The Witcher may be based in a fantasy world but the themes within are very much real. Over eight episodes, the series covers magic, death, monsters, destiny, love, war and even racism. Out of all these themes, the one that struck me the most was Yennefer’s (Anya Chalotra) infertility and her obsession with finding a cure.
When we first meet Yennefer in The Witcher, she is a deformed girl. Her own stepfather sells her to a stranger for four marks, less than the cost of a pig. She is taken to Aretuza, a magical academy for young ladies, where in a state of depression, she attempts to commit suicide. As her time at the academy passes, she is able to find some semblance of happiness in her studies, the arms of a lover and herself. It is here when we start to see Yennefer grow as a character.
However, things go south again. Aretuza convinces Yennefer she needs to undergo a procedure to give up her ability to produce children in order to have power and obtain beauty over her deformities. We know that she is not a mentally stable character, yet no one attempted to provide her with the repercussions of her choice. In that moment, Yennefer feels it is a necessity. Though we learn later in the series that Geralt’s (Henry Cavill) mother is a powerful sorceress as well, but she still was able to have a child. Her choice to go through with the procedure would be one that haunts her throughout the rest of the series.
After the process to obtain power and beauty, Yennefer suffers for years struggling with her decision and becomes unhappy at court. When she fails to save Queen Kalis of Lyria (Isobel Laidler) and her infant daughter, Yennefer’s obsession begins. She spends a large part of the series trying to find a cure for her infertility. She even goes as far as to become the vessel for a djinn so she can use his powers, and at one point she believes that a dragon’s heart can restore her fertility
While watching The Witcher, Yennefer’s storyline hits very close to home for me. In 2012, just a few short months after miscarrying my first child, I lost the ability to have children completely after having to have a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (the removal of one ovary and both fallopian tubes). The removal was due to abscess that formed on my uterus and fallopian tubes due to damage caused by an IUD. The same IUD that my doctor highly recommended I get right after my first miscarriage.
At the time, I was a depressed and very impressionable twenty-two-year-old who trusted every word that came out of my doctor’s mouth. He was the professional, the one with all the answers. Everything seemed safe. Until it wasn’t. Not only did I lose organs, the ones which I had left would no longer work which meant ways to conceive like IVF (in vitro fertilization) were out of the question. When I got my IUD, never once were the repercussions laid out to me. I felt lied to and that my choice to reproduce was stolen from me. I became angry and my despair took a toll on the relationships closest to me.
Soon my anger turned to obsession. I was desperate to find a way to restore my ability to choose if I wanted to have a child. At one point, I found myself believing that my fallopian tubes would grow back on their own because I had read somewhere online that it happened to someone else. I spent hours each day looking up cures and keeping up with the latest science studies for a hope that things could change for me. At one point I even looked out beyond the realms of science for a chance that somewhere out there I would find the answer.
Each woman’s journey is different and I eventually found some comfort in meeting and talking with other women who have gone through these similar journeys. However, it wasn’t until I watched season one of The Witcher did I feel seen.
In Yennefer, I recognized my own struggle. Yennefer’s obsession was like my obsession. I saw myself in her obliviousness to the repercussions, her sadness, her refusal to give up and believe the truth. Her emotional journey to find answers mirrored my own, minus the magic and the monsters of course. Watching The Witcher went beyond enjoying a fantasy television series, it became cathartic.
I found comfort in finding someone who understands. Of course, I can’t sit down and chat with Yennefer, but seeing her journey played out and being so close to my own, helped me come to terms with my own. The idea that someone understood how I felt in my darkest moments brought tears to my eyes every time. Just a few episodes did more for me emotionally than years of therapy ever could.
I can’t wait to see how they continue this storyline in season two and what path Yennefer will take.
This article was originally published on 3/8/20
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