For those Witcher fans who have been anticipating the Netflix series to drop, wait no more. It’s here and it is a gorgeous love letter to the novel and gaming franchise. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and her team of six writers brought to life some of the most disturbing and interesting characters from the novels. What made the novels so interesting is the melding of Slavic folklore, European history, fantasy, and modern politics. The live-action series is doubling down on the creatures, mysticism, and magic.
Introduced in episode one the Kikimora is straight out of your It Part 2 nightmares, only much scarier. FX work by Julian Parry does an admirable job making the spider monster suitably chitinous and tough. As much as I wouldn’t want to fight any massive spiders(with or without a sword), the legend of the Kikimora is even scarier. The Kikimores as they are referred in The Witcher franchise, are insectoid-type creatures who live underground like termites or ants in large colonies. Each has its own role and they are fiercely territorial.
The Kikimora is a noncorporeal house spirit who brings bad news. She hunts her prey at night when they are asleep and at their most vulnerable. She is the bringer of nightmares, Night Terrors and sleep paralysis. Once this spirit has set up residence in your home it is almost impossible to eradicate it. They can enter your home through keyholes and usually are associated with traumatic life events experienced by women. A stillborn baby is a prime example as she will often climb into the dead infant to gestate.
The house spirit was popularized by a tone poem for orchestra by Anatoly Lyadov. In it, she is described as a tiny woman who lives in a magical cave and weaves webs of malintent on the world. Likely this was the inspiration for the naming of an actual spider species called the Kikimora Palustris.
The name comes from the Finnish phrase “kikke mörkö” which means scarecrow. Scarecrows themselves, of course, have their own long-held tradition of frightening people and things. The most popular of the Kikimora is Samara from The Ring who is a specific type called a Yurei. Yurei’s are single-minded ghosts who will continue their reign of terror until they fulfill their obsession. In AMC’s The Terror: Infamy, the Yurei wanted her children to live with her forever even if that meant in Hell.
There have been many different iterations of the Kikimora, with The Witcher borrowing heavily from one of the Russian versions a swamp-dwelling spirit who deceived women, seduced men, and stole children. She is first introduced in the short story from the novel franchise, The Lesser Evil.
The Shtriga is a blood-sucking humanoid witch who drinks from children while they sleep. It is from the Romanian: strigă and Polish: strzyga. The Polish version makes her a full demon while the Albanian and Romanian descriptions skew much closer to witch monsters. She is similar to a vampire only she turns into a flying insect instead of a bat as in the tradition of Hollywood’s Dracula. The Romania Striga is a shapeshifter who some believed preferred the shape of screech owls. That belief is what spawned their attribution to bad luck.
They often keep their human forms during the daylight but transform into their vampiric form to consume at night. They tend to move through whole families taking their life essence until all are dead. Those children who were fed off became comatose and were vulnerable to other diseases. The only way to cure those afflicted is the saliva of the Shtriga. The witch must spit into the open mouth of the sick child.
The Witcher’s vampire witch is derived from the Polish Strzyga. A young girl cursed to hate all humanity and hunt by the full moon. In episode three, Geralt must attempt to capture without killing the were-type beast. The tragic origin makes this episode more interesting than just another hunt and kill scenario.
In the novels Adda the White, daughter of Foltest, King of Temeria was cursed prior to her birth, then born a striga. For seven years she grew inside the sarcophagus containing her and her mother. She emerged a creature of predatory instinct with the size and skill to brutally kill. In Netflix’s episode three Adda is a product of incest between her Mother and her Uncle. Adda would be heir to the throne if she was recognized and the curse lifted. Geralt successfully breaks the curse but the girl has never known any life other than that of the Striga and she is feral. This echos the novel’s depiction that Adda is ill-equipped for life as a human, much less a Royal. She has no experience other than violent ones.
The Striga was formed when an unborn child lives and the mother dies during birth. The infant continues to grow and gradually becomes an angry killing machine. This depiction closely slants towards the Polish Poroneics and Scandanavian Mylings. The unfortunate children haunt the lives and homes of those they would have been closest too. They hate those who are part of the lives they should have had.
The rich folklore The Witcher draws on is what makes the plots so enduring. Netflix has already began work on season two and with plenty of other spirits to draw on including the Djinn, Elves, Leshen, and goat people there is no stopping this train. Let your freak fantasy flag fly.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.