Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Last Wish

Go To

The first book in The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski, originally in Polish but translated to English after the game became popular.

It consists of six short stories framed by a seventh narration. While not an immediate part of "The Witcher Saga" (which spans books three through seven), it introduces most of its protagonists (Geralt, Yennefer, Dandelion) and foreshadows Ciri's origin.

  • The Voice of Reason: The Framing Device. While Geralt recuperates from injuries sustained during "The Witcher" at the Temple of Melitele, Head Priestess Nenneke makes him recount some of his adventures.
  • The Witcher: A deconstruction of Save the Princess plots, where Geralt is hired by King Foltest of Temeria to break the curse on his daughter.
  • A Grain of Truth: A gleeful deconstruction of "Beauty and the Beast". Investigating corpses he found by the side of a road, Geralt encounters a man transformed into a beast.
  • The Lesser Evil: An In Name Only deconstruction of "Snow White". Geralt is contacted by a wizard to protect him from bandits led by a former princess.
  • A Question of Price: A deconstruction of "Hans the Hedgehog", as well as critical look at the fairy tales like "Rumpelstiltskin", where a supernatural being asks for "what you don't expect to find back home". Sets up one of the key plotlines of the rest of the series with foreshadowing of Ciri's origin story.
  • The Edge of the World: A deconstruction of Can't Argue with Elves, among other things.
  • The Last Wish: A deconstruction of "Aladdin". Geralt and Dandelion encounter a djinn, and Geralt meets Yennefer of Vengerberg, his Love Interest for most of the series.

As you may have noticed, the book is mainly a Deconstructor Fleet and Fractured Fairy Tale, but has no relation to Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.

Tropes found in the book:

  • Affably Evil: Nivellen is a rapist and bandit but is surprisingly congenial company. Despite being a Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil sort of fellow in general, Geralt acts as if his curse is more than enough punishment. See Cursed with Awesome for why this is somewhat questionable.
  • Altar Diplomacy: In A Question of Price, the fifth story, Queen Calanthe of Cintra wants to ensure a good political marriage for her daughter Princess Pavetta, and entertains suitors at Pavetta's fifteenth birthday celebration. She specifically wants Pavetta to marry into the royal house of the Viking-like Skellige Islands to make Cintra a less-attractive target for Skellige pirates, and contracts Geralt of Rivia to help ensure Pavetta marries well. So Pavetta ends up in a Perfectly Arranged Marriage with Duny, a lord formerly under Forced Transformation to whom Calanthe's deceased husband had promised "what he finds at home but does not know about" in exchange for saving his life, while Calanthe herself ends up in a love match with Eist Tuirseach, a knight of Skellige with whom it's implied she was having a covert affair offscreen.
  • Anachronic Order: The Voice of Reason is set immediately after The Witcher, which is chronologically the last of the adventures Geralt recalls. The rest of the adventures recalled in the book don't necessarily follow each other either. Season of Storms establishes that The Last Wish actually takes place before The Witcher.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Discussed by Nivellen. He did grieve and got depressed about his curse initially... until he realised it's not that much of a curse and eventually grew fond of it. By the time he and Geralt meet, the former robber baron is living the height of his life, and couldn't care less about lost humanity.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Is Renfri actually a mutant? There are hints that she might be, such as prophetic trance she falls into for a moment - but then, she's staring at Geralt's magical medallion at the time. Geralt himself refuses to find out (especially since that would involve dissection).
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Eist Tuirseach to Queen Calanthe in A Question of Price after the latter is thrown against the wall by Princess Pavetta's runaway magical gift.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The wizard Stregobor, who specializes in illusions, has conjured a sunny field inside of his stone tower.
  • Because Destiny Says So: A running theme in the book is the concept of Destiny is Serious Business. It's particularly highlighted in The Lesser Evil where the wizards of the land decide the mere possibility of young women becoming evil due to a prophecy is enough to warrant their murder or imprisonment.
  • Big Eater: Due to his sheer size, combined with his previous gluttonous nature, Nivellen eats a few dishes for a single dinner, including a whole partridge consumed in a single bite. From his perspective, that was just a snack.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: King Foltest of Temeria infamously impregnated his sister Princess Adda and, due to a curse placed on them by a more appropriate suitor, their daughter is born as a striga. The battle between Geralt and the striga was later used for the opening cinematic of CD Projekt RED's video game.
  • Brutal Honesty: Nivellen demands this from Geralt when asking about the possibility of him going full monster and if anything can be done to prevent it.
    "Briefly, please."
  • The Butcher: Geralt is named "The Butcher of Blaviken" in The Lesser Evil. The truth is more complicated: He killed seven bandits in a Curb-Stomp Battle to stop them from massacring the town to draw out its town wizard, against whom their leader Renfri had a (probably justified) grudge.
  • Canon Welding: The book as a whole is nothing but a collection of short stories that originally were published separately and only shared main character prior. Some of them were re-edited to fit better and a Framing Device was provided to glue them together. Sapkowski ended up regretting this decision when working on the saga proper few years later, as he was stuck with a world that wasn't exactly designed to be consistent or coherent (or, to put it bluntly, wasn't created at all), while fans just wouldn't shut up asking questions about all the inconsistencies or details he considered pointless trivia.
  • Captain Ersatz: Snow White, The Beast, and a few others, since it's a book of Fractured Fairy Tales.
  • Chainmail Bikini: A downplayed example gets deconstructed in The Lesser Evil. Renfri dresses in an outfit that exposes her legs and continues to do so when she fights Geralt. This leaves her with an easy target, which Geralt takes advantage of, cutting an artery in her thigh and leaving her to bleed to death. Notably, in The Hexer adaptation, she wears a functional armour over her torso... which obviously still doesn't reach to her lower thighs.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At one point in the framing story, the priestess Nenneke mentions the climate has started to change and many plants have already gone extinct. Guess how important this is for the saga.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • A Question of Price has two massive ones that set the course for the rest of the saga. The unborn child is one, as she goes on to become Ciri. The second is her dad, Duny, much later revealed to be the Emperor of Nilfgaard himself.
    • Eskel, Triss and Vesemir are name-dropped in The Last Wish, but they don't make an appearance proper until Blood of Elves.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Yennefer on her detractors in The Last Wish. She magically compells Geralt into delivering them stinging and overly poetic rebukes in public, including humiliating beatings, knowing anyone who tries to protect them will get their asses kicked. It works, until Geralt goes to beat up a priest, who was less than polite when talking about Yennefer in his sermons. The priest dispels Yennefer's spell and Geralt gets knocked unconscious. Later Yennefer tries to use a genie's magic to let Geralt get off scot-free; it doesn't work, but the authorities let him go anyway.
  • Continuity Snarl: In-universe, Filavandrel really should have known why nature no longer feeds elves. However, Ithlinne's Prophecy didn't start to play any role in the series until Blood of Elves.
  • Corrupted Character Copy: Renfri's story is a darker retelling of Snow White. She was a princess whose stepmother foresaw (or claimed) that she would become a danger, and hired a thug to kill her. Renfri was (possibly) raped by the man and fell in with some gnomes, became a notorious bandit, got with a prince... and then hunted down the sorcerer who ruined her life.
  • Covers Always Lie: The second mass paperback edition run of the American printing of the book by Orbit features Geralt fighting a dragon. At no point in any of the vignettes does such a scene take place, and in fact Geralt is actively opposed to killing true dragons (because they're sapient and don't harm humans unless provoked): in the Time Skip to Sword of Destiny, Geralt and Yennefer broke up over his absolute refusal to hunt a dragon for her (she hoped she use parts of it to make a potion to restore her fertility). The art in question is taken from concept art for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Renfri invokes this to Geralt when she's dying, mentioning how cold it is. It's a ruse, only that Geralt isn't falling for it — once Renfri dies for good, a stiletto slips from her stiff hand.
  • Create Your Own Villain: It is heavily implied the manhunt caused by the Black Sun prophecy is the very reason those girls turn evil, vengeful, and full of hatred rather than the fact they were born this way. And even if the prophecy was real, the persecution made things even worse.
  • Cursed with Awesome: A robber baronnote  is cursed to become a beastly monster in a direct homage to Beauty and the Beast. The thing is, the curse comes with innate magic catering to his every whim and he quickly finds out that despite his appearance, women are won over by his wealth and charming personalitynote  more often than not. Given the crime he committed was raping a priestess (of an evil Temple, he defends), this renders his whole punishment moot and is a serious dissonance toward the typical stance the other short stories and the saga take toward rape.
  • Dark Messiah: What wizards are afraid the Black Sun daughters will become. It's noted almost no one else takes this prophecy seriously and it's resulted in a staggering number of Distressed Damsel stories being created, often leading rich and powerful princes to try and rescue then marry them. In at least one case, resulting in the aforementioned wizards getting their (just?) desserts.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The priestess from A Grain of Truth clearly wanted to make Nivellen suffer by giving him a beastily visage. Problem is, he quickly get not only used to, but became fond of it, to the point he doesn't want Geralt to lift the curse.
    • And when Nivellen asked for the daughter of a trespassing merchant, the would-be Belle stand-in turned out to be eight.
  • Dramatic Irony: In The Lesser Evil, Geralt has an angry rant how there is no such thing as greater, lesser or even middle evil - it's just evil. But the circumstances force him to ultimately pick the lesser evil in the ongoing conflict. And the realisation of that makes the witcher feel even worse about his choice, haunting him all the way into the saga proper.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Geralt in The Witcher short story behaves in a much more cruel and pragmatic way than he would even in later stories in the same book, killing a few drunkards solely to attract the attention of a local lord and using a man as live bait for a monster he is hunting. While both of these were semi-justifiable (the former wanted to kill Geralt solely because he was an outsider and the latter was responsible for the curse which created the monster), this is still a far cry from the later depictions of Geralt, who would only kill other humans as a last resort or out of self-defense. This can be attributed to the fact that the story was written much, much earlier than the others for a Fantasy magazine, before the greater Witcher universe was conceived.
    • The Witcher short story again. Witchers are said to be a novelty, not a relic of the past. Vizimir is called king of Novigrad. Magic is closer to traditional folklore, not Magic A Is Magic A. The most notable difference is the social position of sorcerers — they are travelling pariahs not unlike witchers.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Vereena. By her looks, Geralt suspects she must be a rusałka.
  • Elemental Plane: The djinns come from four extradimensional elemental planes.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The Witcher really hammers in what being a witcher is all about, what methods they use, and what Crapsack World they operate in. The events in this short story were so iconic, the developers of the video game adaptation put them into the opening cutscene, even though it had only a tangential connection to the main plot.
  • Evil Gloating:
    • Renfri likes to talk about her exploits.
    • In The Edge of the World Geralt quickly gets simply tired of all those elves gloating how better they are and how inferiors humans are, leading to a chilling "The Reason You Suck" Speech, which even mentions the pitiful gloating.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Lesser Evil is about a murderous bandit versus a ruthless wizard.
  • Fairy Tale Free-for-All: Darker and Edgier Deconstructor Fleet variant; Geralt is involved in Fractured Fairy Tale versions of numerous famous stories.
  • Fantastic Racism: A recurring theme in the book and in the setting at large. Just in the original story Geralt is given crap over being a witcher, simply because. And it's kind of a running joke how everything wrong in the world is the fault of elves and cartersnote , even if the line itself comes from A Shard of Ice.
  • Forced Transformation: They are so common in-universe, three out of seven stories have one such character. There is Adda, Nivellen and Urcheon.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The entire book is more or less a bunch of variations on Grimm and Andersen's Fairy Tales (and Aladdin) with Geralt thrown into them.
  • Haunted House: During the initial period of his curse, Nivellen intentionally played up this image to get rid of intruders, making all the shutters bang shut or howling to scare people off.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The events in The Lesser Evil earn Geralt "the Butcher of Blaviken" moniker. By killing Renfri and her band in an unprovoked attack, the townspeople see Geralt as a murderer, unaware that he did so to prevent Renfri from massacring the townspeople.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The wizards persecute, kill, and imprison numerous women who just have the misfortune of being born during an eclipse, due to a prophecy that they would be born evil. The thing is, the continent is full of young noblemen desperate to prove themselves by doing great deeds for fair damsels. As a result, many of these "cursed" (and extremely pissed off) women find themselves married to powerful husbands who proceed to help them in their revenge plans against the aforementioned wizards.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Nivellen, a huge beast, and Vereena, a tiny brunette.
  • I Owe You My Life: Pavetta was promised to Urcheon, in accordance with the Law of Surprise, after he saved her father's life. Geralt also invokes the Law, after he helps protect Duny and resolve the resulting crisis.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: in The Edge Of The World the villagers that Geralt and Jaskier take up with have a massive book more or less cataloguing all the potentially dangerous monsters... witchers included. Geralt listens stone-faced to all the slander, but when the text mentions the relative pittance witchers should be paid with, he tells the villagers that if that's what they're expecting they have another thing coming.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Vereena is very possessive of her love. When she's dying, she tries to take Nivellen with her.
    "Mine. Or nobody’s. I love you. Love you."
  • Karmic Death: Averted by Stregobor as Geralt, much to his disgust, accidentally rescues him from one.
  • Kirk Summation: Geralt gives a pretty good one to the elves in The Edge of the World about how they can live in peace with humans. They reject it, which leads to a The Reason You Suck speech.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Geralt throughout is really sick of people giving him crap for trying to do the right thing.
  • Living MacGuffin: Princess Pavetta of Cintra has various nobles vying for her hand, though the dowager Queen Calanthe wants her to marry into the royal family of Skellige for political reasons. Then the monstrous Urcheon arrives to claim her hand in accordance with an oath given by Calanthe's dead husband. After Geralt and a druid stop the nobles from killing each other and Pavetta's latent magical gift from destroying the castle, Pavetta marries Urcheon, whose curse has been lifted by true love and now uses his birth name Duny, and Calanthe marries Eist Tuiseach, the king of Skellige who had confessed his love for her when she got injured in the middle of this craziness (and is implied to have been having an affair with her behind the scenes).
  • Lost in Translation: The Edge of the World ends up with Dandelion thinking aloud about the title of the ballad describing their adventure. Geralt suggest "The Edge of the World", which the bard scoffs off as banal. In the final line of the short story, Torque the devil says goodnight. This is a play on a Polish idiom, "where the devil says goodnight", meaning in the middle of nowhere or a place such as the edge of the world.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Filavandrel suggests this is the reason why land no longer simply gives to elves what they need and of course all of this was caused by humans, who harmed nature to the point it stopped giving and now food can only be taken by force (read — farming). The truth is a bit more complicated — it's the effect of slowly incoming Ice Age and the plants elves were using died out due to already shifting climate.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The bruxa's screams toss Geralt through air like a rag doll. Not even Signs are capable of blunting the hits.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: We never find out if Renfri was a Black Sun princess or not, or whether the prophecy was even true or Stregobor just persecuted innocent girls for no reason.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Nivellen suspects his mind might be slowly deteriorating due to his curse and beast form. Geralt agrees this might be the case and promises to "help" once the time comes. Turns out the bruxa was responsible, trying to brainwash him into a feral beast and a perfect lover for her.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Geralt was originally told that the phrase he shouted at the genie was an exorcism spell. Later, he learns from Krepp that it actually means "Get out of here and go fuck yourself". Since at the time the genie was bound to obey Geralt's wishes, it was forced to do so literally. No wonder it was pissed.
  • Nonindicative Title: More like deliberately misleading (both in original Polish and English translation). The Last Wish refers not to a Last Request but to the last remaining (out of three) wish the genie had to grant Geralt.
  • Not What It Looks Like: After his transformation, Nivellen went into a blind rage. When he finally calmed down, everyone still alive fled, convinced he had turned into a mindless monster. With nobody to attest he is sentient and perfectly fine mentally, but just looks like a beast, he ended up stuck in his mansion. Rumours about the vicious monster spread quickly, making it worse.
  • The Power of Love: True love is noted by Geralt in A Grain of Truth to have great magical power after he is forced to kill the bruxa, who was genuinely in love with a human cursed into monstrous form, and whose love and blood lifts the curse. True love also lifts Urcheon/Duny's curse.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Pavetta is going to pick her husband on her 15th birthday and in the end decides on Duny. Since he saved her father's life in battle around the same time she was born he has to be at least twice her age, probably even older than that. Oh, and she's already pregnant. This creates a rather funny Older Than They Look moment in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: because Duny is really Emhyr var Emreis, The Emperor of Nilfgaard, by the times of the game he should've realistically been around sixty, but is portrayed as a middle-aged man no older than forty-something.
  • One True Love: Invoked in few of the stories:
    • Heavily discussed and ultimately inverted in A Grain of Truth, as it's entirely about the concept of both relationships and love as such. Nivellen points out that he might have a monstrous look and even be a literal, physical beast, but that doesn't matter one bit, for he's also filthy rich, and all objections are out of the picture once hard cash is on the table. However, not only did he end up with genuine bonds with various women that stayed around, subverting their status as Gold Diggers, his mutual feelings with Vereena were completely pure and honest... which didn't prevent them from also being destructive and possessive on both sides. However, his curse does end up ultimately lifted by an act of true love.
    • At large, it is capable of great things in-universe, working like a force of magic, lifting a curse in two out of six stories presented in the anthology and ending up tangling Geralt's fate in another. However, it is uncontrollable and unpredictable, so whenever it ends up actually working, it's much to the shock of Geralt.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Geralt, while explaining to Stregobor why he thinks the Black Sun prophecy, the one about Renfri being a bloodthirsty mutant, is a load of crap, snarkily points out that "sixty women in crowns of gold, which will fill the rivers with blood" can't be a proper prophecy: it doesn't rhyme. The Ithlinne Prophecy, on the other hand, does rhyme, at least in the original Elven...
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Geralt gives an absolutely brutal one to the elves in The Edge of the World which explains, at length, why they're all going to die out due to their own refusal to coexist.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Renfri intends to kill Stregobor, and if innocents get caught in the crossfire, that's not her concern. Geralt is really annoyed by this as his sympathies are clearly with Renfri rather than Stregobor, but he wants to protect the town.
  • Saved by the Coffin: Justified. Geralt hides inside a striga's stone sarcophagus both for protection and because his contract is to cure the striga, King Foltest's daughter Adda. Spending a night near a striga's coffin breaks the curse long enough for one to suppress it with various charms, and the stone lid is just handy protection. (The sequence also appears in the opening cinematic of The Witcher video game.)
  • Say My Name: "Vereena!"
  • Screw You, Elves!: The Edge of the World makes it crystal clear elves never really were better than humans in terms of morality, but now are even worse due to their blind, powerless hatred.
  • Sex Is Violence: Renfri almost outright states that she sometimes derives sexual pleasure from killing. Whether that means that she is one of the Black Sun children prophesied to be evil monsters remains unclear.
  • Screening the Call: Queen Calanthe uses every trick in the book to stop her daughter Pavetta from marrying Urcheon, to whom she was promised through the Law of Surprise. When everything else fails she simply orders him killed. After the resulting mayhem almost destroys the castle, Calanthe finally gives the two of them her blessing.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Geralt's relationship with Yennefer starts, develops, and continues as this.
  • Slashed Throat: In The Witcher Geralt only just survives having his neck ripped open by the still-partially-a-striga Princess Adda. He got lucky: The claw swipe in question missed the really important bits, and he got medical attention quickly. He still spent a few months in a temple-hospital.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Geralt does this when forced to duel with a knight. His choices were: (1) refuse the duel and be executed on the spot; (2) fight, but if his blade touches his higher-class opponent, he'll be arrested and executed in even more horrible fashion; (3) "fight" and let his opponent wound or maybe maim him. So Geralt parries in such a way the guy is hit with his own weapon. He gets away with this because the established rules were to "not touch his opponent with his blade" and the duel's arbiter, a dwarf, was sick of the other side's cheating and racism.
    • Subverted in The Lesser Evil. Rather than take part in the brewing conflict between Renfri and Stregobor, Geralt tries to convince the former to let go of her grudge against the latter, but it doesn't take. Eventually, he's forced to kill her and her entire gang to prevent them from the slaughtering the townspeople, giving Stregobor what he wanted.
  • Taking You with Me: Attempted by Renfri in her dying breath.
    "I... am... cold..."
    He did not answer. Renfri moaned again, curling up even more. Little torrents of blood were quickly filling the cracks between stones.
    "Geralt... embrace me..."
    He did not answer. She turned her head and went still with a cheek touching the cobbles. An extremely thin-bladed stiletto, so far concealed under her body, slipped from her stiffening fingers.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A running theme of the books is realistic consequences to actions in stories, like a girl rescued from bandits throwing up at all the bloodshed.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The elves in The Edge of the World are too busy boasting how great and superior they are over humans to notice they are a Dying Race. They openly refuse to trade or cohabit with what they consider lesser beings, ignoring the fact that this is driving them to extinction.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Hiring Geralt to kill the boyfriend of a latent sorceress results in a spectacular magical explosion.
  • The Trickster: It's part of sylvan nature to be this and Torque even mentions he simply can't help himself at times.
  • True Companions: When Geralt is negotiating with Filavandrel to at least let Dandelion live — out of purely pragmatic reasons rather than pity or mercy — the bard has none of it and insults the elves, daring them to rather kill him or face his revenge for harming his friend. Considering Dandelion's massive social clout and the popularity and reach of his songs, his threat is very much real.
  • Underestimating Badassery: When Geralt is fighting the bruxa, he assumes she will soon tire herself with the relentless attacks. She does, but by that time he is even more tired himself, unable to keep up any longer with even simple parries.
  • Unreliable Expositor: In The Lesser Evil Geralt doesn't really believe Renfri nor Stregobor. The princess claims she was driven to evil by the abuse suffered at various hands (and caused by the bloody wizard meddling, thank you very much); the wizard says, with conviction, that she is a mutant who was born Ax-Crazy. Note that their stories don't match precisely.
  • Virgin-Shaming: The bandits from Nivellen's gang goaded him into raping the priestess, as he was still a virgin back then and surely he could man up by finally getting laid.
  • Wild Child: Geralt warns King Foltest this will be a very likely case with Adda even if he manages to lift the curse, since she was born a striga and grew up that way, without normal human socialization or education. Turns out he was right.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Geralt points out the Beast-analogue in A Grain of Truth isn't a monster just because he's cursed into appearing like one.
  • Yandere: The bruxa in A Grain of Truth, who is in love with and violently protective of a human cursed into monstrous form.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The old manuscript describing monsters and magic from The Edge of the World is written in faux-Old Polish. This carries over to translations, done in similar manner.
  • Your Mom: That's right, Geralt's insult against an obnoxious half-elf who insulted him for being a witcher went there.
    Tavik: We don't like magicians. It seems to me, Civril, that we're going to have more work in this hole than we thought. There's more than one of them here and everyone knows they stick together.
    Civril: Birds of a feather. To think the likes of you walk the earth. Who spawns you freaks?
    Geralt: A bit more tolerance, if you please, as I see your mother must have wandered off through the forest alone often enough to give you good reason to wonder where you come from yourself.