Netflix’s Witcher vs. The Games vs. The Books

Player number 3 has entered the game. Most of us know the story of The Witcher (at least The Wild Hunt). Some of us may have even read the books. We’ve compared which is better for the past couple of years and seemingly exhausted all points. But we’re not done yet. Dust off the books and reload your save game because we have a new iteration of The Witcher to pick apart.

December 11, 2019

We all have our dream cast in our mind. When we imagined The Witcher coming to life on the small screen, it took us around a minute to know who we wanted. Let’s get this out of the way: Mads Mikkelsen as Geralt and Eva Green as Yennefer. I know.

We’re all clamoring for the Hannibal actor to play Geralt and the fan artwork just made us all the more convinced he’s a perfect choice. The same goes for Eva Green: the eyes, the hair, the bone structure, the attitude, all fit perfectly with how the game shows these great characters.

Other popular choices (but not necessarily a consensus) were Evan Rachel Wood, Jessica Chastain, or Deborah Ann Woll for Triss and Emma Watson or Natalie Dormer for Ciri. We can argue about the perfect choices forever, and people on Reddit have, feel free to look it up. However, they’re not happening and it’s time we accept it and look at Netflix’s Witcher series with an open mind.

THE WITCHER NETFLIX VS. GAME VS. BOOKS

So, let’s focus on what did happen and who we know from the Witcher Netflix cast list and the Witcher trailer. More importantly, we’re going to compare it all, from Sapkowski’s books, CD Projekt Red’s game, and Netflix’s upcoming show.

GERALT OF RIVIA

Protagonist. Skilled fighter. Clever. More than meets the eye. Overall badass monster hunter.

BOOKS
Skinny
Overall unsettling appearance
Pale white hair
Pale skin
Unpleasant voice
Heavily scarred
Ugly smile
No beard
“Dark” eyes
Nondescript wolf medallion
Back sword & hip sword
Sulky
Emotionally vulnerable
Realistically powerful
Fierce

Artwork by Afternoon63

VIDEOGAME
Toned
Handsome
Grizzled hair
Pale skin
Deep voice
Scarred
Charming smile
Beard (usually)
Emphasis on golden eyes
Complex wolf medallion
Two back swords
Stoic
Smartass
Too powerful
Confident
NETFLIX
Superman-level of buff
Handsome
Pale white hair
Pale skin
Pleasant voice
Potentially scarred
Hollywood smile
No beard
Emphasis on golden eyes
Practical wolf medallion
Back sword & hip sword?
Stoic
Circumspect
Balanced
Fierce

Actor: Henry Cavill
Official description: Twitter

BOOK GERALT

Presented as “lanky”, “skinny”, no beard, and full of scar tissue (basically “made of sinews”). Geralt’s voice was described as “unpleasant” and had an ugly, “malicious” smile. Book Geralt might’ve not precisely had the ruggedly good looks that had all the sorceresses swooning. In fact, his appearance, with pale skin, milk-white, loose hair and “odd”, “dark” eyes frightened some people.

However, that doesn’t mean he was doing badly at all when it came to the opposite sex. In fact, without giving spoilers, I’ll just say he was doing much better among the sorceresses than the game showed. It just means he wasn’t the “metrosexual fruitcake” Reddit loves to call him. The first game got it a bit closer to the description in the books. A couple of scars here and there and he would’ve been even closer.

GAME GERALT

A buff, but still lean physique, handsome face, charming smile, and definitely not scary. Honestly, I have no idea why NPCs referred to his looks as weird or scary when you walked around towns, especially those darn kids and hissing cats. The game did not insist on his “monster” appearance too much, except the cat eyes. Granted, he had the scars but only to make him look more interesting and hint at his experience.

CD Projekt Red did say that it wasn’t their intention to make Geralt much more handsome than the books but that simply went with their vision.

Regardless, the developers seem aware of the change, since he was called “pretty boy” several times throughout the story. In addition, his voice was deep, a little husky, recognizable, and overall pleasant.

There are definitely attempts to make Geralt much cooler than he is in the Witcher books. We can’t blame them. They found the perfect middle between the typical-looking gruff protagonist that’s popular in the industry and the more grounded description from Sapkowski’s books.

 

NETFLIX GERALT

Even buffer. Before I start: I have no major issues with Henry Cavill as Geralt, even if he wasn’t my first, second, or third choice. I’m waiting and hoping he will be good, especially after hearing how passionate Cavill is about the role at The Witcher Panel at San Diego Comic Con 2019.

The British actor was included in the Netflix Witcher cast and managed to beat 200 others for the part. So we should trust showrunner Lauren Hissrich saw something that makes him the perfect Geralt of Rivia. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful.

Anyone can see that Cavill maintained his Superman form that doesn’t quite match the “lanky” and “skinny” witcher described in the books. His voice is not quite as deep as we’re used to from the games and not unpleasant as Sapkowski’s work would have us imagine.

However, those are small details. Along with the rest of the fans, though, I too sighed in relief seeing his hair get toned down a little from the disastrous first impression wig that made even Christopher Lambert’s Rayden giggle.

Once again, the emphasis seems placed on the golden eyes, also prevalent in the games, but not quite in the books. It could be considered a change inspired by CD Projekt Red’s work, but a good one.

Even if Sapkowski’s doesn’t fully describe them, it might’ve been too alienating to fans to show Geralt without his famous golden cat eyes. 

 

YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG

Powerful sorceress with a don’t-mess-with-me attitude, vain and she knows it, but ultimately kind.

BOOKS
Black, wavy hair
Violet eyes
Pale white skin
Sharp features
Short
Flawed beauty
Deep voice
Star obsidian necklace
Black & white
Fiery
Proud
Shrewd
Witty
VIDEOGAME
Black, straight hair
Violet eyes
Pale white skin
Strong features
Tall
Flawlessly beautiful
Slightly British
Star obsidian necklace
Black & white
Fiery
Proud
Untrusting
Contradictory
NETFLIX
Black, straight hair
Violet eyes
Warm undertone
Soft features
Average height
Realistically beautiful
Actually British
Star obsidian necklace
Black attire
Fiery
Proud
Shrewd
Contradictory

Actress: Anya Chalotra
Official description: Twitter

BOOK YENNEFER

Even in the books, Yennefer was famed for her beauty. She was often described as having “raven black hair” that fell down her shoulders in “curls”, and piercing “violet eyes”. Words such as “ravishing” and “menacing” (“Sword of Destiny” by Andrzej Sapkowski) were used to present the sorceress. However, the books do emphasize on a few flaws, caught only by Geralt’s sharp senses.

Through Geralt’s eyes, we know Yennefer has slightly sloped shoulders, subtly irregular eyebrows, and a long nose. These are mere hints to a rougher background that I will not go into for fear of spoilers.

In addition, book Yennefer does seem to favor black and white clothing as well to go with her trademark accessory: the obsidian star on black velvet hanging on around her neck.

GAME YENNEFER

In the Wild Hunt, the only game of the Witcher series where she is present, Yennefer stays true to the description in the books: beautiful and menacing. The developers kept the raven black hair and spectacular violet eyes. Her beauty was mentioned even by those who despised her or felt intimidated.

However, CD Projekt Red opted for slightly stronger features. This made fans of the series instantly imagine Eva Green as the sorceress.

yennefer alternative costume

Yennefer’s Alternative Look from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Unlike the books, though, which mentioned Yen’s flaws through a witcher’s sharp eyes, the game did not. Outside of the quick tidbit in the cinematic at the beginning of the game that hints at her past, the raven-haired sorceress is nothing short of flawlessly beautiful.

The same black and white attire remained her favored style, emphasized by both her Alternative look and Geralt’s quip at the beginning of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

 

NETFLIX YENNEFER

There’s no doubt that no one thought of Anya Chalotra when making their dream cast for the Witcher on Netflix. Judging by the short teaser, the showrunner seems to have kept to the source material and taken some liberties where Yennefer is concerned.

There have been complaints about Chalotra not having the same intimidating presence the Witcher game shows for the sorceress. It still remains to be seen, though.

The good news is the actress apparently has no issues with violet contact lenses in order to achieve a more authentic look to the books. It would have been a shame to lose such an iconic feature of Yennefer. It’s been known to happen, though (such as Emilia Clarke being unable to wear purple contact lenses for Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones).

CIRI

A girl of noble background, tied by destiny, and who belongs to a very powerful bloodline. Also, OP in the game.

BOOKS
Ashen-gray hair
Green eyes
Pale skin
Scar on her cheek (later)
Resilient
Dangerous
Arrogant
A little spoiled

Artwork by JustAnor

VIDEOGAME
Ashen-gray hair
Green eyes
Pale skin
Scar on her cheek (later)
Resilient
Troublemaker
Brazen
Eager to learn
NETFLIX
Ashen-gray hair
Green eyes
Pale skin
Scar on her cheek (later?)
Resilient
Relentless
Brazen
Growing

Actress: Freya Allan
Official description: Twitter

BOOK CIRI

The Witcher books don’t go too heavily into Ciri’s appearance, mostly referring to her ashen hair and emerald green eyes. The rest are mere details that can be glossed over, such as slightly boyish build, pale skin, and otherwise a “common lass” in appearance, perhaps even “pretty”.

When we first meet her, Ciri is around 8 to 9 years old, growing into a teenager over the course of the books who’s very agile and slender due to her witcher training.

Ciri’s most distinguishing feature remains the “nasty” scar on her cheek, acquired a little later in life. In addition, the books do venture further into the effect her past has on her personality, describing her eyes as full of hatred and hungry for vengeance.

GAME CIRI

We briefly meet Ciri as a teenager at the beginning of the game as she’s undergoing witcher training. She’s missing the “nasty” scar on her cheek but maintains all other features mentioned in Sapkowski’s books. Ciri is a born troublemaker with ashen-gray hair and brilliant green eyes.

A couple of years down the line, the developers give her the deep scar often mentioned over the course of the books. However, they don’t explain how she got it. Once again, I will not mention it due to potential spoilers.

The developers did leave a small clue on one of their Gwent cards, though. It’s in the form of a quote “My mark scars the face of our future empress. That is my proudest achievement.”.

 

NETFLIX CIRI

Let’s just skip over the controversy that surrounded Ciri’s casting in the beginning. The showrunner of The Witcher Netflix adaptation, Lauren Hissrich, cast Freya Allan as the powerful witcher-in-training-at-the-time. Within the descriptions offered and glimpses from the teaser, the actress seems to fit the role of young Ciri just fine.

It now remains to be seen how far the Witcher Netflix series will go with her story. Will we jump in time? Does that mean a recasting of Ciri as she grows older? We can’t say much on this choice until future seasons. Hopefully, the quality of the Netflix Witcher show will be high enough to maintain good ratings and we’ll get to dive deeper into the rich world of The Witcher books.

TRISS MERIGOLD

Young sorceress, like a sister to Ciri, skilled healer. Horrible person.

BOOKS
Chestnut-red hair
Cornflower blue eyes
Unspecified
Scar on chest (later)
Cheerful
Idealistic
Naive
Manipulative

Artwork by JustAnor

VIDEOGAME
Ginger hair
Green eyes
Pale skin
No scars
Outgoing
Idealistic
Insecure
Conflicted
NETFLIX
Brown hair
Brown eyes
Warm undertone
No scars (early on)
Spunky
Idealistic
Insecure
Conflicted

Actress: Anna Shaffer
Official description: Twitter

BOOK TRISS

I know fans will always be in a heated debate of Yennefer vs. Triss, and that both are important characters in the Witcher game series. Triss appears in all three games and Yen in just the Wild Hunt. 

However, in the books, everyone’s favorite ginger sorceress is not that prominent. Or that ginger for that matter. Triss Merigold has a minor role in Sapkowski’s books, a slightly bigger one in Blood of Elves (the third chronological book), but that’s about it.

Her presence in the Netflix Witcher series might be one of the elements inserted for the sake of the fans of the game. If not for CD Projekt Red’s work, I doubt we would’ve gotten Triss in the Netflix show outside of being a minor character.

That’s why there are not a lot of descriptions of the young sorceress in the books, outside of her having blue eyes and chestnut hair with “sheen of red”. We assume the rest.

triss alternative costume

Triss’ Alternative Look in Witcher 3: Wild Hunt showing the lack of scar on her chest.

In addition, Triss acquires a potentially ugly scar on her chest during a battle. She says she will never be able to wear a deep neckline again, which was definitely not the case in the game. The Triss Alternative Look was not subtle about it.

GAME TRISS

Triss Merigold has gained favor from the fans in the Witcher games. She’s by Geralt’s side from the first one and has much more screen time than a Witcher series book reader would’ve thought. In fact, she’s the “default romance option”, as horrible as that sounds. The games basically start with her as Geralt’s lover and close friend.

Her bright red hair and freckles have become a trademark for the sorceress, along with her bright green eyes. One would think these features would’ve made her much easier to find by the Eternal Flame, along with being incredibly beautiful, but alas.

The developers took a lot of liberties with Triss as a character and her looks. Once again, I can’t help but agree with the changes CD Projekt Red made in order to make the story more interesting and the character more memorable.

In fact, it has been noted by fans that the developers did push Triss a bit too much as a romance option for Geralt rather than Yen. It’s debatable and I can never bring myself to pick her, but that’s just me. Looking forward to seeing what the Netflix Witcher series does with Triss as a character and if they take her further than Geralt’s fleeting romantic interest.

 

NETFLIX TRISS

Here we go, possibly the most controversial casting choice for the Netflix Witcher series. The showrunner cast Anna Shaffer and people are not pleased. The hair, the eyes, the skin color, everything seems to not match the image fans have in mind.

Admittedly, Netflix appears to have distanced themselves a little bit from the Triss we know in the books and game in terms of appearance. I agree. It’s not quite how I imagined the sorceress, even while reading the books.

However, it remains to be seen where Netflix will take Triss Merigold in terms of personality or role in the story. As mentioned before, her part was much more significant in the game than the Witcher books. Judging by the logo of the Netflix Witcher series, the emphasis seems to be just like Sapkowski’s work: on Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri.

GAMING NEWS & EXCLUSIVE GIVEAWAYS

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DANDELION / JASKIER

The Bard of every D&D party: flamboyant, the comedic relief, valuable in surprising ways, rarely knows when to shut up. We still don’t know many details about him, but hopefully, Netflix Witcher will do his character justice.

BOOKS
Jaskier
Blond hair
Blue eyes
Pale skin
Extravagant
Caddish
Practical
Loyal

Artwork by JustAnor

VIDEOGAME
Dandelion
Brown hair
Blue eyes
Pale skin
Extravagant
A little cowardly
Foolish
Loyal
NETFLIX
Jaskier
Light brown hair
Blue eyes
Pale skin
Extravagant
Caddish
Loose-lipped
Loyal

Actor: Joey Batey
Official description: Twitter

EMHYR

Emperor. Father of Ciri. Usually the source of tension. It’s also a source of my bafflement as to why he hasn’t been yet included in the cast of Netflix’s Witcher.

BOOKS
Black hair
Brown eyes
Imperialistic
Practical
Monarchical
Masquerader
VIDEOGAME
Black hair
Brown eyes
Imperialistic
Rigid
Monarchical
Masquerader
NETFLIX
Unknown
Unknown
Imperialistic
Ruthless
Monarchical
Masquerader

Actor: Unknown
Official description: Twitter

FRINGILLA VIGO

Member of the Lodge of Sorceresses. Geralt’s lover and a bit of a rival to Yen and Triss.

BOOKS
Dark, short hair
Green eyes
Pale skin
Relatively important role

Artwork by CloudsDevourer

VIDEOGAME
Dark, short hair
Green eyes
Pale skin
Minor role
NETFLIX
Dark hair (perhaps short)
Brown eyes
Darker skin tone
Unknown

Actress: Mimi Ndiweni

MOUSESACK / ERMION

Wise druid. A caretaker for Ciri and an advisor for Geralt.

BOOKS
Flaxen hair
Black eyes
Wise
Intelligent

Artwork by CD Projekt Red

VIDEOGAME
Grey hair
Green eyes
Wise
Intelligent
NETFLIX
Brown/ graying hair
Green eyes
N/A
N/A

Actor: Adam Levy

KING FOLTEST

King of Temeria with a “controversial” family.

BOOKS
Red hair
Unspecified
Pale skin
Decisive
Hot-headed
Controversial

Artwork by Witcher Fandom

VIDEOGAME
Brown hair
Brown eyes
Pale skin
Decisive
Hot-headed
Likeable
NETFLIX
Light brown hair
Blue eyes
Pale skin
N/A
N/A
N/A

Actor: Shaun Dooley

REGIS

An eloquent vampire who proves that not all powerful monsters are cruel.

BOOKS
Grey hair
Black eyes
Inhumanly pale
Eloquent
Selfless
Wordly
Haunted

Artwork by Afternoon63

VIDEOGAME
Grey hair
Black eyes
Inhumanly pale
Eloquent
Wise
Wordly
Haunted
NETFLIX
Unknown yet
Unknown yet
Unknown yet
Eloquent
Ensconced
Wordly
Haunted

Actor: Unknown
Official description: Twitter

CAHIR

A brave, skilled, and charming warrior with a ridiculously tough name to pronounce. Or spell. Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

BOOKS
Dark brown
Blue eyes
Pale skin
Conflicted
Charismatic
Haunted
Pure of heart
VIDEOGAME
Did not appear
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Light brown
Blue eyes
Pale skin
Conflicted
Charismatic
Haunted
Pure of heart

Actor: Eamon Farren
Official description: Twitter

VILGEFORTZ DE ROGGEVEEN

An incredibly powerful mage who shows looks can be deceiving in the worst way possible.

BOOKS
Brown hair
Unspecified eye color
Scarred eye
Power-hungry
Ambitious
Sadistic
Mysterious

Artwork by Elenasamko

VIDEOGAME
Did not appear
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Brown hair
Brown eyes
Unknown if scarred
Power-hungry
Conspiratorial
Ruthless
Mercenary

Actor: Mahesh Jadu
Official description: Twitter

LEO BONHART

Bounty hunter. Think Ramsay Bolton, but with less clear intentions.

BOOKS
Grey hair
Pale eyes
Very tall, but thin
Grey moustache
Sadistic
Fearless
Cruelest man alive
Hedonistic

Artwork by Dmitry Skvortsov

VIDEOGAME
Did not appear
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Unknown hair color
Unknown eye color
Unknown height
Unknown facial features
Sadistic
Ghoulish
Ruthlessly efficient
Hedonistic

Actor: Unknown
Official description: Twitter

MILVA

Friend of Dryads. Relatable. Just imagine she’s wearing sunglasses whenever she talks.

BOOKS
Golden brown hair
Witty
Savage
Straight-shooter
Common sense
VIDEOGAME
Only mentioned
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Unknown hair color
Saucy
Savage
Conciliatory
Common sense

Actress: Unknown
Official description: Twitter

VILLENTRETENMERTH

Otherwise known as Borch Three Jackdaws. Father of dragons, take that as you will.

BOOKS
Chestnut hair
A golden dragon
Perceptive
Protective
Merciful
Humane

Artwork by Witcher Fandom

VIDEOGAME
Only mentioned
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Unknown hair color
Hopefully a golden dragon
Perceptive
Protective
Merciful
The most beautiful

Actor: Unknown
Official description: Twitter

TISSAIA

Powerful sorceress. Yennefer’s mentor. Loyal to her people.

BOOKS
Dark hair
Unspecified eye color
Vain
Protective
VIDEOGAME
Only mentioned
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Dark hair
Blue eyes
N/A
N/A

Actress: MyAnna Buring

ISTREDD

A powerful sorcerer with connections to Yennefer. Debatably, Yen’s “Triss”.

BOOKS
Dark hair
Grey eyes
Talented
Intelligent

Artwork by Pau Ulises Serrano

VIDEOGAME
Did not appear
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Dark hair
Brown eyes
N/A
N/A

QUEEN CALANTHE

Grandmother of Ciri. Proud. Unapologetic mocker.

BOOKS
Blond hair
Light eyes
Pale skin
Proud
Clever

Artwork by Pauline Voß

VIDEOGAME
Did not appear
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
NETFLIX
Brown hair
Brown eyes
Pale skin
N/A
N/A

Actress: Jodhi May

ROACH

The best.

BOOKS
Bay hair
Brown eyes
More
than
just
one
VIDEOGAME
Bay hair
Brown eyes
Always behind Geralt
Seas do not stop her
Gravity-defying
A Pheonix in disguise
NETFLIX
Bay hair
Brown eyes
Ladylike
Faithful
Extrasensory
Steady

You played the game, but didn’t read the books?

Here’s what to look forward to in the first season (SPOILER FREE).

  • How Geralt became the Butcher of Blaviken
  • How Ciri came into Geralt’s care and training
  • A deeper story on Ciri’s bloodline and parents
  • Yennefer’s origin story that was not fully tackled in the books either
  • Context to the tense relationship between Geralt and Emperor Emhyr var Emreis
  • The first meeting between Geralt and Yennefer
  • The genie wish that bonded Geralt and Yennefer (which you undo in the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt on a mission called “The Last Wish”)

The problem here is that even though the books are deemed as better by fans of both CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher games and Sapkowski’s Witcher series, the Netflix show still seems to suffer the most from comparisons to the Wild Hunt. As Sapkowski himself admitted in an interview (translation on Reddit), the success of the game did harm the books, and that may just transfer to the upcoming series as well.

As to the Netflix Witcher series release date***, we don’t know yet, but some time this fall, apparently. However, we do know it will be covering the events of the “Sword of Destiny” and “The Last Wish”, with tidbits from “Blood of Elves”. There’s still time to read up if you’re curious.

***UPDATE: The official Netflix Witcher release date is December 20, 2019. We hope you are as stocked as we are. 

NETFLIX WITCHER EPISODE TITLES

Here’s the list of episodes for the upcoming series:

  • The End’s Beginning
  • Four Marks
  • Betrayer Moon
  • Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials
  • Bottled Appetites
  • Rare Species
  • Before a Fall
  • Much More

Also, I love the fact that you can form a poem by their description:

A monster slain, a butcher named
We look at a sorceress’s earlier days
A picky eater, a family shamed
The Law of Surprise is how one repays
A fateful meeting, a bard is maimed
The hunt for a dragon is underway
A return to before a kingdom is flamed
The Witcher Family as you all like to say

I hope the poem is the definitive proof that the Netflix Witcher writing will be on par with the books and video games.

CONCLUSION

Before people get mad about casting choices and plot points, keep in mind: the games are inspired by the books while the show will be an adaptation. However, we can see the series will definitely take some inspiration from the games, probably to not completely alienate those who only played them. It will be a challenge to get all the fans of the Witcher franchise behind one TV series and please everyone. Good luck, Netflix.

Tania Preda

Tania Preda

Contributor

I pride myself with an awesome gaming rig and probably spend way too much money on peripherals. I’m still keeping my tastes varied, either heading into competitive Overwatch, doing every single side quest of Red Dead Redemption 2 or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, sometimes indulging in a bit city building with Anno 1800 or Frostpunk, enjoying the bloodshed in Mortal Kombat XI, and getting excited about most upcoming open-world, story-driven RPGs.

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