combat, I’ve read in a book. At several occasions, it brought me to tears, at other points it made me incredibly tense. I remember reading it for the first time and what I was feeling while reading it. And rereading it, I still get those feelings every time, even though I know what’s going to happen. I’ve heard people complain that the focus isn’t on Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri in this chapter. I can understand that, but I think it’s worth experiencing it as the nice inversion of there is the big epic battle, and your main characters have nothing to do with it and don’t really care.
The Battle of Brenna Breaks The Flow
KYLE: I will throw that right back at you. Due to the lack of major characters involved, how did you feel about the Battle of Brenna?
CLAUDIA: So, what ended up happening for me is that I started skimming. There was no Ciri and no Geralt. I was at a place like “I want to read this.” And there were parts that I ended up really reading like when Jarre was sitting outside the medical tent with his hand hanging off or when the elves entered the tent and where trying to kill people. There were some really good scenes in that. If there was a character I recognized I would often be reading it in a bit more detail. Like Julia I didn’t know her, so her stuff I skimmed even though I was sure I would probably enjoy reading it in more detail. I don’t have a problem with that chunk of the book.
I think it could have been a bit more spread out. The parts with Geralt and Ciri are so tense and quick-moving, that it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing to spread the battle out. But honestly, it’s the best written in the book. Comparing it to the Battle of the Bridge, I didn’t care nearly as much about that as I did this one. And this one was arguably longer and more political. So, really liked it despite having to be like “Oh no, where’s Ciri. Got to move fast.” One of the things I like about this book is that it set up everyone’s ending pretty quickly.
A Change In Style For The Witcher Saga
CLAUDIA: I think he would be very good with a third-person omniscient sometimes. Like Rusty and Iola dying of the plague a year later, he pulls that card a lot. He will set up a character and then at the end will summarise what will happen to them when they die. It gives everyone this sort of storybook ending. The reason his ending works so well is that everyone ends in a place similar to how they started, but worse off.
Like Jarre is now missing his arm and has unrequited love for Ciri. Triss who is standing back on a hill. Philippa who is pulling the strings from the shadows but will die brutally. Even Ciri, in her fight with Bonhart, is going back to her training with the pendulum. And Yen’s flashback, which is the first time we get one that is honestly coherent and not disparate dialogue snippets, with her suicide attempt. Every character gets something like that, a neat little bow that brings them back full circle. Dandelion doesn’t really get it the way everyone else does, though.
KYLE: Part of Toussaint is that it is a dream world. Too good and too perfect that it makes everyone feel weird. He decides to stay and then gets kicked out. To me, it’s a wakeup call for him.
CLAUDIA: Yes and no. Nothing in his character really changed. It’s just another misadventure that he has walked away from because Geralt saved him. And we get it with Shani where she becomes a professor at Oxenfurt. We know what happens with Dandelion, but he doesn’t get a nice clean sentence at the end of his story, we just have to infer. Which is tragic because he just lost everyone.
Circles In The Witcher
CLAUDIA: What is your opinion of the repeated motif of circles? Not cycles. I’m more interested in how characters and events begin and end at the same time. We want our stories to be circles and this one got super circular.
KYLE: People want stories to follow a rhythm. That’s how you get the three-act structure, the five-act structure, clichés, and tropes. Real-life does not accept that, Sir Terry Pratchett had a term for it: “Narrativium”. It means that real life doesn’t make sense at all. When you read a story, you expect to have logic, rhythm and to end a particular way, life doesn’t work that way.
I think everything to do with the circles in The Witcher Saga, is something he spells out. Something ends, something begins. In real life when something comes to an end, something else is beginning at the same time. We keep moving, day by day. He keeps bringing up Ouroboros. The idea is that the world is not going to end just because this thing happened. The world moves on, sometimes in ways you don’t expect and sometimes in ways you don’t like. For instance, after the Peace of Cintra, they agree to let the Nilfgaardian settlers stay but eventually they force relocate them.
Endings are really hard to get right. People expect a closed circle, but a fiction that wants to tell a satisfying story will not have a closed circle ending. Everyone had an ending, but they are left open-ended in a way. Satisfying endings to me are endings that say the story will continue past this point but that doesn’t mean we are going to tell it. I think that’s why there is a motif with circles. He is reminding you that life continues, there is no end.
The Ending Of The Witcher Saga
CLAUDIA: I think this is a fantastic ending. What do you think makes this such a great ending to series, assuming you also agree?
KYLE: I think this is an amazing ending. What I love about it is that it’s a complete retelling of King Arthur’s death. It connects to what he has been doing with the connection to fairy tales. King Arthur is a legend, but it has fairy tale elements.
CLAUDIA: It’s not often categorized as a fairy tale, but its kind of is the quintessential fairy tale. A lot of ideas about fairy tales are pulled from folk tales rather than fairy tales, and King Arthur is built of various folk tales into the epic romantic poems. I’m totally comfortable calling King Arthur is a fairy tale.
KYLE: He also gives us multiple perspectives on the ending. For instance, the negotiation of the Peace of Cintra. And then later, you get to see from Geralt’s eyes how that peace is implemented. Why are there no dogs? It’s because people are starving so they are killing their pets for food. We are seeing the aftereffects of everything and understanding that things move on. That is the point of the tail end of the book. Where Geralt, Yen, and Ciri travel to visit the Rats graves and Vysogota. We are putting to rest all these dangling things from previous books but at the same time that life goes on. This is not the be-all-end-all.
I think what makes it so powerful is that the different perspectives let us get a sense of how things will continue after the end. This is certainly a story about three people, but the world will carry on without them. This was just one small chapter in this world’s story.
The White Frost
KYLE: Let’s talk about the revelation of the White Frost. It’s going to happen in 3,000 years and it’s literally an ice age. It’s just climate change. What is your opinion on that?
CLAUDIA: They kept talking about this doom prophecy and then the fact that it turned out to be nothing is hilarious. Global warming and climate change were topics back then and has been since the Industrial Revolution when people theorized what could happen to the Earth. Humans are tiny and foolish if they think they can control nature in the least. I think it was well played. It feeds into the theme he has been playing with since the beginning with the conflict between the elves and the humans. The idea that humans, throughout real history, continue to use and use and use, until they have depleted their own lands and lead to their own starvation.
I think because we live in a world where global warming is imminent, seeing these medieval people saying they need to fix it, it’s like “Man, I wish anyone in our world gave half as much of a shit to stop global warming. Because maybe then we wouldn’t have this problem.” It’s almost hilarious how much these characters care about this imminent frost, because almost the same thing is threatening us, and the real world doesn’t seem to care all that much.
I know people are working on it and it isn’t as simple as some elven blood sacrifice to solve it. But it’s amusing on some level. I liked it a lot. I think, much like the reveal around Emhyr, it brought the story back down to a level of realism that made it appreciable. It was also a very Sapkowski move with its use of tropes and subversions.
The Meaning Of Destiny In The Witcher Saga
KYLE: And we had hints that humans were relatively new to this world. But through the eyes of the Aen Elle, Avallac’h, Eredin and all them, they talk about how the humans destroyed their own world and then hitched a ride. The humans have already experienced the White Frost in their world, they just don’t remember it
CLAUDIA: And it’s really interesting as the elves are constantly referring to the humans of having once been hairy. It is never stated when this was so it’s implied that the elves must have visited the original universe that humans are from.
KYLE: I like the simplicity of it. Nimue speaks of it in a very scientific way, it’s just climate change. We in our real world, are experiencing the effects of climate change and understand what that means. I love that this is a mystical prophecy about nothing. That there is no real way to prevent it and they are just going to have to move to a different world. It grounds it in a way that more enjoyable to me.
I don’t enjoy traditional chosen one stories, and the classic beating the embodiment of evil trope doesn’t work in this setting. He expects people to put it into that perspective, and the legends built up around the story talk about it that way, but in actual fact, it’s just an ice age. When we first started this retrospective, you had latched onto Ciri’s destiny and I was sitting here going “The destiny doesn’t mean shit.”
CLAUDIA: Except that it does. I like that it was climate change, I don’t disagree with you on that.
The Importance Of Ithlinne’s Prophecy
CLAUDIA: I don’t feel cheated by the chosen one prophecy. Ciri’s powers and status as a chosen one allowed her the agency to do what she wanted. And if I’m going to be honest, people talk about prophecies, but I don’t think we ever get one.
KYLE: We do. Blood of Elves opens Ithlinne’s prophecy.
Verily I say unto you, the era of the sword and axe is nigh, the era of the wolf’s blizzard. The Time of the White Chill and the White Light is nigh, the Time of Madness and the Time of Contempt: Tedd Deireádh, the Time of End. The world will die amidst frost and be reborn with the new sun. It will be reborn of the Elder Blood, of Hen Ichaer, of the seed that has been sown. A seed which will not sprout but will burst into flame.
Ess’tuath esse! Thus, it shall be! Watch for the signs! What signs these shall be, I say unto you: first the earth will flow with the blood of Aen Seidhe, the Blood of Elves…
Aen Ithlinnespeath, Ithlinne Aegli aep Aevenien’s prophecyAndrzej Sapkowski: Blood of Elves pg 1
CLAUDIA: The excerpts don’t count because they tend to be riddled with inaccuracies. If it was not said by a character in the story, it doesn’t have impact. There was no promise made to me for me to fill cheated.
KYLE: The first sentence of that prophecy is repeated verbatim multiple times throughout The Witcher Saga.
CLAUDIA: I barely paid attention to it. That’s how important the narrative made it seem to me. The excerpts are a part of the narrative, but less emphasis is put on them. It makes it just like any other prophecy in other books, something that has been widely misinterpreted.
Kyle’s Experience With Fairy Tales
CLAUDIA: How familiar are you with fairy tales?
KYLE: It depends on the fairy tale and region. In my second year at university, I took a module called Fairy Tale Fictions. We looked at the original versions and then retellings of various fairy tales such as Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast etcetera. We looked at different timeframes and regions to see how they interpreted the story. Particularly, the ones that had gratuitous violence against women, we looked at the feminist rewrites of the stories. I also know Sinbad pretty well because I choose it for the class creative piece. Beyond that class, I don’t know much.
CLAUDIA: I’m a big fairy tale buff and that’s what I love about this book is that Sapkowski goes from trying to ape traditional fantasy novels to aping fairy tales like in the short stories. How familiar are you with Cinderella?
KYLE: I grew up on the Disney version like all kids do. We read a version in the class, but it was followed by one of my favorite rewrites of Little Red Riding Hood, so I forgot it in favor of that.
CLAUDIA: I can make an argument that fairy tales are not inherently misogynistic. There are misogynistic rewrites of them, but because they are pulled from folktales from before the modern concept of sexism existed, you can find a lot of golden stuff. Case in point, one of my favorite fairy tales is about two sisters, one of which is an ugly witch and the other is a princess. They just have fun sisterly things to do like conniving princes into marrying them. The guy that marries the ugly witch is sad that he married the ugly one, to which her response is to magic herself into a pretty person.
Cinderella In The Witcher Saga
CLAUDIA: Quick history lesson on Cinderella. A girl is the daughter of a king. She is his only child and he has a beautiful wife. When the wife dies, she makes him promise to never remarry someone as beautiful as her. The king realizes that in order to fulfill a magical obligation he made, the only person he can remarry is his daughter. In other versions, he is overfilled with lust for her. Ultimately, the daughter realizes she can’t possibly marry her father as it would be illegal. So, she runs away and disguises herself as a kitchen maid. She shows up later more beautiful than before and eventually they fall in love. They get married and the magical promise is fulfilled as there is no way he could have known that she was his daughter.
The ending of The Witcher Saga, at least with Ciri, Duny, and fake Ciri, is a really twisted retelling of Cinderella. You have the fake identity involved, the heritage, and heaping amounts of incest. The fact that he was able to recreate that fairy tale with this setup was kind of amazing to me, especially considering that Duny had convinced himself that he had to sleep with Ciri to fulfill destiny. So, what was your opinion on Duny not being able to go through with it, which may have been the only redeeming thing he has done in The Witcher Saga, and did you pick up on the aspects of Cinderella in the story?
KYLE: I didn’t pick up on the Cinderella connection. I’m not really surprised considering he has been doing the fairy tale deconstruction and retelling since the very beginning. I mean the first short story, The Witcher, is Sleeping Beauty. That’s just part of this setting.
KYLE: The fact that he couldn’t go through with the incest provides an interesting insight into Emhyr’s character. It’s part of his interaction with Yen that gives me this read. People perceive Yen as this ice queen, a horrible person that doesn’t care. That is not who she really is, we see that she cares a great deal, but it’s who she is perceived to be. Now, Emhyr is legitimately a horrible person. But for his daughter, he can’t go through with it. There is this idea that he legitimately cares for Ciri in so capacity.
He is perceived as the all-powerful tyrant, but he actually has a little sliver of his heart that allows him to care. When Yen goes “I will do this if my daughter is not harmed.” He replies, “I will ensure that the daughter of Geralt and Yennefer is not harmed.” This implies that he understands that he has been a horrible father. I think it adds depth to Emhyr that wasn’t there before and makes him a far more interesting antagonist. There is no one true villain of this story, there are multiple and one of them happens to be Emhyr. And in the end, he goes his separate way and I like that.
With false Ciri, we come to understand that he legitimately feels sorry for her. He knows that she will most likely be assassinated if he doesn’t do something. And because she happens to look like his daughter, he can’t help but care for her. So, he does the only thing he can do to save her, he marries her. It’s almost like paternal instinct takes over. It adds a new layer by adding a comparison to Geralt, as Geralt was protective of Angouleme because she looked like Ciri.
The Lodge Of Sorceresses As A Religion
KYLE: I want your honest opinion on the flash-forward where we find out that the Lodge is seen as a new religion and that the great mother of the religion, a martyr in their eyes, is Philippa Eilhart?
CLAUDIA: I actually really like that. It makes the Lodge almost bearable. It also plays into that weird Dune parallel, where there’s a group of religious sorceress ladies that run society. I find that entertaining. Also, the Philippa ending was just so strong. It was fascinating because I do hate the Lodge, as it was executed not as a concept. From a worldbuilding perspective, having a religion founded on these very powerful figures is interesting but isn’t given the opportunity to be explored all that much. It’s a pity that it wasn’t part of the entire The Witcher Saga because as a religion it’s so fascinating. I want to know what a world is like with them as central religious icons. And we get hints of that with Condwiramurs Tilly and Nimue.
KYLE: I wasn’t sure what your reaction was going to be since you don’t like Philippa.
CLAUDIA: I hate Philippa and I hate the way the Lodge has been executed. I love the concept of them culturally and politically.
Revisionist History In The Witcher Saga
KYLE: I mention this in my theme in the previous part. Because the Lodge is trying to manipulate events, they are substituting real facts with good facts. Facts that are more palatable such as replacing Stygga Castle with Rhys-Rhun Castle because they were given false information. So, these people that have been manipulating and revising history to go their own way are now idolized as great figures. It’s an interesting way to analyze the way history tends to immortalize people that are despicable. I think the best example is Christopher Columbus.
CLAUDIA: I was going to say the Founding Fathers as they too were trying to make political change. But they started as a public figure where the Lodge started out secretive and became public over time.
KYLE: The reason I say Christopher Columbus is because of Christopher Columbus Day. We celebrate him, you know the rhyme “In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Even though he was not the first to find the new world and he was a despicable human being that committed genocide. But we immortalize and celebrate him because he “found the new world” even though he didn’t. He literally accomplished nothing and killed thousands of people, why are we celebrating him? Because we are told to.
CLAUDIA: It’s a good comparison and runs in the same vein of what I was thinking. It’s like King Arthur. We know that at least part of the myth, a person named King Arthur, existed. But that got wrapped up in folklore and myth, as well as stories from other countries and then diluted by Christianity being added to it. This created a legend that is entirely unrecognizable but at one point was true to real life.
The Geralt/Yen/Fringilla Love Triangle
CLAUDIA: I know that Yennefer and Geralt are endgame for you. However, something that is really interesting is that he has a genuine affair in this book. There are extenuating circumstances. He may or may not think that Yennefer betrayed him. But later when Yennefer asks “Did you sleep with anyone else?” he blatantly says “No.” It could be that he is interpreting it to be that we weren’t together at the time, that he didn’t feel anything for Fringilla, or that he is lying to spare Yen her feelings. What is your opinion on this?
KYLE: The line that you are referring to is a rewrite of an exchange from the alternate ending short story Something Ends, Something Begins. When they’re getting ready for the wedding, Yen asks “Did you sleep with anyone else?” and Geralt says “No.” Yen looks at him and responds “Why do I not believe you?” and he then goes “I didn’t think about anyone but you.” And Yen is like “Now, I believe you.” The implication is that she knows he slept with someone, but because he didn’t think of anyone but her, she is fine with it. You can encounter that kind of mentality in real life, I’ve seen it. It’s not something I can comprehend because my perception of relationships is life partnership but that comes from my upbringing.
During the Fringilla section where she is talking to the Lodge, we come to understand that during sex, he calls her Yennefer. And it’s worth noting about Fringilla is that she has dark hair and green eyes. Now, there is the potential that Ciri is dead and he thinks Yen has betrayed him. So, he falls into the arms of someone that looks remarkably like both of his loved ones.
Toussiant’s Strange Effect
KYLE: You brought up something great about Toussaint. It’s a joke about France, about how everyone is drunk on wine. Geralt even says it’s a land straight out of a fairy tale, too good to be true. The Toussaint section opens with Dandelion saying that love has many names and that the witcher cannot be condemned for his actions. I perceive Toussaint to be a dreamland. Only good things happen, a war is raging but no one notices. Anna Henrietta even writes to Emhyr requesting for him to end the war and thinks that is sufficient enough to stop the bloodshed. The idea is that this land is so disconnected from reality, that Geralt and company don’t have to worry about all the shit they have been through. They get caught up in it.
It’s also about Geralt falling back into his old routine. He stopped being a witcher the moment his medallion was destroyed. But when he goes to Toussaint, he starts hunting monsters again. There is an implication that he is retreating back to his old life where he didn’t care about anything. Toussaint represents safety, security, and comfort. So, I read Fringilla as a surrogate because she has physical traits of Yen and Ciri and acts remarkably like Yen. He eventually wakes up from this dream and refocuses on what truly matters to him. It’s noteworthy that Dandelion refuses to leave. Basically, refusing to confront his own personal issues and wrap himself in a comfort blanket.
CLAUDIA: Because he’s smart.
KYLE: No, part of getting over something is to confront your issues.
CLAUDIA: Yeah. I meant that everyone that went died, so it was good he stayed behind.
Geralt’s Perception Of Cheating In The Witcher Saga
KYLE: I don’t condemn Geralt for cheating. I don’t agree with him, but I understand why he did it. Yen’s acceptance of it makes sense considering her personality. In Shard of Ice, she slept with Geralt and Istredd on the same day. It is implied she cares for Geralt far more than she does Istredd, but because Geralt is stubborn and refuses to say “I love you” she leaves them both.
CLAUDIA: And that was before their relationship is cemented which happens in Time of Contempt. I do think Geralt jumping into bed with someone else is justifiable, but I think he should have explained it a bit more.
KYLE: In Season of Storms, we get a bit more of an explanation of the way Geralt thinks when he is sleeping with someone other than Yen. He replaces the person he is sleeping with, in his mind, with Yennefer. Because she is the only person he truly loves.
CLAUDIA: That would be very like him. That seems very in character.
KYLE: The scenes in Stygga Castle are an emotional roller coaster. You feel every hit, every death, it just gut punches you. There is this overwhelming sense of tiredness and exhaustion that both the reader and the characters are feeling. I legitimately started feeling tired and emotionally drained when I read this part, specifically the staircase scene. That is where we get to see Ciri and Geralt mirror each other.
Ciri’s grey hair has now started to turn white as a result of the trauma she has been through and she fights just like him such as when she parries a crossbow bolt. To which he responds with “Don’t ever do that again! But good job.” This scene has been foreshadowed and mentioned in Ciri’s premonitions for so long, showing that Sapkowski planned this moment for a very long time. How do you feel about this section, the feeling of exhaustion, and the staircase scene?
CLAUDIA: The Castle section was tragic but not unexpectedly so. Everyone got a death that I think worked. I love that ending bit where it’s Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri slowly making their way through everyone. There is this beautiful feeling of the family together and they’ve made it. They are still constantly in danger, but they are just too tired to care. They all finally got what they wanted, which was to be together, so if they die here, they are almost okay with it.
The crossbow bolt scene was very good, but what was also great was when they look at their surroundings and know they can’t win this fight. So, they just fucking take a seat, because they are so exhausted, and they are like “We’re done, we have each other, that’s it.” It was kind of amazing to see.
Ciri’s Witcher Status And The Death Of The Company
CLAUDIA: I liked the fights because seeing Ciri become a witcher has been fascinating to see. I’ve heard people say she isn’t a true witcher but from that scene alone it’s clear that to Sapkowski, Ciri is a witcher. From the moment they got on the stairs to the end of the book, I couldn’t put it down. There is a surprising amount of book after that, by the way. At that point, you are like “It’s over” but then you are like “Oh, but it’s not!”
KYLE: I don’t know why anyone would say that Ciri is not a witcher. Just because she didn’t go through the Trial of Grasses doesn’t mean anything. Mutations do not make a witcher. A witcher is someone that hunts monsters and tries to kill evil. Which is what Ciri’s mission statement has been since the last book. I’ve heard people complain about Stygga Castle because of the death of Geralt’s company.
CLAUDIA: It’s sad but they were all doomed to die. Any fan of folklore, fairy tales, or Greek tragedy could have told you that. It’s very good.
KYLE: There are so many great moments when they die too. Like Cahir, who has fallen in love with Ciri because he believes destiny has tied them together. In actual fact, his destiny is to just delay Bonhart for a few seconds so Ciri can get to safety. He stands no chance and he knows it. But he does it anyway.
CLAUDIA: Because he’s a good guy.
KYLE: Remember when he was set up to be villain way back? And then you have the moment where Yen looks at the burnt corpse of Regis and asks, “Was he human?” and Geralt responds with “The epitome of human.” It punches you in the gut.
How It Made Kyle Feel
KYLE: I have very rarely experienced a story where I was experiencing every single emotion going through all the characters. I’m so attached to these characters that the section at Stygga Castle sticks with me as one of the most important scenes in The Witcher Saga. When I think of the most impactful moments, Stygga Castle is at the top of the list.
And that moment where Ciri says “I’m tired. I’m tired of the killing” and Geralt says “So am I.” feeds into stuff that goes on later too. When Geralt and Ciri travel to Toussaint and she finds out Geralt is rich there she asks, “How did you get all this money.” and Geralt responds with “From killing. Always from killing.” Geralt is just done. He’s tired of the killing. He’s got Yen, he’s got Ciri he becomes apathetic and is like “Fuck the rest of the world.” And then that grates on him more and more and he decides to give a shit and that gets him killed.
That’s what this chapter does to me. I guess the kids today would say “I get the feels.” But that is not adequate to how it truly makes me feel when reading it. It hits me in a way no other fiction has managed to do.
The Ending Is Just The Beginning
CLAUDIA: Closing thoughts, I think this might be my favorite book. It is one I think I need to sit and stew in for a little bit longer. Talking about The Witcher Saga as a whole, there are things I would change. But the ending is not one of those things. Everything he pulled off in this ending worked and worked phenomenally, which is something you couldn’t necessarily guess when he first started out. I’m still a little bit dazzled.
And the vision left at the end of Ciri continuing her Punisher-esque journey through life. She’s like, “Hey, let’s go see if these guys need a witcher.” Her ability to travel between worlds is now concrete. It’s a very interesting ending to send this girl off and say, “You’re going to wander between worlds and do whatever you want.” I hate that she alone in the world but it’s a good ending.
KYLE: And I like how Ciri lied to them at the end. Saying she was going to come back and Triss realizing that she would never see Ciri again. Thus, implying that all the tragedy that Ciri went through has caused her to want to leave this life behind.
CLAUDIA: Yeah, you’re right. I’ll leave it there as I don’t think I have the words to describe it more eloquently than that.
This Conclave Is Adjourned But The Witcher Saga Continues On
And that concludes this month’s part of The Witcher Saga retrospective. While they just finished the final book in The Witcher Saga they still technically have one more book to go. Next month, Kyle and Claudia will be covering the prequel novel, Season of Storms. The reason this is being covered after The Lady of the Lake is due to a chapter that takes place after the ending of The Witcher Saga with Nimue. After next month, the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski will be over, however, the retrospective will continue by covering the games made by CD Projekt Red.