Welcome to Witcher Wednesdays, where I read and comment on The Witcher series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski. Today I’m covering the next two stories in The Last Wish , through page 265 in this edition.
This post CONTAINS SPOILERS so don’t read it until you’re caught up with the book. Ready? Let’s go!
The Voice of Reason 5
Geralt’s friend Dandilion comes to visit him in the temple. The two reminisce and discuss the fact that it seems there are less monsters in the world now than there once was. They then start to talk about the time they traveled to the edge of civilization, leading us into the next short story.
I get the feeling I’m not going to like Dandilion. Could be wrong. I’m wondering why Geralt is friends with him. That would be an interesting story. Still, he’s pretty obviously the comic relief, so I better get used to him being around.
The Edge of the World
Dandilion and Geralt have stopped at an inn at the Edge of the World, which is really the edge of civilization. The townspeople tell Geralt of a number of monsters in the area, but Geralt tells Dandilion that none of them are real. They leave and are stopped by a man on a cart who has a real witcher job for Geralt. Geralt and Dandilion ride with him back to his village where he tells Geralt that a devil lives in the field nearby and is bothering the townsfolk. Dandilion protests, saying that devil’s aren’t real, but Geralt agrees to look into it. The two go to the field where the devil lives, to find a creature that is half man, half goat. The devil throws iron balls at Dandilion and Geralt, who flee back to the town.
Back in the village, Geralt and Dandilion are introduced to a girl named Lille, the village’s wise woman (in training) who seems to have the gift of prophecy. They show Geralt an old book that contains somewhat accurate information about monsters and witchers. Lille leaves and the villagers reveal that she is the reason why their crops grow so well and that she has forbidden them to kill the devil, or any other creature, for that matter. This is why they’ve hired Geralt to run him off peacefully.
Geralt and Dandilion return to where the devil lives and Geralt manages to subdue him. However, a rider on a horse appears and knocks Geralt unconscious. When he comes to, he and Dandilion are tied up in a forest. The devil is talking with a group of elves, telling them that they must not kill Geralt and Dandilion. It is revealed the the devil has been bringing the elves seeds they can use to plant crops. The elves have been driven out of the fertile land and are on the brink of extinction.
The leader of the elves appears and says he must execute Geralt and Dandilion in order to protect their secret. He and Geralt argue back and forth for a bit, with Geralt saying that the elves must learn to live with humans and the lead elf refusing. Just as Geralt and Dandilion are about to be killed, Lille appears. It is revealed that she is not just a wise woman but the Queen of the Fields. Lille and the elves communicate silently for a while and then the elves withdraw. The story ends with Geralt, Dandilion, and the devil continuing to travel together.
The meat of this story lies in the confrontation with the elves. There’s a lot of good conflict here. The elves aren’t necessarily bad, per se, but they’ve been pushed into doing bad things. The elder feels that if he doesn’t kill Geralt, his own people will starve. When he does leave at the Queen’s request, it is with resignation, to his own death and the death of everyone he loves. At the same time, the humans are living in abundance because the Queen, who the elves recognize as either a deity or a great power, has chosen to favor them. I’d like to see more of the elves in future stories (and I’d be very surprised if I didn’t).
There’s a parallel between Geralt and the elves. Both have been marginalized by society, and both have to struggled to survive. The difference is that Geralt accepts his lot in life and works with it whereas the elves fight against it. The ending might seem to imply that Geralt has the right of it, but his conversation with the elves reveals, to me at least, that both sides have merit.
Elves aside, I like the opening scene of this story. If one of the themes of the Witcher series can be summed up as ‘there is a grain of truth to all fairy tales’, this opening scene reminds us that the grain of truth doesn’t necessarily mean a monster. A ghost story could be a drunk person wandering around town at night. And, as Geralt points out, it’s easier to believe a monster is attacking women than it is to believe that your neighbor is beating his wife.
One last note. I’m starting to like Dandilion more. He’s good comic relief. I really, really like the part where they’re about to be executed and Dandilion says, “Geralt, I can hear music.” To which Geralt responds, “Yeah, that happens. Death is scary, blah blah blah.” He’s just so blasé about the whole thing, I couldn’t help but laugh.
For next week, I’m reading The Voice of Reason 6 and the first half of The Last Wish. This story is long, so we’re going to split into two halves, through the end of part 5. That’s through page 311 in the mass market paperback edition of the book. See you next Wednesday!