How Does A Child Surprise Work On 'The Witcher'? Here's What The Custom Means For Ciri & Geralt

- The Witcher -
How Does A Child Surprise Work On 'The Witcher'? Here's What The Custom Means For Ciri & Geralt

Geralt is the ultimate hot dad in The Witcher Season 2, and for this, the writers will forever have my undying gratitude. Now that he has finally stopped running from his destiny, the monosyllabic Witcher and Ciri have embraced their bond and embarked on a suitably emotional father-daughter adventure. But as much as I love seeing Geralt teach Ciri how to use a sword and serve up sage advice about the dangers of bottling up her emotions, another part of my brain is still stuck on how the whole child surprise thing works.

Look, I know The Witcher is based on a book series and some video games, and that the Law of Surprise has real world roots in Polish folklore, but to someone who just watches the Netflix show it's confusing AF. To be fair, the show did try to explain the unusual law in the fourth episode of Season 1, but that episode also included a man with a hedgehog head and an especially animated Jaskier, so it was a little hard to focus. As a result, I spent much of Season 2 legitimately wondering if destiny somehow magically made Ciri Geralt's biological daughter. Spoiler alert: it did not.

However, Season 2 does make it crystal clear that Geralt and Ciri's whole child surprise situation is the linchpin of the entire series, so it's best everyone gets on the same page about the rules surrounding the slightly icky and yet somehow inescapable law now.

What Is The Law Of Surprise?

Essentially, the Law of Surprise can be invoked anytime one person saves the life of another, creating a debt that must be repaid. The Witcher wiki sums it best: "The Law of Surprise is a custom as old as humanity itself. The Law dictates that a man saved by another is expected to offer to his savior a boon whose nature is unknown to one or both parties."

In the world of The Witcher, this essentially means that the person who invokes the law has the right to something valuable the other party either doesn't possess yet or doesn't know they possess yet. As a result, the law sometimes results in an unborn child being served up as payment, because the father didn't know his wife/lover/mistress was pregnant — this is a child surprise, like Ciri. But the payment could just easily be a dog the debtor finds on the side of the road or an unexpected windfall that destiny obliges them to pass on to the person who saved their life.

The entire custom is rooted in patriarchal nonsense, and it's pretty gross when you really think about. To the show's credit, the writers have avoided making it look like Ciri and her mom were just possessions waiting to be claimed by Geralt and Ciri's bio dad, Duny, but it's still disturbing to think a child can be served up as payment for their father's debt.

Why Did Geralt Invoke The Law Of Surprise?

Although he later tries to blame Jaskier for his predicament, Geralt 100 percent knew what he was getting into when he invoked the Law of Surprise after saving Duny, the Urcheon of Erlenwald's life. After all, the reason why he had to save Duny's life in the first place is because the knight invoked the law after saving King Roegner's life, which led to him being "owed" his daughter, Princess Pavetta. Granted, Geralt didn't know Pavetta was pregnant with Ciri at the time, but he still knew the risks associated with the law.

The whole point of him invoking it in the first place was that the Witcher didn't want any payment, but someone who has been around as long as Geralt has should have known better than to tempt fate.

Is Ciri Geralt's Biological Daughter?

Despite their strikingly similar blond locks, Ciri and Geralt aren't biologically related. The Law of Surprise is more about destiny than it is magic, so it doesn't have the power to change who a child surprise's biological parents are. What it does do is bind that child to the person who invoked the law.

But Geralt Is Totally Her Dad Now, Right?

Most certainly! The bond between Ciri and Geralt is definitely a father/daughter bond, and they prove in Season 2 that they'll go to the ends of the earth of for one another. The only trouble is Ciri's power and the prophecy surrounding her elder blood means she could end up dooming the entire world, which puts Geralt in a tricky situation. Does he sacrifice his daughter to save the world or does he fight by her side while everything burns around them? Whichever path he chooses, you can bet Season 3 will serve up heartbreak for Geralt, Ciri, and any members of the audience who are still clinging to the idea of a happy ending.

Images: Susie Allnut/Netflix; Jay Maidment/Netflix; Netflix

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