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What The Witcher Fans Need To Know About The Scoia'tael Before Season 2

It's the first day of Witchmas, and Netflix has delivered a gift to fans of The Witcher with a set photo that teases the arrival of the Scoia'tael in season 2.

After announcing "6 Days of Witchmas," the Twitter account for the series — starring Henry Cavill as monster-slayer Geralt of Rivia — unveiled today three photos from the upcoming season as part of a "Law of Surprise" reveal. Along with images showing a grouping of four swords, and medallions belonging to the School of the Wolf, there is a banner in the forest emblazoned with three intersecting arrows — the insignia of the Scoia'tael.

But what exactly is this faction joining the Netflix series when it returns in 2021? 

Between the fantasy book series by Andrzej Sapkowski and the video games based on it, there is a lot of history to the world of The Witcher. However, the Scoia'tael figure in quite a bit of this lore, so let's focus on the basics.

The Scoia'tael aren't exactly good guys or villains

Also known as Squirrels (because of their forest lifestyle, and squirrel-tail fashion) the Scoia'tael were introduced in the 1994 book Blood of Elves, Sapkowski's first novel in the Witcher Saga following his Witcher short story collections. They are a guerrilla army of elves, dwarves, and halflings.

What began as a protest movement of rebel elves fighting against non-human discrimination, evolved into a violent force. Collectively, they hate humans, and carry out attacks against the "Nordling" humans in the Northern Kingdoms. Elves have been treated as second-class citizens in the world of The Witcher, and depending on one's perspective, the Scoia'tael are either freedom fighters or terrorists.

Tactically, the Squirrels do sometimes operate as a larger group, but they are typically sorted into independent brigades called "commandos," with these units broken up by task. Some of their special task forces focus on assassinations, espionage, and battlefield diversions. The Scoia'tael are known to be highly mobile, and will lie in wait in the forest to ambush and plunder squadrons, caravans, and royal escort missions. Because they are outlaws, they must deal with dodgy smugglers to obtain their weapons and supplies.

Though the Scoia'tael is a rebellion, they have aligned with the Nilfgaardian Empire — a population dominated by humans who mix with elves more than a thousand years before the show's events. The alliance fought against the North, and the Squirrels' service led to elves regaining the region of Dol Blathanna. Meaning "Valley of Flowers" in the elven tongue, Dol Blathanna is to be a sovereign realm for Free Elves, but the Scoia'tael are not celebrated as heroes. Despite their loyalty to the Empire and their elven sorceress-queen, the Scoia'tael are branded war criminals.

How will the Scoia'tael interact with Geralt in Season 2?

Basically, the Scoia'tael are aggressors and combatants, and have a track record of cruelty. They do have a point about elves being treated poorly, and they keep getting a bad deal when it comes to humans, but that doesn't necessarily excuse their most brutal tactics. As GWENT: The Witcher Card Game describes them, the Scoia'tael have been "overcome with hatred, they continue to fight — not for victory, but vengeance."

Geralt, the eponymous Witcher played by an actor with a string of bad luck, may try to avoid political entanglements, but it's a good bet he is destined to do battle with the non-human warriors. Then again, perhaps not, since the series protagonist also becomes an ally of the Scoia'tael commander Iorveth in the video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. 

Whatever happens, the role the Scoia'tael will play in season 2 of The Witcher remains a mystery, though reporting suggests the story will be an adaptation of Blood of Elves, so draw from that what you will. If that is the case, fans can expect these guerrillas to show up out of nowhere, and create a fair amount of chaos.