Namrok wrote on 2022-01-16, 02:17:
I may take a break from gaming for a bit and read a few books that have been on my plate, begging to be read. Mostly playing catch up with Battletech, and maybe picking up The Witcher too. Wife finally talked me into the Netflix series, but I know the books are going to be better.
Actually... maybe I'll try playing The Witcher...
I may be the only Witcher fan in the world who's read all the books but never got around to playing the games. But I can tell you that you should absolutely read the books. The books are excellent, and way more progressive than you'd expect from a fantasy series written by an old white Polish dude. Geralt's whole arc has him growing from a centrist jerk willing to both-sides racism into a literal social justice warrior, though less in a "learning to care" sense and more a "realizing he always did" sort of way. Sapkowski also pointedly refuses to stop using his platform to talk about how cool and good women's bodily autonomy is, to a degree that it might feel excessive (on the other hand, subtlety can be overrated).
I have mixed feelings on the Netflix show. It's fine in its own right, and the themes are all there, but they've skipped over some of the best material from the early short stories and invented so much filler. Almost nothing in season 2 was actually in the books. And when I look at the behind-the-scenes stuff, it starts to feel like maybe the show's only good to begin with because they have Henry "Witcher Superfan" Cavill on set. (They also did some crappy things with the doppler in season 1, which gets extra gross when you consider the dopplers are a pretty obvious queer allegory in the books.)
I'm honestly a little afraid to play the games to some extent. The Netflix show has the original material to draw from (when it wants to) but the games are entirely new ground, and their very existence as sequels to the books kind of misses the point of the books' ending. I have a feeling someone will ask how, but I don't want to spoil it for everyone with the attention to read this wall of text (I really apologize for going on so long here, but when you get me started talking about The Witcher, it's hard to stop) so here's an explanation behind a spoiler tag:
At the end of the last chronological book, The Lady of the Lake, Geralt and Yennefer both die. I should preface this by pointing out that this particular book features two different framing devices: the first is Ciri in another world, mistaken by Sir Galahad (yes, the Knight of the Round Table, just go with it) as the Lady of the Lake and telling him her story; and the second is a sorceress named Nimue studying the legends of Geralt and Ciri almost a century later. These two do cross over briefly during Ciri's travels through time and space, but that's not especially relevant. You should also know that one thing this series likes to do is, when a character dies, the narrative cuts to a brief flashback from their life that helps to contextualize their death in some way.
Anyway, Geralt and Dandelion are in a pub waiting for Yennefer and Ciri to meet them. Many of the most powerful factions in the world all want Ciri for their own purposes and after everything the group have all been through in the last five books (except Dandelion, who sat out most of the last one), they intend to find a place where they can stay safe and hidden at least for a while. But then a mob gathers with intent to start a pogrom of non-humans in the town (elves, dwarves, and the like). Dandelion, knowing Geralt, begs him not to get himself involved, to just keep his head down and stay inside. But even knowing he has loved ones to live for and protect, Geralt still cares too much to remain on the sidelines and he goes to intervene and try to stop the bloodshed. He fails, and ends up skewered by a pitchfork. Here we get a flashback to his time training Ciri at Kaer Morhen, when she enters a trance and prophecies that Geralt will one day be killed by "three teeth."
Back in the present, Yennefer arrives and tries to use her magic to save Geralt's life, but overexerts herself beyond what she can handle, and we get another flashback, this time to her time studying under Tissaia at Aretuza.
At this point, we return to framing device #1 as Ciri tells Galahad that then she showed up and saved both Geralt and Yennefer and they all rode off together and met all their friends and allies (and she lists them all, including many who are extremely dead) and then they found an island where they could be safe and live happily together. And the obvious takeaway here is that Ciri is clearly lying to both Galahad and herself because the truth is too painful to face, and also there's a pretty blatant parallel to Avalon from Arthurian myth here (Sapkowski really likes his Arthur parallels; even Yennefer's name is derived from an alternate reading of "Guenevere").
Additionally, and purely to further the Avalon parallel, framing device #2 with Nimue features mention that the legend of Geralt the Witcher includes that someday he will return when he is needed. Given that so much of the series is about how myths and fairy tales are like a Disney version of reality, the truth filtered through being retold, sanitized and changed to be made more palatable for public consumption (you can even see this in action in the story with most of Dandelion's ballads), I would not take this "Geralt will return" thing to be remotely literal or true even within the world of the novels, just something somebody (maybe even Dandelion himself) made up that stuck around for the retellings.
Anyway, from what I've read about how the games follow up on the books and what they use to fill in the gap, it seems like the devs read the books, read the final part of Ciri's tale, and then chose to take that entirely at face value. And it just feels to me like that betrays a major lack of basic media literacy, especially galling with a series of books that so rarely comes right out and tells you what it wants you to take away and instead trusts you to figure out for yourself what it's trying to say.
I know the games are supposed to be really good (the third especially) and I would love to see more of these characters and world, but between the above and not really knowing how well the developers necessarily understood the themes (and for lack of a better word, politics) of the source material I really love, I'm given pause. Curious what you all think, and again I apologize for rambling on for so long.
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