When I first arrived at Novigrad in The Witcher 3, I instantly observed a way of discomfort spilling over the town partitions and into the decrepit outskirts wherein mistreated non-humans dwell.
As a mutant witcher, I used to be met with scepticism and resistance by the town guard posted at every entrance to the cosmopolitan centre of the Pontar Delta. “Freak!” they yelled. “Mutant!”
Upon gaining entry, I found that the discomfort I had beforehand detected was far worse than I may have imagined. Mass hysteria instigated by the Church of the Eternal Fire reigned supreme over the town’s inhabitants. Shadowy organisations had been trying to dislodge the detrimental vitality harbored by the cityfolk with a view to redirect it in the direction of a goal apart from Novigrad’s underground legal rings: non-humans.
Dwarves take pleasure in at the very least a level of equality when set alongside people in Novigrad, however elves are solely othered. Drunkards usually enterprise to the slums outdoors of the town’s battlements with a view to clip an elf’s ears, or harass an elven lady. These brutes function in accordance with a “strength in numbers” strategy, which could be immediately tied to the mob mentality perpetuated by the hysteria stirred by Novigrad’s spiritual spine. This form of racialized bodily mutilation is just not one thing that’s rooted in The Witcher’s fictional background, although.
Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” incorporates a character named Robert Cohn. Born Jewish, Cohn preempts the mob mentality innate to a predominantly Christian 1920s Princeton. In order to suit the homogeneous Princeton mildew, Cohn flattens his personal nostril, lest he be othered from the second he units foot on the college’s Ivy League grounds. This sentiment is mirrored within the phrases of Susan Beegel, who writes, “Hemingway never lets the reader forget that Cohn is a Jew, not an unattractive character who happens to be a Jew but a character who is unattractive because he is a Jew.”
Elven ears are an on the spot signal of an individual’s otherness in The Witcher; in The Sun Also Rises, Cohn purges his otherness with a view to premeditate a synthetic sameness. He could not have been burned on the stake like an elf in Novigrad, however he actually would have been met with prejudice and prejudice’s instantly subsequent motion: injustice.
The Church of the Eternal Fire poses because the legislative power in Novigrad, having a military of witch-hunters in its make use of with a view to implement its will as legislation. While the Church claims that its purpose is to focus on subversive exercise within the metropolis, with the elven Scoia’tael commando items being cited as its motive for particularly focusing on elves, its actual aim is to dismantle any political opposition with the ability of influencing the folks below its management.
The occasion in historical past to which The Witcher 3’s witch hunts allude to most ostensibly is maybe the Salem witch trials from the early 1690s. These trials concerned probably the most devastating instances of mob-induced mass hysteria the world has ever recognized and finally resulted within the deaths of many harmless individuals who had been othered as “witches”. Although the time period “witch hunt” seems in scripture from as early because the 15th Century, the Salem witch trials are sometimes considered the historic occasion from which the time period originated in in style political rhetoric.
It’s no surprise, then, that Arthur Miller’s 1953 play “The Crucible” is predicated on the occasions at Salem, going as far as to call its characters in accordance with these documented in historical past. Miller’s play, nevertheless, sought to make use of this 17th Century bloodbath as an allegory for McCarthyism in 1950s America. Senator James McCarthy constantly made baseless claims about sure folks being Communists in an emphatically anti-Communist America, in an try and defame folks he deemed to be in political opposition to him, or individuals who threatened his political place. Among these folks was Arthur Miller himself, which is the place The Crucible’s polemic drew its affect from. Fears of Satanism in Salem are in comparison with fears of Communism in America, which in flip could be in comparison with fears of elves influencing people to mistrust the militant rule of the Eternal Fire in Novigrad. The hierarchy of the Eternal Fire is not any completely different to the grossly misused energy of Salem’s zealot judges within the 17th Century.
This sentiment was echoed in Europe in addition to the USA. George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” is basically involved with the truth that Spain’s 1930s Civil War was instigated by a revolution betrayed. Orwell reported, “The Communist tactic of dealing with political opponents by trumped-up charges is nothing new… Rank-and-file Communists everywhere are led away on a senseless witch hunt.” This, after all, was on the opposite aspect of the McCarthyite polemic raging in America. In this case, it was the Communist physique in Spain that persecuted civilians below false pretenses with a view to additional its trigger and remove dissidents that sought to dismantle it.
All of this may be tied again to the Eternal Fire’s obsession with the Scoia’tael. The reality is that whether or not or not a civilian elf considered the Scoia’tael as freedom fighters or terrorists in their very own non-public sphere is unimportant; the chance that the Scoia’tael may hypothetically be perceived because the latter is sufficient to name for a witch hunt based mostly on that speculation. It is simple to name a non-human a Scoia’tael sympathiser in The Witcher as a result of there is no such thing as a manner of proving or disproving that declare, and since the Church of the Eternal Fire has the seat of energy on this scenario, the advantage of the doubt is awarded to the dearth of proof in assist of the previous declare.
The impact this has on a society consumed by ethical panic could be described by the opening traces of Radiohead’s aptly named “Burn The Witch”:
Stay within the shadows
Cheer on the gallows
This is a spherical up
This is a low flying panic assault
Those who chorus from performing in opposition to the witch hunts can achieve this from behind the safety of anonymity, solely exhibiting their faces when they’re within the place of energy that’s afforded to the spectator of an execution. The extra that is practised, the extra prone to hysteria the populace turns into; as Christopher Hitchens places it in Why Orwell Matters, “The word ‘brutalise’ is now employed quite wrongly to mean harsh or cruel treatment meted out by the strong to the weak… But in fact it means something subtler, namely the coarsening effect that this exercise of cruelty produces in the strong.” By making the people of Novigrad accomplices to the vehement witch hunts ordered by the Church, the very individuals who spectate the executions slowly develop into empowered by them. The extra they attend, the extra they condone the behaviour, till finally the witch hunt problematically turns into much less of a witch hunt and extra of a murder-order.
It’s important to level out that this challenge doesn’t solely reside in historical past and fiction. In components of Sub-Saharan Africa, rural India, Papua New Guinea, and Saudi Arabia, witch hunts are nonetheless commonplace, however not within the figurative political sense. A 2009 UNHCR Research Paper on Witchcraft in modern instances highlights that girls, kids, and marginalised social teams are usually tagged as witches and subsequently executed, often by beheading or burning on the stake.
This is often ordered by a outstanding social group that seeks prosperity; in Miller’s play, for example, some witches are labelled so because of the truth that the accuser needs their land. In the aforementioned areas in modern instances, the accusing group often holds a monopoly over a fictional useful resource resembling pre-Reformation indulgences within the Catholic Church. These witch hunts are usually not concerning the folks as people, however concerning the folks as pawns.
The Witcher 3’s witch hunts present what humanity has been able to and continues to be able to right now. Once an individual is deemed as different, recruiting a mob to punish that otherness is an sadly straightforward factor for a gaggle with authority to do. In some instances, the group is racist; in others, the group merely doesn’t see folks outdoors of it as something apart from livestock. Either manner, the Eternal Fire in The Witcher Three highlights the truth that people below institutional management could be herded into the fields of hysteria with a view to impose a tyrannical will designed to marginalize a gaggle and punish it for that marginalization. The Witcher 3’s elves are one among these teams, and the relentless brutality of Novigrad’s human populace highlights humanity’s innate gravitation in the direction of cruelty that has stained each web page of recorded human historical past thus far.