The Witcher’s cast is full of big personalities, and at first glance the series is carried by a few principle characters, especially in the Netflix adaptation.
Yes, the show’s central plotline follows the perspective of three or four select characters. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give some credit to the “little guy” as it were. The Witcher’s central drama plays out above the carefully laid foundation of richly described side characters, worldbuilding, and intrigue. Divergent plotlines spin in and out of that foundation and reinforce it like rebar.
Here are 8 minor characters that Sapkowski uses to flesh out his world; a grindstone to test his main cast against– to grow from the experience, or else to break. To keep Netflix-only viewers spoiler-free, this list prominently features characters from the first two novels covered in the Netflix series; The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which served as the basis for much of the Netflix series’s first season. The backgrounds for characters that could potentially be introduced in future adaptations are kept vague.
The head priestess of the temple of Melitele might be the closest person Geralt has to a mother. They share a likeness in parentage2he Last Wish 115 that likely strengthens their bond. While the episode “Betrayer Moon” has Triss treating Geralt’s wounds from his bout with the striga, in The Last WIsh Nenneke removes Geralt’s poor field stitchings and redoes them by hand. Jaskier knows to find him there because it is expected that he recuperate under Nenneke’s watch3he Last Wish 85. Aside from Kaer Morhen the temple of Melitele is a second home for Geralt.
Geralt and the wizard’s meeting in Blaviken in “The End’s Beginning” is an opportunity to dive into some historical sorcery. Their discussion introduces us to some of Sapkowski’s interpretations of mutation and magic, if not their exact mechanics. In The Last Wish it’s clear that the two have met before on less than amicable terms, when Stregobor repreminded the witcher’s because his career is built on the thoughtless murdering of animals5The Last Wish 45. Geralt ends up being driven out of town in humiliation and without pay. True to form, Geralt’s slaughter of Renfri’s squad in episode one ends in much the same way, with Stregobor standing by the authorities and the people to drive the witcher from Blaviken. This contrasts with Stregobor’s invitation to leave the town together in the books6The Last Wish 61, but here the adaptation may be more true to his character. Stregobor cows to authority and escapes responsibility.
The Baron Eylembert of Tigg, also known as Coodcoodak, is introduced to us in “A Question of Price” as a guest of Calanthe’s banquet. Netflix’s “Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials” fails us by excluding the Baron (and his bizarre animal noises) from Calanthe’s guest list. Coodcoodak is best known by his nickname and for his voice impressions of the natural world. Sapkowski uses this to intersperse Geralt’s otherwise tense conversation with the queen with sudden outbursts from chickens and wolves8The Last Wish 68. Obviously setting a scene in text is less straightforward than with visuals, but the general effect of these exclamations is the same as those sudden lapses in silence in a conversation that get filled with white noise at a big gathering. The result is an atmosphere of raucous commotion, and you get a sense of Geralt’s conversation blanketed in that noise, and therefore private. When Pavetta’s outburst of Force nearly kills everyone in the hall, it is Coodcoodak’s unearthly summoning of animal impersonations interpreted through the bowels of a bagpipe that saves the day. The princess is stunned long enough for the witcher and Mousesack to act9The Last Wish 81.
Geralt and Jaskier’s escapades in Dol Blathanna in Four Marks quickly go to hell when they find out Torque is implicated in the elves’ desperate plot for survival, and get themselves captured. Geralt gives Filavandrel a glimpse into the elves’ grim future, and the elf “king” is merciful and frees them. The end result might be the same, but this is a very simplified telling of “The Edge of the World.” In The Last Wish Filavandrel is anything but convinced by Geralt’s philosophizing.
The valley folk’s “Wise One” Lille reveals herself to the elves as Dana Meadbh, the Lady of the Fields11The Last Wish 109 — the goddess of the harvest worshipped by humans and elves alike. Without words, she convinces Filavandrel that his position is to be pitied after all, which he interprets to mean their march to their death is inevitable. Maybe humans will prove themselves unworthy, but they deserve an opportunity to do so.
5. Beau Berrant
Jaskier’s magically-inflicted wounds by the djinn are the reason Geralt must seek healing from a sorcerer in “Bottled Appetites.” Ultimately this leads to Geralt and Yennefer’s first meeting; again Netflix takes a more direct route, with Geralt approaching the sorceress directly during her magic orgy. In The Last Wish’s eponymous short story, Geralt tracks Yennefer down to the house of the renowned merchant Beau Berrant, and forces his entry. Simplifying things, in “Bottled Appetites” Berrant and the mayor of Rinde are combined into the same role. Geralt stumbles upon the master of the house, disheveled and under the influence (substance or magically-induced, or both). Berrant is desperately looking for apple juice to bring to his bedfellow12The Last Wish 120. Geralt takes it upon himself to deliver the juice himself, which he does manage, before Yennefer notices the switch and blasts the intruder with magic. Yennefer only entertains his request to heal the broken Jaskier because despite Geralt’s urgency, he still took the time to bring her that apple juice13The Last Wish 123. Without that good first impression (thanks to Mr. Berrant) Jaskier’s story may well have ended there.
6. Eyck of Denesle
Netflix’s wild dragon chase in “Rare Species” is an adaptation of the short story “The Bounds of Reason” from Sword of Destiny. As I discussed in my review15https://thepathwitcher.blog/2020/01/05/rare-species-hurts-the-more-you-think-about-it-s1e6-review/ of the episode, the Sir Eyck of the Netflix adaptation is virtually a different character, and his presence only prefaces the idea that Boholt and his Reavers have no intention of collaborating or sharing the spoils of the hunt.
In Sword of Destiny, Eyck is not a cowering or manic consort for Yennefer, but a virtuous, efficient, and slightly more manic upholder of human sovereignty. Geralt respects his fighting ability, but curses the fact that he kills monsters on principle, not for pay16Sword of Destiny 19. His presence suggests humans are becoming more self-sufficient, and that perhaps the age of witchers is coming to an end. The fact that Geralt praises Eyck’s skill, and Villentretenmerth still dispatches him instantly, makes the dragon all the more fearsome.
While the wizard Dorregaray is eliminated from episode 6 entirely, he plays an important role in Sword of Destiny that the adaptation is missing. Dorregaray is a part of the theme of preservation that runs through the Witcher Saga, and joins the dragon hunt specifically to get in the way of the other hunters18Sword of Destiny 54. The druidic philosophy that the wizard prescribes to maintains that the world is in balance, a food web which humans play a part in, and so killing any creature unjustly disturbs that balance. Dorregaray represents diversity among his caste of sorcerers, even turning up the prospect of the valuable materials that a dragon’s corpse offers.
While it’s very likely that Novigrad will make an appearance of some sort in The Witcher’s future seasons, it isn’t clear if Sword of Destiny’s “The Eternal Flame” will make the cut. Dudu is a sympathetic, non-human character, and much like Villentretenmerth, forces Geralt to confront the intricacies of his witcher code. Dudu’s appearance and his interactions with Geralt, Jaskier, and the people of Novigrad shed light on the fundamental anti-nonhuman sentiment in the Witcher Saga. Once again, Geralt involves himself more than his profession demands, and he must evaluate the morality of the purpose of witchers like himself. Dudu also sets the stage for Geralt’s cooperative relationship with nonhumans later down the road.