Of a Scary Tale for Naughty Children: Recreating Folkloric Motifs in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Video Game ‒ The Example of Fantasy Creatures The Ladies of the Wood

Folkloristics 8/1-2 (2023):
Author: Krinka Baković

The paper discusses the integrative power of recreating various folkloric motifs in the popular and awarded video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Project Red 2015). Based on the famous high fantasy literary series of the Polish writer Andzej Sapkowski, this video game is dominated by Slavic folklore elements. These elements are intertwined with similar motifs from other (European) traditions, in accordance with the general tendencies of storytelling typical of high fantasy narratives. Although the video game is extensive and its narrative complex, particular attention is dedicated to one fantasy phenomenon ‒ three witchy sisters known as The Ladies of the Wood.
By using the concept of folkloresque as a heuristic tool for the understanding of the dynamic relationship between folklore and popular culture, the paper focuses on the integrative form of this concept, which is understood as an amalgamative process within which popular fiction consumes folklore, separating its elemental components and composing them into a product that retains its connection to the previous content (Foster & Tolbert 2016). According to the given explanation, The Ladies of the Wood in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game are an amalgam of the Eastern European folktales about Baba Yaga, Grimm’s folktale about Hansel and Gretel, various traditional beliefs about fate demons, the witch in Slavic and Balkan traditions, and the beliefs about the Great Goddess of fertility from various polytheistic pantheons, popularized thanks to the neopagan Wicca movements during the 20th century.
In popular culture, folklore is constituted as a kind of Frankenstein’s monster, a “cyborg” that is formed of a series of thoughtfully borrowed existing aspects in order to revive the “body” through a creative selection of segments which can be attributed a potential folkloric value. In this way, video games nurture folklore enriched with elements from different traditions that, with their integrative power, constitute the boundaries of a new space for reflection about the existing myths, legends, fairy tales, and also contribute to the understanding of their transformation and adaptation to socio-cultural changes and the needs of contemporary society.
Thus, the permeation of the motifs belonging to different traditions in the given case can be understood as ambiguous: on the one hand, it contributes to perceiving the creation as an independent product that has a potential folkloric value; on the other hand, it can serve as a place of compression, appreciation, and mediation of different influences and multicultural elements in the context of the popular culture “global arena.”

Keywords: video games, folkloric motifs, folklore, popular culture, folkloresque, folkloresque as integration, The Ladies of the Wood, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.