Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Biggest Differences Between Netflix's The Witcher And The Book Series

The Netflix original series "The Witcher" is an epic fantasy adventure filled with magic, monsters, and romance. Henry Cavill stars as the intrepid monster slayer, Geralt of Rivia, along with Anya Chalotra as the fan-favorite Yennefer of Vengerberg alongside Freya Allan as Princess Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon –- or Ciri, for short. The show centers on the journey of these three main characters as they go up against harrowing dangers while trying to ascertain what they mean to each other.

Most fans of "The Witcher" are aware of the popular video game series from Polish studio CD Projekt Red, particularly the award-winning "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt." However, even before it became a successful game franchise, "The Witcher" was a series of novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. It is from these books that the story of the Netflix TV series is based –- although many things were changed or lost in the adaptation process. Let's take a look at the biggest alterations made when "The Witcher" was lifted from the pages of Sapkowski's works to the small screen.

Yennefer's origin story isn't in the books

"The Witcher" Season 1 shows the perspectives of the three main heroes across various timelines. The earliest of those timelines is Yennefer's, who grows up in an abusive environment due to her elvish heritage and physical appearance. When her magical abilities become apparent, Yennefer is taken to the school of Aretuza to study under the strict tutelage of Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring). Though Yennefer struggles to control the balance of Chaos in her initial lessons, she soon proves that she has the potential to become a powerful sorceress.

Undergoing an intense transformation through powerful dark magic, Yennefer becomes the official sorceress of King Demavend of Aedirn. After years of service, and narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Yennefer decides she has had enough of politics and strikes out on her own. However, none of these details are in "The Witcher" novels. 

The first time the reader meets Yennefer in the books is also the first time Geralt meets her. In Sapkowski's short story, "The Last Wish," Geralt is directed to a sorceress in Rinde to help cure Dandelion, aka Jaskier (Joey Batey), from a genie's wish gone awry. The books give very little information about Yennefer prior to meeting Geralt, only alluding to the fact that she used to have a curved spine and was once a student at Aretuza. "The Witcher" showrunner, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, once spoke with TV Guide about diving into Yennefer's origin story. "I really wanted to get in and just dig into her past," said Hissrich. "I wanted to have a much fuller idea of who she was."

Triss was not in Temeria when Geralt fought the striga

In the Season 1 episode "Betrayer Moon," Geralt takes on a contract to destroy a vicious creature known as a striga in the kingdom of Temeria. There he meets the sorceress Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer), who works for Temeria's King Foltest (Shaun Dooley). Triss conveys to Geralt that the striga is truly the daughter of Foltest's sister, Adda, and the heir to the throne. Rather than kill the beast, Triss asks Geralt to break the curse.

The two appear before King Foltest to tell them their plan, but Foltest seems reluctant to go along with it. Geralt surmises that the striga was the result of an incestuous relationship between Foltest and his sister, and he must discover the one responsible for the curse to lift it. After lifting the curse and turning the striga back into a human, Geralt takes his reward and bids Triss farewell.

The tale of Geralt and the striga is from another short story by Sapkowski titled "The Witcher." The episode adapts the events faithfully from the book, with one exception –- Triss Merigold does not appear anywhere in the story. In fact, the books never reveal when exactly Triss and Geralt first met. Triss first appears in the novel "Blood of Elves" when she arrives at Kaer Morhen to help train Ciri in magic. It is briefly mentioned that Triss and Geralt once had a romantic tryst, but readers are given no further details.

Dara only appears in the Netflix series

After Ciri escapes the Nilfgaardian siege on Cintra, she is assisted by a young elf boy named Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte) in the Season 1 episode "Four Marks." Together, Dara and Ciri share a campfire and a meal before parting. They reconnect in a later episode when they find themselves in Brokilon Forest as guests of the dryads but are later attacked by a doppler posing as Ciri's mentor, Mousesack (Adam Levy). This causes Dara to leave Ciri's side for good, believing that she is too dangerous to be around.

Dara returns in Season 2 of "The Witcher" after being recruited as a spy by the head of Redanian Intelligence, Sigismund Dijkstra (Graham McTavish). Dijkstra sends Dara to the city of Xin'tra, where the elves and Nilfgaardians have formed a tentative alliance. He spies on the elf queen Francesca (Mecia Simson) and the Nilfgaardian sorceress Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni), delivering his reports to a white owl later revealed to be sorceress Philippa Eilhart (Cassie Claire). When the newborn baby of Francesca and Filavandrel (Tom Canton) is murdered, Dara severs his ties with Redania and joins the elves.

Played by Wilson Mbomio, Dara is an entirely new character in the Netflix series. According to "The Witcher" Twitter fan account Redanian Intelligence, executive producer Hissrich outlined the reason behind the addition of Dara by explaining, "Ciri's journey this season is she's on the run ... We needed someone for [Ciri] to talk to and mirror her experiences."

Cahir did not employ a doppler to find Ciri

There are a number of villains, both human and otherwise, in the world of "The Witcher." One is Cahir (Eamon Farren), a Nilfgaardian black knight charged with finding Ciri and turning her over to the Emperor. This quest becomes an obsession, as Cahir believes that he is helping Ciri fulfill her true destiny.

Cahir plays a much more significant role in the Netflix series than in the novels. One of the largest departures from the books is the subplot where Cahir employs a creature called a doppler who can take on the appearance of any human. The doppler, Adonis (Ben Wiggins), tracks down Ciri by taking on the appearance of Mousesack. Adonis then fools Ciri into leaving Brokilon Forest by promising to take her to Geralt. Thankfully, Ciri sees through the doppler's ruse and escapes.

While dopplers do exist in the "Witcher" books, there is no mention of the character of the Adonis, as he was created just for the series. Cahir's journey in "The Witcher" series is also much different from the books. In the novel "The Tower of the Swallow," it is revealed that after Cahir failed to capture Ciri during the siege on Cintra, the knight was imprisoned by Emperor Emhyr as punishment. After his release, Cahir found himself on a surprising new path. Whether the series decides to stay faithful to Cahir's original story arc remains to be seen.

The Battle of Sodden Hill is not depicted in the books

The Season 1 finale of "The Witcher" centers on the clash between mages and Nilfgaardian soldiers at the Battle of Sodden Hill, where Yennefer and her fellow magic users fight to defend their lands from the army's assault. After the sorcerer Stregabor (Lars Mikkelsen) and the other members of the Brotherhood refuse to fight the Nilfgaardians, Tissaia and Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu) lead a rebel group to stand against the bulk of Emperor Emhyr's forces.

Although outnumbered, the combined powers of the mages manage to defeat the Nilfgaard army, though they suffer heavy losses. The Battle of Sodden Hill, which takes place in the episode "Much More," gives viewers a series of dramatic scenes packed with high fantasy action. Though most everyone can appreciate a good battle sequence, the skirmish was created from scratch by the writers of the Netflix series. 

In the books, only the aftermath of the battle is depicted. In the short story "Something More," Geralt wanders the fields of Sodden Hill and comes upon an obelisk that lists the names of those who died. After reading the names, he is relieved to find that Yennefer's is not listed and holds on to the hope that they will meet again.

How Geralt and Ciri really met

Besides the Battle of Sodden Hill, the biggest highlight of "The Witcher" Season 1 finale is the moment when Geralt and Ciri are united. This meeting has been destined to occur ever since Geralt invoked the Law of Surprise after saving Duny, Ciri's father. Though Geralt initially denied his claim to Ciri for many years, it seems that fate would not free him from his obligation to the young lion cub of Cintra.

While "The Witcher" series does borrow elements of Ciri and Geralt's first meeting from the books, there are a number of ways in which the event differs. In the short story "The Sword of Destiny," Ciri finds herself in Brokilon Forest, just like on the show -– however, in the original text, things happen quite differently. The tale begins with Geralt going into Brokilon to deliver a message to Eithne, the dryad leader. On his way, he finds a trail of human bodies that have been shot down by arrows. Geralt then finds an injured man who begs Geralt to find and protect "the princess."

As Geralt ventures further into the forest, he comes upon a giant centipede attacking what he initially believes to be a halfling. After killing the monster, Geralt realizes that he has actually rescued Princess Cirilla of Cintra. Though the two spend only a brief amount of time together, it becomes clear to both of them that their destinies are intertwined. They go their separate ways but are later reunited after Ciri escapes the invasion of Cintra.

Eskel in the TV show versus Eskel in the books

One of the biggest sources of controversy for fans of "The Witcher" books and video games is how the series depicted the character of Eskel (Basil Eidenbenz), a witcher who lives at Kaer Morhen. In the Season 2 episode "Kaer Morhen," Geralt brings Ciri to the home of the witchers, where she meets their leader, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia), and the rest of the few surviving monster slayers.

Shortly after their arrival, Eskel makes his entrance following a tough fight with a leshy, during which he sustained a serious injury, although he insists it is nothing to worry about. Later in the episode, Eskel transforms into a terrible tree-like monster who has to be put down by Geralt and the other witchers. In his brief appearance on the show, Eskel is presented as a cocky, antagonistic character who is not pleased by Ciri's presence. He disrespects Vesemir by inviting prostitutes into Kaer Morhen, which results in a tense confrontation with Geralt.

The Eskel of Sapkowski's stories is nothing like the character in the series. He first appeared in the novel "Blood of Elves," where he helped train Ciri and was very fond of her. In that book, Eskel is a thoughtful and kind gentleman, as well as a skilled fighter. His character is not very prominent in the books, but he is like a brother to Geralt and becomes a beloved mentor to Ciri.

Istredd is featured more prominently in the TV series

In "The Witcher," Yennefer first discovers her magical abilities when she accidentally portals into a strange cavern. There she meets the sorcerer Istredd (Royce Pierreson), who becomes her first true friend, and, later, her lover. Istredd goes on to have an important role in the series, eventually working for the Brotherhood as Stregobor's assistant.

He reappears in Season 2 when Yennefer finds him working on a Nilfgaardian excavation. Istredd relays to Yennefer that a large monolith has been discovered underground which may come from a time before the Conjunction. Istredd continues his research on the monolith when he runs into Geralt, who is investigating strange phenomena and new monsters that may be related to the monolith.

While Istredd plays an important supporting role in the Netflix series, he is much less present in the original books. His one appearance is in the short story "A Shard of Ice," in which Yennefer reveals to Geralt that she has been unfaithful to him with an old flame. That old flame turns out to be Istredd, who confronts Geralt and challenges him to a duel over Yennefer. Though Geralt beats Istredd after the fight, he leaves the sorcerer alive, and both men soon discover that Yennefer has decided not to be with either of them. Istredd does not appear in any more of Sapkowski's stories, beyond a brief mention of him in "Something More."

Vesemir never tried to make more witchers in the books

Season 2 of "The Witcher" introduces Vesemir (Kim Bodnia), Geralt's mentor and father figure, who is the leader of the witchers at Kaer Morhen. In a time when witchers are nearly extinct, Vesemir holds the duty of caretaker of the fortress and advises the few who remain.

Vesemir senses that Ciri's arrival at the fortress bodes a time of great change as her powers are unlike anything they've seen before. In the Season 2 episode "Turn Your Back," Triss discovers that Ciri is a child of the Elder Blood, meaning she has powerful magic which she inherited from a great elven queen of legend, Lara Dorren. Upon learning this, Vesemir develops a plan to use her blood to finally create more witchers and keep their kind from dying out. When Vesemir approaches her with the idea, Ciri eagerly offers to be his test subject. Fortunately, Geralt returns to Kaer Morhen just in time to stop the experiment.

This subplot was completely invented by the writers of the TV show and appears nowhere in the original books. It does give Ciri a dose of character development, as she later tells Geralt that her reasons for agreeing to the mutation were so that she could move on from her past, and gives Ciri and Vesemir the chance to bond, but it is an entirely new story arc for the Netflix series.

The series fills what happened to Yennefer after Sodden Hill

Like Yennefer's origin story in Season 1, the second season of the Netflix series fills in the gaps of the sorceress' journey that were left out of "The Witcher" novels. While the books mention that Yennefer was involved in the Battle of Sodden Hill, she is not seen again until she swoops in to rescue Dandelion — or Jaskier, in the TV show — from torture by the evil mage, Rience (Chris Fulton).

The fate of Yennefer following the Battle of Sodden Hill is revealed in Season 2 when she is taken captive by her old friend Fringilla, who leads what is left of the Nilgaardian army. Shortly after, Yennefer and Fringilla are taken hostage by the elves, who are led by Filavandrel and Francesca. After traveling together for a time, they encounter the home of a powerful witch called Voleth Meir. Following that meeting, Yennefer finds herself alone and stripped of her magic entirely.

Yennefer manages to find her way back to Aretuza but is under severe suspicion from Stregabor. The Brotherhood decides to test Yennefer's loyalty by commanding her to execute the Nilfgaard soldier Cahir, but she cuts him free and the two make their escape together. They find their way to Oxenfurt, where Yennefer is reunited with Jaskier.

The show spends more time with Francesca and Fringilla than the books do

The Netflix show fleshes out many minor characters from the original stories and makes them feel more complete. This is the case with Fringilla Vigo, the mage advisor to Emperor Emhyr, and Francesca Findabair, the elven sorceress.

In the original novels, both Francesca and Fringilla are members of the Brotherhood and eventually the Lodge of Sorceresses. In Sapkowski's "Time of Contempt," Francesca betrays the Brotherhood by teaming up with Nilfgaard against the Northern Kingdoms. She does so because of a proposal from the emperor himself, who offers to give her dominion of Dol Blathanna if Nilfgaard wins the war.

As for Fringilla, she plays an important role in the book "The Lady of the Lake." Geralt meets Fringilla while she is doing work for the Lodge in Toussaint. Fringilla's mission is to distract Geralt from finding Ciri so that the Lodge can carry out their political plans for Lara Dorren's heir. The two have a brief romantic affair, though Geralt's heart remains faithful to Yennefer, and he eventually breaks things off with Fringilla. 

In the TV series, Fringilla and Francesca are shown developing a friendship and an alliance. Though the two have few interactions in the books, it makes sense that their mutual interests would lead to them spending a lot of time together.

Voleth Meir was an original creation for the TV series

Along with expanding on the supporting characters, Netflix's "The Witcher" also added a few new ones. In the Season 2 episode "Kaer Morhen," Fringilla and Yennefer find themselves at the mercy of Francesca, the elven leader. Francesca, it seems, is on an important mission to find Ithlinne, a goddess that she believes will bring her people back to a brighter future. As it turns out, all three women are having dreams that feature a robed woman, and they might be connected.

After traveling through the wilderness, Francesca, Fringilla, and Yennefer come upon a magical hut which they are soon transported inside. Each of them is approached by a unique vision that offers them what they most desire. Yennefer is the only one who isn't fooled by the witch's disguise, and the creature reveals itself to be an ancient entity called Voleth Meir. Also called the Deathless Mother, Voleth Meir is a demon who feeds on pain. It later possesses Ciri and causes havoc for the witchers at Kaer Morhen in the finale episode, "Family."

Though Voleth Meir is an original character in the TV series, it is more than simply just another monster for Geralt to fight. It sees the darkest wishes of each person it comes in contact with, revealing the character's true motivations and what they are willing to do to achieve them.

The monoliths storyline is not in the books

Yet another departure from "The Witcher" book series is the storyline involving the magical monoliths in Season 2. After Eskel was turned into a monster and killed, Geralt made it a priority to find out the meaning behind this unprecedented occurrence. His investigation leads him to some tall black stone structures, which appear to be portals leading to another realm. When Ciri escapes from Cahir's grasp after emitting a powerful scream in Season 1, her mysterious abilities somehow break one of these monoliths, allowing strange new monsters to enter their world.

Geralt later teams up with the wizard Istredd, who is also researching the monoliths. Through his studies, Istredd learns that the monoliths are likely conduits that helped bring about the Convergence, the alignment of spheres that brought both monsters and humans to the Continent. The Convergence is a large part of "The Witcher" lore and is spoken about extensively in the original text. However, there has never been any mention of monoliths in the books, and this is a unique plot device in the TV series.