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  • Sure, there are mutants and mages galore,

  • but the slow-beating heart of The Witcher

  • is in its monsters.

  • While some may be unfamiliar to you,

  • they've actually been with us,

  • stalking through human stories

  • for centuries, even millennia.

  • Here are the very real mythologies

  • behind every single monster

  • in the first half of The Witcher's first season,

  • in order of appearance.

  • And if you want them all, let us know

  • by liking, sharing, and telling us in the comments.

  • Okay, so you know The Witcher's serious about monsters

  • when it has a kikimora in the first scene

  • of the first episode.

  • If that name's not ringing a bell,

  • it's probably because it's a beast from Slavic folklore,

  • which has been underrepresented in popular fiction.

  • To start, kikimoras are always female.

  • They rise from stillborn children

  • or women who died in labor

  • and often bear the deceased's face.

  • In some Russian versions of the tale,

  • kikimora is indeed a creature of the swamp

  • who leaves wet footprints wherever she goes.

  • But in most, she's a purely household spirit,

  • occasionally a nightmarish household spirit,

  • slipping through keyholes to squat

  • on the chest of sleepers, suffocating them,

  • in her more benign incarnations, though,

  • she's described as more of a nuisance

  • with a cleanliness fetish.

  • So, you can think of kikimora

  • as kind of a monstrous cousin to Marie Kondo?

  • I love mess.

  • Human-animal hybrids are a ...

  • Tale as old as time

  • Almost every mythological tradition on Earth

  • has some variation of them.

  • The first we see in The Witcher are sylvans,

  • which resemble fawns, the unpredictable woodland man-goats

  • from Greco-Roman mythology, although maybe they hit

  • more like the bloodthirsty half-man-half-bovine Minotaur.

  • In many versions of that latter myth,

  • the Minotaur was conceived when the insulted god Poseidon

  • took revenge on the insulting King Minos

  • by cursing his wife, making her fall

  • for a real specimen of a bull.

  • There's a lot of art on the internet about this.

  • It might be why Geralt goes immediately for the mom insults.

  • You mother****** goat!

  • But lest you think that human-animal hybrids

  • are just ancient, magical things, allow me to introduce you

  • to the mysterious pig-faced lady of Europe.

  • Nearly simultaneously in the 1600s,

  • in multiple places across the continent,

  • a legend arose of a pregnant rich woman who was cursed

  • and whose baby was born with a pig's head.

  • They myth persisted and somehow gained the veneer of fact.

  • As late as the 1800s, newspapers reported that

  • the pig-faced lady lived in London's posh Manchester-Square.

  • Goats, pigs, bulls.

  • But what about The Witcher's human-hedgehog combo?

  • Has that ever popped up in myth?

  • Well, because we go the extra mile here at Netflix,

  • I looked into this, and ...

  • Nope.

  • I found Hans My Hedgehog, a cockerel-riding,

  • bagpipe-playing, princess-loving Brothers Grimm creation

  • who was a wee bit more monstrous in the Jim Henson version.

  • That's enough!

  • Out!

  • If you've finished The Witcher,

  • you know that the striga is probably the scariest monster

  • on the show; although, technically she's a cursed human.

  • And that's fitting, because they're pretty terrifying

  • in the scant myths about them, too.

  • According to what we have, the striga

  • is sort of a vampire prototype:

  • huge, almost bird-like claws, sharp fangs,

  • and a thirst for human flesh and blood,

  • although she can live off of animals, too.

  • But strigas weren't born that way.

  • The unlikely number was two.

  • People with two hearts, two souls, two sets of teeth,

  • conditions common when a pregnant woman was cursed,

  • could become strigas after they died.

  • They second self sort of took over the corpse

  • and went on a feeding frenzy.

  • Even though they're not so common in fiction,

  • it's interesting how many cultures

  • have variations on the theme.

  • Strigas' demonic cousins proliferated across southern

  • and eastern Europe to unlikely places, like your garden.

  • This is the striga, or witchweed plant,

  • which is kind of pretty, right?

  • But it's known for viciously penetrating the roots

  • of a host plant and sucking out all of its nutrients.

  • Scientists even make dad jokes about its rapaciousness.

  • So, whether it's the plant or the bewitched

  • princess variety, stay away from strigas, y'all.

  • Well, when it comes to episode four's selkiemaw,

  • the showrunners of The Witcher

  • didn't give us much info work with.

  • Thanks, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich!

  • All we hear is a pretty gripping tavern talk

  • from a villager that includes the creature's name.

  • The ice cracked open!

  • And a selkiemaw shot out!

  • Oh, you'll never see one!

  • And all we see are its guts on Geralt.

  • I had to get it from the inside.

  • The name selkiemaw, in every spelling we could think of,

  • doesn't return any results.

  • But plain old selkies are indeed notable

  • mythological creatures of the water.

  • In Irish, Scottish, and Icelandic folklore,

  • the selkie is kind of an affable, shape-shifting seal.

  • It mostly spends its time in seal-like endeavors,

  • lounging on rocks, being cute, et cetera.

  • But occasionally, it sheds its prized skin,

  • revealing a beautiful human underneath, and comes ashore.

  • There's usually a lot of marriage shenanigans after this.

  • Its use is fitting for an episode written by an Irishman.

  • Still, a friendly seal with magical outerwear

  • doesn't quite square with what little we know

  • of the selkiemaw, like it can swallow a witcher whole,

  • it has swallowed a whole village whole,

  • it possesses a cavernous mouth with devil's teeth.

  • And, actually, there is tell of a similar creature

  • lurking deep within Russia,

  • about a six-hour's drive west of Moscow: the Brosno dragon.

  • It's said to be a huge, reptilian or dinosaur-like creature

  • that inhabits the small but curiously deep

  • waters of Lake Brosno.

  • And just like the selkiemaw, the dragon can eat.

  • His stories are full of him chomping down on things

  • like invading Tatar warriors and their horses,

  • a German airplane during World War II,

  • and somehow an entire island that some vikings

  • were going to leave some treasure on.

  • I don't know if this wise without a witcher in tow,

  • but people still look for the dragon.

  • This is an easily chompable dogsled team

  • searching across the frozen lake.

  • Toss a coin to your witcher

  • ♪ O valley of plenty

  • Whoa

  • Our search for the selkiemaw, however,

  • has reached its successful conclusion.

  • We figured it out!

  • Take that, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich!

  • Thank you!

  • In the fourth episode,

  • there's also this formidable killer insect

  • that haunts Yennefer, roachhound.

  • So we started researching it, and the weirdest thing

  • we realized is, where are all the insect monsters?

  • Like, I mean, insects, and all arthropods, really,

  • are basically already monsters in real life.

  • So, why not make them mythological ones?

  • But maybe it's because we're not looking

  • in the right places.

  • Think about it: the typical Western myths

  • that many of us learn in school usually involve mammalian

  • or sometimes lizard-like creatures.

  • But Asian, Pacific, and indigenous folklore

  • often seems to use insects and spiders

  • in their monster-making.

  • In the tales of Thailand

  • and several New York state Native American tribes,

  • there are monster mosquitoes as big as chickens,

  • who are capable of launching coordinated attacks on forts.

  • The Wayana of South America have kuluwajak,

  • forgive the pronunciation,

  • a two-headed caterpillar who cuts off

  • and devours human heads.

  • And then there's Japan.

  • The Japanese have a giant, samurai-hating spider

  • that can turn invisible, and omukade,

  • a mountain-sized centipede with venom for breath.

  • By the way, this is a real mukade centipede,

  • and I still find it frightening.

  • So, now you know why they later created Mothra.

  • So, yeah, insect monsters; I'm not scared.

  • Are you scared?

  • Run far, run fast, Yennefer.

  • There's something profoundly disturbing

  • about meeting your exact twin.

  • Wait.

  • Stop that.

  • Which might be why the myth of the doppelganger

  • keeps finding its way into our popular fiction,

  • including in The Witcher's doppler.

  • True, the word doppelganger

  • was only coined in the 18th century.

  • But cultures as old as the ancient Egyptians

  • believed in the Ka, a sort

  • of spiritual facsimile,

  • replete with a person's

  • memories and feelings,

  • that could sometimes mislead.

  • But they can also replace you.

  • Everything you've ever done, ever debated,

  • ever dreamed is in our head now.

  • People from the Orkney islands feared the trow,

  • sickly changeling creatures that would replace

  • healthy human babies with their identical trow replicas.

  • If you want to get crazy, we can get crazy.

  • So it's sort of like the plot of Us.

  • Sometimes a benign version of the doppelganger will pop up.

  • The Norse Vardoger, for instance, was an identical you

  • that went ahead of the real you

  • and showed up early to all your meetings.

  • But most of the time, they're an omen of doom.

  • Following his election in 1860,

  • Abraham Lincoln allegedly saw

  • his exact double in the mirror.

  • The other was pale and ghastly-looking.

  • His wife believed the vision foretold his reelection

  • but also his death.

  • There is a condition, heautoscopy,

  • which can cause someone to see their double at a distance.

  • Or, at least you better hope it's heautoscopy

  • and not a doppelganger.

  • As hard as it is to believe while watching this,

  • the djinn of Arabian mythology

  • are surprisingly a lot like us.

  • I mean, sure, they are technically, according to the Quran,

  • creatures made of smokeless fire that live in an unseeable,

  • unknowable dimension somewhere beyond our own

  • and who are blessed with supernatural powers

  • of shape-shifting, invisibility and flight.

  • But they also possess a fair share of human qualities;

  • like us, the djinn eat, they drink, they sleep,

  • the fall in love or lust with each other and with humans,

  • as made vividly clear in this pre-Islamic-era poem,

  • which isn't all that flattering for either side.

  • And, maybe most like us, they're capable of choosing

  • between good and evil; although, unfortunately,

  • many seem to end up on the dark side.

  • Their mischief continues to the present day,

  • because, while the existence of djinn

  • predates even the founding of Islam,

  • belief in them is still very common

  • in many parts of the Muslim world.

  • Djinn can be annoying.