Geralt of Rivia is the name of the game when it comes to The Witcher franchise. Although he already has quite a recognizable name in fiction, he is also known under plenty of other nicknames, such as the White Wolf and the Butcher of Blaviken. Here and there, if the scene involves elves, you can hear them calling Geralt Gwynbleidd. The meaning of this nickname is as mysterious as its pronunciation. So let’s see, why do elves call Geralt Gwynbleidd in the first place?
The meaning of Gwynnbleid explained
If you’ve ever watched, read, or played The Witcher, you’ll know that Geralt is known by many different names, each reflecting his actions, appearance, or significant life events. One less obvious nickname is “Gwynnbleid,” commonly used among the elves. As it’s not an English nickname, you might wonder about its meaning.
“Gwynnbleid” is the Elvish translation of Geralt’s most recognized nickname, “The White Wolf.” It’s the name most frequently used when referring to Geralt. This nickname has two main origins:
Firstly, it’s associated with Kaer Morhen, the place where Geralt trained to become a witcher. Kaer Morhen, an ancient castle located in the Kaer Morhen valley near the Gwenllech river, can only be reached via The Witchers’ Trail, making it somewhat challenging to find unless you’re familiar with its location. The castle served as a training ground for new witchers, and those undergoing training, including Geralt, were often referred to as “wolves.” They were referred to as wolves because among the witchers, there are several different factions separated into distinct schools.
Each witcher school has a distinct code of “honor” and specialize in different approach to combat. For example, over the course of the books, and the games you’ve most likely encountered references to the School of Bear, Manticore and notably, to the School of Viper. Geralt belongs to the School of the Wolf and Kaer Morhen is historically their home.
The second part of the nickname relates to Geralt’s appearance. While Geralt is well-known for his pale skin and white hair, this wasn’t always his look. His striking appearance resulted from the Trial of the Grasses, a critical test all aspiring witchers must endure to earn their title.
During these trials, apprentices consume virus cultures and a concoction of alchemical ingredients known as “the grass,” those concoctions are further called “mutagens.”
These trials, lasting about a week and known for their extreme pain, had a high mortality rate. The core concept behind these trials was to break down the subject’s body with dangerous chemicals, rebuilding it stronger. Survivors gained enhanced physical and psychological abilities, including superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, and cat-like eyes.
Geralt’s exceptional resilience during these trials led to additional experiments that granted him even more special powers, along with the striking appearance we now associate with him. Furthermore, Geralt’s medallion, a silver symbol representing the witcher’s profession, plays a role in his nickname.
Though the medallion’s origin is unclear, it’s likely crafted in the magic forge at Kaer Morhen and features the symbol of a wolf, since Geralt belongs to the School of the Wolf. This medallion is a valuable tool for witchers, capable of detecting nearby magic by tugging on its chain when spells are cast or in the presence of magical beings.
So Geralt’s White Wolf / Gwynnbleid nickname references the fact that Geralt has white hair and belongs to the witcher School of the Wolf.
Why don’t elves simply call Geralt witcher?
Elves call Geralt Gwynnbleid because they don’t have the word for witcher in their native language.
As Geralt is one of the most renowned witchers, he is known to almost everyone in the Aen Seidhe world, whether through personal encounters or Jaskier’s ballads. Since most people come to know him through legends and stories, it’s logical to assume that the elves learned about him in the same manner.
While elves maintain regular contact with other races and many speak the common tongue, not all are fluent or confident in it. Hence, they prefer to communicate in their native elven language.
The language of the Aen Seidhe elves is known as Hen Llinge, one of the oldest languages in their world and often referred to as the elder speech. Besides elves, mages and scholars across Aen Seidhe also use Elder Speech.
Interestingly, the word “Gwynnbleid” is a real Welsh word. In the real world, it holds the same meaning, with “Gwyn” meaning white and “Bleidd” meaning wolf. Both parts of the word are commonly found in traditional names like Gwenhwyfar and Gwenllian.
Most of the Elder Speech is based on real-life Celtic languages, primarily Welsh, with elements borrowed from Irish and Scottish. Author Sapkowski mentioned occasional use of more popular languages such as German, English, Italian, and Latin, although these are employed so rarely that they are insignificant compared to the other languages used.
Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!