The Witcher book series, written by Andrzej Sapkowski, introduced the world to a vast fantasy universe that has inspired adaptations in other media, reaching video games through CD Projekt Red‘s trilogy and Netflix‘s streaming series.
The series, which adapts events from the books rather than the games, slowly introduces iconic characters and creatures, getting newer fans excited for what’s to come and older fans curious to see what the new versions will look like.
One very familiar group recently revealed as part of the series’s upcoming season is the Wild Hunt, which even gave the title to the third and most famous game in The Witcher franchise. However, those more familiar with the books have also heard of the Red Riders and know what their arrival means.
But for you who don’t remember much or who don’t know the group that well, we’ve put together this list with everything you need to know about The Witcher’s Wild Hunt! Ready to venture into the world of the Aen Elle elves? Just beware of spoilers from the books and games of the franchise!
Having representations in the major media to which The Witcher franchise has been adapted, the Wild Hunt will first appear in the Netflix series during the second season.
In the books, the group is introduced in Time of Contempt, the fourth book. Despite this, their presence is minimal. They gain greater importance only in book 7, The Lady of the Lake.
Meanwhile, in the games, the Wild Hunt appears in visions throughout the saga’s first title but only has their first direct appearance in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as the main antagonists.
Like much of the creatures in The Witcher universe, the Wild Hunt is inspired by legends that originate in Europe, being found in several countries on the continent and taking various forms in the Middle Ages mythology.
The different stories have in common that the Wild Hunt is seen as an announcement of catastrophe. In general, the group is thought to be supernatural or ghostly and goes around hunting for something.
European legends also say that they are an omen of war, a plague, or the death of those who saw them. Other stories tell that people who encountered the Hunt might be kidnapped to the underworld or a fairyland.
Andrzej Sapkowski adapted several of these elements in his work. Much of the lore is taken into The Witcher universe to describe the general idea one has of the spectral knights — although that is not necessarily the truth about them.
Aen Seidhe and Aen Elle
Before we start talking about the origins of the Wild Hunt, it is worth explaining the two groups of elves: Aen Seidhe and Aen Elle. The former are the elves that inhabit the Continent, while the latter left their world and conquered another, where they live at war with the unicorns.
The Wild Hunt is formed by Aen Elle elves, who continued to go out into other worlds searching for humanoids to enslave. Although humans in the world were settled, the Aen Elle wiped them all out, seeking complete domination over the planet.
The two groups of elves are quite different culturally and live in different worlds, and do not consider themselves part of the same people.
As already explained, the Wild Hunt comes from the Aen Elle, a group of elves who left the Continent during the Conjunction of the Spheres, a cataclysmic event that affected the multiverse about fifteen hundred years before the story of The Witcher. Because of the Conjunction, portals were created, and creatures were trapped in dimensions where they did not belong, which is why Geralt’s world is full of monsters, and why magic exists.
Arriving in another world, the Aen Elle decided to settle down, conquering the planet of the two intelligent races they found there: humans and unicorns. While they still face the latter, humans have been completely eradicated.
Settling on this new world, they created the capital Tir ná Lia and continued to prosper. Eventually, however, the elves decided that they needed slaves and went to other worlds searching for them since no more humanoids were on their planet.
So King Auberon created a cavalry unit for this purpose named the Dearg Ruadhri — Red Riders — because of their clothing.
General Eredin Bréacc Glas was chosen to lead the group, and the Red Riders began to invade other worlds.
The group’s look, full of skulls and bones, with everyone mounted on black-coated horses, may seem excessive. Still, it is purposeful: the idea of terrorizing other people and looking like specters came from the Wild Hunt themselves, who use their looks and magic to create the desired effect.
This intimidation strategy made it much easier for the Riders to succeed in their goals since many would not even try to face them.
They also use projections to appear more spectral, giving more credence to the notion that the group is made up of specters. At times, the Wild Hunt even uses a ship known as the Naglfar, which is supposed to navigate the sky.
School of the Viper
Despite attacking several worlds, the Wild Hunt gave preference to capture slaves in the world of the Aen Seidhe, the world we know in The Witcher. This is because, over time, humans took over this world.
Thus, raids became a relatively common thing for the inhabitants of the Continent. Although the phenomenon was considered an omen of war and everyone wanted to avoid it, the coming of the Wild Hunt came to be seen as a kind of natural phenomenon, like a hurricane or the eruption of a volcano — something that, for the beings of The Witcher, could not be predicted or controlled, nor prevented.
Still, in the games, there was a group that decided to dedicate themselves to understanding the Red Riders and unraveling their mysteries. This group was the School of the Viper, a school for witches in Nilfgaard.
They gained a great deal of knowledge about the Wild Hunt and came close to the truth about many aspects of the group. Despite their efforts, they were discredited by many, who considered their hypotheses absurd. Eventually, the School of the Viper was destroyed.
In The Witcher 2, it is revealed that the emperor of Nilfgaard, Emhyr var Emreis, had promised to rebuild it if the remaining witches murdered the kings of the north. Instead of keeping his word, Emhyr betrayed the witches.
The First Encounter in the Books
In Sapkowski‘s work, the first interaction we know of between one of the protagonists and the Wild Hunt is through Ciri, in Time of Contempt. In the story, the girl runs away from Yennefer, her mentor at the time, hoping to get to see Geralt. The plan, however, doesn’t work out so well, and Ciri gets lost in the middle of a storm.
While she was trying to find her way, it was the Wild Hunt that found her. The spectral riders try to capture her, but Geralt and Yennefer arrive at just the right moment, protecting Ciri and making the Hunt give up (temporarily) capturing the girl.
However, this first encounter is what makes Ciri a target for the Wild Hunt, who needs her Elder Blood to open portals to new worlds — since the unicorns managed to wipe out the means they had. The Aen Elle has no one else who has inherited the ancestral power that Ciri possesses.
The Aen Elle in The Lady of the Lake
Sometime later, Ciri has developed her powers and travel to other worlds. Eventually, she meets the elf Avallac’h, who soon realizes who she is and what her gifts are and decides to lure her into the Aen Elle world.
Avallac’h‘s plan succeeds, and Ciri becomes a kind of prisoner of him and Eredin, who ruled the Aen Elle.
Through Avallac’h, Ciri learns that she is a descendant of Lara Dorren, as he tells the story of the powerful sorceress who was the daughter of King Auberon.
So he explains that just as Ciri inherited the Elder Blood’s power, it would also be inherited by her children. The Aen Elle planned to obtain that power through Ciri‘s descendants and King Auberon.
The plan does not work out. Although Ciri agrees to the terms, the same does not happen with the king himself, who is disgusted with the girl because she is human. Under the pretext of solving this problem and allowing the king to have a son, Eredin offers the monarch an aphrodisiac, exaggerating the substance’s dose, causing the king to overdose.
Justifying the occurrence as an accident, Eredin was subject only to speculation about his real intentions, and it is later revealed that the king’s murder was purposeful. With this, the King of the Wild Hunt ceased to be only the spectral Riders leader and became the Aen Elle king.
Eredin planned to use Ciri’s power to open the Gate of Worlds again, but with help from a unicorn with whom she had befriended, the girl managed to escape. In the books, the Wild Hunt did not appear again after this confrontation.
Wild Hunt Motivation in the Games
The Witcher games consider what happened in Sapkowski‘s work but add other factors of their own. Thus, the Wild Hunt also wishes to reopen the Gate of Worlds, but not only to attack other planets but to ensure its own survival.
In The Witcher universe, there is a phenomenon known as White Frost, which occurs throughout the universe, and freezes entire worlds, ending all life on the planets. Why this happens is not explained, but the story establishes that there is no magic or power capable of stopping this cataclysm, with an escape to another world being the only way to survive.
This phenomenon reaches the Aen Elle world, which makes the Wild Hunt‘s search for Ciri even more desperate, as opening the Gate of Worlds becomes a matter of survival.
The Wild Hunt in The Witcher 1 and 2
The spectral Riders waited until Ciri used her powers so they could follow her, which happened after a massacre in Rivia, where Geralt and Yennefer had died. Unable to accept the loss, Ciri brought them back with her unicorn friend, Ihuarraquax, which allowed the Wild Hunt to find her.
They continued to hunt her, but Ciri stayed ahead. During this escape, Avallac‘h came into contact with her and became her mentor, teaching her how to use her powers from the Elder Blood.
Realizing that they were unable to capture Ciri, Eredin decides to change his plans and go after Geralt and Yennefer, aiming to use them as bait to get the young girl to come to the Wild Hunt willingly.
Yennefer is captured, but Geralt manages to escape. However, realizing that the sorceress has been taken, he begins to go after the Riders to save her. As he does so, three witches from the School of the Viper eventually join him.
Geralt makes a deal with Eredin, staying with the Hunt in exchange for Yennefer‘s freedom, something the King of the Wild Hunt agrees to, as either would serve his purpose of luring Ciri.
Ciri finds out that they have captured Geralt and saves him, leading the wizard back to Kaer Morhen’s surroundings before leaving, fleeing the spectral Riders again.
In a spectral form, Eredin continued to torment Geralt and try to hinder his quests but was eventually defeated by the wizard.
The Wild Hunt in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
In The Witcher 3, the Wild Hunt plays an important role, being the story’s main antagonists. In the plot, Ciri returns to the Continent, and the spectral Riders continue to pursue her.
With the help of allies, Geralt and Ciri prepare to face the Red Riders in Kaer Morhen but cannot defeat them. Still, the Wild Hunt suffers heavy losses and needs some time to regroup.
In that time, Geralt and Ciri find out where to find Eredin‘s leading generals, Imlerith and Caranthir. Thus, they plan how to attack them separately, which ends up having better results.
Finally, Geralt faces the King of the Wild Hunt himself.