The nature of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books being more focused on a collection of time-strewn short stories than it is actual linear novels makes the particular trial of adapting them for television a struggle. It was one Lauren Schmidt Hissrich wrangled with when she helped bring Geralt to life for Netflix—but we almost got a very different take on it.
In an interview going behind the scenes on the upcoming fantasy series, Hissrich revealed that initially, she struggled to find a way to transform Sapkowski’s collections of short tales into a cohesive season of television. Jumping around timelines and events was less of a problem—she assumed modern TV viewers, at this point, are more than capable of dealing with non-linear narratives.
Instead, her original problem was not wanting to spend significant periods of time getting to know The Witcher’s powerful female characters, like Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Ciri (Freya Allan), solely through the lens of its male protagonist (Henry Cavill’s Geralt).
“In the books, all of the characters are met through Geralt,” Hissrich said in footage of her speaking to fans at MCM London Comic-Con. “So you get Geralt’s impression of them, and then you get to learn, to meet them. I wanted the world to see Ciri, who she was, first.”
And so, when Hissrich first started writing a pitch for The Witcher to send for Netflix, she started out with a version of the show radically different to what we ultimately got: instead of starting with the earliest of Sapkowski’s novels, she reached forward to the end.
“I pitched [Netflix] a version of the story that actually started with the second-to-last book, which is Lady of the Lake,” Hissrich revealed. “...Ciri sort of ends up sitting by a lake, meeting with a man, and telling her story. And I started with that narrative structure, which is to have Ciri be our focal character, and be kind of our narrator.”
But Hissrich found herself facing an inverse version of the problem she wanted to avoid. “I realised as I started writing that version, that I wasn’t getting enough of Geralt and his perspective, because it was all being told through Ciri,” Hissrich continued.
“It took me a while. I went through several versions, and I literally had one of those ‘aha!’ moments in the shower, jumped out of the shower and said to my husband ‘does this make sense,’ can I tell all three of these stories at the same time and not have it be too confusing?”
It won’t be much longer before we find out for ourselves if Hissrich succeeded at blending together Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer’s stories. But it’s interesting to hear that we almost got a version of The Witcher where the titular Witcher was not as forward in the narrative as we might have expected.
The Witcher hits Netflix on December 20.