To borrow from French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus, there is only one philosophical problem that matters and that is whether you should pick Triss Merigold or Yennefer of Vengerberg as your lover in The Witcher 3.
Though the 2015 open-world game has been out for six years, fans are still debating which of the two sorceresses is the better option. A common answer? Go for Triss Merigold. It’s a sensible choice given that we spend the earlier half of the game helping Triss rescue other mages and non-human races from the cult of Eternal Fire and the witch hunters who’ve tightened their grip over Novigrad.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Triss is a smoking hot redhead with a sweet, friendly personality that’s easier for players to interact with, especially for players familiar with the dating sim genre. So what does prickly Yennefer have going for her?
Who Is Yennefer From The Witcher 3?
The Witcher‘s Yennefer of Vengerberg is a difficult character to understand and sympathize with, especially if you know very little about her so let’s take a deeper look into this powerful sorceress.
According to Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the guy who wrote the books The Witcher video games are based on, he created Yennefer with the goal of making a female character who deliberately didn’t play into the typical romantic interest trope. In an interview, Sapkowksi reveals his motivations behind making a female character who was so “unpleasant:”
“That’s what makes the story interesting, don’t you think? Being a huge fantasy reader, sometimes I find boring or disgusting the stories where the hero can have sex with any woman because those women can’t wait to have sex with him. In those stories, women are the hero’s prize, the warrior’s reward, and as such, they have nothing to say, they can only moan and faint in the hero’s strong arms.” The writer explains, “I created a female character who refuses to be a fantasy stereotype. To please the reader.”
But that only tells us why Yennefer was made to be unpleasant, not why she’s like that in all of The Witcher-related media.
When we meet Yennefer in The Witcher 3, she’s roughly 100 years old and is jaded by the tragedies of her long life. She was born a hunchback and her looks often made her the target of her parents’ physical abuse. Yennefer would later join the Aretuza school where she underwent a transformation that turned her into the drop-dead gorgeous raven-haired lady we see in the game.
Though the magic changed her appearance, it never addressed her trauma. Tissaia de Vries, the rectoress at the Aretuza school, was the first person to show her any real kindness, and even then, it’s the kind of tough love that would leave many audiences with a bad taste in their mouth.
Tissaia tells her in Lady of the Lake, “Cry, girl. Pour it all out. Make it your last cry. Starting now you will never cry. There is nothing more pathetic than a sorceress in tears.”
The sympathetic angle that the books provide Yennefer makes it unsurprising that most players of The Witcher 3 that chose her did so because they’ve actually read the books. But it’s a bit much to expect players to consume a completely different form of media just to make sense of one game. The Witcher 3 should be able to do this on its own and, surprisingly enough, it does. It just takes a little more work to figure out the dynamics between Yennefer and Geralt.
Why Choose Yennefer for Your Witcher Instead of Triss
Using only evidence from the game, here’s the case for choosing the intentionally “unpleasant” Yennefer.
Look, Yennefer Is Practically Geralt’s Wife
The majority of witchers cite Yennefer’s meanness towards us as the reason why they didn’t pick her even if they hadn’t sealed their fate with Triss Merigold. But what looks like cruelty to some honestly just seems like an old couple squabbling.
During the events leading up to the Masquerade Ball outside of Novigrad, Triss sends us out to buy a doublet from Elihal’s shop to make sure we’d be presentable. Meanwhile, in “The King Is Dead“, Yennefer simply tells us that we’ll find appropriate clothes in a chest in her room. Let’s absorb that for a moment: Yennefer packed clothes for Geralt knowing he isn’t the most sensible person when it comes to dressing for the occasion.
Should the player choose to dress their Geralt in clothes other than what Yennefer brought for them, they get to watch an interesting conversation play out. On the surface, it looks like she’s just mocking him but the two of them share a dry, deadpan sense of humor that leads to lowkey intimate conversations like this.
When Geralt remarks that he doesn’t like funerals or feasts, Yennefer reveals just how well she knows him. It’s not the warm, flirty banter we typically get with Triss but years of knowing someone as well as you do yourself.
“I know. You also dislike underdone meat and being teleported. But sometimes we must overcome our disgusts and prevail.”
For all the talk there is about Yennefer being dismissive about how Geralt feels, their private moments show that she does know and care enough to acknowledge his feelings. But she doesn’t offer him generic assurances. Instead, she tells Geralt it’s just what they have to do as adults.
Talk about life partner goals.
Yennefer Is What Geralt Needs Right Now
Yennefer is done with everyone and everything. Geralt is done with everyone and everything. They’re old. They’re tired. And they just want to retire somewhere peaceful and quiet.
After the events of the main quest in The Witcher 3, Geralt gets an invitation from Duchess Anna Henrietta to solve a string of mysterious deaths in the area. Accepting the invitation leads us to Corvo Bianco which becomes our permanent home later in the game. Now, depending on which of the ladies you chose in the main storyline, you’ll either have Triss Merigold, Yennefer of Vengerberg, or Ciri show up on the couch located in the vineyard.
If you pick Triss, you’d obviously get Triss. Pick Yennefer and you get Yennefer. While it makes little gameplay difference in the Blood and Wine DLC, the conversations you have with the women play out in wildly different ways. It becomes painfully obvious that Triss is at a completely different point in her life and wants to make choices that aren’t in line with Geralt’s end goal of finally retiring in peace. She’s an ambitious young sorceress at the height of her career. What she wants is to go to Kovir and serve as a sorceress at the royal court there.
But if you have Yennefer show up, she makes it clear that she wants to stay in Corvo Bianco — with you. When Geralt asks her if she brought work with her, Yennefer tells him that all she brought were romance novels — something that rightfully leaves him stumped. Yennefer then explains that she finally has time to relax and not think of work but of the things and people she considers important in her life.
In her typical Yennefer fashion, she looks at us after saying that, never explicitly explaining that she means us.
Geralt does the same as well, asking Yennefer, “Before we fought the Hunt, you said you wanted to run away with me to the world’s end. This vineyard, is it good enough?”
Yennefer Shares Geralt’s #1 Priority
I’m talking about Ciri, of course.
The Witcher 3 makes it clear that the most important thing to Geralt is Ciri, his adopted daughter who he trained to become a witcher. After Ciri’s disappearance following the Battle of Sodden, Geralt spends years looking for her. Who else is as fixated on this goal as he is? Yennefer of all people.
The fact that Ciri is Yennefer’s number one priority becomes even clearer in the “Nameless” quest. It’s also the quest that makes a lot of players truly hate Yennefer because this is the one where she corrupts Freya’s Garden by reanimating Skjall’s corpse, forcing it to cough up information on Ciri.
This is because players find it distasteful that Yennefer puts the poor young man’s body through what is essentially magical torture. But Yennefer doesn’t care. In fact, her most brash actions in the Skellige storyline are all because she wants to find Ciri and ensure her safety.
When Geralt reminds her that necromancy is a forbidden art, she brushes it off, saying, “I’m not about to be bothered by such foolishness.”
Like Geralt, she’s willing to go through hell and back, and make other people experience the same, just to make sure her adopted daughter can come home safe.
Not buying Geralt and Yennefer’s parents-daughter relationship with Ciri? Just check out this cutscene where Geralt gives Ciri advice and a pep talk before she meets with the Lodge of Sorceresses alone. While Geralt sits back outside the room, saying they should let Ciri do big girl things to be taken seriously, Yennefer frets over Ciri like a mother hen. They even talk about the way they raised her.
Just like worried parents, they eavesdrop on the conversation, secretly cheering Ciri on.
So, if you haven’t played The Witcher 3 yet, remember to help keep this family unit together. If you haven’t and you voted for Team Triss, hopefully, this convinced you to give Geralt and Yennefer a shot.