The Witcher TV Show Is Making Important Changes From The Books

the witcher netflix geralt of rivia henry cavill
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Witcher is taking Netflix in a truly epic direction as a fantasy saga based on a book saga penned by Andrzej Sapkowski. This project's level of fantasy looks like it will be more Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings, and the executive producer has already explained why even book fans won't necessarily know what's coming. The Witcher TV show is making important changes to the books, and executive producer (and longtime book fan) Tomek Baginski explained what's in store:

Even though I’ve known the Witcher for 30 years, I have to admit there were some surprises while working on the show. We realized that some of the storylines can be presented in many different ways, just like certain situations and characters. We were considering what were the characters’ pasts, as there are some which appear in the books just for a few moments. In the show, you need to give the characters backstories that will interest the viewers. The show can’t be exactly like the books. It’s an adaptation. It’s a version of this world and this story from Lauren [Hissrich, showrunner] and the writers. What’s more, it’s a very coherent vision.

Starring Henry Cavill (who did his own stunts) as the Witcher himself, Geralt of Rivia, the TV show will evidently draw from the books without religiously adapting every single thing about them. Given that the narrative of the novels and the ways in which characters reflect on their pasts would be difficult to make interesting on screen without some twists, this could be a very good thing. The Witcher can expand on and tweak elements from the books.

The story of the Witcher actually began all the way back in 1992 with a book of short stories, followed by a second book of stories in 1993. The first full book of the saga, called Blood of Elves, was published in 1994 and followed up by four more books from 1995-1999. It's worth noting that the original publications were in author Andrzej Sapkowski's native Polish. The first English edition didn't hit the market until The Last Wish in 2007 and next Blood of Elves in 2008. The last book of the saga, The Lady of the Lake, wasn't published in an English edition until 2017.

Basically, there's a lot of material for the Witcher production team to play with, both to adapt and to use as a jumping-off point for their own telling of the characters' stories. While news that the show will make changes to the book stories may be a bummer to any readers who were hoping for as precise an adaptation as possible, the alterations mean that nobody knows exactly what will happen. We're all in more or less the same boat!

Executive producer Tomek Baginski also shared in his interview with Antyweb (via Redanian Intelligence) that author Andrzej Sapkowski is aware that changes were made, and translation from page to screen changed things even further:

Andrzej Sapkowski [the author of the novels] knows that some things are different than he wrote, but he trusts that it’s being worked on by professionals and that what will come of it will be very good. I also discovered that same thing, because scenes that I had some doubts about in script form shine incredibly on the screen, thanks to the interpretation of the actors and things which you just don’t see on paper. Suddenly, something that seemed controversial no longer is.

Scripts that seem one way on the page can apparently work very differently when interpreted by the actors and production team. I do wonder what seemed controversial in the script that changed when the scene was actually completed. The shot of what looks an awful lot like an orgy in a Witcher trailer suggests that this isn't exactly going to be a family-friendly show, although one actor has said that you shouldn't compare The Witcher to Game of Thrones.

Netflix's The Witcher: What We Know So Far

The good news is that, considering how long Witcher (and Henry Cavill) fans have been waiting for the show, the premiere isn't too far off. The Witcher Season 1 premieres on Friday, December 20, so if you want to celebrate the holidays with a dark and violent fantasy series, Netflix has you covered! For more of what's happening on the streaming giant in the not-too-distant future, be sure to swing by our 2019 Netflix premiere guide to find some options to pass the time while waiting for The Witcher.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).