In Kentaro Miura's beloved manga and anime series Berserk, the world is a dark place where tyrants, warlords and schemers are the power players, and the ambitious young Griffith is determined to best everyone at this dark game. Born into poverty with little to his name, Griffith eventually gained the tools needed to realize his ambitions. This includes mercenaries, soldiers for hire.
During Berserk's Golden Age story arc, the biggest and best mercenary gang in the entire Midland Kingdom is the Band of the Hawk. For years the Band's members were convinced their wise leader, Griffith, would give them purpose and a future on the battlefield. They were sadly wrong -- the Band was merely a means to an end from the very start.
The Rise & Fall Of The Band Of The Hawk
The Band of the Hawk's story is exciting enough, but looking back, Miura added plenty of clues in the original Berserk manga that they were really just a tool for Griffith to wield, and not a permanent part of the narrative. This became increasingly clear as the Golden Age arc progressed and Griffith's true nature emerged, but early on, the plot suggested that the Band of the Hawk would go the distance, and its members would realize their dreams.
Griffith launched the Band as a fairly typical but professional gang of mercenaries. Although it started off small, Griffith was aggressively ambitious about its growth, pushing himself and his followers hard to expand the Band's numbers and fighting strength. He also understood the logistical needs of such a group, and would sleep with older men who fancied him to gain their favor and resources. The strategy worked, and in this grim world, Griffith's ruthless ambitions and "victory at any cost" approach didn't seem unusual or worrisome at all.
By the time Guts the wanderer stumbled upon the Band of the Hawk and joined them at swordpoint, the Band boasted a large number of well-trained and loyal followers with a charismatic leader. However, after Griffith scored his major victory at the battle of Fort Doldrey, it became abruptly clear that the Band was just a means to an end, and would soon suffer greatly. Griffith was already moving on with his ambitions -- especially with the emotional pain of Guts leaving him -- so he recklessly betrayed the Midland King and got himself imprisoned. He and the Band of the Hawk were now enemies of the Tudor Kingdom, but the Band's misfortunes were only beginning.
Judeau, Pippin and the others finally realize they were always just pawns to Griffith, and their dreams were never a part of his plan. Despite their struggles to keep it together, the Band would dissolve. In hindsight, this is because Griffith's ambition was the only plot armor the Band had, and when he moved on, that single layer was removed.
The Band Of The Hawk: A Stepping Stone To Griffith's Kingdom
The Band of the Hawk was ultimately a tool for Griffith to use, and with the full extent of his ambitions laid bare, it was clear that no mercenary army would be enough for him. Being "mercenary leader of the year" was never his intention. Rather, Griffith viewed his tenure with them as a transition period, from an impoverished nobody to the ruler of his own kingdom and a historical figure of the ages. The Band of the Hawk was always intended to be a vehicle for Griffith's aggressive dreams of glory, but the other members were allowed to think they would become a permanent part of Griffith's domain. Some of them knew Griffith wanted a kingdom, but not necessarily at the expense of everyone else.
In a way, Griffith was like a snake shedding its skin when he betrayed the Band and sacrificed its members to become Femto of the God Hand. As of Berserk's Conviction arc, Griffith can't even be bothered to look back in nostalgia. The only constant in his quest for greatness is himself -- after all, mercenaries are just soldiers for hire, and are easily trained and replaced.
What Griffith did was cruel, but Berserk does acknowledge the true nature of mercenaries: disposable warriors fighting for someone else's cause. In the end, the Band of the Hawk's members were soldiers for hire not only for the king of Midland, but for Griffith himself. Griffith wasn't the boss -- he was the employer. And soon enough, the contract came to a bloody end.