Like most shows or movies adapted from literary works, Netflix’s hit series The Witcher is not exactly a one-to-one translation of its original source material. This was made evident in its first season, with the show’s attempt to adapt the short stories from both The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. Each story was tied together into a single, long-running narrative that gave the audience the impression that the show had an end goal that it was trying to reach as opposed to simply being about the titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, on the job like the books portrayed him.
This trend continued into the show’s second season, adapted from The Blood of Elves and parts of Time of Contempt. Unlike The Last Wish and Sword of Destinyhowever, both The Blood of Elves and Time of Contempt are not collections of short stories but are instead single, much longer stories that make up the main Witcher series, of which there are five books in total (not counting short story collections or spinoffs). While these changes made sense for the show’s first season, it was more than a bit of head-scratching for its second season, which included yet another short story from The Last Wish.
Making changes when adapting something from the written word into something that needs to be played out by actual, human actors is a practice that is as old as movie-making itself. Both the quality and the necessity of said changes depend entirely on the individuals making the adaptation, but even good adaptations are not immune from some changes. One good example of this in The Witcher series itself lies in Geralt’s relationship with the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg. In Netflix’s adaptation, both Geralt and Yennefer are, to some small degree, loyal to each other and refuse to be with others even when offered the chance.
By contrast, in the books, both Geralt and Yennefer are not exactly faithful partners, and both have a string over lovers as the books go on. This change does not affect the larger story in the slightest, but it illustrates how whatever changes are made in Netflix’s adaptation will more than likely not affect the story going forward.
Addition, Not Subtraction
As was stated above, the first season of Netflix’s The Witcher was based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, both of which are collections of short stories. The total page count of both books (in their English translations) amounts to roughly 672 pages. The Blood of Elveson which the second season is largely basedby contrast, stands at approximately 320 pages (again in the English translation), so based on page count alone, it is obvious that a direct adaptation of The Blood of Elves would not be able to completely fill up the eight-episode, hour-long episode each length that the show’s producers were looking for. To counteract this, however, the show’s producers decided to add brand-new scenes rather than change what was already there to make it longer. If one were to compare The Blood of Elves to season two of The Witcherone would find that most of the major events of that book happen as described, albeit with some necessary changes to fit the show’s specific narrative.
Yennefer’s sub-plot with her losing her magic, the elven baby sub-plot with Francesca Findabair and Filavandrel aén Fidháil (who was not in the later books at all), and all the things that happen with the sorceress Fringilla Vigo and the Nilfgardian knight Cahir were all added for the sake of adding run time to the show’s episodes. None of these sub-plots were in any of the books. In fact, until they met Geralt and Ciri, it was largely a mystery what any of these characters were doing. Considering that every one of those characters will be important later, it is actually a good thing that the show is bothering to show more of them than the books did. So, for the most part, the story of The Witcher remains largely intact. The show offers more than the books did.
Same Journey, Different Path
Considering that all the essential characters from the books (at least the ones who have appeared) are in the show and their motivations and what drives them to pursue their goals remain largely intact, it is relatively safe to say that whatever other changes are made to future seasons of The Witcher that the story will follow the same path as the books. As long as the end goal remains the same and all of the critical events that happen in the books happen as they are supposed to, there will not be a need to worry about whatever changes are made.
Despite the flaws in seasons one and two of The Witcher, the show has done quite a fantastic job of staying true to the story that the books have told. If at the very least, this trend continues, then fans of both the original books by Andrzej Sapkowski and the videogames by CD Projekt Red will be satisfied.
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