The Witcher and the Tower of Mice


It’s been a while since I played The Witcher 3 for PC, and I imagine it’ll be some time before I’m able to go back to it. Was a beautiful game, though, and a lot of fun.

Since I was recently talking about inspiration Sapkowski may have drawn from Michael Moorcock’ Elric stories, it’s good timing, then, for me to also mention some inspiration I’ve noticed CD Projekt Red to have drawn from Polish/German legend in its Witcher 3.

Some mornings or evenings lately, when I have a few idle minutes, I page through a WW2-era book of Polish legends in my possession. One of the stories it contains is that of the evil ruler Popiel.

As is typical of legend and myth, the details of the story vary somewhat with the source, but the book tells of an evil Polish king with a beautiful, but wicked, German wife. Notably, this version of the story goes to great pains to underscore both her wickedness and her Germanness.

The king and his wife treat their subjects terribly and are noted to be sexually depraved.

Eventually, the king’s uncles decide to revolt. Afraid of being deposed, Popiel’s wife goes Lady MacBeth (though her husband takes little convincing), and the two craft and execute a plot to do aware with the uppity uncles. They swear reform, feign contriteness, and invite all the uncles and their men to a great feast. Here they poison their kin.

The common folk, when they learn of this, are driven finally to their own rebellion. Popiel and his wife flee to a tower, and legend here says that a multitude of mice appeared out of a nearby lake. The vermin swept down upon the castle and devoured the evil pair alive, leaving the bodies of the slain uncles alone.

There’s also a German legend about a similarly evil ruler who committed atrocities and ultimately fled to a tower where he was eaten alive by mice.

These towers are both known as The Tower of Mice.

The Witcher 3 takes the bones of these legends and sets up its own story in one particular quest. There’s no evil ruler, but instead an evil mage who experimented on rats and humans. Eventually a mob of angry peasants stormed his tower to slaughter him. And then a bunch of rats came and ate everyone, I think. It’s been a while. Anyway, there’s magic and ghosts and rats.

Legend and folk tale are ripe for the recycling, and that’s one thing I have enjoyed about the Witcher books and games – the use of many traditions that haven’t gotten much play in major contemporary works.



  1. Just as an fyi, if you’re writing your post and then holding off on publishing, it posts them according to the time you ended, not the time you updated it for. The last several of your posts I’ve only found because I was going back through my feed and noticed a post from you had magically appeared…

  2. So, what exactly is your publishing routine? I’m guessing you save a draft and then update the time before hitting publish? If so, that is what is going wrong as far as the feed is concerned.

    • Yeah, usually I’ve got a draft going, then when it’s done I set the time, click “OK,” and then I hit the “schedule” button. And it goes live when I’ve scheduled it for. I’m not sure what’s going on with the reader scheduling. =/

        • Sorry for the trouble and thanks for letting me know it’s going on. I’ll also be mindful in case I am messing it up somehow.

          • Something odd is going on. I just went to your post on your site (not the feed) and none of the comments were showing up.
            It shows 9 comments on your front page but when you click the actual post, there are none.

            Sorry to be a nuisance, but I figure you’d want to know these various things (as I know I would).

  3. Ok, it is definitely something between the site and wordpress. All of the comments now show up but I’m not being notified of your new ones. Maybe jetpack is acting up. Well, your newest post showed up just fine, so who knows.

Leave a Reply