The Witcher has often been described as Netflix’s answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones. They are both fantasy series that were adapted from books, and feature a whole lot of political machinations. Though one has many more monsters than the other.
But, while HBO was incredibly slow to cash in on the Game of Thrones train with spin-offs, Netflix isn’t making the same mistake. We’ve got a prequel series, an anime movie (a second is coming soon) and, yes, just-announced a family oriented spin-off for kids.
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Obviously the idea of The Witcher, which is incredibly dark and adult in every incarnation, going down the family-friendly route sounds ridiculous. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it could actually work. Provided Netflix and The Witcher’s producers do it properly.
In fact they just need to borrow a concept from the first two Witcher novels (which are actually short story collections), The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.
Tales to make the Brothers Grimm pause
Some of the short stories within the first two Witcher novels are actually loosely based on real-world fairy tales. Albeit tales that Geralt is deeply involved in, in adventures that might have made the Brothers Grimm blush. And considering how dark the original Grimm's Fairy Tales were, that’s saying something.
One of those short stories has already been adapted for the Witcher TV series. The very first episode of the series, “The End’s Beginning,” is based on the story “The Lesser Evil," which was in turn heavily influenced by Snow White.
Season 2 also seems to include another of those stories, with Game of Thrones’ Kristofer Hivju playing the character Nivellen. Nivellen appeared in the story ‘A Grain of Truth’ which was influenced by Beauty and the Beast.
You wouldn’t really know that ‘The End’s Beginning’ was based on Snow White from the TV alone, because a lot of the details were lost in the TV adaptation. While Renfri was still a princess who avoided an attempt on her life by her stepmother (and the wizard Stregobor), the rest was left out.
‘The Lesser Evil’ features a whole host of references to Snow White. Renfri’s stepmother used a magic mirror to foresee that she (and her children) were destined to die at Renfri’s hand. Renfri also ended up leading a gang of seven gnomes, avoided an assassin armed with a poisoned apple and was even cursed to turn to stone at one point. A curse that a prince was able to break.
In other words... almost an exact retelling of Snow White, but set in the Witcher universe. It’s incredibly obvious when you read it, but you’re forgiven for missing that inspiration after watching the TV version.
‘A Grain of Truth’s’ inspiration is probably more difficult to obscure on TV but it’s far from the only other fairy tales Andrej Sapkowski adapted for his work. ‘A Little Sacrifice’ contains elements from The Little Mermaid, ‘A Shard of Ice’ references The Snow Queen, ‘The Edge of the World’ has links back to The Pied Piper of Hamlin, and I could go on.
Fairy tales for kids, feat. The Witcher
Obviously these sorts of stories are ideal for adapting to kids — whether they come from the Witcher books or not. Fairy tales are often meant to invoke a specific message or warning, and that’s why they are often told to kids. They need to learn not to take food from strangers, not to go into the woods alone, or not to make promises you can’t keep.
There’s no reason why this new Witcher spin-off couldn’t do the same, regardless of whether it takes inspiration from real world fairy tales or makes up something completely original. Just maybe without all the copious violence and sexual assault Sapkowski littered his own creations with.
After all, the Witcher universe is a fantasy world, with all the monsters and magic you’d expect from a fairy tale world. What’s more we even have a guild of experts in all the magical things that could do people harm: the Witchers.
The same way Geralt has found himself caught in the middle of some fairy tale-esque story, so too could another Witcher in Netflix's upcoming spin-off. Maybe it’s Geralt, a brand new Witcher, or a troop of different characters — with one taking the center stage each episode.
Or perhaps they could take a similar approach to Marvel’s What If…?, with a single narrator walking people through different tales — almost like a storyteller reading a book. There’s an almost endless possibility of ways this show could be done, with the ‘Witcher fairy tale’ concept at its core, and that all important message or moral by the end.
Yes, The Witcher for kids can work
As bizarre as it seems to have a family-friendly spin-off of something as mature (and often gruesome) as The Witcher, there are ways it could be done quite successfully.
Whether Netflix adopts the fairy tale concept or not, it’s not as ridiculous as you might have thought. So it’s definitely going to be interesting to see which way Netflix decides to go, and how it works out.
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