The ending of the Witcher saga
The ending of the Witcher series by A. Sapkowski is a source of a lot of controversy. I was wondering if I can find some clarification here.
Opinions of what actually happens after the fighting in Rivia range from (a) everybody lives happily ever after, in particular Geralt and Yennefer both live and get married to (b) both Geralt and Yennefer simply die. There are of course a number of intermediate options (which I personally find more plausible), where they end up somewhere, and it is again a matter of discussion where that is and how "real" this place is. Possibilities I have heard mentioned in this context include: Arthurian Britain, Avalon, some unidentified plane, heaven.
Is there a "canon" interpretation of how the story ends? If not, can the possibilities at least be narrowed down? In particular, can it be said if Geralt and Yennefer are alive in a meaningful way?
Have you read "Something ends, something begins"? According to Wikipedia, it contains several alternate outcomes for the book series; http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co%C5%9B_si%C4%99_ko%C5%84czy,_co%C5%9B_si%C4%99_zaczyna
I'm not familiar with the books yet, but there's also a big amount of secondary canon content (games, comics)
@Richard: I have seen "Something ends, something begins". It does contain a story which fits after the end of the series, but as far as I know Sapkowski denied it should be considered an alternative ending. (It describes the marriage feast of Geralt and Yennefer, and is a little too optimistic to be considered seriously.).
Agreed, the 'wedding story' is not really part of canon and can't seriously be considered as such. It was something Sapkowski wrote to celebrate a real-world wedding of two well-known fandom members.
Now first of all, I'll concentrate solely on book canon here, since you're asking about the ending of the actual novel series. In the games Geralt is very much still alive, however you construe that out of the book ending. In lack of an official English translation, let alone one I have at hand, the excerpts quoted here have been translated into English by me (as accurately as my abilities allowed me) from Erik Simon's official German translation of Lady of the Lake.
One thing you might want to consider is Ciri's vision. At the moment when Geralt is hit by the pitchfork, he remembers the time back in Kaer Morhen with young Ciri, when she repeatedly had strange visions and dreams, including about Geralt's death:
"Tell me again what she said", Vesemir commanded and emptied his cup in one gulp. "Word for word."
"Word for word doesn't work", Geralt said, his view directed into the blaze. "But the meaning, if there is meaning in looking for a meaning in there, was this: Me and Coën will die. Teeth will be our demise. Teeth will kill us both. Him two. Me three."
And if we remember, Coën indeed died at the battle of Brenna. When he is brought into Milo "Rusty" Vanderbeck's field hospital the following conversation occurs:
"Strange." Rusty tried to wipe his face with his elbow, but even that was full of blood. Iola came to his assistence.
"Interesting", the surgeon repeated and pointed at the patient. "Stung with a fork or some kind of partisan with two tips ... One prong of the weapon pierced the heart, there, please look. The chamber is doubtlessly penetrated, the aorta nealy severed ... And he breathed just one moment ago. Here on the table. Hit right in the heart he made it to this table ..."
"Do you want to say", the trooper from the Voluntary Light Cavalry asked gloomily, "that he is dead? That we carried him out of the battle in vain?"
"It is never in vain." Rusty did not lower his gaze. "But to say the truth, yes, he does not live anymore, sadly. Exitus. Bring him ... Hey, damn ... Take a look at this, girls."
Marti Sodergren, Shani and Iola bent over the corpse. Rusty pulled the eyelid of the dead man back. "Have you ever seen something like this?"
All three shrugged.
"Yes", all said in unison. They looked at each other, as if being a little astonished.
"Me too", Rusty said. "This is a witcher. A mutant. This would explain why he lived so long ... This was your combatant, you people? Or did you bring him by coincidence?"
"This was our companion, sir doctor", the second voluntary, a beanpole with bandaged head, confirmed grumpily. "From our squadron, a voluntary like we. Alas, he could handle a sword! His name was Coën."
So Coën did indeed die (and Rusty's competent medical opinion leaves no doubt in this) from some kind of two-pronged fork, like the vision prophecied. And Geralt is just about to be stabbed by a three-pronged pitchfork, too. This might already be a very strong hint that Geralt is indeed about to die right now.
And in fact Yennefer has a similar flashback (albeit not directly when she supposedly dies by trying to heal Geralt, but a little ealier before she helps Triss summon the hail) to an earlier experience of hers, when she unsuccessfully tried to kill herself and woke up in bed at the care of Tissaia de Vries, who also spoke about Yennefer's actual future death:
"You will live." The voice of Tissai was factual, serious, even strict. "Your time has not come yet. When it comes, you will think of this day."
What she indeed does right now.
Now it is true that those might just be red herrings to make us think the end is nigh when it actually isn't (and in fact this wasn't the exact point of Yennefer's supposed death yet). But seeing how both of them have flashbacks to some kind of death prophecies, one very clear and accurate and one a bit more fuzzy, it is a strong motif that adds to the bigger picture.
Then we have to consider the mythical nature of their waking up on some strange unknown meadow supposedly being together forever. Neither do I think this is just one of the many parallel worlds that Ciri can just switch through at will and where she dumped them to be happy for now and to visit them whenever she pleases, it is somewhere else, it is something else. This is evident from her tearing eye when she recounts how Geralt and Yennefer marry later, with all the other living and dead characters joining the party, an obvious sugar coat ending:
"So what was then?"
"Well, what", she snorted. "They married."
"Ah, what's to tell there? There was a happy feast. Everyone came together, Dandelion mother Nenneke, Iola and Eurneid, Yarpen Zigrin, Vesemir, Eskel ... Coën, Milva, Angoulême ... and my Mistle ... I was there myself, ate and drank. And they, to say Geralt and Yennefer, later had their own house and were happy, very, very happy. Like in the fairy tales. You understand?"
"Why are you crying, Lady of the Lake?"
"I'm not crying at all. My eyes tear from the wind. And that's it!"
So I don't think Ciri could ever reach them again, nor bring them back anywhere else.
From all those aspects and the general tone they set added together I would draw the conclusion that they are indeed dead, or at least not "alive in a meaningful way".
Wherever strange mythical paradise they are, be it heaven, be it Avalon, or whatever you want to call it, in their very universe and in their very reality they are for all intents and purposes dead, realistically speaking.
But I won't deny the fact that the ending is indeed a little ambiguous and open to interpretation. This is merely my conclusion based on how the story was presented.
As an addendum, the rather new standalone novel Season of Storms from 2013 does reference Geralt's possible fate and survival in its epilogue.
Where he saves the young Nimue from a monster on her way to Aretusa, 105 years after his supposed death.
However, that whole epilogue is pretty much as mysteriously ambiguous and open to interpretation as the ending of the novel series. It does not make a clear statement about Geralt's actual survival or what happened to him at all either, or if the described encounter even happened in reality. If anything it rather supports the mythical themes of afterlife invoked in Lady of the Lake.
Sapkowski's ending to the saga in 'the lady of the lake' is clouded with ambiguity making it unclear whether it is conventional or not and what the ending actual is. We are meant to interpret the ending in our own way based on what we took from the saga. But realistically, there are three possible endings:
- Ciri, with her power escorts a dying (or already deceased) Geralt and Yen and takes them to an isle (lets call it the isle of Avallach for arguments sake considering that's the name the games give it), and here they are revived and healed due to the magical nature of the place, and there they live out their days and live happily; and Ciri goes traveling, where she ends up in an Arthurian-inspired fantasy world (not England, just a heavily Arthurian-inspired world). For whatever reason, she cannot return to the Isle, which the game hints at being due to the Wild Hunt which, although the game isn't cannon to Sapkowski's own image of the saga, its still plausible as Sapkowski consulted with CD projket red on several areas regarding plot and story. Ciri then goes travelling and becomes a witcheress travelling this Arthurian landscape and traversing between worlds.
- Geralt and Yen both die and are transported to an afterlife or heaven. This isn't too different to the first theory though in this, they are both dead. There's nothing to say that an afterlife doesn't exist in the saga. Ghosts and specters are a heavily and influential part of the cannon and are indisputably part of the lore. If these exist, surely an afterlife can. This is supported by the fact that the characters could see deceased past friends in the mist carrying Yen and Geralt. The afterlife and the intricacies of said afterlife in the witcher world are never completely explored so it isn't too far fetched to assume the two are transported to an Avalon or heaven, hence why Ciri cant reach them.
- The saddest and grimmest of all I am afraid- They are both dead. No afterlife, no magical isle, they are dead. Finished. Gone. Fin. Ended. Done. The part of the chapter where Geralt awakens and Yen is with him in the meadow could just be an imagining by Ciri, falsified along with the story that they get married after, to help her cope with her grief.
Now, you must conclude, which of these three is the cannon. I believe that the third is the least likely. Why would Sapkowski write of Geralt awakening with Yen if it didn't happen in some way, shape or form, be it in another world or an afterlife. Also, he gave CD projket red consultation on several aspects of the game plot. Also, in Season of Storms it is hinted that Geralt saves a young Nimue, future Lady of the Lake, which, although an ambiguous passage in an ambiguous time frame, adds fuel to the argument- why would Sapkowski do that. He wouldn't simply write of Geralt and Yen waking up in another world and of Geralt (potentially) saving someone several decades later unless it happened; he wouldn't write these things unless they were canonical in some form. You could argue that in Season of Storm, he is hinting to the reader subtly that Geralt survived.
Now. Do they survive in another world as in the game, or do they go to an afterlife? Well, if Season of Storms is to be taken literally then they survive and go to a world to heal and be resurrected. Though, why would their deceased friends be transporting them there too if this was the case? You could argue that the past friends carrying Geralt and Yen was just Sapkowski's way of throwing the reader off and making an ambiguous ending.
I believe that the most likely ending is that they go to a magical land typical of fairytale to be resurrected; I believe this because I enjoy, no, I LOVE the games, and I want their canonical ending of the books to be true. Also, this too good to be true ending is on the surface very stereotypical of fantasy stories. It's a happy ending they live happily ever after! Well, wouldn't a stereotypical ending just be counter-typical of a saga which strives on being counter-typical, making the ending stereotypical but counter-typical to its own respective saga. That's a whole other fox whole no one wants to go down. Heads are spinning. Regardless, that's what I believe. They go to a fantasy world, and with the unicorns magic and Ciri and the magic of the world they are resurrected and healed and live happily. Ciri has to flee, maybe because of the wild hunt, maybe because of the same reason she leaves in 'Something Ends, Something Begins', which is that she needs adventure. And MAYBE! The wedding in this short story isn't totally not canonical actually happens when the two leave the isle. Regardless of the short story being cannon, this outcome where they are transported to a magical world and healed is likely because it is the one the games chose, and they chose is to continue the game yes but also BECAUSE IT MAKES SENSE! They could have explained away any of the three potential endings, but they chose this one because it's logical. To be fair a part of me believes that they're in an afterlife because it explains better why Ciri left and is upset at not being able to see them, and it also supports the prophecy of Geralt, Cohen and Yen dying, though the outcome of them travelling to a magical world outweighs this.
If you read this then thank you very much. I wrote this on my phone so I apologise for inevitable typos and confused lines.
I am a huge HUGE Witcher fan. And just to be clear, I still haven't decided myself which of the two endings is true or most likely. I have leaned towards the ending I chose because it is easier to grasp for those playing the games which if you haven't played, PLAY, and if you have played, PLAY AGAIN haha enjoy, my fellow Witcher lovers.
Welcome :) There could be an amazing answer here, or it could be an advertisement for a half price pizza, it's too intimidating for me to tell :P On a serious note, it looks like you've put a lot of effort into this answer, and effort (as long as it's appropriately channelled) is usually well-rewarded on this site with upvotes, which come with reputation, which comes with increased abilities on this site. Make it easy for other people by adding a few paragraphs and a sprinkling of concision and you might well reap the rewards, but fail to do so and your efforts could end up wasted :(
@Valorum I tried so hard to finish that article. I'm not sure I made it past half way :(
@Au101 - I ploughed through it. Unfortunately, It's not a good answer, even with formatting. These sorts of rambling "*streams of consciousness*" rarely are.
They're as alive as King Arthur was around the end of his story. So not really. "Lady of the Lake" ending was quite clear on that matter. The scene was quite a direct Avalon reference, but you know that yourself.
As long as Witcher video games are considered canon, they both got better though. Geralt reappeared in Witcher, and Yennefer is also set to appear in Witcher 3.
As long as "Storm Season" is considered canon (which is not an obvious consideration, if you ask me), Geralt is also alive in some capacity several decades after the saga concludes, in Nimue's (the sorceress who studied Witcher's legend in "Lady of the Lake") times. Though that scene is also open to interpretation.
I have different opinion on how book story ends. As you know, Ciri is ruler of space and TIME. She has these abilities and she can use them on herself plus other living beeings (horse Kelpie). After massacre in Rivia when Geralt was dying and Yenefer was trying to help him, they were taken to another world - i think it was just some world/space which should represent traveling in time. After leaving Geralt and Yenefer, Ciri told the story to a boy and she mentioned Geralt's and Yenefer's wedding. This wedding was well described in second or third book (i am not sure). After wedding Ciri told that she have to leave so she already knew something bad would happen in the future. When i was reading this part about wedding i was very confused because it absolutly did not fit to the rest of the story - Ciri was young girl in this part of the story and Geralt and Yen would not let her leave alone so she had to be older (this is possible because she returned in time). So i think that the wedding was the point where story should actualy continue because everything what happened after wedding was only in Ciri's memory. It actualy happened but Ciri threw Geralt and Yenefer to this moment. Book also says that they died peacefully - Geralt of heart failure and Yenefer right after him.
I took it that they are actually alive but in a place where Ciri can't go back to or can't for sometime. Basically Aen Elle where I think the Unicorns helped resurrect and heal Yen and Gerald. Why Little Horse came to them in the first place and and why Ciri asked Kelpi to follow him. I took it that Ciri knows where they are going and followed them. Remember she escaped Aen Elle via a boat and it is logical she gets back into it via a boat. I think when little horse arrived he gave Ciri the power to get back when Ciri touch his horn.
It was odd when in the end Yen said she does not know where they are when Gerald asked. I mean if you are in an after life place you would surely know?.
Besides Gerald woke up with bandages which was also odd if you are in an afterlife/heaven place?. Gerald was seriously wounded and it makes sense he would take more time to heal and wake up later. Yen was already up because she was not wounded as badly. Again I find this strange in an after life place if both of them don't wake up together and both fully healed at the same time. I took it means that Gerald is still recovering from his wounds as such they are still both alive.
Ciri before leaving told Triss she can't stay and fulfill what the lodge wanted of her because Gerald and Yen are departing. This didn't make sense to me because both Gerald and Yen were already dead by then?. I took it means that Ciri had to go with them to a place to heal them but she was not sure if it will work because they were on the verge of departing forever. She was the only one that could take them and by doing so Ciri knew she won't be back for sometime or rather within the timeframe that the lodge wanted her to conceive a baby. Hence what she said to Triss
Ciri knows her destiny and knows how important she is in saving the world from the end. Why despite everything shes been through with Leo and Vligafortz she was still willing to do what the lodge wanted which was similar.
Ciri would never just abandon what she agreed to do to conceive a baby and help save the world unless it was for a really important reason which was her trying to save Yen and Gerald. I really doubt she would have abandoned her mission if she knew that there was no hope in saving Yen and Gerald, if they were infact beyond saving. If she knew there was no hope for Gerald and Yen I believe she would have stayed and complete her mission for the Lodge and save everyone which includes Triss and Dandelion and her friends that are still alive. It makes no sense to take Yen and Gerald and abandon her friends at that time if she knew there was no hope of bringing both Gerald and Yen back.
To be clear I actually think they died. However Ciri knows that there is a chance they could be resurrected/resuscitated and then healed provided she goes and takes them then to Aen Elle to the unicorns with no delay. Why Ciri told Triss the Lodge will understand implying that it is time sensitive that Ciri takes Yen and Gerald then which the lodge will understand and it was the right decision. If Ciri knows there is no chance of them being resurrected it would be logical for her to just bury them like Mistle and the rest and just continue with her mission to conceive a baby and to help save the World.
Ciri is a remarkably brave girl.She agreed to get impregnated to escape Aen Elle the first time. Agreeing to sacrifice her self for Yen and then again agreed to sacrifice her future to fulfill the aim of the lodge to eventually save everyone from the end. I just don't see any other situation where Ciri would have broken her agreement with the lodge unless it is to save Yen and Gerald when the time came.
As for why Ciri can't be with Gerald and Yen in the end of the book. My theory is the Unicorns understand how dangerous she is especially if she falls in the hands of the Elves. It was said that when Ciri first arrived in Aen Elle that there was a lot of unrest among the Unicorns because of the power she posses. I think this is where the Witcher games story started off when the Wild Hunt abducted Yen when both Yen and Gerald where in Aen Elle.
At the start of the Lady of the lake Ciri was singing. This was straight after Rivia which I found odd. It seemed to me that she actually managed to saved them however she is sad she can't see them for at least sometime. Yen and Gerald would be stuck in An Elle and she can't just go there when she wants to. The Unicorns remember helped her escape the first time because they didn't want her to be there because of the Elves.
Personally I like the ending of both of them having died, gone to heaven and live out their lives happily ever after. However there are so many small details that cropped up that makes me believe that they are still alive.
In my opinion Geralt and Yennifer are dead as the biggest thing that decided the ending for me is the whole metaphor of Ciri ("the Death Reaper" as the old man in the swamp in 6th book called her IIRC) rowing the Geralt and Yennifer (both dead) away on river (Styx, etc.) and them waking up together in some meadow (possibly metaphor of Paradise or Hell I suppose).
EDIT: Although just to add, they could as well be alive, because I'd assume that Sapkowski left the ending purposefully as confusing as it is, just so that there would be different interpretations which is always a good thing IMO.
On the surface, I believe that both Geralt and Yen had their circles close...But remember the wheel always spins...
A major concept within the series, in particular the Lady of The Lake, is that time is simultaneously and cyclical; followed linearly but any given point existing simultaneously. Ciri is special (along with the unicorns) because she can jump time and space, albeit not yet with much control yet... Shortly before Geralt...Let's just say loses consciousness...It mentions his loop is closing, time comes full circle.
But, just as there are many various legends referenced by characters in the future, it is never stated that the narrative that takes place in the "present" is what actually occurred...And in quantum theory all things, all possibilities from all times exist infinitely and simultaneous, but are experienced in a linear fashion(except for unicorns and Ciri) with occasional premonitions, proficies, dreams, glimpses etc of other points along the circle.
The unicorn seemed to have sacrificed himself to allow Ciri to escape the elves while they were jumping space/time. Although the unicorns can navigate space/time so it is possible that the unicorn survived but I had the impression that he did not, so it may have been a spirit unicorn at the end removing Geralt and Yen from that cycle/loop/completed circle. Since Ciri never seemef to run into another version of herself or alternate versions of the characters, she seems to have not escaped her own linear path. (By that I just mean I don't think Ciri can jump back in time and act differently or save anyone....yet)
I believe that Hope exists. Geralt and Yens loop is closed, but Ciri is the mistress of space and time, with experience she can change the cycle, reopen the loop and add to it; and even though Geralt and Yen will always pass away together, perhaps Ciri will find a way to ensure they have their wedding and a long life together first....And will realise that they are always with her, even though their circles do not always overlap, there will always be times that they do.
Please forgive any issues with the "flow" of my writing. I just finished reading Lady of the Lake and I'm not gonna lie, tears were falling and I was a little confused and so of course I went o line immediately to look for some clarity and read some others impressions. Ultimately sorting my thoughts by writing them here, thus allowing the tail to be bitten, closure to my circle,
Why would she transport them to heaven(Avalon/Avallachs Isle) if they are dead? Wouldn't they just go there if they died? And Geralt waking up with bandages and wounds and Yennefer telling him to slow down... Well, I really believe that they are not dead, but still, since it's not clear, it's up to the reader to decide.
I'd say that there are some very strong points about the theory of Geralt and Yennefer healing themselves on the brokilon forest.
After being attacked in Rivia and then being helped by little horse, Ciri, with help of the others put both of the assumed "dead bodies" on the boat at the lake in Rivia as if It was sometype of "burial"(the usage of boats in burials were commum on the elder slavic culture).
After all the trauma accquired during the previous advetures Ciri can't see any meaning on keep on living without Geralt and Yennefer, the ones she risked her life for and enters the boat together with the two "corpses".
As said by Yen as soon as Geralt wake up, Ciri had traveld with them trough the lake and then trought a very dangerous river, when talking about the geogrphy of the region the river that passes by Rivia also passes by the brokilon forest while going twords the sea.
Probably in some part of the trip Ciri falls into the river, and as seen before, Ciri's blood prevents her from dying by teleporting her to a safe place or time in the multiverse, in this case, the lake in Avalon, meanwile the boat floats down to the brokilon forest where Geralt and Yennefer are rescued by the dryds of the forest and as before, Geralt recover itself from a deadly wound by using the magic properties of the brokilon water, this explains how Geralt and Yennefer wake up in a forest and as Ciri does not have the information that both Geralt and Yennefer are alive in the brokilon forest Ciri can not see any reason to return to her original world.To supress her terrible fealings about the death of Geralt and Yennefer she makes up their wedding to conclude the story she was telling to Galahad.
Both Geralt and Yennefer lives on the brokilon forest at least untill the end of the witch hunt that ended in 1276 and without the sisterhood on their way Geralt could return to his monster-hunting business.eventually after sometime around 1373 he saves a girl passing by a forest on her way to Aretusa. this girl would become Nimue then matching with the last chapter of the the book season of storms.