This series of essays was inspired while writing the Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things series. It was originally going to be a part of the outlaws essay I published, but it ended up being a very long tangent so I thought I would… ahem… break it off into its own essay… which then also became too long and is now its own mini-series. Hopefully, this means the essays will be of a reasonable length for a change, but no promises.
So, while I was writing the essay into the outlaws and broken men, we found that the outlaws, deserters and broken men archetype was primarily a part of the Last Hero motif, in line with the other broken symbolism we’ve covered so far. However, there were one group of outlaws and deserters that I couldn’t place:
These were not the outlaws who had killed Ser Cleos, Jaime realized suddenly. The scum of the earth surrounded them: swarthy Dornishmen and blond Lyseni, Dothraki with bells in their braids, hairy Ibbenese, coal-black Summer Islanders in feathered cloaks. He knew them. The Brave Companions. (ASOS, Jaime III)
“The sellswords deserted their erstwhile captain almost to a man, and some of Lady Whent’s old people opened a postern gate. Clegane found Hoat sitting alone in the Hall of a Hundred Hearths, half-mad with pain and fever from a wound that festered.” (ASOS, Jaime VII)
The bird had come last night, from a septry on an island hard by the mouth of the Trident. The nearby town of Saltpans had been savagely raided by a band of outlaws, and some of the survivors claimed a roaring brute in a hound’s head helm was amongst the raiders. (AFFC, Cersei III)
For anyone who needs a bit of a recap about the myriad terrible actions of the Brave Companions, they were a sellsword company from Essos who go by a ton of names, most commonly, the Bloody Mummers. They were originally hired by Tywin Lannister to bring death and destruction to the enemies of House Lannister but, when the Lannisters looked like they were losing the war, the Brave Companions defected to the Boltons. This left them thoroughly screwed when Roose Bolton hooked up with Tywin Lannister so Vargo Hoat, the leader of the Brave Companions, had the galaxy brain idea of chopping off Jaime’s hand to try to drive a wedge between Tywin and Roose. This didn’t work. Instead, it just pissed off Tywin, making him mad enough to send Gregor Clegane to Harrenhal to deal with Hoat and the rest of the Brave Companions. The majority of the Brave Companions ran away, leaving Vargo Hoat to the mercy of Gregor Clegane and wreaking a lot of havoc across the Riverlands in their attempt to escape.
With all that in mind, the Brave Companions categorically do not symbolise the Last Hero, as far as I can tell. They appear to be around for the sole purpose of destroying life in the Riverlands in the most brutal way possible, which seems to be a very Other-like thing to do. Moreover, as we touched on in the past couple of essays, the Bloody Mummers appear to have some quite Other-y symbolism.
And yet, they are called outlaws.
So, in this series, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the various exploits of some of the most heinous characters in A Song of Ice and Fire to explore their symbolism and see if we can’t learn something new about the Others in the process.