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The Witcher Season 2 Monster Guide

Wyvern, Bruxsa, and Basilisks, oh my!

Shiri Sondheimer

Happy Witcher Week! From Dec. 15 to Dec. 22, TV Guide and sister sites Gamespot and Metacritic are celebrating everything The Witcher. We have reviews, explainers, and everything you need to get ready for and break down The Witcher Season 2, which premiered Dec. 17 on Netflix. The following story is part of that celebration, and you can enjoy all of The Witcher content across sites right here

While we all love the drama of prophecies and child surprises, destiny, and will-they-won't-they-and-what-will-they-break-when-they-do, let's be honest; we came to The Witcher for the epic, juicy, certified gross berserker versus monster splatter fests. We wouldn't stay without the promise of at least a few river-of-slime, guts-on-the-outside, blood-drenched monster battles no matter how well-written and compelling the long arc. Have no fear, friends: the creative staff bringing Season 2 to life is clearly right there with us. 

Clearly, everyone's priorities are in the right place so let us do homage to the work that went into creating and crafting this season's fanged, taloned, and venomed horrors by profiling each, and doing a bit of a dive into their mythological and/or folkloric origins. It will come as no surprise to those of you who have read Andrzej Sapkowski's short stories and novels that many of the monsters his universe spawned are deeply rooted in humanity's elder blood (see what I did there). While some barely have their primal serial numbers filed off and others are almost unrecognizable but for the names they share with their progenitors, they all come from the well of our deepest fears, aspirations, and, let's be honest, probably some dreams altered by funky mushrooms. 

Come, let us take a page from Istrid's book and dig around, shall we? No trouble to be found poking things with spikes and fangs and claws. Surely.  

The Bruxsa 

Bruxsa, The Witcher

Bruxsa, The Witcher

Netflix

One of Geralt's (Henry Cavill) more bruising Season 2 smackdowns is with a bruxsa. And if you're thinking, "That doesn't look like a particularly Cyrillic word," you're one hundred percent correct. We'll get there. Our dear witcher's vampiric foe is a "pretty girl" who sings her way into people's dreams so as to bend them to her will and who is, in her natural form, a giant bat with huge fangs and nasty talons. Her scream can throw large, muscular, really very handsome, grown men across courtyards and through stone walls. Unlike others of her ilk, a bruxsa can tolerate sunlight, can't be detected by witcher medallions, and can communicate with anyone she wants telepathically. 

The legend of the bruxsa originated in Portugal and unlike Bram Stoker's bloodsuckers, bruxsa aren't turned by other vampires; they're changed by magic and unlike the bruxsa of the Witcher-verse, they are invincible (though not invulnerable). Like many vampiric species, bruxsa can shift into animal forms. Their alternate forms of choice are rats, ants (yes, ants, vampire ants), and wolves. They have a particular affinity for children's blood and like to mess with travellers. In their spare time, they worship Satan because of course they do. Their powers are only active between midnight and two in the morning which… seems like a pretty crap deal but I'm not here to judge. Bruxsa can be repelled by iron and steel as well as garlic. A mother who wanted to punish the bruxsa who harmed her child could do so by boiling the child's clothing and poking it with steel or iron needles. The bruxsa would often come to beg for mercy which the mother could grant according to her whims.  

Leshy 

Leshy, The Witcher

Leshy, The Witcher

Netflix

Highly intelligent, polymorphic, iron resistant hunters, the leshen who haunt The Continent's forests hang around waiting to slaughter humans who dare enter their domain. Though they do have a wildcat/bear form, they're most often seen in human suits or as human-tree hybrids. They can use their roots as lashes or restraints, command nearby animals and plants, and can vanish temporarily to confound those who invade their space for nefarious purposes. These things really dislike witchers. 

Slavic folklore paints a very different picture of the leshy; while he can be aggressive given certain circumstances, he's primarily a mischievous trickster and sometimes, a trusted friend to whom the countryfolk sent their children to be educated. It's unclear if the leshy is a god, a demon, or a tree spirit (and it's possible he's been all three at various times, folklore is nothing if not flexible) who's rarely seen but often heard laughing, whistling, and singing in the forests of Easten Europe and Russia. His feast day is still celebrated on September 27th. Also called, "The Old Man of the Forest," a leshy in human form is covered in green fur minus eyebrows, eyelashes, and right ears. They have pointy heads, skin like tree bark, an aversion to belts and hats, and thinks the height of comedy is wearing his shoes on the wrong foot. "As large as a mountain" or "as small as a blade of grass," depending on his mood, the leshy casts no shadow at any size. Should you happen to irk him, you have but to make him laugh by putting your shoes on the wrong foot or putting your clothes on backwards. You can also try praying or salting your fire but those don't seem nearly as much fun as leading with your butt.

Chernebog 

Chernebog, The Witcher

Chernebog, The Witcher

Netflix

In The Witcher games, players can acquire a chernebog rune that, when combined with other runes, forms a chernebog stone. The stone is an attack power booster. A chernebog monster appears to be new to the universe so I'll reveal only that it's big and shiny and it flies. Keep an eye out. 

Chernebog is one of the gods of Slavic mythology, half of a divine duo with his brother Belobog. They're a mysterious pair about whom very little is known and what knowledge has survived is filtered through lenses of Christian missionaries. Take that as you will. Belbog translates to "white god" and he is described as having a long, white beard. Chernebog is described as being the color of coal and some scholars think he was one of the Church's blueprints for Satan. They also posit that the absolute dichotomy into which the brothers have been split is a later invention while their balance in pre-Church cosmology was likely more nuanced and subtle. 

The Wyvern 

Wyvern, The Witcher

Wyvern, The Witcher

Netflix

Geralt brushes wyvern off as a middling pest, one that infests forests in packs that can be cleared by a single witcher. Ever succinct, he explains they, "live in dens," enjoy, "snapping at nethers," and that presenting the head of a wyvern to one's irascible father can provoke an expression of pride in one's mediocre offspring…which doesn't fit the wyvern we see biting through skulls and spines at the end of Episode 8 at all. Giant velociraptors are not middling pests, Geralt. They're freaking terrifying, honestly, what's wrong with you? 

The first mentions of wyvern in European folklore coincide with a wave of Roman invasion and wariness of the two legged, winged serpent may have evolved from the well-founded fear locals felt when they saw Roman war banners emblazoned with the "vipera" approaching. That medieval bestiaries classify wyvern not as a subspecies of dragon but as a different creature may support that theory as vipera look much more like the bird-legged, therapod-footed wyvern with functional wings as forelimbs and a beak than they do like dragons. Wyvern also have barbed tails, though experts disagree on whether or not those tails have a venomous stinger. Wyvern enjoy circling in the air looking for prey and treasure; like magpies, they'll collect anything shiny, from trash to precious metals. One theory proposes wyvern hunt for meteor rocks (very interesting considering a Season 2 subplot but I'll say no more, spoilers, darlings). Some cryptozoologists posit a few specimens remain in remote, wooded areas in Eastern Europe and Russia. 

The Basilisk  

Basilisk, The Witcher

Basilisk, The Witcher

Netflix

The most we see of a true basilisk in Season 2 of The Witcher is a skull hanging from the ceiling in Kaer Morhen but even from that limited peek we can tell it's a massive beast. The deadly lizard-bird is mentioned on several occasions across the first six episodes, features prominently in the games and, should you desire, you can watch a young, snarky, possibly slightly overconfident Vesimir fight one in the animated feature Nightmare of the Wolf (which is really very good). The Witcher's basilisks have both venomous breath and a venomous bite, is immune to poison, and resists stun attempts, but is sensitive to silver and ornithasaur oil. 

We do see what I think might be a modified basilisk in Episode 8. I can't tell how or why it's modified because while it is for sure a winged snake with rooster feet that spits venom, it doesn't turn its enemy to stone, nor does it wreak havoc with its breath. 

In fairness, the famous Roman historian Pliny blamed basilisks for the creation of the Sahara desert, claiming the "crested snake hatched from an egg laid by a rooster and incubated by a toad," spoiled the massive stretch of land with their breath and killed the creatures who inhabited it with their death glares. He also reported that, unlike most snakes, the basilisk held its front half upright while it propelled itself with its back half. So venomous were these creatures, additional reports added, birds flying overhead were affected by the venom and dropped dead while those who killed them from horseback risked the venom climbing up their spears and poisoning them and their horse. Medieval writers went even further, confirming not only the rooster thing and the toad thing but the roosters had to be old and infertile and lay said eggs in a dunghill. The specimens who emerged weren't simply crested snakes, oh no! They were baby roosters with bat wings and a snake tail

Before any resident cryptozoologists get too excited, a Dutch biologist ultimately worked out that the egg-laying "roosters" were, in fact, hens with hormone imbalances that triggered the manifestation of some male traits. There are, however, living basilisks. They're a family of reptiles native to Central and South America who, at their largest, are about 36 inches long and weigh 7 ounces. The most famous of their number is the green basilisk, sometimes called the "Jesus Christ," lizard due to its purely physiological ability to use its back legs to run on water.

The Wild Hunt 

The Wild Hunt, The Witcher

The Wild Hunt, The Witcher

Netflix

In the Witcher-verse, should you see these spectral riders coming, it's usually already too late. The end isn't just nigh, it has arrived. The Continent is burning and not even Geralt "I've lived through a whole dark age and three end of days" of Rivia can get you out of this one. Bummer. 

Things aren't so desperate in our world, though I don't think anyone greets the Wild Hunt with flowers and parades. Maybe vodka or beer depending on where you're from. Though almost every country in Europe has its own version of these ghost riders, it's likely the first spectral squad came to life in the Germanic regions as a way for people to visualize, and thus gain some measure of control over, their two most pressing and urgent fears: death and the violent mid-winter storms that made life in the far northern reaches even more precarious during the dark months.   

Usually led by Odin (or one of his analogues), the Hunt typically consists of 20-30 riders accompanied by animals most commonly associated with death and the grave: dogs and horses. The riders yell and blow trumpets as they cross the sky, sometimes descending into towns for funsies, ie: wreaking havoc, stealing stuff (especially alcohol stuff), and kidnapping unlucky souls they plan to drop inconveniently, and possibly fatally, far away later. Shamans and other magic users could join the Hunt voluntarily, sending their souls along with the crew while their bodies remained safely in their beds awaiting the end of the dead men's party. 

Forewarned is forearmed and, as you'll see this season, a huge part of being a witcher is studying the monsters you'll fight on your way to fortune and sticky, oozing glory. Possibly fame if you have a decent bard at your side and can keep from growling at him long enough for him to hand you some of the coins fans have tossed. Keep your swords at your sides, friends, and you may just get out of this alive. You may also want to bring the silver chains. And elixirs. Maybe som daggers. And a bow. It's going to be an exciting, bumpy, bloody, slimy ride.  

The Witcher is now streaming on Netflix.