Despite some dubious casting choices, Netflix series The Witcher knocked the ball out of the park with Henry Cavill's performance as the titular monster slayer.
You do not have to be a long-time fan of The Witcher books and games to enjoy Geralt's adventures, but knowing a bit more about his colourful past can certainly reveal how he became a legend in a world where magic and dragons are the norms.
Butcher of Blaviken
Geralt is known by many names. His allies and enemies call him the White Wolf and elder races call him Gwynbleidd. Undoubtedly, Geralt's most notorious nickname is the Butcher of Blaviken.
In the first Witcher book The Last Wish, a gang of bandits were hunting a mage named Stregobor. They threatened to kill everyone in a village named Blaviken, if the mage did not leave his tower and surrender.
Geralt, knowing the mage would never surrender, decided to wipe out the gang single-handedly before they could hurt innocents.
In an ironic twist of fate, the villagers saw Geralt indiscriminately slaughtering what they thought as innocent people. Detested by everyone in the village for his gruesome killing spree, Geralt left Blaviken and never returned.
Trial of the Grasses
Witchers hunt monsters and people for money. They are by definition incredibly powerful warriors and strong beyond any normal human being could ever be.
Geralt took it one step further, as he stands above just about every other witcher in terms of strength and speed.
Witchers pay a steep price for becoming the saviours of humanity - The Trial of Grasses. It is an excruciatingly painful ritual performed on witchers at a young age that uses mutagens collected from monsters to enhance their bodies beyond human capabilities.
Only three in ten survive the trial, and the rest die in agony. The survivors gain lightning-quick reflexes, their signature cat-like eyes, and other extreme physical enhancements.
Geralt became stronger and faster than other witchers because he showed a higher tolerance to the toxic mutagens. Because of this, he was then subjected to even more mutagens than usual, which turned his hair white.
Knighthood by a queen
Geralt's career as a witcher has spread his infamy far and wide throughout the continent. It is difficult to imagine that this relentless killer is a true knight.
While roaming the land in search of contracts, a much younger Geralt and his companions stumbled upon a battle being waged on either side of a bridge on Yaruga River.
With no clue on what to do, the White Wolf and his friends picked a side and attacked the other army. The army, however, turned out to be the hordes of Nilfgaard.
The Nilfgaardian army retreated after a fierce battle. Queen Meve of Lyria then knighted Geralt for his valor, conferring on him the formal title "of Rivia." Amused by the turn of events, Geralt took up the title and came to be known as Geralt of Rivia.
Needless to say, the White Wolf did not hail from the city of Rivia. His mother Visenna left him with the witchers of the Kaer Morhen Keep at a young age and it is the only place closest to what Geralt calls home.
Not all monsters are monsters
The life of a witcher is never easy, and there is a saying that no witcher has ever died on a bed.
Many who come across Geralt, even those who hire him to hunt monsters, treat him with disdain and suspicion because of his genetic alterations. But ever the man of conviction, Geralt never goes blind with hatred, even towards monsters.
In one notable encounter, Geralt befriends a doctor named Regis in Dillingen, who later reveals himself to be a Higher Vampire.
Despite learning about Regis' true identity, not only did Geralt refuse to kill him, but the two also became lifelong friends.
Regis once even pushed Geralt about if he ever planned to kill him down the road, the witcher revealed it was unlikely he would take a contract on Regis, jokingly citing "as if anyone could afford it."
Regis would go on to become Geralt's most trusted adviser on many adventures.
Law of surprise
Ciri – a powerful warrior by her own right – is a deadly swordswoman who has Geralt's signature white hair. The White Wolf raised and trained her, but never subjected her to witcher mutations.
Despite having so much in common, Geralt is not Ciri's father. The witcher adopted her in a surprising turn on events.
Ciri was born as the sole princess of Cintra, the daughter of Pavetta and Emhyr var Emreis (who would later go on to become the emperor of Nilfgaard). She is also Queen Calanthe's granddaughter.
After Geralt of Rivia helped Emhyr lift a curse, he offered the White Wolf a reward. Geralt invoked the Law of Surprise – which dictates that a man saved by another must offer his saviour a boon, whose nature is unknown to both parties.
Pavetta was pregnant with Ciri at that time, unbeknownst to Emhyr.
Years later, Geralt accepted Ciri as his destiny, and took the young girl with him to Kaer Morhen. He raised Ciri as his daughter, who would turn out to be a Child of the Elder Blood – a being of immense power.