The Witcher EP Explains How The Law Of Surprise Works


The first season of The Witcher was highly popular among viewers, but was also a little confusing for some due to the non-linear timeline of events and what exactly the Law of Surprise is.

The terms of the nebulous form of payment were briefly touched upon, but for anyone unfamiliar with the books upon which the series was based or the popular video games, they might have been too vague to completely follow. Addressing this, the Law’s obligation and fulfillment have now been explained by the series showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich on a behind the scenes podcast, this latest installment of which focuses on Ciri.

“If you save someone’s life, that person is then indebted to you. If they do not have the money to pay you at the time, they can offer you something called the Law of Surprise instead. And basically, the Law of Surprise means that you will get the first thing that they find at their homes that they didn’t know existed. So it’s got a lot of parameters in it. Let’s say two people meet. One of them saves the other’s life. The one whose life was saved is indebted, goes home and finds that in his absence a new calf has been born to their cow. Or suddenly, there’s a new crop of grain they weren’t expecting. Then all that grain is going to be packaged up and given to that other person, or the calf will be given to the person who saved their life.”

She then goes on to explain how the Law was specifically applied to Ciri, saying:

“What we see happen most often, and when the Law of Surprise really becomes interesting, is when a character goes home and finds that they have a child that they didn’t know they had. In this case, that their wife is pregnant and gives birth shortly after they get home.”

In episode 4, “Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials,” Geralt invokes the Law of Surprise when he saves cursed knight Duny’s life after Queen Calanthe orders the latter’s death so that her daughter Pavetta can keep to the political marriage she had arranged. As Duny did not know Pavetta was pregnant with his child, but discovers it moments later, the unborn baby fulfills the criteria of the Law, allowing Geralt to lay claim to her. Although, when Geralt returns many years later, he’s refused, and it isn’t until a chance meeting at the end of the season finale that his and Ciri’s paths finally cross, the latest in a series of events that shape the princess as a child of destiny, and thus a candidate to become a Witcher herself.