You may be familiar with The Witcher series of video games by Polish studio CD Projekt. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is probably one of my favourite games of all time. The series is inspired by the books of Andrzej Sapkowski, chronicling the adventures of the witcher, Geralt of Rivia.
I picked up the first book in the series, The Last Wish in a fury of witcher love after finishing The Witcher 3. I was surprised to find that it is actually a collection of short stories, each one being a different contract that Geralt undertakes and what we learn about him and the world through those journeys. I knew that the books were popular in Poland but I kind of assumed they may not be that good because when you translate books into English, you usually lose some of the nuances of the original language because rarely do different languages translate word for word. However the language used is actually amazing, really descriptive and evocative and if you didn’t know, it would be extremely hard to figure out that the books had been translated into English.
I’m currently reading the second book Sword of Destiny (terrible name I know), which is also a collection of short stories. I just finished one of the stories called A Little Sacrifice, which is about halfway through the book. The contract in this story is not really that important because it mainly focuses on a romance between Geralt and a poet called Little Eye, one of Dandelion’s friends who he sees as a little sister. The complexity of Geralt’s relationship with Yennefer and the differences between who they are and what they do make it hard for them to be together. It’s really refreshing to see such complex characters within dark fantasy, where it is all too easy to be shoehorned into stereotypes.
I thought I’d post here, the last part of the story because I thought it was really beautiful and sad. Minor Spoilers I guess if you’re set on reading, it but the ending isn’t the important part of the story. If you like the excerpt below, consider getting into the books and once again, props to Andrzej Sapkowski and translator David French.
Then Little Eye, smelling of verbena, lay down beside him, squeezed in under his arm, wriggled her head onto his chest, sighed maybe once or twice and fell peacefully asleep. The Witcher fell asleep, much, much later.
Dandelion, staring into the dying embers, sat much longer, alone, quietly strumming his lute.
It began with a few bars, from which an elegant, soothing melody emerged. The lyric suited the melody, and came into being simultaneously with it, the words blending into the music, becoming set in it like insects in translucent, golden lumps of amber.
The ballad told of a certain witcher and a certain poet. About how the witcher and the poet met on the seashore, among the crying of the seagulls, and how they fell in love at first sight. About how beautiful and powerful was their love. About how nothing – not even death – was able to destroy that love and part them.
Dandelion knew that few would believe the story told by the ballad, but he was not concerned. He knew ballads were not written to be believed, but to move their audience.
Several years later, Dandelion could have changed the contents of the ballad and written about what had really occurred. He did not. For the true story would not have moved anyone. Who would have wanted to hear that the Witcher and Little Eye parted and never, ever, saw each other again? About how four years later Little Eye died of the smallpox during an epidemic raging in Vizima? About how he, Dandelion, had carried her out in his arms between corpses being cremated on funeral pyres and had buried her far from the city, in the forest, alone and peaceful, and, as she had asked, buried two things with her: her lute and her sky blue pearl. The pearl from which she was never parted.
No, Dandelion stuck with his first version. And he never sang it. Never. To no one.
Right before the dawn, while it was still dark, a hungry, vicious werewolf crept up to their camp, but saw that it was Dandelion, so he listened for a moment and then went on his way.