In this answer on Movies SE, there is a quote :

I underwent the usual mutation there, through the Trial of Grasses, and then hormones, herbs, viral infections. And then through them all again. And again, to the bitter end. Apparently, I took the changes unusually well; I was only ill briefly. I was considered to be an exceptionally resilient brat…and was chosen for more complicated experiments as a result. They were worse. Much worse. But, as you see, I survived. The only one to live out of all those chosen for further trials. My hair's been white ever since. Total loss of pigmentation. A side effect, as they say. A trifle.

I don’t know Witcher universe much, and never read any books (only briefly played some games), though in my understanding they are in high fantasy genre, so roughly medieval. And the highlighted words sound surprisingly modern. Especially “hormones” and “viral” suggest their medical science is close to modern level of development. It suggests they know about endocrine system, and can distinguish viruses and other pathogens.

Are similarly modern words used in Polish original, or is it a mistranslation? And are these terms used consistently throughout the books, or only in this particular book?

More generally, how close to modern level are biological and medical sciences in the Witcher universe?

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    Well, all these notions are not necessarily from advance science. Pigmentation is as old as the Roman Empire and experiments where conducted in medieval times. One can suppose that since magic appeared in the world, people that dwelved in such notions probably gained a good amount of knowledge that you can think it is "modern".
    – RigaCrypto
    Jan 13 '20 at 16:37
  • 2
    They're in medieval times, but they have magic and alchemy, and their bio-science is more advanced than ours. In any case, mutations aren't exactly advanced science, you see a deformed guy and call him a mutant. Pigmentation isn't advanced science either.
    – Roberto
    Jan 13 '20 at 16:38
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    Right, because dimeritium was commonly found in medieval Poland. When writing speculative fiction, which is what the swords and sorcery genre is a sub set of, an author is free to choose terms not bound by a real historical time period unless they are writing in an alternative history or pseudo historical setting. All characters speak in the voice that the author gives them Jan 13 '20 at 16:57
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    I cannot speak to the Polish language questions, but I remember an interview of the author asking whether or not The Witcher should be considered "post-modern" for injecting these kind of anachronistic details into the plot. I don't have a link to that handy so I won't post an answer until I have found one.
    – Joe
    Jan 13 '20 at 19:37
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    For what it is worth, Merriam-Webster's first definition for mutation is a significant and basic alteration, a change (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mutation) and claims that the first use of the word in that sense is from the 14th century. The word is actually of Latin origin, like in the locution mutatis mutantis. Similary, experiment is probably an old word.
    – Taladris
    Jan 16 '20 at 4:31

Biological and medical sciences in the Witcher universe are way past modern level, but this knowledge is mostly kept secret from common people. Mages try to monopolize science and mostly succeed.

There are many examples of this:

  1. Ages ago, Ortolan made a potion that virtually stops ageing, but his fellow mages strictly limit the access to the potion to themselves, lying him about it. His other inventions, like magical cannon, were also suppressed.

  2. Witchers are an "invention" of mages Alzur and Malaspina, who tried to "improve" humans. Knowledge of mutating humans into witchers was also a secret, and was later forgotten.

Elves also act like this with Aen Saevherne, keeping secrets of genetic engineering enabling control over spacetime itself.

The world of Witcher may seem like medieval times, but this is somewhat misleading - its nature is more of postapocalypical, with Conjunction of Spheres as a way for humans to escape their original world's end.

As far as wording is concerned, Sapkowski doesn't shy away from using modern concepts at all. Forget "mutant", source of Ciri's power is "Lara's gene", and it's history is described using stuff like "pseudogene", being activator of gene.

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    Its worth to point, that mages try to keep this "medieval stasis" - for example, they forbid using recently discovered dynamite in fear that it might lead to invention of firearms and threaten their power. On the other hand, about 100 years after the end of the series (as we can see in the "Season of storms") steam engine is well known and used in factories.
    – Yasskier
    Jan 13 '20 at 20:10

Actually the Witcher universe is science fiction. Humans came into the world of elves and dwarves and magic by the conjunction of spheres. There is an interesting part in "The Tower of Swallow". There the elven mage Avallac'h is forging prehistoric cave paintings as fun to mislead future historians. Because there were no prehistoric humans on the continent. In the following talk with Geralt he makes it clear he knows humans evolved from apes but not on this world. Furthermore, he states the human race is around 5 million years old. Homo Sapiens is only 300,000 years old, and the genus Homo is approximately 1.5-2.5 million years old.

By that you can say humans from the future came into a parallel world and developed from nothing to a stable medieval society. New in this world was magic which solved many technological problems but was kept in secret to easier control the common folk in a feudal society. But knowledge about genetics, technology and even astronomy is all known by sorcerers but usually kept as secret.

How the conjunction of spheres worked is speculative. But it brought the modern human on the continent with its already established own language and culture. Going back to their medieval roots the humans started new. It's interesting the elves landed on the continent in a similar way but a long time before the humans.

  • 1
    This is a nice answer but would be made even better if you edited in some of the relevant quotes to back this up.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 15 '20 at 14:31

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