Yesterday I managed to finish the 7 books series and i'm fascinated by last two entries and the ending. I cried like a river reading the ending. I couldn't fully explain what i've just read so i've started searching for clues. It quickly turned out that ending was straight out taken from celtic mythology, Arthurian myth. I've also done some rereads of important pieces in last two books to collect the pieces. I see there are different interpretation running around which kind of surprise me as, even though it's an open ending, there is little left for consideration if you carefully read the books and get to know arthurian myth.
First of all, I needed to get to the ending to fully appreciate the Sapkowski masterclass. I already catched some quotes, themes and nuances from other pieces of literatures but there are so many of them! I haven't catched the arthurian one (apart from Ciri world transfer at the beginning and the end, which was obvious), which basically all lady of the lake is based about. The story of Geralt and Yen is a classic mythological story of destined and forever love, that trancendes time and space (here, literally). Pieces from slavic mythology (monsters), nordic (Uroboros) and tones from celtic (Arthurian, elves language etc.). Aen Elle themes are straight out from Goethes "The Erkling" and Ciri's escape from wild hunt is just another King Lear reinterpretation. Close connection of elves to the nature, which sometimes get dangerous, dark and haunting resembles romanticism theme started in "The Erkling", on how realistic viewing blends with existence of supernatural or magical experiences or phenomena. This basically goes very smooth with the main theme of the saga: "History becomes legend, legend becomes a myth". It's a great study on that with particular examples before every chapter from Geralt's world history books. We also see few examples of stories told by characters in the books, as well all whole Nimue plot, which basically studies the myth and tries to "reengeniered" to actual history. We can see how particular piece of history changes over time, becoming something else, how people with power can influence this process.
There are also many quotes from famous polish poet Adam Mickiewicz and Sapkowski even have a special price for a person which finds them all! (nobody succedded yet :)). Sapkowski knowledge on literature and history is just astonishing and he earned my full respect.
I mention all of this, because it gives you better overview on the whole story, you can appreciate it more and it also helps a lot in understanding the ending.
So, lets start with getting to know what is actually happening in the book. The very important plot part to understand the ending is the Unicorn vs Aen Elle conflict.
This post describes it perfectly:
In the encounter with Unicorns it is clearly stated, that Ihuarraquax owes Ciri a favor and they want her to avoid being taken by Aen Elle, to live in the world outside of the Spiral where they can't find here (it's expanded later in the dream where she meets the Eredin and he tells that they will not stop hunting her and eventually she will come to world available from Spiral). She is a dangerous weapon that can be used by Aen Elle to conquer other worlds, and Unicorns main goal is to avoid that. Unicorn act as a almost deist gods, they not influence normal worlds activities unless some pose a big danger to the other ones.
So, lets get moving to the ending. Geralt is dying, presumably dead, maybe Yennefer too. They could be dead already. Ciri is thinking about her's lost magic capabilties and that only Ihuarraquax can help. He picks up that thought and shows up because he owned her a favor. Ihuarraquax starts channeling the energy to Geralt (was there Yennefer mentioned too?) through Ciri. Afterwards boat appears and they sail away into the myst just like King Arthur dead body trip to Avalon, where he's resurrected and healing his wounds.
So did Geralt died? He could die in the Aen Seidhe world, but he was resurrected by Ihuarraquax and surely he was alive in Avalon (he felt pain, physical feelings). For people in Aen Seidhe world he was dead (although his companions might suspect what just happened and that he lives somewhere else).
Yennefer could also be dead, but she could also just fainted.
They role in the world ended, arc completed, they were awarded with living the rest of their lives in Avalon. Their destiny was achieved, story of the destined lovers comes to an end. From now on they became a legend and a myth in Aen Seidhe world, which part of them we can see in fragments quoted at the beginning of each chapter. It's part of the study history->legend->myth.
Ciri understood that they can't be safe in this world, they need to get away from sorcerers, which will not stop hunting them to punish them for loosing Ciri. Thus help from Ihu to get them from this world to somewhere safe. She also doesn't want to stay in this world. Why would she? She wouldn't be safe here and the snake has eaten his tail, History repeats, confict will not cease, all the sacrifice almost for nothing…
Those who say they died and this was just an allegory of them moving to some sort of afterlife/heaven completely missed the point, ignoring channelling fragments and Geralt's words in Avalon. Yes, they might be dead for Aen Seidhe world, but they are for sure alive in Avalon. This part of the story was told by objective narrator, the whole boat thing really happened in Aen Seidhe world. It wasn't told by Ciri, which some of the people are claiming, because she told Galahad completely different ending (with wedding, which obviously wasn't true). Some people didn't understood the role of the quotes at the beginning of chapter and thought that Geralt died from heart attack. Obviously that wasn't true neither and was made up in Aen Seidhe world by historians later on which basically didn't know what happened to him. These were just examples of how stories can get changed in versions of same myth etc.
The big question i did not fully understood is why Ciri didn't followed them to Avalon? Few suggestions/possibilites from my side:
Ciri destiny is not fulfilled yet. She still needs to save the Aen Seidhe world from the Big Frost, so probably she need to have children or maybe she can open the gate by herself later on. And needs to be in specific world to do that. We know that many years need to pass on Aen Seidhe world for Great Frost, while she or her son or grandson will not live that long there. It might be that in Arthurian world time can pass much slower… Anyway, her job is not done yet, which might be the reason why she can't go to Avalon (where time might also run differently). She also needs to be in the world, where she will be safe and where Aen Elle can't reach (although i doubt the reason why she can't go to Avalon is because Aen Elle can reach it). She's crying, because she wanted so badly to be with her parents and ultimately she can't and we don't know if she will be able in future (but presumably yes!, she is the master of time and space ffs). She also left her friends in Aen Seidhe world and she will probably never see them again.
Avalon might be only the realm for those who died and then got resurrected to heal their wounds and go on with their lives. This would mean that both Geralt and Yennefer died that day in Aen Seidhe world. There is no word in the book if they were still breathing or not. Companions were moving "bodies", which might mean they were dead. If Geralt was resurrected he would start breathing, choking again on that street. But that didn't happened until they left this world… So Ciri possibly can't go there, because she stil haven't died and she still have her destiny to be fulfilled. Geralt and Yen ending match the Arthurian myth where dead body of Arthur was transported by boat to Avalon, where he got back to life and started healing his wounds. In some versions of the myth, King Arthur can go back to the previous world after healing, which opens an option for a writer to continue with a sequel, where Geralt and Yen could go to other worlds with help of Ihu or some kind of portal. Convenient isn't it? That's why i believe this should be regarded as the canon ending.
Although even Arthurian myths have many interpretations, so this ending also can be interpreted in many different ways just like all great literature. Lady of the Lake is just a big statement of Sapkowski to all the critics, that say that you can't create good literary fiction using fantasy elements. It just as good.
Overall ending is quite grim and bitter, but also there is some sweetness in it, a bright light of hope that carries people forward. It was beautiful and faithful to overall saga tone. It reminds be of LOTR one, well, basically they were inspired by the same source.
Hope to hear your thoughts on this. Also i have two questions:
-> Cahir and other characters motivation/decisions
I did not understood his motivation to follow Geralt. I believed he must be some kind of relative to Ciri, either from Emhyr side (i suspected Emhyr is Duny before reveal…). In the end i understood that he was just send by Emhyr with a mission to rescue Ciri from Cintra and bring back to Nilfgaard. So in the end it was just a fascination after the two meetings?? Doesn't look convincing. Basically all the side characters from Geralt party didn't have convincing motivations. I felt they weren't used in full, that Sapkowski didn't had an idea on how to use them. It was just cliche trope of a team gathering for a quest. Killing them one by one was just so lame. They were interesting characters but in the end you could just scratch them all, avoid with it mediocre Baptism of Fire (weakest in my opinion from the 7 books) and story wouldn't lost much of its quality.
I wasn't also convinced by sudden change of mind by Emhyr. So he basically schemed for years to get her daughter back, slaughter tones of people in wars for that purpose and in the end he just left her minutes after reaching his goal, because he started to feel for her after hearing her crying? And then took for same reasons the false Ciri? Ok, i understood, but it's not so convincing. Same with Geralt, having jokes about Toussaint princess and how she quickly changes her mind, and few pages after he in a seconds starts to defend dwarves even though he just told that evening many times he's will not go back to killing. It might be vodka i suppose… Other example: Yen and Geralt giving up so easily with Emhyr, having sex before suicide… (cringe…) Ciri giving up so easily to Emhyr knowing their parents will die after all of this and knowing her stubborn and daring character… So many strange decisions.
I would consider this the weakest point of this great piece of literature.
Anyway, would be thankful for any information about possible Cahir motives, as i'm having a feeling that I missed something.
-> Purpose of Geralt meeting with Avallac'h
I mean, what was it for? Geralt haven't influenced in any way Ciri's journey, which was ultimately Avallac'h goal. So why Avallac'h led Geralt to the cave and gave him information that helped him? I didn't understood why this happened, but i think i might missed some important info (like something would not happened in Ciri journey, if Geralt wouldn't do something before in other town). If anyone can enlighten me on this, i would be thankful.
Thanks for reading and hoping to hear your thoughts and opinions.
p.s. Please don't bring games into discussion. I finished only TW1 and don't want to be spoiled 🙂 Also can't wait for the series, already in love with Freya Allen (hopefully my fiancé won't read this:) )
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