A Tale of Two Swords: The Lore Behind the Two Witcher Blades
From the minute you look at Geralt of Rivia, you understand that swords are important to him: he classically has them strapped to his back, a violently clear fashion statement: enemies, beware. His image, his prestige, his reputation, are all defined by the deadly blades he carries.
So what’s the deal with these swords? Why are they so special?
The story goes that every Witcher--a monster hunter mutated with poisons at a young age--carries two swords: a silver sword for monsters, and a steel sword for men. A menacing proposition, as if they go around ready to slay anyone and anything in their path.
This almost proverb-like statement, “Silver for Monsters, Steel for Men”, is in fact, somewhat fictitious. There’s a quote from a Polish film adaptation of the books, where a young girl asks “I heard you carry two swords, one silver for monsters, and one steel for men.” And The Witcher laconically replies, “They’re both for monsters.” This could be interpreted as the swords being intended as instruments for slaying beasts and creatures, or a hint that perhaps some men are, in fact, monstrous.
There are many excerpts in the books from a mysterious document called Monstrum: A Description of the Witcher, which spouts hateful lies about witchers, especially about their bloodlust, and it’s easy to imagine that the writer and others would have encouraged this misconception, spreading rumors that Witchers intentionally carried a second weapon for murdering people.
The tragedy of the Witchers is that they are needed, yet very misunderstood by most of society. The witchers were created after The Conjunction of Spheres, when monsters were unleashed upon the world in droves. In Geralt’s time, Witchers are less needed, as monsters are less common, and so Witchers don’t have as much work as they used to--some turned to mercenary work, others became recluses, and everything about them became shrouded in mystery.
Additionally, because they are mutated through a process called The Trial of Grasses, to give them superhuman strength and agility, and immunity to most poisons, they’re feared and revered by most they meet. It also doesn’t help that they are all basically orphans raised to be killers, and have all the social graces you might expect of such a person. Thankfully they are guided by a noble cause, which is to protect the world from monsters--but the definition of monsters can be interpreted in many ways.
So why the two swords?
Silver swords are required for slaying certain types of monsters, who are poisoned by the lustrous metal. Silver swords are, understandably, very hard to come by, difficult to maintain, and are therefore not for everyday use. Some creatures are hurt more by iron, and so a steel sword--which is iron mixed with carbon--is appropriate for the job. A steel sword can easily be replaced, and therefore is better for everyday use to protect oneself.
However, we all know that Geralt doesn’t exclusively kill creatures--he has on many occasions, often begrudgingly, fought and killed humans. In the books, the first time we see Geralt, he kills a man in a pub, essentially for making fun of his accent. And it’s revealed that in his past, Geralt believed that killing horrible men would make him a savior--unfortunately, this backfired, and instead caused his rescued victims to fear him even more.
In the games by CD Projekt Red, they made the stylistic decision to have two swords on Geralt’s back, which has become an iconic image. However, in the books it’s described that Geralt keeps his silver sword safely stored on his horse, Roach, when he’s not using it, and in the Netflix TV Series, Geralt only has one sword strapped to his back (which created quite a stir!). Whether it’s one or two swords, however, it’s clear in all three--the books, the games and the show--that witchers carry their swords on their back for quick and easy access, ready to fight at the drop of a hat.
Yet the mystery of the two blades still remains up for debate: why do you think Geralt carries two swords?
written by Nora Evett, July 20th, 2021