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Although the witcher has a memorable appearance and upon a mention of his name most people will have a clear image of him in their mind when it comes to his name you will get a plethora of different answers. He is known by many different names; most notably Geralt of Rivia or the Butcher of Blaviken, but one that is not as commonly used is Gwynnbleid.
Why do the elves refer to Geralt as Gwynnbleid and what does it mean.
The elves refer to Geralt as Gwynnbleid because most of the elves do not speak the common tongue and Gwynnbleid is the translation of Geralt’s nickname, The White Wolf, in the old elven language.
But how exactly did Geralt get this nickname and how did the elves learn about it? To learn more about the origin of Geralt’s name make sure to read this article all the way to the end.
What does Gwynbleidd mean?
If you ever watched, read, or played The Witcher you will know that Geralt is known by many different names. All of them are either a play on what he does, how he looks, or something of significance he did in his life.
One nickname which is not .so obvious in its meaning is Gwynnbleid. Gwynnbleid is Geralt’s nickname used commonly among the elves. Since it is not an English nickname, what does Gwynnbleid actually mean?
Gwynnbleid is the elvish translation of Geralt’s most known nickname, The White wolf. It is the name most often used when referring to Geralt.
It is partially related to Kaer Morhen, the place where Geralt trained to become a witcher, and the other part comes from Geralt’s appearance.
Kaer Morhen is an old castle located in the Kaer Morhen valley, right off the Gwenllech river. It can only be reached through The Witchers Trail, which encircles the castle making it difficult to navigate and easy to miss unless you know what you are looking for.
The castle was used as a training ground for new witchers for a long time. All of the students of Kaer Morhen are known and often referred to as the wolves.
The other part has to do with Geralt’s appearance. At this point, Geralt is well known for his pale skin and white hair, but it is not how Geralt always looked like.
His striking appearance came as a result of the Trial of the Grasses, one of the trials all aspiring witchers have to undergo before earning the title.
During the trials, the apprentices are subjected to the consumption of virus cultures and a concoction of different alchemical ingredients referred to as the grass.
The trials were known to be very painful and lasted around a week. Since the trials were as painful, most of the apprentices would not survive them. The core idea is that the person subjected to the trial has their body broken down after drinking dangerous chemicals in order for it to be built up stronger than it was before the trial.
As a reward for surviving them, the participants would receive enhanced physical and psychological abilities, meant to aid them in the witcher’s lives. This involves superhuman strength and speed, faster reflexes, and cat-like eyes.
Because Geralt showed exceptional resistance to the trials he was subjected to more experiments which granted him more special powers but also caused his appearance to change to what we know him as.
Another reason why people refer to Geralt as the White Wolf is his medallion. The medallion is a silver symbol that represented the witcher’s profession.
Although the origin is unknown, the most likely explanation is that the medallions were made in the magic forge at Kaer Morhen. Geralt’s medallion bears the symbol of the wolf.
The medallion is extremely useful to the witcher since it can detect nearby magic. It starts tugging on the chain once any spells are cast or if a magic being is present.
What are The Witcher trials?
The Witcher trials are a series of tasks and experiments that apprentices studying to become witchers have to pass in order to earn the title. Besides testing them, the trials were designed to enhance them to be better at their job.
After studying for years to grasp alchemy and extensive monster-hunting knowledge and training mentally and physically, the apprentices take the tests set by the witcher masters as well as undergoing painful experiments to mutate themselves into powerful magic users, they are ready to become successful witchers.
The trials usually start with the Choice, the first task during which the subjects undertaking it voluntarily commit to a strict witcher diet consisting of mushrooms, moss, and different herbs paired up with grueling physical training.
although it may seem simple this step is the most important since it shows the commitment the trainee has to the profession. Trainees have to implicitly choose to become the witchers, otherwise, they cannot continue on forward.
The Choice is followed by the already described Trial of Grass and then Trial of Dreams. They use psychedelic illusions to enhance the witcher’s abilities, most notably augmenting night vision. It also affects the trainee’s bones, marrow, and hormones.
It is followed by the Trial of the Mountains or better known as the Trial of Medallion. This task involves future witchers activating their medallions at the circle of elements.
In this task, a group of witcher students needs to work together to overcome tasks and monsters in their way before reaching the Circle of Elements. The monsters and tasks were designed specifically to test abilities the witchers got in the previous stages of the Trials.
Although every witcher works alone and is from the earliest stages trained to be independent this task is focused on the cooperation between students because many mentors believed it would be useful for the students.
This usually ended the Trials, however, sometimes if the mentors chose the last task could be followed by The Trial of Sword. It would be performed if one of the master witchers doubted that the candidate would make a good witcher. The trial involved a ritual fight to life and death in traditional armor.
Although Kaer Morhen is the most popular witcher school, there are several others, for example, Witcher school of Griffin and Witcher school of Cat. These different schools often had different stages of the Trial and they were often more brutal than the ones performed in Kaer Morhen.
Why do elves call Geralt of Rivia Gwynbleidd?
Now that we have covered the meaning of the word Gwynnbleid, let’s tackle why the elves call Geralt Gwynnbleid instead of just calling him by his name or one of his many nicknames.
Since Geralt is one of the best witchers around he is known by almost everyone in the Aen Seidhe world, whether it be through people’s personal experiences with him or through Jaskier’s ballads.
Since most people learn about him through legends and stories it is only logical to assume the elves found out about him the same way.
Although elves maintain regular contact with other people and most of them speak the common tongue, many do not actually know it or simply aren’t confident with it which is why they prefer to use elven language.
The language of Aen Seidhe elves is called Hen Llinge and is one of the oldest languages in the Aen Seidhe world which is why it is often referred to as the elder speech.
Besides the elves, Elder Speech is also used by mages and scholars all around Aen Seidhe.
A fun fact is that the word Gwynnbleid is a real Welsh word. Even in the real world, the word bears the same meaning with the first part “Gwyn” meaning white and “Bleidd” meaning wolf. Both parts of the word are often used as part of traditional names such as Gwenhwyfar and Gwenllian.
In fact, most of the Elder Speech is based on real-life Celtic languages, mostly Welsh with bits and pieces borrowed from Irish and Scottish. The author, Sapkowski mentioned that he also used more popular languages such as German, English, Italian, and Latin on occasions, but so rarely that it is insignificant in comparison to other languages he used.