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When Ciri comes to Kaer Morhen in the Netflix series, Vesemir is excited, because he seems to have resigned himself to the decline of the witchers after the destruction of all the potions used to make them. However, Ciri has "Elder blood," which was one of the primary ingredients in the potion to create new witchers. The way the show described the situation, it seemed that Ciri had Elder blood because one of her distant ancestors was an elf. For instance, when discussing Ciri's presumed Elder descent, both Triss and Ciri seem to equate the two.

However, if "Elder" were the same as "elf", it seems hard to see why Vesimir would have been convinced that the situation was hopeless before, and why he would have seen Ciri's arrival as a unique opportunity to turn around the decline of the witchers. While the elves may have been in decline, they were hardly difficult for a witcher to find, what with there being a whole small, nomadic nation of them, and surely some among their number could have been bargained with for a blood sample. People who are mostly human with some elf ancestry seem to be even more common, and I am sure someone like Yennefer would have given Vesemir some blood for the right price.

So what is the distinction, if any, between Elder and elf?

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  • I’m not overly sure and don’t have time to pull quotes now but I believe Elder blood refers to those with the gene in Ciri’s line back to Lara Dorren. It doesn’t refer to elves in general. I think the conversations between Fenn and Istredd shed the most light on this in the show.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 2 at 21:21
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    "Lara Dorren aep Shiadhal was an elven sorceress, a member of the elite circle of Aen Saevherne, the Knowing Ones, or Sages, as humans sometimes call them. She was heir to an unusually strong line of Hen lchaer- in your language, the Elder Blood-and so was to marry a specially chosen elf and bear him a child - The World of the Witcher
    – Valorum
    Jan 2 at 21:26
  • @Valorum That's a quote from the Witcher video game lore, though it is mostly true to the books/canon (far more so than the TV series).
    – Amarth
    Jan 4 at 17:11
  • @Amarth - I've only watched the show, so my knowledge of the lore is patchy at best. Hence why posted as a comment
    – Valorum
    Jan 4 at 17:47

2 Answers 2

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Elder blood, also known as Hen Ichaer or Lara gene, is considered to be the blood/genes in Lara Dorren's descendants who carry powerful magic.

Elder Blood is defined as:

A genetic program initiated by elven mages (known as Sages) for the purpose of creating an extraordinarily gifted child whose power would exceed their own. According to the prophecy of the elven diviner Ithlinne, the Child of Elder Blood will one day save the elves from annihilation. However, the last carrier of Aen Hen Ichaer, Lara Dorren aep Shiadhal, bonded with a human instead of an elf, thus shattering all plans regarding her offspring.

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Elves in the Witcher setting form two different cultural groups: Aen Seidhe and Aen Elle. These two groups originate from the same world but as it was facing destruction, they fled it. Aen Seidhe ended up in this world and Aen Elle in another.

Aen Seidhe are the ones who inhabit the Continent and the ones seen in season 2 of the Netflix series. Lara Dorren, Ciri's ancestor, belonged to the other group, Aen Elle. She was a powerful sorceress and supposedly she could easily travel between the two worlds, an ability which was unique.

Elder Blood refers to Lara Dorren's royal bloodline of Aen Elle, specifically those who had inherited her unique abilities. Apart from the ability to travel between worlds, other unique abilities by the bloodline is the "magic wail"-like ability and premonitions, as seen surfacing through Pavetta and Ciri in the series. These unique magic abilities are lost even to the Aen Elle.

In general "elder" does refer to elves of either group and the Aen Seidhe language is called Elder Speech, possibly since it originates back to the time when both eleven groups lived together.

The side story about witchers getting created from Elder Blood is entirely made up by the series and has no sensible explanation in the books/canon, as the Lara Dorren gene was mostly dormant through many generations but surfaced once some branches of the family tree were rejoined as seen in this family tree. How the TV series aim to explain how the Lara Dorren gene came to contribute to the creation of witchers, I don't know. Lara Dorren was alive around the time witchers were created, though in the books she had nothing to do with it - they were created by the human mage Alzur.

In the books, the knowledge of performing the Trial of Grasses was lost upon the attack of Kaer Morhen and all who knew of it died in the fight. Vesemir was a fencing instructor and didn't know how to perform the rituals himself, so the knowledge was lost.

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