Author Andrzej Sapkowski created a fictional world unlike any other that balances classic fantasy elements with political intrigue and explorations of moral gray areas. The Witcher is unique that way. Its heroes aren't entirely heroic, and neither are its villains entirely depraved; each of its characters is a complicated mess. The upcoming Netflix adaptation looks to hold that notion close to its heart.
The teaser trailer released Friday at Comic-Con International introduced a lot of faces to a wide audience, many of whom will likely not have read the books or played the massively successful video games. Here's a guide to the characters, and why and how they're important to the story. For the sake of newcomers, we'll do our best to avoid major spoilers.
GERALT OF RIVIA
The first character we see is the mysterious Geralt (played by Henry Cavill), the witcher from the School of the Wolf. In the novels, like most witchers, Geralt walks The Path, which is a fancy way of saying he wanders almost aimlessly across The Continent in search of contracts and monsters to hunt. Where this witcher differs from others is in that he frequently finds himself in the middle of world-changing political conflicts.
Despite his profession as a monster hunter, we don't see him fighting many monsters in the trailer. That suits the story just fine, as he doesn't battle monsters much in the novels either. He doesn't actually say much in the source materials, but there's a lot that goes on internally. Needless to say, he's complicated, and the trailer touches on that. When asked whether he believes all there is to life is monsters and money, he replies, "It's all it needs to be." Take that for what you will.
Early on, as we hear an explanation of The Continent's history with magic, we see beings surrounded by forest. These are dryads, and the more domineering member of the group is likely Eithné, the Silver-Eyed. She was introduced in the short story, "The Sword of Destiny," in which she was the queen of the dryads in the forests of Brokilon.
She's wise but hates humans, which makes some of her actions throughout the novels that much more curious. She aids Geralt and Ciri, and considers the witcher a close ally, though the witcher doesn't quite know why. In the context of the series, it's possible Eithné will be the one to reveal Ciri's connection to Geralt, just as she does in the novels.
YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG
Shortly afterward, we're introduced to a young sorceress crippled by several deformities, Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra). As the trailer soon reveals, those deformities don't hinder her for long. She's trained by a commanding figure, and undergoes painful transformations to become a powerful sorceress who defends the Northern Kingdoms from conquest by the feared Nilgaardian Empire.
In the story, "The Last Wish," Geralt notices that Yennefer's shoulders are slightly lopsided, and he deduces that she used to be a hunchback. The novels don't explore the sorceress' history much further than that, however. Clearly, the series has chosen to go in a different direction. It's an example of how the overarching story won't be limited to Geralt's perspective the way it is in Sapkowski's novels.
TISSAIA DE VRIES
Sorceresses possess the knowledge to turn chaos into magic. We hear that explained as the teaser introduces Tissaia (MyAnna Buring), calmly levitating a rock at a table; it's a simple but wonderful way to show one of the most authoritative sorceresses in the story. Just as the teaser shows us, Tissaia is the one who took Yennefer in and cured her of her physical ailments.
In the novels, she's a member of The Chapter of Gift and the Art, a council of sorcerers and sorceresses that actively guided the practice of magic throughout the world. Video game fans may be more familiar with the Lodge of Sorceresses, a group formed following the fall of the Chapter.
The figure explaining the history of the elves and magic to Yennefer is none other than Istridd (Royce Pierreson), introduced in Sword of Destiny, in the short story, "A Shard of Ice." Readers will know his appearance in the series promises action with touches of romance. Suffice it to say that Istredd and Yennefer are old friends, as you might have gathered, given that the teaser shows him speaking to her before she's gifted with the transformation.
Istredd, a highly respected sorcerer, does more to reveal Yennefer's character than anything else in the story. He appears relatively briefly in Sword of Destiny before returning one last time in Baptism of Fire. Presumably, Istredd will play an equally significant role in Netflix's The Witcher, unlikely to be expanded.
Halfway through, the teaser grandly presents Princess Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon (played by Freya Allan), walking across a snow-covered land. This introduction doesn't differ too greatly from the one readers received in the short story, "The Sword of Destiny." There, Geralt encountered an 11-year-old Ciri lost in forest of Brokilon, hunted by monsters and sought by dryads. The teaser does hint at this sequence of events later on.
There's a lot more to Ciri than her royal blood. She's a child of destiny and is bound to Geralt -- and by extension, Yennefer -- as the witcher finds time and again throughout Sword of Destiny. Eventually, she's sought after by almost everyone and it's up to Geralt, Yennefer and others to protect her, because, as we hear in the teaser, "This child will be extraordinary." Gamers should have a somewhat clearer picture as to why that is.
Almost halfway into the trailer and we see Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer), tending to Geralt of Rivia after a battle and offering words of pity. It's this sorceress who asks him, "So that's all life is to you -- monsters and money?" Fans of the games and novels may be split with this character and, it's unclear whether Netflix's series will make her more prominent.
Unlike the video games, the novels don't do all that much with Triss. She's mentioned in The Last Wish as a friend of Yennefer's and, later on, as gamers probably know, she joined the infamous Lodge of Sorceresses. Her relationship with Geralt and Yen is complex, and her importance to the story debatable.
As the teaser begins to explore the conflict between the Northern Kingdoms and Nilfgaard, we see an armored woman on the battlefield, watching the army of the Black Ones charging in waves. It's none other than Queen Calanthe of Cintra (Jodhi May), also known as the Lioness of Cintra. The battle shown in the teaser was partially described by Dandelion in Sword of Destiny, although Calanthe first appeared in The Last Wish.
Not only is she a warrior and respected queen, she's Ciri's grandmother, which is why we see her urging her granddaughter to find Geralt of Rivia. Calanthe's relationship with Geralt began as a simple contract, but after witnessing the witcher at work, they gradually developed a mutual respect for one another and she ended up guiding him along his destiny when he refused to accept it.
It's easy to have missed this character, as therailer never really shows her face. What it does show is a blast of light emanating from a young woman in the middle of an impressive dining hall. Readers will know this scene from the short story, "A Question of Price," in The Last Wish. For the most part, it's a dinner that takes place in Skellige.
What's important to know is that Pavetta is Queen Calanthe's daughter. The force that erupts from her in the scene is the result of the Force, an aftereffect of the Conjunction of the Spheres. It is this power that sorcerers and sorceresses harness to perform incredible feats. To avoid spoilers, we'll only say that this seemingly simple dinner ultimately shapes Geralt's destiny.
If you pay careful attention to some of the battles that flash across the screen, you'll notice at least one warrior in the dining hall of Skellige is unlike the others. The monster in this fight, battling alongside Geralt is, is Duny, a soldier afflicted by a terrible curse, as explained in the short story, "A Question of Price," in which he is introduced as a potential suitor to the young Pavetta.
Those who only know the Witcher from the video games are unlikely to know who Duny is, as the cursed suitor only appears in that one short story. Duny is a perfect example of the kind of complexity The Witcher is able to develop in its wide cast of characters.
Finally, we have Mousesack (Adam Levy), although gamers will likely know him as the druid, Ermion. In the teaser, we see him trying his best to guide Geralt. He explains that Ciri is an extraordinary child and later on warns Geralt that something -- destiny -- is coming. He's a guiding figure that influences both Geralt of Rivia and Ciri in their respective and often intertwining journeys.
He doesn't appear too often in the novels, first appearing in The Last Wish in "A Question of Price." It's suggested that he and Geralt have known each other for a lifetime, which makes sense as they're both incredibly old. He's one of the few characters that really understands Geralt, which the short story makes clear through the fact that half their communications throughout the banquet aren't spoken. We don't see much of him in the teaser, but with the novels in mind, it appears this is one of the relationships from the novels that will remain almost wholly intact.
The Witcher stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, Freya Allan as Ciri, Jodhi May as Calanthe, Anna Shaffer as Triss, MyAnna Buring as Tissaia, Bart Edwards as Duny, Gaia Mondadori as Pavetta, Adam Levy as Mousesack, Royce Pierreson as Istredd and Joey Batey as Jaskier. The series will arrive this fall on Netflix.