The Witcher‘s blend of fantasy, realism, and straight-up folk rock ballads make it one of the more interesting new shows to come out of Netflix in 2019. It is not, however, one of the streaming network’s most straightforward.
Taking place over three timelines, The Witcher weaves all over the place and bamboozles its viewers on purpose, making it hard to discern where and when its characters are at any given time. Whether or not this timeline gambit effective is a question for another time, but for now it’s given Witcher fans (witchies?) a pretty puzzle to parse until Netflix releases Season 2.
How long a period of time does Season 1 cover? What is the actual order of events for Geralt, Yennifer, and Ciri? How old is Yennefer? What’s up with Nilfgaard? All of these questions and more are answered here.
Ciri’s timeline is the simplest, thank god
The good news is that Princess Cirilla’s timeline takes place over the course of about a week at the end of both Geralt and Yennifer’s stories. It took eight episodes to get there, but everything Geralt does in Season 1 leads up to that final shot of him meeting Ciri, and Yennifer’s fiery victory over Cahir and the Nilfgaardians at the Battle of Sodden Hill takes place roughly concurrently with Ciri’s ongoing flight from Cintra.
The bad news is that everything else is a mess because no one in this show ages at all.
How long is Geralt’s timeline in The Witcher?
By Episode 3, it’s clear that Geralt’s timeline skips forward several times over the course of Season 1. He meets Jaskier the bard in Episode 2, and by Episode 5 they’ve been friends for 10 years. Thankfully, Geralt’s story intersects with another character whose lifetime is much better defined, and whose age is easier to determine over the course of the season.
That character is Queen Calanthe of Cintra.
In Episode 1, Ciri attends a banquet before the Slaughter of Cintra and mentions that her grandmother Calanthe won her first battle when she was Ciri’s age. Later in the episode (but earlier in the timeline), Renfri tells Geralt that Calanthe recently won that same battle, putting the start of Geralt’s adventures in whatever year Calanthe was as young as Ciri is at the banquet.
We know from Calanthe’s pre-Slaughter argument with Geralt in Episode 7 that the witcher hadn’t been in Cintra for 12 years, having left when Pavetta was in her first trimester of pregnancy with Ciri. Giving Pavetta nine months to gestate, that would make Ciri 11 years old at the time of the argument. That means Calanthe also won her first battle at age 11.
We’ll call this year, the year of 11-year-old Calanthe’s first victory and Geralt’s encounter with Renfri in Blaviken, Year 1.
Pavetta’s betrothal is the second touchpoint in Calanthe’s timeline. Calanthe is eager to marry Pavetta off and brings up her own early marriage at the ball, so it’s logical to assume Pavetta is set to be a young bride — The Witcher books place her age at 15, which tracks for the Netflix show as well. If Calanthe was 15 when she was married, and her daughter Pavetta was born quickly after her mother’s marriage, that would make Calanthe 31 years old and place the ball at Year 20 in Geralt’s timeline.
Adding Pavetta’s pregnancy and Ciri’s age to that timeline gives us 12 years, putting Geralt’s meeting with Ciri in Year 32 and confining his Season 1 adventures to a period of three decades.
How long is Yennefer’s timeline in The Witcher?
Yenn’s timeline is a lot more difficult to parse, so this one won’t have hard numbers. The important thing to remember is that much of Yenn’s story up until she meets Geralt in Episode 5 takes place before Year 1 in Geralt’s timeline.
Yenn’s father was a half-elf who perished in the Great Cleansing, a genocidal event that is considered semi-recent history by the time Geralt meets Filavandrel and the other elves in Episode 2. Since Yenn can’t remember her father and is relatively young when she experiences her Conduit Event, the Great Cleansing probably happened 15 to 19 years before her timeline starts.
We also don’t know how long Yenn studied at Aretuza, which makes it impossible to discover how old she is in human years when she ascends. She doesn’t age much between arrival and ascension, but again — no one ages on this goddamn show.
Yenn then says in Episode 4 that she spent three decades serving kings and appears in Episode 5 as an independent sorceress who meets Geralt and Jaskier in Rinde, but knowing she worked for 30 years isn’t helpful until itself — she could have been independent for decades before Geralt met her.
Drawing the timeline a little tighter around her story takes a few more elements and broad guesses, most of which have to do with Nilfgaard… and Jaskier the bard.
What Nilfgaard and Jaskier can tell us about Yenn
Back in Aretuza, Yenn was almost assigned to the lecherous King Fergus of Nilfgaard but conspired instead to serve King Virfuril of Aedirn. That means King Fergus was still in power when Yenn ascended, and her 30-year countdown to independence can start somewhere during his reign.
By the time Geralt meets Triss Merigold, sorceress in service of the incest-loving King Foltest, King Fergus of Nilfgaard has been murdered and usurped.
The usurpation of Nilfgaard is important because Yenn was likely still a member of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers when King Fergus was usurped; Triss Merigold was a recent Aretuza graduate when Fergus died, and she still recognizes Yenn in Episode 7.
Taking that information and combining it with the 10-year timeline of Jaskier and Geralt’s friendship cuts down the possible dates of Yenn abandoning the Brotherhood. Geralt met Jaskier before Fergus was usurped and has been his friend for a decade when they meet Yenn in Episode 5.
Yenn is already on her own when she encounters them in Rinde, which means she left the Brotherhood in the years between Foltest’s usurpation and Jaskier and Geralt’s 10-year friendaversary.
Counting back 30 years from any date in that time overlaps with Year 1, meaning Yenn left the Brotherhood before Geralt’s timeline even started.
Guys, Yenn is old as balls.
Since Geralt and Ciri are together by the end of Season 1, and Yenn isn’t far away in Sodden, perhaps The Witcher Season 2 won’t have to do as much timey-wimey stuff to get all of their stories into a short eight hours.