Now into its second season, Netflix’s The Witcher has firmly established itself as the ultimate destination for fans of epic fantasy, particularly in a post-Game of Thrones era. Adapted from Andrzej Sapkowski’s novel series of the same name, this creation by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich introduces us to Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), the renowned witcher and monster hunter, along with Princess Ciri of Cintra (Freya Allan), the enigmatic sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and the charismatic bard Jaskier (Joey Batey). Their journeys unfold across a war-torn land known simply as the Continent. It’s a realm steeped in mystery and magic, as is customary in the realm of fantasy. However, in The Witcher, not all magical beings are created equal, and some hold far more significance to the plot, such as Geralt’s intermittent ally and love interest, Yennefer.
In true Witcher fashion, Yennefer’s extraordinary powers are intricately tied to an event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres. This cataclysmic phenomenon, barely comprehended even by the characters within the show, lies at the heart of the Continent’s creation as we’ve come to know it. During the Conjunction, various dimensions collided, stranding humans and monsters alike in the Continent, a realm previously inhabited solely by ancient races like elves and dwarves. This cataclysmic event also ushered in a surge of magical energy, known as Chaos, flooding the world with mystical power.
While Geralt draws his powers from a series of mutations that grant him and other witchers low-level magic abilities, Yennefer possesses a unique innate gift: the ability to manipulate Chaos. She is what’s known as a conduit, someone naturally attuned to harnessing the universe’s magical energy without any modifications. With proper training, Chaos conduits can perform feats that surpass even the most skilled witchers, both in terms of power and complexity. However, becoming a mage is no simple endeavor, and being a conduit offers no guarantees; it’s merely a ticket to the world of magic.
Yennefer of Vengerberg embarked on her magical journey at one of the Continent’s numerous mage schools, Aretuza, a former elven fortress turned center of arcane learning. Her arrival at Aretuza came during a moment of despair. Born with a hunchback and a crooked jaw, Yennefer endured a life of abuse at the hands of her stepfather and the people in her hometown. Her escape to Aretuza followed a traumatic incident where she was beaten and humiliated for daring to dream of love and tenderness, something she believed she could never have. Aretuza’s Tower of the Gull became her refuge, where she encountered Istredd (Royce Pierreson), a mage impressed by her innate abilities who warned her that her past would catch up to her.
Back in her hometown, Yennefer was visited by Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring), the rectress of Aretuza, who made an offer her stepfather couldn’t refuse. In exchange for a mere four marks, Yennefer was sold to Tissaia, a transaction that dehumanizingly valued her lower than one of her stepfather’s pigs. Initially resistant to leaving, Yennefer’s desperation led her to attempt suicide on her first night at Aretuza, but she soon discovered that her destiny held more promise than she had ever imagined.
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Yennefer’s initial days at Aretuza were far from exceptional, and falling behind in her studies could lead to dire consequences for aspiring mages. Tissaia, in Yennefer’s first class, clarified a crucial point to the young girls: being a conduit of Chaos didn’t guarantee the ability to wield magic. She emphasized that “Magic is organizing Chaos,” and to achieve this, mages must find a delicate equilibrium and maintain control because, without them, Chaos could be their downfall.
The concept of balance is relatively straightforward. In The Witcher universe, magic isn’t just about knowing the right incantations; it involves understanding the fundamental principle that governs the use of Chaos. To perform magic, mages must draw energy from something, whether it’s a flower or their own bodies. What’s crucial is that nothing is given without something being taken in return. Magic demands sacrifice.
Control, on the other hand, is more intricate. Aspiring mages must master the art of controlling Chaos itself and prevent their emotions from overpowering them. This aspect is particularly significant due to the political roles that sorcerers play in The Witcher world, where they act as advisors to numerous kings and maintain the Brotherhood of Sorcerers’ authority.
Yennefer’s initial struggles and inability to control her anger made her appear weak in Tissaia’s eyes. Tissaia admonished her for the suicide attempt and for endangering another student’s life. Fortunately, Yennefer eventually demonstrated her worth. At Aretuza, those who fail to gain proper control over Chaos and their emotions face a grim fate: they are transformed into eels and cast into the pool at the Tower of the Gull, where they continue to harness power for the school. They retain their magical potential but lose control over their own destiny.”
Yennefer’s ability to control her emotions becomes evident when she carries out Tissaia’s request to spy on Istredd. When it comes to her magical abilities, she displays a talent far superior to her peers. She effortlessly conjures portals and channels lightning through her body, showcasing her natural proficiency with magic. This aptitude is attributed to her elven heritage. Yennefer reveals to Istredd that her biological father was a half-elf, and it’s this elven lineage that both contributed to her physical deformities and granted her an innate connection to magic. While magic has evolved into a human discipline, the elves were the original masters of harnessing the power of Chaos and passing on their knowledge to humans before facing extermination. Having elven blood can still provide a significant advantage when it comes to wielding magic.
However, possessing an elven lineage doesn’t offer any advantages in the realm of politics. Prejudice against elves, particularly in places like Cintra, bars those with elvish ancestry from ascending to positions of power. Yennefer’s parentage becomes a weapon against her when the time comes to assign her a posting. Despite Tissaia’s initial intention to send her to Aedirn, Yennefer is relegated to Nilfgaard, a realm ruled by a foolish king who objectifies his mages. Dreading this fate, Yennefer takes matters into her own hands and manages to win the favor of the king of Aedirn, defying the Brotherhood of Sorcerers’ wishes.
To understand how she accomplishes this and why King Fergus of Nilfgaard is so eager for an advisor he has no intention of heeding, we need to step back to Aretuza’s preparatory process. After mastering various forms of magic, including crafting illusions and mind-reading, female mages undergo a magical procedure known as “the enchanting.” This procedure eliminates all physical “imperfections,” transforming them into what society considers the most beautiful women in the world. The enchanting is a painful and gruesome process, reminiscent of real-life plastic surgery. Yennefer undergoes this procedure without anesthesia in her haste to overturn the Brotherhood’s decision.”
Prepare to be captivated by the allure of magic, but beware of its consequences. Yennefer, a mesmerizing sorceress, sacrifices her fertility to harness powerful spells. However, she finds herself yearning for what she has lost. Determined to restore her ability to bear children, Yennefer delves into treacherous realms of magic, risking her own safety.
In Season 2 of The Witcher, Yennefer grapples with a different loss – her powers. After the Battle of Sodden, she discovers that she can no longer channel the Chaos energy. This abandonment occurs due to her use of forbidden fire magic to protect herself. In a desperate attempt to repel a fireball, Yennefer taps into her untapped potential, causing all Chaos to leave her body. Tissaia explains that this sacrifice was necessary.
Yet, Yennefer regains her powers. It is an unexpected gift, obtained through a selfless act of self-harm – slitting her own wrist to save Ciri. The source of this gift remains a mystery. Was it Voleth Meir fulfilling a promise, even with unforeseen outcomes? Could Ciri possess greater power than imagined? Or does someone else hold the key? Season 3 holds the answers. What we do know is that Yennefer returns, her power restored, ready to astound once more.