The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is an animated film set in Netflix’s “Witcher Cinematic Universe”. With its August 23 release date, Netflix is finally ramping up the marketing, and that means there’s a lot of material to analyze. If you haven’t seen the new trailer (embedded below) and the teaser released a couple of weeks ago, do check them out before reading our recap. We will also refer to the new images first shared by IGN Spain throughout this article.
We will see Vesemir’s childhood and his transformation into a witcher in the Trial of the Grasses
The early segments of the trailer largely focus on a very young Vesemir (whose adult version will be voiced by Theo James). The film’s original synopsis read: Long before mentoring Geralt, Vesemir begins his own journey as a witcher after the mysterious Deglan claims him through the Law of Surprise. This confirms that the film will begin with the witcher Deglan (voiced by Graham McTavish, who will also portray Dijkstra in The Witcher season two) claiming Vesemir through the Law of Surprise, and what we see in the trailer happens immediately after that: Vesemir is brought to Kaer Morhen, where he will undergo his transformation.
At Kaer Morhen, young conscripts undergo extensive combat training as well as studying the various monsters that roam the Continent. This training concludes in an event titled “The Trial of the Grasses”, during which the conscripts are fed various poisonous concoctions which mutate their bodies and transform them into incredibly agile and powerful killing machines.
Unfortunately, however, not all the children who undergo the Trial of the Grasses survive, as the poisons are incredibly dangerous. The above screenshot depicts multiple robed men and women participating in the Trial, and we believe they could be mages and sorceresses, as they once had a role in the creation of new witchers.
The trailer gives us a good look at the laboratory in Kaer Morhen where young children undergo the Trials, and one shot shows Vesemir being fed the concoction. We also see Vesemir and another trainee discussing the witcher life. Vesemir’s friend says: “They’re going to poison us. They’ll kill us, then bring us back, but we won’t be normal.” To this, Vesemir replies: “I get scared too. Then I think, ‘Soon I will be stronger than most anyone, wanting for nothing. I’ll never be scared again.”
This line shows how determined Vesemir is to become a witcher.
Vesemir begins his journey as a witcher in what may be a fever dream
Though the Trial of the Grasses is sure to take its toll, and though we’re not confident Vesemir’s young friend will make it, Vesemir eventually pulls through and completes the trial. The trailer’s editing suggests that, after drinking the concoction and losing his consciousness, Vesemir wakes up in a swamp – with a witcher’s medallion hanging around his neck.
We’re not certain if this actually happens, or if it’s a hallucination Vesemir will see during the Trial (we’d love to hear your thoughts on this). Either way, this must be the moment when Vesemir symbolically becomes a witcher. We see another brief shot from this scene later in the trailer, where young a monster is seen jumping out of the swamp and confronting Vesemir. Next, Vesemir makes his way back to Kaer Morhen through the snow (is this also part of the hallucination), and the trailer cuts to an older, more confident Vesemir.
With Vesemir transformed, the rest of the trailer focuses on the young witcher’s adventures. Particularly, those involving the film’s most intriguing character, the sorceress Tetra Gilcrest (voiced by Lara Pulver).
Inntroducing sorceress Tetra Gilcrest, Lady Zerbst, and the Kaedweni court
The trailer begins with the line: “Do you know what’s involved in making a witcher?”
The woman asking this question is none other than Tetra Gilcrest, an original character who is likely to become a fan favorite after Nightmare of the Wolf debuts on Netflix. Tetra’s knowledge on the creation of witchers may suggest that she is, or was, one of the sorceresses in charge of the Trial of the Grasses, but that remains to be seen. Fortunately, the trailer features numerous shots of Tetra, including a scene where Tetra uses her magic.
Another character featured in many of Tetra’s scenes in the trailer is the mysterious Lady Zerbst (Mary McDonnell). Tetra can be seen having tea with Lady Zerbst in private, as well as at court. Though Tetra and Lady Zerbst seem almost friendly in the first image, the scene at court suggests there is some tension between them.
Speaking of the court scene, this is where we’ll meet the King featured in Nightmare of the Wolf, who is quite likely the king of Kaedwen (the mountainous country where Kaer Morhen is located). During the trailer, the king asks: “Are you suggesting the witchers have been staging these attacks?” This introduces a key storyline featured in the anime film, the same storyline which converges the destinies of Tetra and Vesemir.
Tetra and Vesemir set off to investigate a particularly violent monster
The main plot of the film appears to center around a series of violent killings near the Kaedweni capital of Ard Carraigh. These are the work of a particularly violent monster, which is likely one of two monsters featured in the trailer: the Leshy (better known as a Leshen in the games), or the bruxa-looking character. We’ll discuss these monsters later in the article, but they are only the catalyst for the meeting of the anime’s two central characters.
“Kill whatever is murdering our people in the woods outside Ard Carraigh,” commands Lady Zerbst in a secretive conversation with Vesemir. This is a continuation of the previously mentioned court scene, where the King of Kaedwen humors a rumor that the violent murders were committed by witchers rather than the monsters they pursue.
Lady Zerbst, a “fierce supporter of the witchers” is aware of the widespread hatred against them, and understands that this is a situation that must be dealt with swiftly and professionally. This is why she offers Vesemir a contract, and pairs him with Tetra. “You’ll take a chaperone, too.”
Tetra and Vesemir seem to have a humorous and interesting relationship which is sure to be a highlight in the film. In one scene, Vesemir tells Tetra: “I have no intention of playing guide to you, witch.” He underestimates Tetra and her ability to help him on his journey, but he will quickly learn just how resourceful she is. “I know these forests,” Tetra explains. And she also knows how to fight.
Tetra and Vesemir fight their first monster in a snowy ruin
On their way to investigate the killings, Tetra and Vesemir come across a creepy old elven ruin. There, they find a pair of monsters that seem to be some form of vampire. The one on the left is a humanoid, and a female, which may well be a bruxa. On the right is a much more beastly monster, perhaps the bat form of another vampire.
This appears to be Tetra and Vesemir’s first major challenge before Vesemir is aware of how powerful Tetra is. As such, he is probably as worried about protecting her as he is about slaying the beasts. In the trailer and new screenshots, we see various frames from this fight in which Vesemir slashes at the monster with his silver sword and uses the witcher sign Igni to cast flame. In the end, however, it appears that Tetra is the one to defeat the monsters with her magic. The bruxa-like monster probably will not die here, as she appears in another scene later in the trailer.
Tetra is seen casting a powerful magical blast during this fight sequence, after which Vesemir says: “I might have slightly underestimated you. Slightly.” In another shot from this scene, the nearby mountain explodes, which causes an avalanche. This could be the result of Tetra’s magical blast or something that the monster will do.
Tetra and Vesemir rest at a campfire
This next scene offers a moment’s respite for our two heroes. After fighting together and learning to appreciate each others’ abilities, Tetra and Vesemir finally become comfortable together. On their journey, Tetra will light a campfire with her magic, where they will then cook some rabbits (or giant rats, perhaps) on a spit. This scene was featured in the film’s teaser trailer.
“What is worth your word, Vesemir?” Tetra asks the witcher. He replies: “See, I’m a monster hunter. Every deal has a price.” Tetra mocks him: “Witchers are experts in price.” To which Vesemir replies: “You have to keep a brand.”
Investigating the murders
The violent killings in the villages nearby Ard Carraigh will be the central mystery of Nightmare of the Wolf. Though we can’t see much of the bodies in the above screenshot, we can tell that the monster left its victims drained and rotten. This may point to the central monster being the Leshy, which has so far appeared in all of the show’s promotional videos.
Showrunner Lauren Hissrich previously commented on this monster in her breakdown of Nightmare of the Wolf‘s first teaser. “So this leshy… We’re going to introduce a leshy in [The Witcher] season two and this leshy… feels like a different type of leshy, and maybe that’s a little mystery for fans of season two to wonder why there are two different types of leshy monsters.”
The second option is the monster we’ve already discussed, the bruxa-like character. She appears in the elven ruins, commanding a massive bat-like creature and reappears in a spooky swamp later in the trailer. There, she appears to be in command of other monsters as well: giant insects, another of the massive winged bat monsters, and possibly even spirits.
The scene featuring pale blue spirit monsters may be part of the same swamp sequence featuring the bruxa, or it’s a completely different scene. If it is from the same scene, it’s possible that the monster is in command of these spirits as well.
Whether it’s the leshy, the bruxa, or something else entirely, we’re excited to see the mystery of the killings in Kaedwen unfold when Nightmare of the Wolf releases on August 23.
The rise and fall of Kaer Morhen
Nightmare of the Wolf is set a long time before the main series, as it follows Vesemir’s childhood, his training at the witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen, the Trial of the Grasses, and Vesemir’s adventures on the Path. With Netflix’s official website listing Vesemir’s birth at the year 1095, the show is set to explore a completely different period in the Continent’s history, 168 years before Geralt and Ciri meet in the forest at Sodden.
At the beginning of the film, the witcher fortress of Kaer Morhen is completely different from the ones we’ve explored in the novels and video games (and will soon see in The Witcher season two).
Perhaps the most iconic location on the Continent, Kaer Morhen was not always a crumbling ruin. Before it was sacked by a violent mob of witcher haters, Kaer Morhen was a proper castle and a home to many, many witchers. Nightmare of the Wolf begins with this thriving version of Kaer Morhen, but the film will also tell the tale of the castle’s fall.
“The only thing keeping men from hunting us,” says Deglan. “Is the scarier beasts we keep away.”
Given that this is a rather short film, we expect it to have a focused storyline. With that in mind, it seems rather likely that the angry mob that marches to Kaer Morhen believes the witchers were responsible for the killings at Kaedwen (as the King suggests earlier). Perhaps they believe that the witchers are tricking them by blaming these killings on non-existent monsters only to be paid to hunt those monsters. If this is really what happens, it’s not likely that Vesemir and Tetra’s quest ends as planned.
At the end of the trailer, Vesemir is seen calling the witchers to battle at Kaer Morhen: “Witchers, on me!” After that, the other witchers follow Vesemir’s lead and cast a witcher sign in unison. This is most likely the climactic battle scene of the anime film, and it will involve a mob, enemy knights, and possibly another monster.
A green explosion, and a monster attacks in Kaer Morhen. Is this the leshy?
Perhaps related to the mob’s attack on Kaer Morhen, and perhaps not, we see a magical attack on the witchers’ fortress later in the trailer. There is a green explosion which may be related to the substances in the laboratory (as they are also green). We later see a door flying from its hinges due to another green explosion.
Afterwards, we see a monster attacking Kaer Morhen. We don’t get a very good look at it, but it does appear to have thick vines which may suggest this is the leshy. The leshy has green eyes, so the explosion could be one of its powers. Alternatively, this could be another one of those giant bats. Either way, the monster brutally kills numerous people near the Kaer Morhen tree.
A cameo of everyone’s favorite elf from season one, Filavandrel
Perhaps the most surprising moment in the trailer is the cameo of a character already introduced in The Witcher season one, the leader of the elven uprising Filavandrel (voiced no doubt by the same actor, Tom Canton). Filavadrel will reappear in a larger role in the second season.
Also surprising is that Filavandrel’s cameo happens during Vesemir’s bathtub scene. “See, I’m a monster hunter Fil. Favors and Friends don’t pay bills.” Filavandrel says: “If you witchers labored for more than just coin…” Vesemir laughs and replies: “These pleasures do not pay for themselves, Filavandrel.”
In another scene with Filavandrel, the elf is much more angry and yells at Vesemir: “Hunting monsters for coin wasn’t enough?” We wonder how exacty this character will factor into the plot of the film, as he seems removed from the main story arc.
Vesemir battles a werewolf on the rooftops of a city
Another memorable moment in the trailer is Vesemir’s battle with the werewolf. Fittingly, the battle takes place on the rooftops of a citty during a blood-red full moon. The werewolf is seen escaping Vesemir during the fight, so it seems the withcer has the upper hand. Due to the similar lighting and art style, we believe this is the same city where Vesemir takes a bath and meets Filavandrel, so it’s likely Vesemir takes his bath after defeating the werewolf.
An assortment of out-takes
Well, after this trailer, we simply can’t wait to see Nightmare of the Wolf! Thankfully, the wait won’t be long, as the film is slated for release on Netflix in just a couple of weeks, on August 23.