Yennefer. Who is she, really? In the Witcher 3 we see her relentlessly pursuing her goals across multiple continents, taking down any obstacles in her way. Yes, she cares passionately for her love, Geralt, but he won’t distract her from her ultimate goals. Despite their closeness, she keeps extremely important secrets from the Witcher during their travels, yet he trusts her implicitly. She is strong and wise, confident and skilled, and a timeless beauty. Their romance is legendary in the Witcher universe, literally.
In the story of Witcher 3 we meet the songstress Priscilla fairly early on, Dandelion’s fellow bard, who sings a ballad written specifically about the legendary pair, Geralt and Yennefer. To me the relationship between Yennefer and Geralt in Witcher 3 reflects the modern, feminist relationship dynamic in a medieval fantasy setting, with all of its ups and downs that tie a pair together and make them stronger, and Priscilla’s song paints their portrait aptly.
“These scars long have yearned for your tender caress
To bind our fortunes, damn what the stars own
Rend my heart open, then your love profess
A winding, weaving fate to which we both atone”
These days its typical for the marrying age generation to come from broken homes with a trail of baggage dragging behind them. We all ache for someone to care for us and tend to our many scars, to fill the void within us. (If you have a void, and not everyone does.) Most of us want to be loved and to walk life’s path with a worthy partner who has our back through thick and thin.
“You flee my dream come the morning
Your scent – berries tart, lilac sweet
To dream of raven locks entwisted, stormy
Of violet eyes, glistening as you weep”
Yennefer is an extremely feminist character who breaks gender norms while also maintaining and taking pride in her femininity. We can actually see a reflection of modern beauty values in her appearance, but in a way you may not expect. In the Witcher universe, Sorceresses typically use magic to beautify themselves if desired. Yennefer used to be a hunchback, in fact, according to the novels.
With her own power and skill she is able to present herself visually as she desires to be seen, much like women do with makeup in real life or sometimes cosmetic body alteration. We don’t wear makeup to “be pretty for men”, we wear it for ourselves, to outwardly reflect our self image. At least, many do, and there is nothing wrong with either option.
The wolf I will follow into the storm
“To find your heart, its passion displaced
By ire ever growing hardening into stone
Amidst the cold to hold you in a heated embrace”
Geralt is the typical man’s man. He’s stoic, gruff, quiet, strong, and shows little emotion unless truly tested. He is all that men are taught to be by society’s gender norms, but Yennefer slowly helps him break away from the trappings of toxic masculinity. Rather than only displaying anger or stoicism, he learns to laugh and love, to open up and smile, to joke with her. She inspires him with her fire and he follows her light. Geralt feels magnetized by her presence, alive.
“I know not if fate would have us live as one
Or if by love’s blind chance we’ve been bound
The wish I whispered, when it all began
Did it forge a love you might never have found?”
Love is a journey and a choice. After the butterflies fade, what is left is what we have made. Whether or not fate has anything to do with relationships doesn’t matter. We each have agency over our lives and have the chance to take destiny by the reigns when we realize this.
Yennefer is a complex, deep, admirable character who exhibits traits I and many women strive to acquire and display in our lives. She knows herself and her desires inside and out. She is incredibly confident, independent, capable, always getting what she wants always by some means or another. She is strong and fearless, unafraid to speak her mind, confident, skilled, and surefooted on her path in life.
Yennefer’s femininity is not a limiting factor but one of her indomitable strengths. This is a welcome, progressive take on femininity and one of the reasons I love the Witcher series so much.
Thanks for reading!
6 comments on “Wolven Storm – Musings on Love and Feminism in Witcher 3”
In my play through I remained loyal to Triss, given our history over the past few games. I knew that from Witcher 1, Geralt had lost his memory and there had been something with Yennefer with in the past but it was a distant, abstract thing.
Until all of a sudden it wasn’t. There was a part in The Witcher 3 where this decision became truly heart rending, where the reality of having moved on (sure, in a haze of forgotten memories) where this other person hadn’t the same benefit of forgetfulness was made very real.
I’ll never forget it how skillfully the story was told and presented. Where the temporary breaking of the walls gave perhaps more insight than I really wanted. *shakes head* Bravo to the story tellers and character writers involved.
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That scene where Priscilla sings this song was one of my favourites in the game. I was completely transfixed, watching Geralt slowly realise it’s about him and Yennefer was so well done.
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I never thought about these characteristics about Yen the first time I played. But I did see her as a very independent character who takes charge and isn’t afraid to take risks to find and protect Ciri. It wasn’t until I listened to Priscilla’s song did I come to appreciate their relationship more. Reading this also made me love Yen more than I thought. I was skeptical about her at first but now I’m glad I gave her a chance in the game. ❤
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