Four Witcher Creatures and their Folklore Counterparts

By Jarod Vass

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The Witcher franchise is littered with all sorts of creatures. From Spectres to Cursed Ones, Vampires to Relicts, Ghouls to Alghouls (yes, there is a difference). All creatures require certain methodical practices to properly defeat them. So, when they appear albeit, on paper, screen or gaming you’re immediately excited to see how Geralt will confront them. Some may already know that most of the creatures in the franchise derive from Slavic mythology. Therefore, in this blog I will reveal to you four creatures and the real stories that hide behind closed curtains. So kick back, apply Necrophage oil to your silver sword and prepare to uncover the hidden truths.

Screen Shot of a Kikimora from the Witcher Netflix series[1]

The Kikimora in the Witcher franchise is more prevalent within the books than the Netflix series. On screen, it is the first monster you see, lurking in the swamp hunting for easy kills. Usually it feeds on game and/or travelling merchants who were unlucky enough to have travelled near to its hunting area. In the games, the Kikimoras are named Kikimores – more of ‘an insectoid monster species that lives underground, as well as in swamps.’[2]

He didn’t react to the muffled cry of the woman selling vegetables who was staring at the bony, taloned paw sticking out beneath the horse-blanket, bobbing up and down in time with the donkey’s trot.

Caldemeyne shifted from foot to foot, looking at the spidery shape with its dry black skin, that glassy eye with its vertical pupil, the needle-like fangs in the bloody jaws.[3]

Their folklore counterpart, unlike the treacherous creature found in the swamp, is more of an annoying flat-mate. In Slavic folklore, where I’m sure author Andrzej Sapkowski got the idea from, she is more of a female house spirit, one that would live behind the stove or even in a cellar. She would take care of chores here and there, as long as the house is already well taken care of. If the household isn’t well kept, the spirit would terrorise the children in playful ways to try and grab the attention of the parents. If someone was to see this spirit in the dead of night, spinning a thread, it would mean you are close to death. Apparently Kikimoras can often get angry; to appease them it’s said you would have to wash the dishes in a ‘fern tea’. Seems like quite the bother to keep this hag from continuing her tantrum. If I were you, I’d simply toss a coin to your local Witcher and be rid of it.[4]

Strigas are females that are victims to a curse: they devour almost all living beings, but only during a full moon[5]  ̶ much like any lycanthrope. In the books and the series, the Striga is King Foltest’s daughter, who became cursed before she was born. When both the baby and the mother failed to survive birth, they were buried in the same tomb. And for seven years she grew and grew in this accursed state.

Thankfully, the curse can be lifted: ‘someone must prevent the striga from returning to her coffin by the third crowing of the rooster. Then she would be cured, turning into an ordinary little girl’.[6]

In Slavic Folklore, the Striga is known as the Strzyga. These vampiric creatures are females, although they do have a male counterpart known as the ‘strzygon’. Let’s just say if you saw one in the middle of the street, you would recognise they’re a monster straight away: two rows of teeth, grey/blue skin with razor sharp claws resembling that of a bird. These creatures have two souls, alongside two hearts, meaning they are trapped in this uncomfortable space between both life and death. The only way to truly kill it is to diminish both souls at the same time. She mainly feasts on humans as a form of vengeance against those who did her wrong during her first lifetime. A popular method of preventing this creature from coming back from the dead is to simply place the corpse face down into the grave. There is another, but it seems quite brutal ̶ to decapitate the corpse and then bury her.[7][8]

Talking about Lycanthropy… The Werebear, most famously known throughout the Skellige isles within the Witcher Franchise as the Berserkers, must have derived from the myth of the ‘Berserkirs, the warriors dedicated to Odinn, who wore bear- or wolf-skin shirts into battle and who dove themselves into a martial frenzy.[9][10]

Drowners are the most common enemy in all of The Witcher 3. They’re vicious and terrifying once sighted, but don’t prove much of a problem for Geralt. This is also seen in the books. With The Last Wish, an old lady pulls out a rather ancient looking book, containing all sorts of outdated information regarding all sorts of creatures. This book also talks about Witchers and how much to expect to pay them regarding certain creatures.[11]

giveth ye not such a one more than: for a drowner, one[12] silver penny

To which Geralt replies with, ‘those were the days.

In terms of folklore, it’s to be expected that the drowner was created as a form of excuse. If no reason could be found for how fishermen died out at sea, folk would simply blame the drowners. Creatures of the deep. Naturally they were also used to scare kids, preventing them from swimming out too far.

More monsters can be found online; you just need to do a bit of research if you want to find the exact story, although I couldn’t find the origins of the Ekimmara for the life of me. Ultimately, these monsters are what really breathe life into the dark, fantasized version of Poland. Finally, if you still have not ventured into the depths of the Witcher Franchise, I highly recommend it!

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[1] Lauren. S Hissrich, The Witcher (Netflix, 2019).

[2]“Kikimore”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Kikimore> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[3] Andrzej Sapkowski and Danusia Stok, The Last Wish, 1st edn (London: Gollancz, 2010) [Accessed 24 March 2020].

[4] Webcite Query Result”, Webcitation.Org, 2009 <https://www.webcitation.org/5ko2Oq9yi?url=http://www.geocities.com/mabcosmic/polish/pspirits.html> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[5] “Striga”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Striga> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[6] Andrzej Sapkowski and Danusia Stok, The Last Wish, 1st edn (London: Gollancz, 2010) [Accessed 24 March 2020].

[7] “Webcite Query Result”, Webcitation.Org, 2009 <https://www.webcitation.org/5ko2Oq9yi?url=http://www.geocities.com/mabcosmic/polish/pspirits.html> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[8] “Slavic Mythology From Poland (Part 8): STRZYGA”, Lamus Dworski, 2016 <https://lamusdworski.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/strzyga/> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[9] Mike Dixon-Kennedy, Encyclopedia Of Russian & Slavic Myth And Legend (ABC-CLIO, 1998), p. 313 <https://books.google.com.gi/books?id=eD5AkdM83iIC&dq=slavic+warriors+thought+to+have+turned+into+bears+mid+battle&source=gbs_navlinks_s> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[10] “Werebear”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Werebear> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[11] “Drowner”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Drowner> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

[12] Andrzej Sapkowski and Danusia Stok, The Last Wish, 1st edn (London: Gollancz, 2010) [Accessed 24 March 2020].

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Bibliography

Dixon-Kennedy, Mike, Encyclopedia Of Russian & Slavic Myth And Legend (ABC-CLIO, 1998), p. 313 <https://books.google.com.gi/books?id=eD5AkdM83iIC&dq=slavic+warriors+thought+to+have+turned+into+bears+mid+battle&source=gbs_navlinks_s> [Accessed 30 March 2020]

“Drowner”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Drowner> [Accessed 30 March 2020]

Hissrich, Lauren. S, The Witcher (Netflix, 2019)

“Kikimore”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Kikimore> [Accessed 30 March 2020]

Sapkowski, Andrzej, and Danusia Stok, The Last Wish, 1st edn (London: Gollancz, 2010) [Accessed 24 March 2020]

“Slavic Mythology From Poland (Part 8): STRZYGA”, Lamus Dworski, 2016 <https://lamusdworski.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/strzyga/> [Accessed 30 March 2020]

“Striga”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Striga> [Accessed 30 March 2020]

“Webcite Query Result”, Webcitation.Org, 2009 <https://www.webcitation.org/5ko2Oq9yi?url=http://www.geocities.com/mabcosmic/polish/pspirits.html> [Accessed 30 March 2020]

“Werebear”, Witcher Wiki <https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Werebear> [Accessed 30 March 2020]