You might already know that the characters, beasts, language and even the legends used in it, were inspired by Polish culture and locations. As one of the creator of the Witcher III said in the interview with PS4:
We are from Poland and we take great pride in Poland. Our artistic team used Polish locations as reference. Places such as our picturesque fields, medieval castles and villages. Our artists photographed such places and tried to reproduce them in the game as faithfully as possible because Witcher 3 is a Polish product, that we export to the West. (Konrad Tomaszkiewicz)
So below we presents you some of the places, legends and folk traditions that in our opinion were a great source of inspiration to the Witcher’s creators.
Also be careful for spoilers ahead – “TheWitcher 3 Wild Hunt” and its extension pack “Hearts of Stone”.
Real places in the Witcher 3
The city docks in Novigrad reminded me harbor of Gdańsk, our main port on Baltic sea. Of course this kind of architecture was pretty popular in all coastal cities on Baltic Sea. However the resemblance is striking and if the docks were based on Polish location, that’s the most probable model.
Lindenvale is Zalipie
For me the most obvious real life inspiration from “The Witcher 3” is Zalipie – a small place in Poland. This little southern place is called, not without a reason, the most colorful Polish village. Flower ornaments placed on the whitened walls and thatched roof are trademarks of Zalipie.
The name of the village was even used in the Polish version of the game. It is Lindenvale. However, the name is maybe the only similarity between them. Lindenvale is placed in post-war Velen, almost deserted and in trouble. And looks nothing like a fairy-tale Zalipie in Poland.
Comaprison of the picture of real life Zalipie’s folk house (c) Konrad Dudek, source: http://www.mojamalopolska.pl/kultura-folklor/zalipie-zagroda-felicji-curylowej-dom-malarek/. And a screen from CD Projekt RED “The Witcher 3”
In the game, villages with whitend walls and folk ornaments were located near Novigrad. A good example are suburbs south from Portside and Glory Gates, were you can complete the task “White Lady”. The style of ornaments are a little bit different than these in Polish Zalipie. They are probably based on traditional folk pattern from Łowicz (a town in Mazovia famous for craftswork). The most characteristic element of the Łowicz pattern is a colorful rooster.
As we can learn from Michał Stec from CD Projekt RED, the Witcher’s No Man’s Land – Velen – was based on the landscape Mazury. I would say they add there a bit of Mazovia, with its sandy riverbanks, swamps and… gallows trees.
Mazury is a lakeside located in the northern part of Poland. It is sailors paradise as it is a great system of lakes, rivers and channels. Mazury and neighbouring Warmia is just full of red ruins of Teutonic Knights castles.
Mazovia on the other hand is a land located centrally (this is were Warsaw is situated).
It is especially easy to imagine Velen being placed around Kampinos Wilderness. The swampy forest used to be a hideout place of the rebels of uprisings (since we had quite a few of them in XIX and XX century). Back in the day the wilderness was deserted, except for the few villages in the interior. A perfect hideout. But the sad truth is that most of the rebels have been captured and executed. Therefore Kampinos, just like Velen, is full of the trees that were used as gallows. Today they are memorial places.
Story of Gaunter o’Dim and Olgierd von Everec
A story of these two gentlemen, presented in the expansion pack “Hearts of Stone”, is based on a legend of Mr Twardowski, known also as Polish Faust. Twardowski was an adventurer, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge of dark magic. To secure his fragile situation, Twardowski added an extra clause into their contract. The devil could have taken his soul only when Twardowski was in Rome. However the devil outsmarted Polish man and approached him while he visited an inn of a name: Rzym (in English: Rome).
Twardowski and the devil by Michał Elwiro Andriolli – http://www.pinakoteka.zascianek.pl/Andriolli/Index.htm. Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1482807
The Witcher’s version of the story kept the traditional Polish way of depicting Twardowski. But also mixed it with another Polish protagonist – Kmicic. At least that’s how I see him.
Olgierd von Everec dresses in line with Polish XVI-XVII century fashion. This is why he wears robes, characteristic for Polish noblemen, who in that time dressed in this slightly oriental way. This was completely different from the Western fashion, where at that time noblemen dressed more like Dandelion. Characteristic for that period is also Olgierd’s weapon of choice (sabre) and of course classic haircut with shaved head sides. Actually the haircut is lately coming back to style in Poland.
Screen from CD Projekt RED’s “The Witcher Wild Hunt Heart of Stone” by Vollhov. Source: https://vollhov.deviantart.com/
Olgierd von Everec as Kmicic
Kmicic is a main character in XIX century novel “Potop” (Eng: “The Deluge“) by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Basically he is almost like Olgierd. A great guy and companion who tends to hang out with bad company. Sometimes he burns a village to the ground, sometimes he kidnaps a lady (but only whe he really really fancy her). But all together he is a perfect lad to help you in a battle.
In the hit movie adaptation from 1974 Kmicic was a red headed guy with mustache who at one occassion wears a beautiful blue noble robes. Sounds familiar?
During the fight with Iris biggest fear in Hearts of Stone Olgierd even use variation of Kmicic’s famous line: “Wiedźmina będą chować to i niebo płacze”. In English it is: “A witcher soon will be buried. So the skies weep”. Kmicic used this line in the movie when fighting the best fencer in Poland in a rain. But of course then he doesn’t say “a witcher” but “a colonel” when he refers to his opponent.
Olgierd’s soldiers call him “ataman” (not sure if it is the same in English version). Ataman is a word used by Ukrainian warriors in XVII century for chief captain. I would say it is another reference to Sienkiewicz’s novels. “Potop” is a part of a book trilogy of Polish wars in XVII century: the one with Ukrainian Kozaks, the one with Swedes (Potop) and the next one with Turks.
Wedding party in Bronowitz
Nothing in this game gave me more satisfaction that fighting with wooden fence rails at Bronowitz wedding. This is a type of thing that happens only when you are drunk, and usually at the village party. After all, only there you find plenty of fences with wooden rails at your disposal. This kind of a party, where talking to a wrong girl might lead to a fight. is colloquially named “sztachoteka”. But don’t worry. This kind of fights don’t really happen on weddings.
The whole premise of a village wedding in Bronowitz, was based both on real story and a XX century drama “The Wedding” by Stanisław Wyspiański. It tells a one-night story of a wedding in Bronowice. The groom was a poet and a son of university professor Lucjan Rydel. The bride was a peasant girl Jadwiga Mikołajczykówna. Today Bronowice is a part of Cracow, but in the beginning of the XX century it was still a village.
Pellar and Forefathers’ Eve on Fyke Isle
The character of Pellar is well known to Polish fol tradition. In Polish version of The Witcher his name was Guślarz, that means – a sort of a village shaman. A man who knows his way around magic and herbalism. And who is also no novice when it comes to encounters with the dead.
The most famous depiction of Guślarz comes from XIX – century drama of Adam Mickiewicz “Dziady” (which is a Polish word for Forefather’s Eve). “Dziady part II” told a story of a folk tradition of the same name.
By Charles-Boris de Jankowski – File:Adam Mickiewicz – Dziady część I, II i IV.djvu. Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57593864
Puropose of Dziady is to make contact with ghosts of dead relatives and friends in order to gain their support. The ritual is definitely very far from Catholic tradition but was deeply rooted in a folk tradition. Dziady took place twice a year, in the beginning of May and in the end of October (today All Sain’t Day). It could be somehow compared to Halloween.
Nowadays nobody celebrate Dziady. However, my father still remembers the days when in eastern Poland people were trying to scare each other on the lat night of October.
Last but not least
The creators of the game state that probably not even one design or setting used in “The Witcher” was based on just one particular location. Therefore there are never ideal copies. However I hope that at least some of the places shown below were used as an inspiration for creation of this picturesque landscapes, castles, towns and villages, that fans from all over the world loves so much.