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The Untold Truth Of Yennefer From The Witcher

The book series "The Witcher," written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and centered on a monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia, is taking the English-speaking world by storm in Netflix's screen adaptation. These novels and short story collections were really successful in Poland, spawning a video game franchise before being translated into English, per PC Gamer. Although the books and video games are focused on Geralt, Netflix's adaptation is a little different, as the characters of Yennefer and Ciri also share the spotlight, with plenty of screen time devoted to these characters.

Yennefer of Vengerberg, who is played by Anya Chalotra, is one of the three most important characters in Netflix's adaptation of "The Witcher." Her backstory is sad and explored more fully in Season 1 of the show than in either the books or the games. Delving into Yennefer's origins in the show makes Yennefer a more sympathetic character than in the books, but she still maintains her strong will and grit. While the show shares many of Yennefer's secrets, there is still a bit of a mystery to be discovered. We have dug deep into source materials to find more of her secrets for you. Here is the untold truth of Yennefer from "The Witcher."

Spoilers for "The Witcher" television series, books, and video games ahead.

Yennefer was born a hunchback

While not a secret, except to those who meet her later in life, being born a hunchback is a formative experience for Yennefer. She suffers abuse as a child because of her deformity, as we see in Netflix's series. In the books, Yennefer's father abandons the family, and Yennefer's mother, who had once been kind to her, turns on Yennefer, blaming her (and her deformity) for the family being abandoned by her father. In the Netflix adaptation, Yennefer is mistreated, not only by her family but by the local villagers.

People can be cruel, especially to people who look different, and this cruelty can have a lasting effect on the recipients of abuse. Because of this treatment, Yennefer grows up coveting beauty and power. She never wants to be pushed down on the ground again. She never wants to be that weak young girl who used to take the mistreatment doled out to her. She wants power. And Yennefer is in luck! She becomes one of the most powerful students at Arteuza.

Yennefer was sold to Arteuza

In the Netflix series, Yennefer is sold to Tissaia by her father. Embarrassed by her deformity, he does not claim her as his own child and doesn't think twice about sending her away. Tissaia takes Yennefer to Aretuza to be trained as a mage. In the books, Yennefer goes to Aretuza because her magical abilities are discovered, and Aretuza is simply where the magically gifted go in the world of "The Witcher." 

However, being sold to Aretuza in the Netflix series emphasizes how little agency Yennefer has. She is treated like an animal, talked down to, and denied love. She is treated as a possession, sold for less than the price of a pig. This facet of Yennefer's story in Netflix's adaptation emphasizes Yennefer's powerlessness early in her life. It is no surprise she becomes singularly focused on attaining influence once she has accepted her place at Aretuza.

Yennefer attempts suicide

When Yennefer first comes to Arteuza to study magic, she attempts suicide by cutting her wrists from a broken mirror with a shard. One would think being taken away from a pig farm where you were physically and emotionally abused would be a relief, but Yennefer demonstrates how sometimes the unknown can be even more frightening than the monster you know. She shows us the pain of her loneliness and her yearning for understanding and kindness. 

It is clear that Tissaia, one of the fiercest characters in "The Witcher," resents Yennefer's attempt at taking her own life, thinking her weak for attempting suicide. Despite how tough Tissaia is on Yennefer, she comes to admire Tissaia, wanting to please her and even looking to Tissaia as a mother figure. We repeatedly see this theme through the series from many different characters, many of whom long for family and a sense of place. Yennefer, like Geralt and Ciri, is alone in the world, both blessed and cursed with magical power.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Tissaia has Yennefer's deformity is fixed

In the books, Tissaia has Yennefer's hunchback repaired with magic after her suicide attempt. All students at Aretuza need to be in prime condition so they can focus their energy on their magical studies, not being distracted by ailments and deformities. However, in the Netflix series, Yennefer is only transformed, in a fairly brutal scene, when she is ready to graduate from Arteuza. 

Those in charge of the magical academy dangle the possibility for meaningful transformation, beauty, and power before her like a carrot, keeping her focused on how much better her life will be once she has mastered her magical abilities and is transformed. Yennefer's desire for power and beauty is understandable, regardless of when her hunchback is fixed, but in the Netflix series, they double down on the motivating factors by denying her transformation until her studies at Aretuza are completed. By denying her what she desperately wants and needs, they keep her hungry for power. It is a compelling emotional manipulation that helps turn Yennefer into a powerful mage.

Yennefer is one-quarter elf

In the novels, Yennefer's mother is a half-elf. In the Netflix adaptation, Yennefer has a biological father who was half-elf. Her hunchback is blamed on her elfin blood, and, in a cruel twist of fate, that deformity is the reason her half-elf father doesn't accept her as his child. At Aretuza, when they are arranging appointments at court for the graduating mages, her elfin ancestry is the root cause of her being treated with disdain. This eventually keeps her from receiving her appointment. This treatment is a symptom of the contempt humans feel for elves.

In the show, we learn this part of Yennefer's story when she confides in Istredd (her first love) how her father was a half-elf and how he died during The Great Cleansing. She tells him about this in the Danambei temple ruins, a place of great magical power made of elf bones. Yennefer's elf ancestry explains why some of her magic is especially powerful, despite her struggle to control it. She seems to have a natural connection to the chaos that fuels the magic that other students at Aretuza lack.

Yennefer is infertile

In Netflix's adaptation of "The Witcher," Yennefer literally trades her uterus to undergo a magical transformation that eliminates her hunchback. It is a gruesome scene when we witness how singularly focused Yennefer has become in her quest for power and beauty. She will do anything to achieve these goals, even giving up the possibility of ever having children. This is a decision that her romantic partner Istredd resent her because in the world of "The Witcher," infertility is a common side effect of practicing magic, not a trade you make to attain power.

Using magic slowly makes people infertile, which may explain why elves themselves can only bear children when they are very young, despite their long lifespans. In Netflix's version of "The Witcher," there is a transactional nature to her decision. She pays with a pound of flesh to become powerful, beautiful, and ageless. This is something Yennefer and Geralt could bond over, or fight about, as they do on their dragon hunt in Episode 6 of Season 1. The mutations that the long-lived Witchers undergo make them infertile as well. It seems that to be human and attain powerful magic, one must give up something that, for many, is central to our humanity.

She wants a cure for her infertility

After decades of serving as the royal advisor to Demavend of Aedirn, Yennefer leaves his employ after he sends an assassin warlock to kill the young Queen under Yennefer's protection. This Queen has given Demavend yet another girl child, and it appears she has run out of time to give him a male heir. After both the Queen and the child die, Yennefer must come to terms with the reality that she regrets the trade she made for her power and beauty. She has become dissatisfied with a life that feels empty and lonely. This might seem like a surprising reaction to the situation, considering how little value the Queen's life appears to have, but one can never guess how the trauma of being hunted will make you feel.

After this experience, Yennefer takes charge of her own life, setting up shop as a freelance mage. Once she is on her own, Yennefer devotes her time to finding a cure for her infertility and giving love potions to couples suffering from poor performance between the sheets. She now has a singular devotion to procreation and physical intimacy. In the Netflix adaptation, Yennefer not only hunts a dragon hoping to find a cure for her infertility, but she also attempts to trap a djinn, hoping it will cure her with a wish. In the books, Yennefer also travels to the Temple of Melitele searching for a cure.

Yennefer and Geralt's destinies are bound

As all of us who have watched the Netflix adaptation of "The Witcher" know, Geralt and Yennefer meet because of a nasty djinn. The djinn injures Jaskier (known as Dandelion in the books), and Yennefer is the healer Geralt brings him to. Yennefer agrees to help Jaskier because she has her sights set on capturing the djinn and forcing it to cure her infertility. Despite being tricked, Geralt doesn't want Yennefer to be harmed. In the literature, Geralt's third wish is for his fate to be tied to Yennefer's. He does this to save her from the djinn's malice. In the mythos of the djinn, they cannot harm their master. If Geralt and Yennefer are bound, the djinn, by default, cannot harm Yennefer.

In the book, Yennefer hears Geralt's third wish and is emotionally moved, as she is surprised he would do something so foolish to save her. In the books, she tells him he has damned himself. In the Netflix series, Yennefer is suspicious that Geralt uses his wish to link their destinies. Her belief that her feelings for Geralt aren't real and are only a magical illusion hits Yennefer very hard, leading her to become dissatisfied with the merits of magic. Yennefer yearns for something real and desires a true family. This is the mental state she brings with her to the Conclave of Mages at Aretuza and into the Battle of Sodden Hill.

Yennefer is temporarily blinded

In Netflix's adaptation of "The Witcher," the Battle of Sodden Hill is the centerpiece of the Season 1 finale. Yennefer draws power from the fires the Nilfgaard army has set, using this fire to fuel her brutal attack on the enemy. In the books, Yennefer is blinded during the Battle of Sodden Hill by Fringilla Vigo, the mage attached to the Nilfgaard army. As you might remember, Fringilla and Yennefer train at Arteuza together and cease being friendly when Yennefer usurps Fringilla's appointment to the court of Aedirn, where Yennefer remains as an unofficial advisor for decades after leaving Aretuza. After Aretuza, Fringilla is deployed to Nilfgaard, where she helps develop the kingdom's power. 

After the Battle of Sodden Hill, Yennefer becomes the youngest member of The Council of Wizards because of her bravery and display of power in the battle. The Council of Wizards magically restores her eyesight, but the trauma of the conflict remains with her. 

Yennefer trains Ciri

At some point in the Netflix series, Geralt will ask Yennefer to train Ciri after learning Ciri is a Source, as he does in the books. Yennefer is the only mage powerful enough to train Ciri, so she will be trained by Yennefer in magical arts at the Temple of Melitele. In the books, Yennefer and Ciri initially don't get along very well, as they have a bit of a power struggle and some weird jealousy over Geralt. This conflict exists even though Ciri's relationship with him is more like a father-daughter bond, while Yennefer's relationship with Geralt is more mature and intimate. 

After training together, Yennefer and Ciri develop a mother-daughter bond. Yennefer acts as a mother figure for Ciri, giving both women something they need. All three characters, Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri, are orphans in their own way. They are three exceptional people who fear they might be monsters. While they have spent most of their time alone in the world, they come together into a family unit, finding solidarity and safety together, at least for a while.

Yennefer declined to join the Lodge of Sorceresses

In the books, after Ciri vanishes through a portal at the Thanedd coup, Yennefer is trapped in a jade figurine in the Lodge of Sorceresses for over a month. When she is released from the figurine she is invited to join the Lodge. However, she ultimately declines the offer after learning they want to arrange a marriage between Ciri and Tankred Thyssen of Kovir in order to create a northern kingdom to oppose Nilfgaard. 

While at the Lodge of Sorceresses, Yennefer shares information with the sorceresses about Ciri's powers. When the sorceresses share the story of the elfin sorceress Lara Dorren, who Ciri is descended from, Yennefer discovers Ciri's genetic link to the Elder Blood. Ultimately, Yennefer does not join the Lodge of Sorceresses because their intentions do not align with Yennefer's need to protect Ciri as a mother would. Yennefer's fierce love for Ciri drives nearly all of Yennefer's decisions after the two women meet.

Yennefer and Geralt live together

Yennefer's relationship with Geralt of Rivia relationship is pretty contentious, as they have a serious on-again, off-again thing going on for a long time. In the book "Time of Contempt," Geralt finally admits his feelings for Yennefer, and their relationship is more stable after that admission. Considering how crazy their lives are and the multiple political events they are embroiled in, these two can't always be together. But for a time, Yennefer and Geralt live together on the Isle of Avalon and even cement their love by getting married.

Eventually, the honeymoon ends when the Wild Hunt captures Yennefer. The King of the Wild Hunt plans to use Yennefer as bait to lure and capture Ciri. While being held captive by the Wild Hunt, Yennefer becomes very ill, only recovering when she is set free after Geralt takes her place. Unfortunately, when Yennefer recovers, she has amnesia, yet another complication that keeps Yennefer and Geralt apart. However, since this relationship is a fan favorite in the Netflix adaptation of "The Witcher," hopefully, it won't be too long before they are finally reunited.