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"That's what we are: ghosts. Waiting for you in the dark. You can't see us, but we see you. No matter whose cloak you wear: Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, you prey on the weak, the Brotherhood Without Banners will hunt you down."
―Beric Dondarrion to Sandor Clegane[src]

The Brotherhood Without Banners is an outlaw group working against Lannister interests in the Riverlands at the time of the War of the Five Kings, though their goal is to protect the smallfolk from any force preying on them, regardless of which King or Lord they support.

The group was indirectly created by Eddard Stark, the Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon, when he sent out a force of knights and soldiers led by Beric Dondarrion to restore peace and justice in the Riverlands at the onset of the War of the Five Kings, bolstered by several of his own household guards from House Stark. Trapped behind enemy lines after the Battle at the Mummer's Ford, they became a guerrilla fighting group, and were joined by deserters from different armies in the war as well as commoners trying to defend their homes. The Brotherhood continues to fight to protect the commoners of the Riverlands and dispense justice on any who preys on the commonfolk.

Following the Red Wedding, the Brotherhood Without Banners is one of the few surviving groups who still actively resist Lannister rule of the Seven Kingdoms.

Near the waning days of the War of the Five Kings, the Brotherhood has suffered from outlaw members going rogue as several of their group had broken away to raid and murder civilians, such as Brother Ray's community. These rogues are executed by Beric and Thoros.

Continuing their mission in protecting the people of Westeros, the Brotherhood, most of whom worship the Lord of Light, has turned its attention from the warring high lords to the White Walkers and their army of the dead, marching north to help in the fight against them.

Known Members

Former Members

History

ThorosAnguyBwBs03e02

Thoros and Anguy (center) with the Brotherhood Without Banners

The Brotherhood Without Banners was formed in the aftermath of the Battle at the Mummer's Ford. Eddard Stark, the Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon, charged Lord Beric Dondarrion with bringing the King's Justice onto Ser Gregor Clegane after receiving reports from harassed smallfolk that the Mountain was terrorizing the Riverlands. This was being done clandestinely on the orders of his liege, Lord Tywin Lannister, whose son Tyrion had been arrested by Catelyn Stark, the daughter of Hoster Tully, lord of the Riverlands, and accused of attempting to murder her son Bran. The survivors were trapped behind enemy lines when Joffrey Baratheon ascended the Iron Throne with Tywin Lannister as the new Hand, but led by Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, they formed the Brotherhood to harass Lannister forces. Over time, they began to feel that none of the factions in the War of the Five Kings were looking out for the welfare of the commoners. Stark raiding parties would burn out farms in the Riverlands just to deny their resources to the Lannisters, and the Lannisters would do the same.

The Brotherhood therefore decided to fight for no "banner" of one king or another in the war, but to fight to defend the common people against raiding parties of soldiers who prey on the weak during the war. From the core group which was originally sent out by Eddard Stark - and contained some of his own household guards from Winterfell - the Brotherhood gained new members during the course of the war as it was joined by Stark deserters, Baratheon deserters, and simple commoners who wanted to defend their homes.

In short, the Brotherhood Without Banners are a rag-tag band of misfits who rob from the rich to give to the poor, making hit-and-run attacks then retreating back to the forests.

Season 2

At Harrenhal, the Lannister torturer known as the Tickler interrogates prisoners from a nearby village and demands to know where the Brotherhood is, what they are planning and which villagers are collaborating with them.[1]

After the poisoning of Ser Amory Lorch, Ser Gregor Clegane believes the Brotherhood Without Banners is responsible. Lord Tywin Lannister considers the name to be grandiose for a band of brigands and outlaws. Tywin is angered that the Brotherhood is operating behind the Lannister lines and harrying their forces with impunity.[2]

Season 3

Following their escape from Harrenhal, Arya, Hot Pie, and Gendry are ambushed by the Brotherhood as they attempt to make their way to Riverrun. The trio are questioned by Thoros, who mistakes them for war refugees, and invites them back to a nearby inn for food and drink. The Brotherhood also captures Sandor Clegane, who identifies Arya.[3]

The Brotherhood refuses to let Arya go, effectively making her their hostage. Meanwhile, Gendry chooses to join them.[4] After he is set free by the Brotherhood, Sandor abducts Arya.[5]

Season 6

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Morgan, Lem and Gatins visit Brother Ray's camp.

Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers report to their father that, besides the Riverlords that have risen against House Frey, the Brotherhood is rallying the commoners against them and is striking against their supply lines and camps in the Riverlands.[6]

Three riders scout out rebuilding smallfolk, among them, Sandor Clegane, the younger brother of Ser Gregor Clegane. The riders demand whatever supplies they can get, though the leader of the community, Ray, tells them that they have nothing to offer. The riders depart with an excerpt of a prayer to the Lord of Light, and the Hound realizes that they are from the Brotherhood. The community is later found dead to a man, and the Brotherhood is implied to be responsible.[7]

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Thoros and Beric ready to hang the former members of the Brotherhood right before the Hound arrives.

The Hound, angered that his peaceful community was slaughtered, resolves to find the men responsible. He encounters a small group of them, among them two of the assailants. He effortlessly kills them all using an axe, and tracks down the others in the group, which leads him to the Brotherhood leadership. Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr have already put nooses around the necks of the other men responsible for the attack, and allow the Hound to personally hang two of them. Beric and Thoros then try to recruit the Hound into their newest mission: traveling north to fight a great evil that threatens all of humanity regardless of which banner they fall behind.[8]

Season 7

The Brotherhood, with Sandor Clegane now part of the group, continues its march north under Lord Beric Dondarrion and the red priest Thoros. They arrive at a farm once owned by a farmer encountered by the Hound during his travels with Arya Stark. The Hound is reluctant to stay there, but the Brotherhood needs a place to stop, rest, and warm now that winter had come. While some of the Brotherhood looks around for any hidden grain or wealth and Thoros lights a fire by a nearby hearth, the Hound and Beric mourn the skeletons of the farmer and his daughter and wonder how they died. Beric postulates that they were starving, and rather than let his daughter starve to death, the father ended it quickly for the both of them.

The two sit down, and the Hound wonders aloud why the Lord of Light keeps letting Thoros bring Beric back from the dead and expresses his continued disbelief in R'hllor. Thoros summons the Hound to the fire he has lit and implores him to look into the flames, where the Hound witnesses a vision of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea along the Wall and a mountain shaped like an arrowhead. He sees the White Walkers and dead things marching on the Wall, which disturbs him.

Later, Thoros finds the Hound digging graves for the farmer and his daughter. He mourns their deaths, saying that they did not deserve to die. Thoros looks on, surprised by the Hound.[9]

About a mile south of the Wall, they are spotted and captured by a group of wildlings serving alongside the Night's Watch at Eastwatch. Shortly afterwards, King Jon Snow and his men arrive to travel beyond the wall to capture a wight as evidence for the queens in the south. After Jon states that they do not have enough men, Tormund Giantsbane leads them to the cells to meet with Beric, Thoros and the Hound, claiming they want to go north of the Wall too. Jon immediately recognizes the Hound after seeing him originally at Winterfell. Gendry advises not to trust them since they sold him to the Red Women to be murdered. Ser Jorah Mormount also recognizes Thoros after fighting alongside him during the Greyjoy Rebellion. Due to much tension in the room, Beric begins an impassioned speech that the Lord of Light brought them together, but Sandor cuts him off and asks Jon if they are coming with them. Jon agrees, claiming that they are all on the same side because they are "all breathing".

The Brotherhood, Jon, Jorah, Gendry, Tormund and a few other wildlings then pass through the gate and meet a giant snowstorm.[10]

Beyond the Wall, Thoros is badly injured during a battle with a wight snow bear, and later dies of his wounds. Beric grieves for his old friend, and burns his body with his flaming sword.[11]

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, a group of soldiers, knights, and armed peasants known as the Brotherhood Without Banners forms to help protect the smallfolk in the Riverlands from the depredations of the war and abuses of military forces, particularly the Lannisters but also Stark forces.

The known members of the Brotherhood are:

  • Lord Beric Dondarrion, "the lightning lord" the leader
  • Thoros of Myr,
  • Edric "Ned" Dayne, Lord of Starfall and House Dayne in Dorne, Beric's squire, nephew of Arthur Dayne, Ashara Dayne and Allyria Dayne, lord Beric's betrothed.
  • Lem "Lemoncloak"
  • Harwin, formerly a member of the household guard of Eddard Stark
  • Jack-Be-Lucky
  • Tom of Sevenstreams, also known as Tom O'Sevens or Tom Sevenstrings, a singer of dubious repute
  • The Mad Huntsman, who caught the Hound
  • Pello of Tyrosh, also known as "Greenbeard".
  • Anguy the Archer
  • Merrit O'Moontown
  • Watty the Miller
  • Swampy Meg
  • Jon O'Nutten
  • Melly
  • Puddingfoot
  • Dick, also known as "Beardless Dick"
  • Dennet
  • Luke, also known as "Likely Luke"
  • Mudge
  • Notch
  • {Kyle}, killed in a battle with the Brave Companions
  • {Alyn of Winterfell}

The core of the Brotherhood Without Banners are formed from the force of 100 soldiers that Eddard Stark himself sent out under the command of Ser Beric Dondarrion to bring Ser Gregor Clegane to justice when news came that Gregor was raiding villages in the Riverlands. In fact, it was Tywin Lannister's intention to goad Eddard into confronting him in order to use it as a pretext for war, and he knew Eddard's strong sense of justice would prevent him from letting Gregor's depredations of the smallfolk go unanswered. Thus the Lannisters anticipated this response and laid a trap for the men sent by Eddard at the Battle of Mummers Ford, in which most of the force was destroyed. The goal of the trap was actually to lure Eddard himself out of the safety of the capital city in order to capture him during the ambush, however, Tywin and Ser Gregor were not aware at the time that Jaime had badly injured Eddard's knee when he recklessly assaulted him in the street. Eddard was too badly injured to ride and lead the hunt for Ser Gregor in person, inadvertently thwarting the Lannister plan.

About a third of Dondarrion's force led by Thoros manage to cut their way out of the ambush, though Dondarrion himself was killed. His body was recovered, however, and when Thoros reflexively recited a prayer to the Lord of Light over his deceased friend, much to his surprise Dondarrion magically returned to life. The few survivors led by Dondarrion were cut off behind enemy lines, and decided to form the Brotherhood to continue to harass Gregor's forces, still following Eddard Stark's orders to make the Lannisters answer for their crimes. Eddard supplemented Ser Beric's expedition with members of his own personal guard, thus several members of the Brotherhood Without Banners are the last survivors of his household guard from Winterfell who accompanied him to King's Landing. One of them, Harwin, was even present when Eddard and his sons found the six direwolf pups in the first chapter of the first novel. They continue to fight in memory of Eddard Stark, but after seeing the suffering of the smallfolk as both Lannister and Stark forces burned out villages to deny them to the enemy, they began to fight for the ideal of protecting the smallfolk from both Lannister and Stark soldiers. It is stated that about one third of Dondarrion's original one hundred men died in the ambush at Mummer's ford, thus the original core group of the Brotherhood Without Banners consisted of about thirty to forty men (it is unclear how many were from Eddard Stark's personal guard), though this was later supplemented by smallfolk and deserters from different sides in the war.

By the second novel (the same timespan as Season 2 in the TV series), the Brotherhood Without Banners has become an irritant to the Lannister army at Harrenhal and Ser Gregor Clegane's men are trying to find the Brotherhood's leaders.

Many characters who later formed the Brotherhood were introduced at the Tourney of the Hand in the first novel. This tourney did occur in Season 1 of the TV series, but the characters were not introduced, because they would not really make a significant appearance until Season 3 - they are given cameos in the first novel but only reappear as "the Brotherhood" in the third novel (though as in Season 2 of the TV series, in the second novel characters do mention that something called "the Brotherhood" is harassing Lannister supply lines).

At the Tourney of the Hand, Anguy won the archery contest and Thoros of Myr won the melee contest. This is why they arrived in King's Landing, and were available when Ned Stark ordered Beric Dondarrion to lead out a group of able knights to bring Gregor Clegane to justice - the soldiers who formed the original core of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Thus the connection might be lost on the TV audience that one of the reasons the Brotherhood is such a disproportionately capable fighting force is because so many of its initial members were elite fighters who came to the capital city to participate in the Tourney of the Hand. For example it might a bit contrived in the TV series that, as if by pure chance, the Brotherhood's lead archer Anguy just happens to be preternaturally skilled with a bow. The books actually do explain that he is a professional archer so skilled that he actively competes in tournaments, and indeed recently won first place at a royal-level archery tournament. Moreover, he doesn't just happen to be wandering in the Riverlands, but the rational reason was given that he was in the capital for a major tournament, before being sent out with Dondarrion.

Following the massacre of the Stark army at the Red Wedding, the Brotherhood Without Banners is one of the few remaining pockets of resistance against Lannister control in the Riverlands. The one or two dozen original members of the Brotherhood who used to be part of Eddard Stark's personal guard (such as Harwin) are thus one of the only groups of Stark soldiers who managed to escape death or capture in the war. Even after the Red Wedding, they continue to fight the Lannisters in the name of King Robert and Lord Eddard.

Although the Brotherhood claims to protect the smallfolk, they sometimes rob the same people they are supposed to protect, as they did to the Old woman prisoner. She told bitterly that Beric "took two of my chickens and gave me a bit of paper with a mark on it. Can I eat a bit of raggy old paper, I ask you? Will it give me eggs?". The Brotherhood members that encountered Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie intended to treat them similarly: take their horses and pay with a paper. To justify their acts, they claim that they will pay after the war is over, and that they can make better use of those items than their previous owners by fighting for the good of the realm. Even if the Brotherhood intends to honor its obligations, it is not much of consolation to the poor people they rob.

Trivia

The "Brotherhood Without Banners" (or BWB) is also the name of George R.R. Martin's fanbase, particularly the part of which gathers around the Westeros.org forums. His fifth A Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Dance with Dragons, is dedicated to the Brotherhood Without Banners.

See also

References