In the English translations of the Witcher books, Elvish/Old Tongue is Irish, and Dwarven is some pastiche of Dutch and German. What languages were they in the original Polish?

  • 1
    Which English translations are those? It was my impression that Sapkowski modelled the respective languages on Irish and German (and others), and they were conserved in translations as well. At least in my official Russian translation the Elven tongue is provided as it was in the Polish version. Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:05
  • Could you also provide some examples of those languages from your translation? I may be able to post an answer then. Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, the languages were based by Andrzej Sapkowski on an amalgamation of medieval Irish, Latin, and some other languages. I also know that those languages were not altered between the Polish original and the Russian translation, and I'm fairly sure they weren't altered in any translation. A quick skim through the original and an English translation suggests that this is the case with English as well:

— Gar’ean — syknął Cairbre, wychylając się zza gałęzi drzewa, z którego obserwował gościniec. — En Dh’oine aen evall a stráede!

Toruviel zerwała się z ziemi, chwytając i przypasując miecz, czubkiem buta szturchnęła w udo Yaevinna, który drzemał obok, oparty o ścianę wykrotu. Elf zerwał się, syknął, sparzony przez gorący piasek, o który oparł dłoń.

— Que suecc’s?

[. . .]

— Thaess aep, Toruviel.
Original Polish

‘Gar’ean,’ Cairbre hissed, peering from behind a branch, from where he was observing the road. ‘En Dh’oine aen evall a strsede!’

Toruviel leapt to her feet, seizing and belting on her sword, and poked Yaevinn in the thigh with the toe of her boot. He had been dozing, leaning against the wall of a hollow, and when he sprang up he scorched his hand as he pushed off from the hot sand.

‘Que suecc’s?’

[. . .]

‘Thaess aep, Toruviel.’
Translated by David French

— Gar’ean, — прошипел Каирбр, выглядывая из ветвей дерева, с которого наблюдал за большаком. — En Dh’oine evall a straede!

Торувьель поднялась с земли, схватила пояс с мечом, препоясалась и носком ботинка ткнула в бедро Яевинна, который дремал рядом, в яме из-под вывороченного дерева. Эльф вскочил, зашипел, обжегшись о горячий песок, на который оперся рукой.

— Que suecc’s.

[. . .]

— Thaess aep, Toruviel.
Russian translation by Eugene Weisbrot

It is worth noting that Sapkowski doesn't claim he created a language, à la Tolkien. In a 2001 interview (translated to Russian here and reproduced here), he says he merely created a few phrases based on existing and recognisable languages, in order not to write complete gibberish and then give a footnote explaining what it means.

KW: Вы создали новый язык для книг, как Толкиен?

AS: Нет, не создал. Толкиен сделал, так как он лингвист, он знал около 19 языков, в том числе многие из мертвых. Я не придумал ни одного языка. Вместо этого ограничился созданием нескольких фраз, только ради того, чтобы не делать сносок с переводом в нижней части страницы – меня жутко раздражает, когда к примеру кто-то пишет «drapatuluk papatuluk», а внизу дает сноску: закрой дверь, мухи налетят. Моя цель заключалось в том, чтобы сделать текст на выдуманном языке, который был бы приемлем для эрудированного поляка, способного читать на разных языках; чтобы он понял без сносок. Я построил язык на смеси французского, английского, латинского и немецкого. Никто не знает, что означает фраза, но будут понимать, что происходит. Я создал коктейль языков.

KW: Did you create a new language for the books, like Tolkien?

No, I didn't. Tolkien did, as he was a linguist, and new 19 languages, including some dead ones. I did not invent any language. Instead I created a few phrases, only so that I would not have to make a footnote - I hate it when someone writes, for instance, "drapatuluk papatuluk", and explains in a footnote that in means "close the door, the flies are entering". My goal was to create a text in a fictional language that an erudite Polish reader would understand without having to refer to footnotes. I built a language based on a mix of French, English, Latin, and German. No one knows what a phrase means, but they know what will happen. I created a cocktail of languages.
Translation mine

  • 1
    Thanks, that's exactly what I was looking for. Looks like they kept it the same in the official books. Sorry I didn't have time to get you any examples, but thanks for the answer! Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 12:25
  • Thanks, @Mithoron. I hadn't noticed the problems with the Polish alphabet (I though it was supposed to be that way :D). Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 22:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.