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SYFY WIRE The Witcher

How Netflix's Witcher prequel 'Blood Origin' took inspiration from just 'a few lines in the books'

The upcoming miniseries will explore how the worlds of men, elves, and monsters became one.

By Josh Weiss
Witcher 108 Still

The Witcher team at Netflix isn't exactly wanting for source material. They've got eight novels, more than a dozen short stories, several best-selling video games (expansions included), and five volumes of comic books that can ultimately be woven into prestige streaming material. So, it's pretty unbelievable that writer/producer Declan De Barra eschewed nearly all of Andrzej Sapkowski's available world-building for the upcoming prequel miniseries, The Witcher: Blood Origin.

An exploration of how the worlds of men, elves, and monsters became one (an event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres), Blood Origin is only based on "a few lines in the books," according to Kelly Luegenbiehl, the Netflix executive who helped give rise to this epic fantasy universe pitched by Witcher showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich.

"We were trying to understand what the world was like for elves right before the Conjunction of the Spheres," De Barra said during a conversation with Entertainment Weekly. "It's very vague in the books as to what happened. I got out a whiteboard and sketched out this plan of what I thought: what elves wanted in this world and what the society was like pre-colonization. That kind of stuck."

De Barra actually jotted down his blueprint for the sequel on a restaurant napkin, inspired by the rise and fall of once-great civilizations throughout human history. 

"This whole time in [Sapkowski's] books, he reinterprets folktales and history," he continued. "And when you look at our own history, societies that had been at their height, like the Roman Empire or the Mayan Empire, would be right before the fall and then we're in dark ages again. That fascinated me to wonder what that [elven] world could have been and what society would have been like. That's what we're going to explore here."

Blood Origin is currently in production — shooting on sound stages and real-world locations — with a cast that includes heavy hitters like Michelle Yeoh (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) and Lenny Henry (Doctor Who). Netflix has yet to announce a fixed debut for the miniseries.

Season 2 of The Witcher premieres on Netflix Friday, Dec. 17. A third season of the flagship series has been green-lit along with a family-friendly show. The latter announcement (made at TUDUM in September) drew a certain amount of backlash from fans who could not understand how such a thing would work without The Witcher's trademark violence and brooding atmosphere.

"The truth is though, those things to me are the bells and whistles of this world," Hissrich told EW of the fantasy universe's mature aspects. "If you peel away those layers, you come back to basic tales of morality. That's what all of Sapkowski's short stories are. They're based actually on a bunch of folklore and mythology, the exact sort of tales that Grimms' fairytales do, that frankly Disney movies do."