During the final leg of production, the Witcher crew converged at the ruins of Egri Var Masolata, where they filmed for four straight weeks. Much was discussed about the scenes filmed in these ruins during the filming period, and Redanian Intelligence was able to uncover many interesting details that led us to believe the filming there was for a very pivotal event from Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher saga: the Battle of Sodden. Read more for a recap of all the clues which appear to confirm the adaptation of this sequence, new pictures of the set where the battle will wage and our thoughts on how the show’s version could differ from the version described in the books.
Those who have not read Sapkowski’s novels might not be familiar with the battle in question, so we will begin this post with a brief recounting. The Battle of Sodden was the deciding battle in the First Nilfgaardian War, and occurs just before the saga’s final short story. The war began when the Nilfgaardian Empire conquered the city of Cintra, their first of many planned conquests in the Northern Realms. Following their march northwards, the Northern Realms gathered an army of their own, joined by leading members of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers (Yennefer, Triss and Vilgefortz among them).
What followed is a bloody struggle that sent Nilfgaard into a retreat and cost the lives of 14 brave mages and sorceresses, to whom the Northern army owed its victory (Note: In actual fact, Triss survived and there were only 13 deaths … but that’s not what the records show). Though this event happened off-screen in the books, most of the story’s mages and sorceresses played a role, and were scarred (both physically and mentally) by the battle’s many horrors. So, how do we know this battle will feature in the show? Well, we have a lot of compelling evidence, which we’ll split into two groups. The cast, and the filming.
When first we heard that the characters of Triss Merigold (Anna Schaffer) and Vilgefortz of Roggeveen (Mahesh Jadu) were cast in the show’s first season, the speculation began. Triss Merigold, a character made famous for her depiction in the games, was severely wounded in the Battle of Sodden, and the resulting trauma (which she later overcomes) shapes her entire arc in the books. More importantly, Triss does not appear in the saga’s first two books (the short story collections) which the show’s first season will cover.
The same is true for Vilgefortz, who makes his first (brief) appearance in the novel Blood of Elves and later becomes one of Geralt’s greatest adversaries. During the Battle of Sodden, however, Vilgefortz is anything but a villain. The mercenary-turned-mage is the one who leads the mages to victory, and is later called the “Hero of Sodden”. Why introduce these two characters so much earlier than they were in the books? Perhaps because this scene, which is so important to their character arcs, will be shown on-screen.
Though there was reason to believe in Sodden already, these next few castings put any doubts over the appearance of the battle to rest. As mentioned before, 14 mages died defending Sodden Hill from Nilfgaard, and at least two of these mages have been cast for the show. The first and most important is sorceress Lytta Neyd, also known as Coral (played by Rhianna McGreevy). Coral was a main character in Sapkowski’s sidequel novel Season of Storms, but was only mentioned in passing in the main saga.
Another victim of the battle who has been cast for this sequence is the sorceress Vanielle of Brugge (played by Judit Fekete). Vanielle’s sole purpose in the novel is being one of 14 names listed on Sodden Hill’s memorial obelisk, and so it’s quite likely her purpose in the show will be similar – to become one of those whom Redanian Intelligence operatives call “Sodden fodder”.
There are three other cast-related details to mention. Another potential case of Sodden fodder is the character played by Jim Caesar, who looks to be a sorcerer who will appear in this sequence. We also have reason to believe Mimi Ndiweni (who plays Nilfgaardian sorceress Fringilla Vigo) was on location at Egri Var, as she was mentioned in an instagram story by Therica Wilson-Read (sorceress Sabrina Glevissig) during filming. Though if she was there, it was probably on the Nilfgaardian side (more on that later). Finally, actor Shaun Dooley, playing King Foltest of Temeria, briefly filmed on location at Egri Var, inciting speculation that the Temerian army will join the mages in the fight against Nilfgaard.
Filming for the Sodden sequence took place, as mentioned, in the ruins of Egri Var Masolata, which the show renovated and refitted with various ornaments (including building an entire watchtower). We also believe that the filming which took place in Poland’s Ogrodzieniec Castle was for the same sequence, as it features another ruin of a similar style (though more impressive by a fair margin) and also the exact same cast members. It’s quite likely that the ruins of Egri Var and the ruins at Ogrodzieniec will be combined in post-production. As previously reported, the filming in Poland was for the third scene of the first season’s eighth and final episode (which matches the CV listings of the cast involved).
During the filming in Poland, die-hard witcher fans were able to take many pictures, and even capture some revealing videos of the show’s filming at Ogrodzieniec. Notably, we are able to see Mahesh Jadu‘s Vilgefortz leading a group of mages which includes Anya Chalotra‘s Yennefer, MyAnna Buring‘s Tissaia, Anna Shaffer‘s Triss, Therica Wilson-Read‘s Sabrina, Rhianna McGreeve‘s Coral, Judit Fekete‘s Vanielle, Jack Bandeira‘s Young Alderman, Jim Caesar‘s character (role unknown) and several others (who may have been extras). As mentioned before, Vilgefortz leads these very same characters throughout the Battle of Sodden in Sapkowski’s lore.
During the filming at Hungary’s Egri Var Masolata, where most of this sequence was shot, we were able to uncover some details which point to death, battle and carnage. Primarily, the fact that this sequence marks the first season’s longest and likely most complicated shoot is a clue of its own (especially when paired with the cast involved). Shortly after filming began, Therica Wilson-Read, who plays sorceress Sabrina, shared an image of her bruised hand (a bruise likely added with makeup, for the battle), and later crew members shared a picture featuring buckets of fake blood that were used on location. Also apparantly on location was actress Mimi Ndiweni, who plays Nilfgaardian sorceress Fringilla Vigo. In the books, she had a role in the wounding and blinding of Yennefer during this battle, and we’re wondering if that will be shown on screen.
Finally, our best picture from the filming at Egri Var is that of a mysterious knight, consumed by smoke, and has become far more interesting after the Nilfgaardian armor controversy. As we can now tell, the soldier seen above is wearing the very same, controversial armor (though, we must admit, it looks quite fancy in this shot).
Why is that important? Because we can now place the Nilfgaardian army on location at Egri Var, alongside the opposing Northern army of Temeria (led by King Foltest), the mages of Sodden Hill, and buckets of blood. The math adds up: it’s all but confirmed that the Battle of Sodden will be adapted for season finale of The Witcher. That said, it is also clear that this battle sequence will differ from the one described in the books.
Changes are coming…
Though it’s almost confirmed now that the Battle of Sodden will appear in the show in some form, what form it will actually take is up for debate. For one, we cannot yet know whether the show’s Battle of Sodden will take place in Sodden at all. In the books, much of the mages’ action during the battle is focused around Sodden Hill. No hill can be found at either of the locations which will feature this battle in the show, and in its place we have ruins (which were not present in the books). Though it’s still possible the Hill will be added in post-production, or that the Northern army will retreat to the Hill after the fight in the ruins, it’s also possible that the setting of this battle will change in the show.
One possible option is that the battle will wage not in the open fields of Sodden, but around the ruins of Cintra, a castle which the Nilfgaardians will sack towards the end of the season. Cintra will feature in several scenes in the first season (some taken directly from the books, and others original to the show) and as such the fall of Cintra to the Nilfgaardian army will be a significant moment. It is possible that the show will streamline the story and combine both battles into the same location, though there isn’t any corroborating evidence other than the ruins themselves (which could also stand in for a random ruin in Sodden, for all we know). How the potential removal of the Hill will impact Geralt‘s scene with the memorial obelisk and the 14 names of the lost mages is also an interesting question.
Related Article: Exclusive videos from the Nilfgaardian siege camp
Another change could be missing characters. Though many mages and sorceresses were cast for this sequence, we have yet to find Philippa Eilhart and Francesca Findabair. These two important sorceresses, first introduced in Blood of Elves, also fought on Sodden Hill in the books. It is possible that they have been cast under our noses, but the option which appears more likely at this point is that they have been saved for season two, and will be skipping this battle in the show. If that is indeed the case, let’s hope that the people behind the show will find a couple of grade-A actresses to fill their roles (and share their castings promptly).
Regardless of how the show will adapt the Battle of Sodden, we’re very excited to see the final product. We can expect to see this battle on screen during The Witcher’s season one finale, and there’s reason to believe it will serve as the episode’s opening sequence. Between now and the day we finish our eight-hour binge this December, make sure to drop by Redanian Intelligence for any and all news on Netflix’s The Witcher.