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The Renfri Detail In Netflix's The Witcher You Might Have Missed

Despite only appearing in one episode, Renfri is a critically important character in Netflix's adaptation of The Witcher. That's not to say she isn't important in the original short story in which she appears, but the television series sought to underline that significance by framing the entire series around her character and that individual story, "The Last Wish." The showdown in Blaviken is the critical point in Geralt's long-lived life that he finally recognizes his responsibility to the world around him and the impact, intended or not, he has by simply doing his job.

In "The End's Beginning," Renfri is introduced wearing a cowl that is secured by a large, ornate Celtic-style pin brooch. At the end of the episode, Geralt carries the brooch away with him in his bloody hand as a kind of memory token when he's forced to leave Blaviken. What you may not have noticed in later episodes, however, is that Geralt has the circle of the brooch smithed onto his sword to become part of the hilt. It's a small detail that's easy to miss, since the show never calls direct attention to it, but that's the kind of detailed thematic craft that gives this version so much weight as it seeks to somewhat reinvent The Witcher while it adapts the books. Here's why that matters beyond simply being an Easter egg for trivia's sake, and what it means about both Geralt and how he perceives Renfri.

Renfri's brooch serves as a helpful compass point

One of the more challenging aspects of The Witcher that fans reported in watching the show's inaugural season was difficulty in following the non-linear narrative. This was entirely intentional as part of underlining the theme of fate drawing Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer together through time, irrelevant of conflict or personal circumstance. Of course, if you don't know that going in, it takes a bit of thinking to completely absorb what's going on. There are, of course, written guides out there to help you parse it after the fact, but on your inevitable rewatches it might help you to know that the brooch exists on the sword in all episodes that are set post-Blaviken, and is absent in the episodes set years (sometimes decades) before the events leading to Renfri's death. It's a simple detail, but it's well thought-out and adds consistency to a timeline that can, at times, be confusing to keep up with.

Cavill's take on Renfri's brooch

Henry Cavill, who portrays Geralt, tweeted a short video about his sword soon after the initial release of The Witcher's first season, and gave his two cents about the brooch's place in Geralt's mind: "The addition of Renfri's brooch on the hilt signifies Geralt's reinforcement of his beliefs that he shouldn't get involved in the affairs of men, because they always lead to his own personal pain. And Renfri's brooch, every time he draws his sword, reminds him that despite how he may be trying to achieve good, evil may be around the corner, regardless." 

That's a shade nihilistic to say the least, and that's only fitting because our beloved Witcher is a bit of a grumpy goose. But there's also the unspoken half to that sentiment: he ultimately goes to retrieve Ciri anyway, a decade late though he may be, and that is directly because of Renfri telling him that "the girl in the woods" is inextricably linked to him, and he must take responsibility for it. If season 1 is about Geralt suffering a whole bunch of psychic pain and learning to embrace his destiny, however reluctantly, then the next season will be about learning to be more whole with the inclusion of Ciri (and, we hope, eventually Yennefer) in his life. Though it causes him suffering, the point is that by facing this double-edged truth with clear eyes, he will find the purpose he has never been able to fake before.

The sword's the thing

All Witchers, including Geralt, carry two swords: a silver sword for monsters, and a steel one for humans. It's easy to miss if you're not paying extra attention to detail, as Geralt typically only carries the steel one on his back and the silver one in a saddlebag strapped to Roach. It's not an accident that Geralt attached Renfri's brooch to his steel sword — their entire relationship throughout the premiere episode is based on the fear they both carry that they no longer count as human. They certainly aren't treated by the populace at large as if they are, though it's for arbitrary and prejudicial reasons. 

Questions from secondary characters are peppered all throughout the series asking if Geralt can "feel," and while he never answers them, we as an audience know the truth: of course he can, and no matter how hard he tries to not let it, it bothers him that people don't recognize that. Geralt didn't voluntarily become a Witcher, and he has carried that trauma with him his entire life. Renfri died as her own answer to their shared question — that being the choice to abandon any pretense of humanity by hunting Stregobor to literal death — but in his own way, Geralt is honoring and remembering who he thinks she was and ought to have been given a chance to be.