8

In "The Bounds of Reason" as the story opens we learn that

Geralt has been hired to kill a basilisk lurking in a ruined crypt. As the story opens, it has been quite some time since the witcher disappeared into the crypt, and the peasants are beginning to mutter amongst themselves that he must be dead by now, otherwise he would have reappeared. Acting on this assumption, they decide to take the witcher's belongings. [...]

Fortunately Geralt emerges from the crypt, filthy and dragging the head of the now defunct basilisk. Faced with a very much alive witcher and the knight's party, the peasants back down and flee leaving the alderman to pay Geralt the agreed 200 lintars.

Source: Witcher Wikia - The Bounds of Reason

I don't have the books with me and I can't quote this exactly, only by memory, but I seem to remember that when the peasants are discussing if the witches is dead one said something in the lines of

"He went there without a mirror, and everybody knows that you can't kill a basilisk without a mirror"

When I read "The Bounds of Reason" for the first time, I assume that Geralt didn't need the mirror to protect himself from the basilisk glance because he could use spells (or signs). Never occurred to me that the folklore about the glance of the basilisk could simply be not true in the world of Geralt de Rivia.

So my question is, is it know how Geralt kill that basilisk? Or, even, what do witchers do to kill basilisks? What's the method? Do they protect themselves with signs, spells, herbs, etc. from the basilisk glance or is all this simply not needed and they can use other methods?

  • 5
    The implication seems to be that he chopped its head off. That tends to kill most things and evidently basilisks are no different. – Valorum Oct 25 '19 at 11:32
19

Using a mirror to protect oneself from a basilisk's gaze is a folk tale in The Witcher's universe: the basilisk's gaze does not turn one into stone. Instead, it's their venom that kills a person, and very quickly. Geralt likely used the same technique witchers use to kill almost everything else: his swordsmanship, his silver sword, likely some elixirs, and little else.

Geralt has a conversation about this with Reynart de Bois-Fresnes in ch. 3 of The Lady of the Lake:

“The essentials. The basilisk is also known as the regulus, is a reptile. The cockatrice, also called a skoffin, is an ornithosaur – that is, half reptile, half bird. It is the only representative of the subclass, which scientist call Ornithoreptilia and after long disputes they came to the conclusion that…”

“And which of the two,” Reynart de Bois-Fresnes interrupted, apparently without interest of the discussions of scientists, “can kill or turn a man to stone with a glance?”

“None. Those are stories.”

“Then why are people so afraid? This thing here isn’t so large. Can it be so dangerous?”

“This thing here,” Geralt shook the dead monster, “usually attacks from behind and without error goes perfectly between the vertebrae or the aorta or under the left kidney. Usually all it takes is a single thrust of its beak. With regards to the basilisk, it will kill you no matter where it bites; it has the strongest know poison which is a neurotoxin that kills within a few moments.”

“Brrr… Tell me, which one can you kill with a mirror?”

“All of them. If you slam it hard enough in the head with the mirror.”
From the Reddit/Witcher forum fan-translation.

11

This is a recurring joke in the books (and the games) - commoners acting as self-appointed experts of monsters, although they are getting their knowledge from hearsay and superstition alone. Whereas only those who had studied monsters in-depth, like witchers, actually know what they are talking about.

This chapter is such an example. The exact quote1), spoken by "a giant in a leather butcher's apron" (most likely the town's butcher, most unlikely a monster expert):

Why, he even went in without a looking glass, taking only a sword. And you can't kill a basilisk without a looking glass, everyone knows that.

Between the lines, we realize that these commoners haven't got a clue what they are talking about. We don't even know if the monster was a basilisk, because those who hire Geralt often get the type of the monster wrong. He just says "here is your basilisk", but it isn't obvious if he is sarcastic or simply stating the truth.

Whatever it was, he killed it with a sword (probably silver but we don't know). Which is pretty much the universal way of killing any monster throughout the books. This is the whole reason why witchers has adopted such a spectacular fighting style involving lots of dodging, spinning and jumping - most monster attacks can't be parried and they expect to fight monsters with swords.

There's another episode in Time of Contempt where Ciri pays a fee at a market to go see a live basilisk. Nobody in the audience has a clue about what a basilisk should look like. Except Ciri with her witcher training, who speaks up and says that the creature is a young wyvern and not a basilisk. It is obvious that the average person doesn't have a clue about what a basilisk looks like, let alone how to fight one.


1) Sword of Destiny - The Bounds of Reason, chapter 1

  • In original Polish story, Geralt says: "Oto bazyliszek". This is no sarcasm, just statement of fact. – Jakub Szułakiewicz Nov 7 '19 at 14:07
  • @JakubSzułakiewicz Interesting. So possibly something was lost in translation there. – Amarth Nov 7 '19 at 17:35

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