Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
It wouldn’t be a good day unless I talked about The Witcher 3 in some capacity. Honestly, I’d never thought I’d say that Geralt of Rivia ranks higher than Corvo Attano, Max Payne, or Adam Jensen as one of my favorite characters. But we’re not talking about Geralt today… we’re not even talking about Triss, Yen, Dandelion, or Ciri. No, today I’d like to talk about Mislav the Hunter, a minor character who inhabits White Orchard and helps you in your preparations to slay the griffin in the game’s prologue.
Now, when I say minor, I mean minor af. Geralt and him only exchange a few lines of dialogue throughout the entire game. But with those scant conversations, Mislav’s story paints the backdrop for most of the region of White Orchard. While he might be an outlier in Geralt’s tale during The Witcher 3, he’s a central character in the downfall of the local lord’s family in a way most people wouldn’t suspect. What makes him important, however, is that he is serves as both an example of CD Projekt Red‘s storytelling talent as well as their understanding of creating diverse characters without being cliché. Bearing that in mind, let me tell you the tragic (yet hopeful) story of Mislav the Hunter.
***CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
A Short Story of Love and Loss
Before I get into Mislav’s tale, you might want to know how Geralt crosses his path to begin with (in case you haven’t played the first half hour of the game — or at least, managed to stay on task, what with everything there is to do). Geralt and Vesemir are in pursuit of Yennefer, having traipsed around the Northern Realms looking for her during the Nilfgaardian incursion. Upon entering White Orchard, the pair of witchers visit the inn where they learn Yen had talked to the garrison commander before continuing on her way. With that information, Geralt goes to find this commander of garrisons who has a lot on his plate in this newly occupied territory: Temerian resistance to quash, peasants to assimilate, and a rowdy griffin that’s been terrorizing everyone it can get its talons on.
As witchers are known for their monster-slaying proficiency, the commander makes Geralt a deal: kill the griffin and get paid (in gold as well as Yen’s whereabouts). Taking him up on his offer, Geralt is directed to two locals for help in tracking down and defeating the griffin: Tomira the Herbalist and — if you couldn’t guess — Mislav the Hunter. While Tomira has her own part to play in the region’s recent history (which I may come back to), we’ll assume Geralt rode off first to talk to Mislav in his quest to slay the griffin.
The Nilfgaardian had mentioned Mislav was a little peculiar, something I didn’t think much of given it was the opinion of an invading officer. Of course the loners who live in the woods are going to be a little strange so it’d be weirder if he boring and “normal” (whatever that really means). Once Geralt came upon his hut, he noticed the hunter wasn’t home. With his keen, catlike eyes, he tracked him down in the woods where he’s currently stalking prey. Today’s quarry? A pack of wild, rabid dogs.
In this first conversation, a lot becomes apparent of Mislav’s character. After listening to the howling in the distance, Mislav mentions that wild dogs are more dangerous than wolves. While Geralt (/the player) can express skepticism at a potentially dull observation, Mislav’s answer is surprisingly sharp: “It’s the truth. Know why? […] Wolves hunt to fill their bellies. Wild dogs kill for sport.”
“Just like humans,” Geralt nods, now understanding what the hunter meant.
“Aye,” Mislav replied, “they’ve learned much from us. Why not cruelty, too?”
Impressed by this observation, Geralt decided to help Mislav deal with the pack of dogs. Besides, if he can’t handle a few mangy mutts, how is he going to take down a full-grown royal griffin? Making short work of the angry doggos, Mislav comes across the body they were feasting on: the local lord’s old stable hand Dieter. Once Geralt asks the hunter how he knows him is where things truly get interesting.
“Do you know him?” asked Geralt. Mislav stood up from hovering over the disemboweled corpse and nodded.
“Dieter. We served at the lord’s manor together, where the black army’s encamped now. He was a stable hand. I was the lord’s hunter. But that was before…” he paused, stumbling on the words he was dredging up from long-suppressed memories. “Well, a long time ago.”
“Before what?” Geralt asked, curious again by what the hunter meant.
“Before they drove me from the village.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothin’.” Mislav shrugged. “I’m a freak.” He sighed and looked back down at Dieter — or what remained of him. “Sorry, I’d rather not talk about it.” But Geralt did.
“I’m a freak, too,” he said. Being a witcher with snow white hair and yellow cat eyes, Geralt knew all too well what it was like to be an outcast.
“Aye, but of a different kind,” Mislav replied sullenly.
“If it’s lycanthropy, I can help.”
“What?” Mislav was puzzled.
“Lycanthropy. Werewolves? Handled a few cases in the past. It’s usually a simple curse that…” the hunter interrupted him.
“The lord’s son, Florian, and I… We loved each other.” He looked back down at the corpse, pausing a moment. “Dieter walked in on us in the stables. They drove me away… Florian hanged himself. Lord started drinkin’, and the estate fell into ruin. That’s the long and short of it.” With that, Geralt gave his condolences for the misfortune but Mislav shrugged. “Ah, it’s ancient history now. I was to show where I found the Nilfgaardians [that the griffin was snacking on earlier]. Come.”
But now that you’re all caught up, you might be wondering why I find Mislav to be one of the most important characters you’ll stumble upon, at the very least in the prologue.
If you are unfamiliar with the term sonder, not only does it mean “special” in German, but in English, it’s a phrase-word meaning, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” Indeed, Mislav’s affair with the lord’s son and said lord’s alcoholism is what also prompted the events of a later contract dealing with the Devil in the Well; a young bride murdered with her husband and family after the lord hunted them down when they left the village due to his incompetence.
But what’s most interesting (at least, to me) is how nonchalantly CDPR introduced a gay character. There was no dramatic coming out, no rainbows, or glitter, or even judgment from Geralt. Mislav was just another man in a world filled with people who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. His was just grounded in something misunderstood by the society he found himself in, much like how homosexuality is still regarded with confusion and skepticism to varying degrees in our world.
As a gay man myself (which I don’t necessarily go out of my way to make a point of in my writings here), I couldn’t help but identify with Mislav. My own coming out was rough, being disowned by members of my family and friends I once regarded as close, simply for being different. Even more so, like Mislav, I do not harbor resentment to the homophobes I’ve come across in my time as being bitter about the ignorant only causes more pain and strife down the line. For my own sake, I let go of that anger and the feelings of betrayal, yet still try to do what I can to make a positive impact on the world around me.
In his own way, Mislav does this as well. Though he’s been driven from his home and left to fend for himself at the edge of the woods, he was hunting down those dogs to protect the villagers who now despise him. And even while clearly skilled as a hunter and protector, he’s still regarded as strange by former Temerian and present Nilfgaardian alike.
As I mentioned, this exchange is really all we get with Mislav in the game. After all, Geralt’s got a sorceress to track down and a foster daughter to save from
space elves the Wild Hunt. But of all the supporting characters I’ve stumbled upon in my playthroughs of The Witcher 3, he’s the one that stands out the most. And I must say, I really do appreciate CDPR’s portrayal of him and other “queer” characters who don’t fall into the default hetero mold. When people find out that I’m more fabulous than they initially thought, I say, “isn’t it strange how it’s just like we’re normal people?”
And if you can’t learn a thing or two about empathy in a world like The Witcher where everyone’s just holding on for dear life, I don’t know what to tell ya. Still, good on CDPR for this minor nod to human diversity and how we’re all just trying to find peace and happiness.
Sources: The Witcher Wiki