The Witcher is out now on Netflix, and has already been impressing fans with its dark, Game of Thrones-esque approach to the fantasy genre.
Based on the bestselling books by Andrzej Sapkowski, which were also adapted into a hit video game series, The Witcher follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), a skilled warrior who spends his time slaying a variety of deadly supernatural monsters.
While some of his foes may be recognisable to the layperson – everyone’s heard of dragons, I’m sure – there are many beasts that viewers will be less familiar with, created specifically for the Witcher universe.
Here’s a guide to some of the supernatural creatures Geralt comes up against…
These deadly insect-like creatures first appeared in the short story “The Lesser Evil”. Described as having ” “bony, clawed paws” and a “spidery form, covered by dried black hide”, the creatures also have glassy eyes and needle-like fangs.
The Kikimora (sometimes called “Kikimore) make their debut in the first episode of the Netflix series, having also appeared in the Witcher games, in which it is revealed that they are vulnerable to insectoid oil.
The creatures are loosely inspired by a monster of the same name from Slavic mythology – a nightmarish female spirit that occupies a house and brings misfortune to its inhabitants.
The Striga only really features in one story in the Witcher books: “Weidzmen”. A Striga is actually a woman who has been cursed to transform into a hideous monster at night – a lot like Princess Fiona in Shrek. It’s another Princess that features in The Witcher’s Striga plotline: Princess Adda, who fell prey to the curse despite being already dead.
Striga are disfigured and deadly, with a diet consisting of human flesh. There is, however, one way to stop the monster. If someone is able to keep the Striga from its resting place until dawn, the curse is undone.
Like many of the Witcher’s creatures, the Striga are vaguely based on a real folkloric monster. In Albanian legend, the Shtriga were blood-sucking witches who would transform into insects by day.
The Hirikka are an endangered species in the world of The Witcher, having been hunted to the brink of extinction. In Sword of Destiny, they are described as being even rarer than dragons.
Sylvans are a species of creatures, sort of akin to leprechauns, that look like a cross between a human and a goat.
Their horned heads, hairy legs and cloven hooves earned them the nickname of “devil” (or “deoval”) among humans, although they are tolerated because of their non-threatening vegetarian diet.
In The Witcher, the most prominent Sylvan is Torque, a creature who harasses a community of human farmers, having struck a deal with a town of Elves to steal their agricultural secrets. Naturally, things go awry for the mischievous Torque when Geralt gets involved.
Much rarer and more powerful than the regular dragons that exist within the world of The Witcher, Golden Dragons are distinguished by their bright gold hue, and are said to possess many exotic magical powers.
Spanning up to 20 metres in length, the fire-breathing beasts are capable of changing their physical form into that of any living being – an invaluable skill when trying to remain undetected. Their description in The Witcher’s Bounds of Reason draws inspiration from the Dungeons and Dragons mythology.
Vilentretenmerth is the name of a Golden Dragon whom Geralt first meets in the story while he has taken the form of a human called Borch Three Jackdaws.
The word “Djinn” was translated into English as “Genie”, and this elemental air spirit has a surprising amount in common with the wisecracking lamp-dweller seen in Disney’s Aladdin.
Djinns are powerful spirits, capable of unleashing great and terrible magic. Once they are captured, they are bound to their captors and are obliged to fulfill three wishes. Once the wishes have been granted, the spirit is free.
A dangerous deal with the Djinn forms a key part of Geralt’s backstory in the early Witcher short entitled “The Last Wish”, which served as the inspiration for the fifth episode of the Netflix series.
Like Golden Dragons, Dopplers – also known as shifters, mimics, doubles, imitators, and pavrats – are able to hide in plain sight through impersonation. The shapeshifting beasts can take the form of any similarly-sized man or creature.
They can also transform parts of their body into objects, such as swords or instruments, although letting go of said object would turn it back into torn-out flesh. Their weakness, in both the Witcher books and the Netflix series, is Silver – the metal element which prevents a Doppler from using its powers.
In general, the species is known for being exceptionally benevolent and well-intentioned – although, as the series shows, this is not the case for every Doppler.