In the short story "The Lesser Evil" (the third story in the collection The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski), Geralt becomes involved in a feud between the wizard Stregobor and the princess Renfri. Each of them asks the witcher to help them kill the other, saying it would be 'the lesser evil'. Geralt

refuses to involve himself either way, until towards the end when he realises Renfri and her companions plan to murder innocent townsfolk at the market, and kills them all to stop this.

Towards the beginning of the story, Geralt and Stregobor argue over whether Eltibald's theory of cursed women was true or whether the women such as Renfri were only victimised or righteously vengeful. Stregobor held that they were all monsters with an insatiable urge to kill, but Geralt said this was nonsense. In Renfri's case at least, she had good reason to hate Stregobor, so her desire to kill him doesn't prove that she was indeed a cursed monster. But in the end, who was right in the debate?

Was Renfri, and the others like her, a cursed monster or not?

Geralt's decision to kill her doesn't prove that she was, because the way I read it, the 'greater evil' he was trying to avoid was the murder of the townsfolk, not her existence.

There's also this exchange which I didn't understand:

Geralt retreated and raised his hand, arranging his fingers in the Sign.

Renfri laughed hoarsely. "It doesn't affect me. Only the sword will."

"Renfri," he repeated. "Go. If we cross blades, I- I won't be able-"

"I know," she said, "But I, I can't do anything else. I just can't. We are what we are, you and I."

That might throw some light on my question, if it can be understood and interpreted properly.

Apologies if this is answered in a later story. I've only got into the Witcher series recently, after answering a couple of questions about it on this site.

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    I'm not sure I understand. You first answered the questions about Witcher and only then read the book? Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 16:27
  • @nuoritoveri Yep! I've done that a LOT on this site, answering questions on works I've never read/watched. E.g. I've never seen Star Wars, despite this.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 19:34
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    You would be surprised how many questions here can be answered by spending 5 minutes on google.
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 22:11

2 Answers 2


It's unknown

During the conversation with Stregobor, Geralt argues that the fact that someone is willing to be evil shouldn't be explained by magic or mutation - he gives the example of some old king that "can't fall asleep without the sound of someone being tortured to death".

The theme of this story (and a few others if I remember right) is Nature vs Nurture with Geralt (and Sapkowski) leaning strongly towards the latter: Humans, dwarves, mutants, elves are made evil, not born. Yes, Renfri is evil and killing her is lesser evil than letting her murder the villagers, but she has chosen that path rather than having been forced to by some sort of curse: she has been exiled from her palace, raped, forced to live the live of an outcast with seven gnomes, and now she has a chance to finally pay back one responsible for completely f***ing her life!

In the end we don't know whether she was a mutant or not, because Geralt forbids Stregobor to make the autopsy, but once again in the light of the story it's supposed to mean that it doesn't matter what she was, but what she became.

“People," Geralt turned his head, "like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live.”

The fact that the sign doesn't work for her might suggest that there is something inhuman in her, but on the other hand we know from Stregobor that after him imprisoning her in crystal she developed some sort of magic resistance (so once again there is a question of whether it was an inborn ability of a "monster" or one gained by a regular human).

In the first "Witcher" game (in a standalone short adventure), we meet another girl with story similar to Renfri - she also has been born during the Black Sun and has been treated as cursed and exiled, returning now for revenge. If you'd try to stop her, she would say that "she is unable to forgive" and you are forced to kill her, but if you'd help her, the after credits information says that she became a wise queen and her country flourished under her rule.

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    I was afraid the answer might be unknown, but that Nature vs Nurture angle is very nice - I hadn't thought of it that way. I'm liking the Witcher series more and more ...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 22:54
  • @Randal'Thor so you'd better get used to "It's unknown" :) Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 16:28
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    @nuoritoveri not really, unless you are one of the guys who need to know what had for breakfast cousin of minor character mentioned twice in whole series. In this particular case the Renfri's curse (of lack of one) is left as unknown for a good reason.
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 22:06
  • Leaving this here because you're not on chat - How did The Witcher games affect the popularity of The Witcher books?. And also there is a Witcher series in works now ^_^ Commented May 17, 2017 at 19:14
  • Even if she wasn't cursed. She definitely became the thing that Stregobor claimed she was. Even if she was actually raped and constantly had assassings trying to kill her, she was willing to kill a few dozen innocent town's folk just to kill Stregobor. She couldn't see that if she walked away there could be a good peaceful life out there for her. She was so blinded by revenge, she herself became quite evil.
    – Villan
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 17:16

In The Witcher series, a running theme of royal blood possessing qualities greater than that of those without becomes a staple. I do not believe Renfri was cursed, but in fact she may have been a Source, much like Ciri. A Source is a person born with a natural affinity for magical abilities which are rather difficult to control once they have bloomed, which can sometimes lead to mental illness. Strigabor must have known this and used the Sign of the Black Sun as an excuse to do what mages have traditionally done.

"Schools of sorcery, like Aretuza and the facility in Ban Ard, were created to help these children cultivate and control their powers, lest the abilities drive them mad. At one point, if one learned of a Source, mages from these schools would hunt them down and tear them away from their families by force or deceit."

Whether it was from the childhood trauma, extreme poverty and difficult life she has had to live, or because she was a Source whose abilities had eventually driven her mad -- Renfri was unstable. Her extraordinary ability with a sword, her speed and strength, these capabilities were probably fueled by her innate magical ability as a Source which is why she could cross blades with Geralt and even drive him back more than once throughout the fight.

This is just a theory, but I feel like the way in which the story alternates between Renfri and Ciri in the beginning, the fact that they're both princesses who suffer tragic circumstances in their childhood, and other parallels, bring me to the conclusion that the film makers chose to do that for more than one reason.

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