How video games like The Witcher are saving Slavic folklore
Video games like Thea: The Awakening and The Witcher 3 are using Slavic folktales to tell new and compelling stories
Folktales from the Slavic countries (primarily Central and Eastern Europe) form one of the richest and most diverse mythologies in the world. Traditional Western European fairy tales may have become watered down and sanitised over countless retellings and interpretations, but Slavic mythology still retains its bite.
If you caught the recent TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, you'll have some idea of how sharp this bite can be. The show, like the novel it's based on, prominently features the Slavic god of darkness, Czernobog, who lives with the Zorya sisters (representing the evening star, the morning star and the midnight star). The character is violent, funny and morally ambiguous; a long way from Disney's Sleeping Beauty.
But such appearances of Slavic folklore in popular media are rare. Unlike the Western fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, which have become subsumed into our consciousness through animation and film, you're unlikely to see Slavic spirits and monsters in a cartoon musical. The lack of written source material means there's also a distinct possibility we could lose this rich and diverse mythology.
But this rich folklore is finding a suitable home in the nascent medium of video games, an interactive artform that chimes with the ambiguous shades of Slavic storytelling.