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During the 2nd chapter of Baptism Of Fire, Geralt and Dandelion come across a group of traders trying to sell Cahir to the Nilfgaardian army, who are introduced as "havekars", basically war profiteers selling weapons to the Scoia'tael.

But while the term "havekar" is explained to be, within the story, a sloppy transliteration of a (supposedly fictional) elven word, the text seems to suggest that it has, or at least points to, a real meaning in human language, too:

Money ruled the world, and demand created supply. The Scoia'tael roaming the woods piled up huge loot, for which they had no use, though. But they lacked in gear and weapons. This way a flying trade arose in the woods. And a kind of humans who catered to that trade. On the forest paths, glades and aisles quietly and secretly the carts of the speculators appeared, who did business with the squirrels. The elves called them hav'caaren, an untranslatable word, but in which ringed predatory greed. Among the humans the term "havekar" vernacularized, and that reminded of an even more detestable word. For it were detestable people. Cruel and ruthless they didn't shy away from anything, not even murder. A havekar caught by the army couldn't count on mercy. The same as he himself didn't use to be merciful. If he encountered someone who could reveal him to the soldiers, he reached for crossbow or knife without hesitation.

But it's unclear to me what "even more detestable word" Sapkowski is alluding to here (which might extratextually have in turn inspired the elven word). This is made especially difficult since I didn't read the Polish original but its German translation (and thus the above excerpt has actually been translated into English by me from Erik Simon's official German translation). So it might very well be that the allusion got itself lost in translation and refers to a Polish word that doesn't actually fit to "havekar" in German. Alternatively, "havekar" might itself have been translated from Polish in order to make sense in the translation, a sense I'm nevertheless still missing.

So what real word is he hinting at here that the ostensible transliteration "havekar" is supposed to remind us of? Does this only make sense in Polish? Or does it maybe not even make sense in the original and is itself an empty allusion for the sheer sake of worldbuilding through incomplete knowledge?

  • No, to my best knowledge, it doesn't have any special meaning in Polish – Yasskier Jul 30 at 22:30
  • But does it refer to another word? – Cahir says Reinstate Monica Jul 30 at 22:30
  • No, it doesn't - even the combination of letters ("hav") is not really valid in Polish which doesn't have the letter "v" and relatively few words starting with "h". It rather looks more like it has a Czech/Slovak origin. – Yasskier Jul 30 at 22:38
  • Actually, after digging a bit in Czech/English dictionary: There are words "havran", "havrani" which describe carrion-eating birds from the Corvidae family (rook and crow respectively), so maybe that is the origin, but it's quite far-fetched. This would mean that "havekar" is someone willing to live of the "carrion" - as in "taking profit from some sort of disgusting work" – Yasskier Jul 30 at 22:42
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    @Yasskier, Cahir: did you check how the word is spelled in the original Polish version? While Polish doesn't use the letter "v", it does have the letter "w" which is pronounced like the English "v". – Rand al'Thor Jul 30 at 23:57
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Warning: a speculative answer!

"Havekar" doesn't relate to any Polish word

For start, there is no letter "v" in the Polish alphabet and "h" is relatively rarely used as a first letter. However, this does look slightly similar to the Czech language, where (after digging a bit in the dictionary) I've found a few similarly sounding words:

  • havran : rook
  • havranovitý, havraní - corvine
  • havěť - vermin

For example: "Vrány a jiní havranovití, krkavci, havrani a podobní jsou neuvěřitelně chytří ptáci" means "crows and other corvidae, ravens, rooks and so forth, are incredibly smart birds."

If we accept that chain of thought, it could mean that "Havekars" are like birds from the Corvidae family - smart, but quite happy to feed on carrion. This suggests that Havekars are willing to use unsavoury ways to earn their living - live from other's death and misery, so they feed on carrion. Or we can go with the "havěť" word, which means something small and disgusting (vermin or bug), which brings similar meaning as described above.

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