The short answer is – it depends. There are reasonable arguments on both sides, and no clearly "right" choice. As we‘ll explore in this in-depth guide, freeing the spirit saves some lives but destroys others, while killing it prevents some deaths but allows innocents to die. Ultimately, you‘ll need to weigh up the complex moral implications and decide which outcome sits best with Geralt‘s (and your own) conscience.
Understanding the dilemma
In the "Ladies of the Wood" questline in Witcher 3‘s Velen region, Geralt encounters a tree spirit named Whispering Hillock, trapped underground and calling for freedom. She claims the witches in the nearby bog, known as Crones, unjustly trapped her long ago.
The spirit pleads with Geralt to release her, saying she can then save some orphaned children from being killed by the evil Crones. At face value, this seems like the right thing to do – saving innocent lives. But we soon learn there will be devastating consequences regardless of Geralt‘s choice.
If he frees Whispering Hillock, she does rescue the orphans but then massacre the entire nearby village of Downwarren in a frenzied rage. However, if Geralt refuses and kills her, the orphans will die regardless while the village survives – both choices result in casualties.
So should you prioritize the lives of the orphans over the villagers? Or prevent the slaughter of innocents, even if it means sacrificing the children? It‘s an ethical quandary with no perfect solution, so let‘s break down the key considerations.
Saving the orphans
Choosing to release Whispering Hillock and save the orphans is morally justifiable for several reasons:
The orphans are utterly innocent in this situation, while the adults in Downwarren have made a bargain with the devilish Crones.
As a heroic Witcher, it makes sense for Geralt to save children from evil, even if there will be a tragic cost.
The spirit claims she was wrongfully trapped in the tree, so freeing her can be seen as righting a past wrong.
The rampage that follows is not guaranteed – perhaps the spirit could be calmed after being freed.
So from an ethical perspective focused purely on protecting the innocent, freeing Whispering Hillock is arguably the choice aligned with Geralt‘s character. The needs of the orphans could be viewed as outweighing those of the Downwarren villagers.
However, it is still an immense moral dilemma – can anything justify the spirit subsequently massacring an entire village of men, women and children?
Preventing the massacre
Alternatively, Geralt could make the case that his duty is to prevent the slaughter of innocents at Downwarren, even if it means the orphans‘ death. Reasons to kill Whispering Hillock and save the village include:
Downwarren is not clearly deserving of destruction – many villagers are innocent.
The spirit has been imprisoned for over a century, likely twisting it into something malevolent.
Geralt‘s role as a monster hunter means stopping magical creatures from harming humans.
The needs of the many villagers could outweigh the needs of the few orphans.
This perspective argues Geralt should not unleash a raging spirit, regardless of its claims about injustice done to it. A Witcher must sometimes sacrifice the few to save the many.
But again, it means willingly allowing the death of children at the hands of the evil Crones. There are credible ethical arguments on both sides – it is a choice between two terrible outcomes.
The roleplaying perspective
Looking at it from a roleplaying angle, both choices can make sense for Geralt‘s character:
A noble hero may free the spirit to selflessly protect the innocent orphans, accepting the tragic consequences.
A pragmatic Witcher may kill the spirit to prevent the clear threat it poses to human lives.
Interestingly, canonicaly in the Witcher books, Geralt has a complex morality. He tries to remain detached from human affairs, but often reluctantly ends up defending innocents when no other option remains.
So in this scenario, perhaps he would try to find an alternative solution, but ultimately kill the threat posed by the spirit to prevent the massacre of many. But another interpretation could have him rescue the orphans, driven by his underlying nobility.
Neither feels entirely out of character – it‘s an impossible dilemma. So ultimately the choice comes down to the player‘s personal morality and priorities for their version of Geralt.
If I had to suggest what to do here, I lean towards killing the spirit to prevent the slaughter of innocents at Downwarren village. Some key reasons:
The village includes children and civilians – destroying it feels disproportionate and extreme.
The spirit‘s century underground has likely warped it – freeing it may have unintended consequences.
Finding non-lethal solutions is often best – but the spirit seems resolute on destruction.
As a Witcher, Geralt‘s duty may be to limit casualties and neutralize threats.
Of course, it could be argued that Geralt should always stand up for the most vulnerable. But wholesale slaughter of an entire village feels unjustifiable to me. I would opt to stop the greater loss of innocent life by killing Whispering Hillock, even at terrible cost.
But whether you agree or feel differently, there are good-faith arguments on both sides. It‘s an ethical grey area – and that moral complexity is part of what makes The Witcher 3 such a compelling RPG.
Other approaches and outcomes
A few other approaches worth considering:
Find an alternative solution – You could try speaking to the villagers or Crones to negotiate a compromise that spares both groups. But the stakes seem intractable.
Kill the Crones instead – Eliminating them could save both the orphans and village. But the Ladies are powerful, and consequences unpredictable.
Do nothing – Always an option, though one that sits least easily with Geralt‘s character.
There are also key variables that affect outcomes, like:
If Anna lives, the Baron survives. If she dies, he may commit suicide.
When exactly you free the spirit also changes outcomes for Anna and Downwarren.
Some rare loot can only be collected from Whispering Hillock‘s tree before the spirit dies.
So small decisions can significantly impact the fates of various characters and locations. Saving key NPCs like Anna and the Baron requires careful timing.
The Whispering Hillock choice exemplifies the moral complexity woven into The Witcher 3‘s quests. There are viable ethics-based arguments for both freeing the spirit or killing it. Save some innocents, but not others.
Personally, I suggest killing the spirit to prevent the rampage at Downwarren. But reasonable people can disagree – it‘s about where you draw the line as Geralt. What matters is giving the decision real thought, as you would a real ethical dilemma. There are no perfect solutions, only the least terrible ones.