Unearthing the Demon of Regret
The Bloody Baron quest line (from The Witcher 3) teaches us how to overcome our mistakes
Regret will always sneak back into our lives no matter how deep we dig its grave. Whether we do something terrible or fail to do the right thing, we cannot get rid of it by hoping it will go away. It won’t. Instead, it will fester until it rises up to suck our lifeforce and drain our potential. This explains why Bloody Baron (aka Philip Strenger) ends up alone and angry at the start of his quest line. Ignoring our regrets will create personal botchlings.
Botchlings (polish: poroniec) manifest from unwanted, stillborn children. In The Witcher 3, these demons would rise from their graves to feast on the blood of pregnant women. Their mothers failed to cultivate their potential, thus they feed off of the potential of others. As demons of regret, they will continue to haunt as long as we ignore them.
How our regret manifests
Regret results from two factors, action versus omission. We do something that contradicts our expectations, thus, failing to do the right thing. Therefore, we can think of regret as a rejected opportunity.
During my second semester of college, my friends convinced me to go out drinking on a school day. I had a feeling that I had some responsibility to uphold, but I could not figure it out. I decided to ignore the feeling and go out with my friends anyway. The next day appeared out of nowhere. I thought about chucking my phone at a wall to silence the alarm for good. However, as I grabbed my phone, I saw a reminder pop up that said “Psych Test”.
As you can imagine, I regretted going out with my friends that night. I rejected the opportunity of getting a good grade by choosing the action of drinking and omitting my responsibilities as a student. This rejection became a personal botchling. It drained me by creating stress and putting more weight on future assignments. But, I atoned for my failure and saved my grade by putting in additional effort.
Hiding our problems will only create more
If we do not atone for our failure, such as doing extra work to save our grades, they will only create more problems. The Bloody Baron buries his problems with alcohol and denial. Although this behavior alleviates his suffering, it also creates a positive feedback loop of self-destruction. He targets verbal abuse at his wife, Anna, which soon progresses into physical abuse. This violence results in the murder of his unborn, unwanted baby. Anna, afraid to face her own regret, hides the remains of this child in a shallow grave before running away. A botchling now festers below the surface.
When Geralt arrives, he begins to uncover these buried mistakes. The Baron resists this at first but realizes that he cannot find what matters to him (i.e. his wife and daughter) any other way. Geralt finds out about the Baron’s botchling, the spirit of his regret, which he can resolve in one of two ways. He can take the problem head-on by killing the botchling, or he can transform the demon into something positive.
How the terrible can become the benevolent
By choosing to bring the botchling to the center (e.g. the Baron’s hearth) and giving it a name, the demon becomes a lubberkin. Lubberkins protect and guide their family instead of sucking out their potential. You can think of the positive change we gain from regret as our own “lubberkins”. For example, facing my poor grade protected me from choosing alcohol over my responsibilities. In a similar way, the Baron’s lubberkin (now named “Dea”) protects him from burying his problems ever again.
We cannot resolve our issues by hiding them or running away. Doing so will only make them more malevolent. Instead, we must address it by giving it a name and bringing it to the center of attention. Although we cannot change the past, we can transform our failures from vile demons to protective, benevolent spirits.
If you would like to be notified of my new articles, enter your email here or follow me on Twitter @AboutThatYak. I would like to go more in-depth on the Bloody Baron quest and The Witcher in general, so let me know if you have any suggestions for future articles! Also, if you want to learn more on the topic of symbolism, check out Jonathan Pageau’s The Symbolic World on YouTube.