Kingdoms depicted in The Witcher are war-torn, ravaged by greed, and plagued with terrifying monsters. The protagonist wanders the land, killing vicious beasts and creepy creatures with his faithful stead- but what inspired the creation of these monsters?
Polish video game developers, CD Projekt Red, have explored their own Eastern and Northern European ancestry and emerged with some wonderful fantasy creatures inspired by mythology and folklore.
Sure dragons are cool and witches are iconic, but what about the Noonwraiths, or the Botchlings? The leshen, alps and botchlings?
The Witcher novels, game, and television series bring you a host of monsters inspired by the European myths a folk tales, and here are some of our favourites…
Henry Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia- The Witcher in the Netflix series
Plague Maidens are inspired by Pesta – the personification of the Black Death. According to Norweigian folklore, the Pesta is an old woman dressed in black, physically embodying the plague that wrecked Europe between 1346 to 1353. Entire populations and communities were destroyed by the bubonic plague during that time. Denmark lost a third of its population, with Norway losing almost half.
Pesta legends say how she would travel from farm to farm, bringing with her the ill omen of the plague. They say if she was carrying a rake only a few people would die, however if she was seen carrying a broom, the entire settlement would not survive.
In The Witcher, the Botchlings are grotesque zombie babies who were discarded without burial or even a given name and now wander the earth looking for pregnant women to drain the strength from them and their foetus.
The botchlings are inspired by the mylingar of Scandinavian folklore- souls of unbaptised children that had been forced to roam the earth in sorrow until they could persuade someone to bury them properly.
Leshen are found in the ancient forests of The Witcher universe, and can use the nature around them to their advantage. Their bodies are twisted and gnarled like tree roots, able to hide and ready to attack when someone stumbles on their territory.
Leshen came almost directly from Slavic folklore with the only real difference being their appearance and name. According to Slavic folklore, leshy are guardians of the forest. They are humanoid- with masculine appearance, and in many cultures can shape-shift.
Noonwraiths are fearsome looking creatures with long tongues and an unusual headdress of daisies. They are troublesome and tricksy, and a player is always surprised when they turn up.
The noonwraith is based on the Slavic myth of Lady Midday or noon witch. She is usually pictured as a young woman in white, roaming fields. She would seek out folk working at noon and cause heatstrokes and neck aches, sometimes even causing madness.
In The Witcher universe, Alps are merely blade-fodder for the hero Geralt. The freaky-looking naked women behave more like your average vampiric monster than the German folk tale they are based upon.
Contrary to how they are depicted in The Witcher, alps in folklore are actually male- the female version is actually called the mara (or mare). Alps seek out female victims during the night, giving them horrific nightmares- this is why the German word for ‘nightmare’ is alptraum or ‘elf dream’.