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"The Golden Company" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season. It is narrated by Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont.

Synopsis

Jorah Mormont explains the history of the Golden Company - a band of mercenaries who have built their reputation on never having lost a battle.

Narration

Jorah Mormont: When I fled Westeros, I washed up where most disgraced knights do: the Golden Company. The best of the Eastern sellsword companies, for what that's worth. Twenty-thousand battle-hardened men, horses and even elephants ready to kill their employer's enemies, no matter the cause, no matter result.

The Golden Company began as revenge. On his deathbed, a Targaryen king legitimized all his bastards, either to buy his way into the seven heavens or spite the family left behind. As everyone knew would happen, his Great Bastards weren't satisfied with their father's name and wanted his throne as well, under the banner of the new House Blackfyre.

Their trueborn brothers disagreed. When the Blackfyres lost the civil war, they fled to Essos to gather a new army and return for what was theirs. But wars cost money and Aegor Rivers, the leader of the Blackfyre forces who now called himself "Bittersteel", decided he could sell his army's services to other lords while waiting to return to Westeros. The Golden Company was born. For their words they chose "Beneath the gold, the bitter steel" to remind themselves that they weren't just hired killers, but knights of Westeros who would one day retake their home.

They never tried, because they were too successful as sellswords. When Qohor declained to pay the new Golden Company for its services, Bittersteel dared what even the Dothraki failed to do and sacked the city. After filling the company's coffers, he declared that unlike all other sellswords, the Golden Company would never break a contract. So they haven't. But they also don't take contracts unless the odds are heavily in their favor. Cowardly, perhaps, but far from foolish. Quite a few wars have ended with one side learning the Golden Company agreed to fight on the other.

Though it's not just their reputation that scares off would-be enemies. For some, it only takes one look at the captain's war tents surrounded by the gilded skulls of former captains, many splintered with the wounds that killed them. Any sellswords who'd waste that much gold must have a lot of it, and nobody pays in defeat.

Could the Golden Company ever take Westeros? They get more practice fighting than the average knights and their elephants make a mess on a battlefield. But men who fight for gold will never fight as hard as men who fight for home. I should know; I've done one, now I do the other.

Notes

  • It is appropriate that Jorah Mormont narrates this video, as the TV series mentioned that he once served with them briefly. No mention was made of this in the novels, though it was generally said that in his exile he moved around the Free Cities for several years as a sellsword looking for work to survive.
  • This video features two new Heraldry designs from the books. Because he was a Targaryen bastard fathered on a woman of House Bracken, as his personal sigil Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers combined their heraldry designs to make a red stallion with black dragon wings, snorting flames (the stallion is the Bracken sigil, while he reversed the Targaryen colors from red to black because he was a bastard). The video also displays the heraldry of the Golden Company on their banners: very simply, just solid gold banners, with no other designs or devices. The video also prominently features, once again, the heraldry of House Blackfyre: the Targaryen sigil but with the colors reversed, a black dragon on a red field, to denote their founder's status as a legitimized bastard.
  • The video doesn't specify why the Golden Company displays the gilded skulls of its former commanders (usually on pikes around their command tent): they actually do this to preserve them, not just to show off their wealth. When Bittersteel was dying, he told his followers to dip his skull in gold to preserve it, so they could one day carry it before them when they returned to retake Westeros. Subsequent commanders then carried on the tradition.
  • The video explains that the "words" of the Golden Company are "Beneath the gold, the bitter steel!" - while not formal "House words" as such, organizations sometimes have their own mottos (i.e. the Iron Bank of Braavos). The Golden Company actually has two different sets of "words" (which is uncommon): their war cry is "Beneath the gold, the bitter steel!", but their official motto (on contracts, etc.) is "Our word is good as gold".
  • The video prominently repeats the statement made in Season 7 of the TV series that the Golden Company has 20,000 men (including foot-soldiers, bowmen, cavalry, and elephants). This contradicts the books, which state their number is 10,000 - and contradicts the live-action TV series itself, as when the Golden Company were first mentioned in Season 4, the accurate number 10,000 from the books was given. Apparently, the TV writers decided to combine this with a later plot point: when the Iron Bank of Braavos turns against Cersei and extends Stannis Baratheon a massive new loan (which doesn't happen in the TV series), he sends envoys to Braavos to hire a large new sellsword army of up to 20,000 men - and says he hopes they can hire the Golden Company and their 10,000 men, who could make up half of those 20,000 (though ultimately the Golden Company has other plans and is unavailable). Within "the TV continuity", it's unclear what exactly happened, but it might simply be a retcon disregarding prior statements in Season 4 itself (see the "Golden Company" article for more information). It's not impossible that with money from the Iron Bank the Golden Company could hire many new men in preparation for a major campaign.
  • The video says that the Blackfyre exiles who founded the Golden Company grew so successful as sellswords that they "never tried" to retake Westeros - which is in error, and even contradicts previous Histories & Lore videos. In fact, the Golden Company formed the core of Blackfyre attempts to retake Westeros during the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Blackfyre Rebellions (they skipped the "Second", which was more of a failed plot as a result, because Bittersteel had no faith in Daemon II - possibly because he was an effete and foppish homosexual of no particular skill). The Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion, also known as the War of the Ninepenny Kings, has even been mentioned in previous Histories & Lore videos - indeed, last season's "War of the Ninepenny Kings (Histories & Lore)" directly says that the war was fought by the Blackfyres, legitimized bastard sons of a Targaryen king, and their army of exiles and sellswords. The last "Conquest & Rebellion" video on "The Last Dragons", from this same Season 7 set, actually does specify by name that the Blackfyres tried to retake Westeros multiple times.
  • Jorah gives a line that "men who fight for gold don't fight as hard as those who fight for home", which has been given about other sellswords in general in the past - but which isn't entirely accurate for the Golden Company. Given that they are specifically an army of exiles from Westeros, when they come to Westeros in the fifth novel, it is specifically said that they are fighting for "home" (if they win they can finally stay), which is something gold can never give them.
  • The core of the Golden Company is composed of the grandsons and great-grandsons of men who fled east after the First Blackfyre Rebellion. Over the past 100 years since then, they've also been joined by various exiles from all over the world including Westeros, men who ended up on the losing side of one local war or another.

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