Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Anarchist Finds A Duck Hat

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It’s been a hot minute since The Witcher’s second season hit Netflix, and much like with the first season, it’s Yennefer of Vengerbeg’s story that has stuck with me the most. Thus, I’ve decided some character analysis is in order, and what better way to do it than to use The Fandomentals’ very own character archetype astrological chart. As per the rules, characters can have a primary archetype and secondary traits from others. Yennefer’s dominating archetype is The Anarchist: the wild card that looks out for themselves and detests corrupt systems. 

Yennefer, The Anarchist

Yennefer is independent, powerful, and deadly when provoked. Her backstory reveals a lot of where her primary trait came from. She’s had her decisions taken from her from a young age by the world’s systems and the people who control them. Her parents kept her on a tight leash, then sold her to Aretuza. There, Tissaia prevented her from taking her own life, leaving her little choice but to stay and learn to control her Chaos and become a mage.

As she grows older, her power grows, as does her ambition. Along the way, she decides she’ll never again be ridiculed or puppeteered again. So, when Aretuza tries to take away the opportunity she wants at Aedirn after graduation, she undergoes a transformation and manipulates her way into the Aedirn court. 

Here’s where we start to see the trend of her Anarchist characteristics start to show — Yennefer looks out for herself first. Her hatred of corrupt systems also starts to take shape. After all, they were going to deny her Aedirn due to nepotism. 

Aedirn doesn’t turn out to be what she wanted, and after years of a job she hates, she leaves. Yennefer feels an emptiness inside her, one that was already beginning to take shape in Aretuza, a void she’s trying to fill.

Yennefer’s Search for Meaning

After leaving Aedirn, she becomes a free agent, and starts gaining a reputation in the Continent. She’s lived to regret that her transformation left her barren, and she’s decided a child would make her feel whole and give her life meaning. Yennefer is relentless in her pursuit, so much so that she perhaps misses a chance for happiness with Geralt. 

Despite Geralt’s protestations, I don’t believe she would have been happy with him. At least, not at the point when they found each other. Although her determination for a child might be baffling for many — Geralt included — Yen’s emptiness is undeniable, and Geralt simply doesn’t make the cut to fill it. Besides, he’s avoiding his own destiny, and is as unwhole as Yen.

After her last ditch attempt at regaining her womb, she discovers that Geralt, much like many in her life, took her choice away with a wish. Yennefer is left adrift, which leads her to go along with Aretuza’s plan to defend the Continent from Niflgaard’s invasion at Sodden. At this point, she’s an Anarchist without a purpose, finding herself a little hopeless. This provides her with some clarity, and she finds herself caring for other people and the cause she’s agreed to fight for. 

Her motivation for people and a lack of purpose for herself leads her on a course of self-destruction. She’s willing to die and get everything over with, but she’s not going without a bang. Beating almost insurmountable odds, Yennefer basically wins the battle by herself, burning out her Chaos in the process. 

Yennefer tries to do magic after the Battle of Sodden.

While it would be easy to confuse Yennefer’s actions in Sodden as an evolution away from her Anarchist persona, I wouldn’t be so sure. I can’t imagine Yennefer not walking away if someone came to her and offered her womb back in exchange for leaving. Since this all may sound like my reading is unfavorable to Yen, let me clarify: I’d completely back Yennefer if she turned her back on Aretuza and the Continent altogether. This world is thankless, and it hasn’t been exactly the kindest to her. Plus, she’s my (adoptive, fictional) child, leave her alone.

Cutting Ties with Aretuza… for good?

Cut to season two, and Yennefer is a prisoner; first Fringilla’s, then the Elves’. When they unexpectedly ally, they free her. Yennefer returns to Aretuza only to find that fellow mage Vilgefortz has taken credit for her victory. On top of that, she’s made a prisoner for being part elf. The only way to redeem herself in the other mages’ eyes is to kill Cahir. All this serves to remind Yennefer why she left Aretuza and Aedirn in the first place. Remember, the Anarchist abhors systems, especially corrupt ones. 

Even though killing Cahir would save her life, it would tie her to Aretuza, to its bigotry and corruption. She spares Cahir’s life, not because she cares about him or his cause, but because she wants to save herself, and more importantly, regain her independence from Aretuza. 

Now both fugitives, Yen and Cahir try to find passage to Cintra. The mysterious Sandpiper who can help them turns out to be none other than Jaskier. After everything she’s been through, Yen is glad to see a familiar face. 

Death with a Duck Hat
Yennefer and Jaskier.
I lived for their newfound friendship in season two.

Yennefer and Jaskier part on good terms when he gets them safe passage, but Jaskier gets taken soon after. Now, the Anarchist would run in this situation; after all, what does she gain by saving Jaskier? And yet… Yennefer’s defining trait is the Anarchist, but it’s not her only trait. 

Yennefer isn’t completely amoral or selfish. She cares when those she perceives as innocent are harmed, such as the baby princess of Aedirn. Still, it’s a surprise (to us and her) when she decides to forgo her safe passage and risk it all to save Jaskier, of all people. This decision reveals her secondary trait: Death with a Duck Hat.

As you might have read in our astrology chart, Death is the final-boss level big bad. Sometimes, Death has a positive encounter with someone, and it sparks character development. I’m not implying that Yennefer is a villain, but she does have final boss energy. She can be terrifying and ruthless when she wants to be. When she isn’t, it’s usually because she either sees someone vulnerable— a baby or a young elf being eaten by a monster, for example— or because one of the privileged few she cares about is involved. 

Yes, she’s claimed to hate Jaskier in the past, but I don’t believe for a second that she ever has. If she did, she would have killed or maimed Jaskier long ago and told Geralt he moved to a farm upstate, or something. When she finds Jaskier in Oxenfurt, she’s more vulnerable than usual, and she finally lowers her walls with him. 

Unlike Cahir, she cares about Jaskier. While sparing Cahir’s life is the Anarchist in her shining through, she puts aside the impulse to save herself in favor of saving Jaskier — a Duck, if you will. 

Chaos Divides The Anarchist from the Duck Hat 

No good deed goes unpunished, because immediately after she saves Jaskier, she gets handed over to the authorities, and the Deathless Mother (season two’s villain) successfully tempts her into seeing her. She tells Yen that she needs to take Ciri to Cintra in order to get her power back. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong. This will cause Yennefer her biggest inner conflict to date. When she talks to the Deathless Mother, she doesn’t know Ciri, and certainly isn’t aware that she’s Geralt’s Child Surprise. Kidnapping a stranger surely doesn’t sound too bad, but then she reunites with Geralt, who she’s also happy to see. Then, she meets Ciri, and their connection is instant. 

Although Yennefer lies and lets her Anarchist take over, if you ask me, indecision is roiling inside her from early on. Geralt is certainly one of her Ducks, and taking his kid away wouldn’t do wonders for their already frail relationship. Also, there’s the small detail that Ciri is Yennefer’s destiny. And yet, she can’t help herself. She feels lost without her Chaos, and the Anarchist is running the show. 

Turns out, Yennefer is the only one who can get through to Ciri and help her use her Chaos. After getting trapped in a room with her, it’s Yen who guides Ciri through making a portal. Geralt asks her not to go, and Yennefer replies that she can’t. Despite her connection with Ciri, she still can’t stop herself from looking out for herself. Problem is, Ciri grows on her with every step they take. When she teaches Ciri how to make a bridge, it’s the most at ease we’ve seen Yen, probably ever. She belongs here, by destiny. She doesn’t know it yet, but this is the child she’s been searching for. 

Yennefer cradles Ciri's face.
A baby.
Yennefer smiles down at Ciri.
Wait, it’s two babies.

In a way, Ciri being Yen’s destiny just as much as Geralt’s is vindication for her. However, it’s ironic that it’s her Anarchist dominating trait that almost prevents her from fulfilling the purpose she’s so yearned for. Even her primary personality trait can’t win against destiny, though, and Death with a Duck Hat ultimately wins when it comes to Ciri. When they’re at Cintra’s door, Yennefer realizes she simply can’t do this, and in a very un-Yen-like move confesses and apologizes. 

Ciri and Geralt are understandably furious; she’s lost their trust. Still, Death with a Duck Hat takes over Yennefer for the rest of the season. In the final episodes, she’s the most selfless she’s ever been. She joins the fight against the Deathless Mother and lays down her life for Ciri, even though she and Geralt hate her right now. Of course, it’s her sacrifice that ultimately gets her power back, solidifying the notion that she’s found her destiny. 

Yennefer, Ciri, and Geralt in the season two finale.

Geralt begrudgingly lets her stay because she’s the only one who can teach Ciri how to control her Chaos. Yennefer ends season two with a rock-solid determination to protect Ciri at all costs, and over everything, including herself. This puts her in direct opposition to her previous MO, because she can’t be the true Anarchist if there’s something or someone she’s not willing to sacrifice to save herself. 

Will she shed her Anarchist persona in favor of Death with a Duck Hat? I can’t see her going back after she’s made the ultimate sacrifice, and especially after having found the purpose she’s been looking for for so long. My suspicion is Yen will keep her Anarchist trait, but instead transfer the shield she made around herself and wrap it around Ciri. Her Anarchist trait will simply apply to Ciri first from here on out. Yennefer will be willing to sacrifice anything to protect Ciri now. This may not make complete sense, but I can’t find a better way to put it: she’s now an Anarchist with a Duck Hat!

Images Courtesy of Netflix

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