Whenever the fantasy genre is mentioned in the Philippines, the first things that come to most people’s minds is stuff like Enteng Kabisonte or Panday. Of course, there’s the crowd who still remembers Encantadia well, but these are few and far between nowadays as there are more and more “pantaseryes” (fantasy soap operas) that come out on a near annual basis on Philippine TV. Unfortunately, despite being marketed as fantasy, typical pantaseryes don’t differ all that much from the usual teleserye with your damsel and distress who gets rescued by a prince charming who solves all her problems for her without her having to lift a finger.
Anyway, today, I’m gonna tell you a nice, true-to-life story…
Once upon a time, there was this guy named Andrzej Sapkowski, a Polish man who took an interest in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. A marketing expert, he sought to popularize his own brand of fantasy which was notably quite dark and began with the title The Witcher. Then, much to his surprise, his stories flourished not just in his home country of Poland but overseas as well thanks to being adapted into several video games. Indeed, the success of The Witcher franchise is so profound that it’s often been compared to other memorable fantasy franchises like Berserk and The Elder Scrolls series.
But enough of Mr. Sapkowski, I’m sure the lot of you just want to know what all this hullabaloo about The Witcher is all about. Well then, I suppose there’s no helping it now…
The Witcher focuses on the story of Geralt of Rivia, the titular “Witcher” of the franchise. Witchers, as explained in the book, were once ordinary humans who, through a series of genetic and chemical modification as well as grueling training were transformed into the ultimate monster hunter. Geralt is not the only one of his kind (indeed, there are others which include his mentor throughout most of the series) and their main purpose in the world is simply to hunt monsters that are plaguing their lands.
However, the land they live in isn’t your typical fantasy setting though, what with corrupt nobles reigning over fiefdoms like they were their own backyard with the locals being nothing more than their pet dogs. Worse, said nobles couldn’t care less about the threats so long as they stay in power regardless whether they’re a foreign army bent on pillaging the populace or otherworldly monsters seeking to devour the souls of innocent people. It is all too often up to hardened individuals like Geralt, other Witchers similar to him or simply common people fed up with being victimized, to defend others too weak to defend themselves.
An Unconventional Hero
Truth be told, Geralt is a very interesting character on his own which makes him similar to what ChinoF mentions as a self-made hero. Of course, there are his physical modifications that render him stronger, faster and resistant or even human to various poisons compared to your basic human but one can see his often pragmatic approach to solving problems and fighting monsters. It is very rare for him to fight just with strength and relies more on well-prepared traps and meticulously devised strategies rather than just solely on his superhuman abilities.
Geralt, as well as his fellow Witchers are interesting because of how their bodily changes affect them and how they see the world. For one thing, their higher emotions are often paralyzed or slowed, creating the often wrong impression that they are psychotic killers. While they certainly do not flinch from doing dirty work like brutally killing monsters, majority of them still have their consciences intact and sometimes have greater morals than the nobles who more or less treat their own people like garbage. That said, Witchers will often do what is right but do not expect them to show any overt emotion over it and they will sometimes demand pay especially if the job is particularly difficult or dangerous but usually only when there is a noble nearby to demand from.
The people of the setting aren’t your typical side characters in a story, as you may well notice. They are rarely flat and easy to understand. For instance, in one game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, there was this military officer who was actually more than a little understanding of the common people. While he was an officer of some kind, he was quite gracious and once told a common peasant that he was no different from him and that he could speak freely in his presence. Unfortunately, when the same peasant didn’t uphold his end of their deal, the said officer ordered the man to be flogged for his troubles. When Geralt confronted the officer about it, all he had to say was that it was law and that he was expected to fulfill it.
You’ll find a wealth of characters similar to the military officer mentioned above which isn’t at all that different from the way people are in real life. While people try to be good, we cannot always expect them to be perfect and, more often than not, they fall too easily to temptation. In a world of morally ambiguous characters, the only way to survive and make a difference is to live one’s life the way they want to and make decisions for themselves no matter how hard or perilous they may seem.
An Honest Setting
While the world of The Witcher might seem like your typical fantasy setting, it presents a rather bleak deconstruction of what can often be found in typical fairy tales. It is a world wherein happy endings might be possible but only attainable if one is willing to fight for it. They are very seldom what they seem to be and a lot of characters often meet gruesome ends for simply thinking that they can solve all their problems by marrying a handsome prince or doing a given favor for a feudal lord. While certainly fantastic, The Witcher presents a world that is all too real and believable.
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