Band of the Red Hand

Band of the Red Hand

In the "The Wheel of Time" series of fantasy fiction books by the late Robert Jordan, the Band of the Red Hand is a military group named after a legendary band of heroes who died in the defense of Manetheren.


The story of Manetheren ("Mountain Home") is relayed by Moiraine in "The Eye of the World". During the Trolloc Wars, Manetheren's military fighting under the Red Eagle banner had become "the thorn in the Dark One's foot, the bramble to his hand," their forces confronting the Trollocs at every juncture, present at every battle (Manetheren herself came to be known as the "sword that cannot be broken.")

After victory in the Battle of Bekkar in the Borderlands (called the "Field of Blood"), they learnt that the Trollocs were moving on their homeland. The march home itself was noteworthy, setting off still covered in the blood, sweat and dust of battle with no hesitation, for they had seen what a Trolloc Army did to a place it took.Marching straight from the battle they arrived just in time to confront the Trolloc hordes. They were vastly outnumbered, but King Aemon had sent out messengers, and aid was promised within three days; reassured, the Band launched into the fray, facing odds that should overwhelm them in the first hour.

They held out for three days, then five, and finally ten days, until Aemon felt the bitter taste of betrayal. Help would never come---Aemon and Manetheren were betrayed. Retreating and burning the bridges across the river, they sent their people to flee from the Trollocs. Some did not: men and women with bows and pitchforks and axes joined the army, in a trickle, then a flood. They defended desperately, fighting literally for their lives, every inch of ground given was sold dearly with both Trolloc and Human lives, but gradually they were pushed back until they fell, defending Aemon to the last, until finally they were overwhelmed. The old stories tell that a spring rose where they fell at Emond's Field (Aemon's Field), where much later Matrim Cauthon is born.

Aemon's Queen Eldrene felt his death, and with the One Power obliterated the Trolloc army, but she drew too much of the One power and destroyed herself and the city in the process.

Contemporary Band

Evolution of the Army

The Band of the Red Hand is now reconstituted after the events in "The Fires of Heaven" when Matrim Cauthon, aided by the memories gifted him by the Eelfinn, takes command of some of the forces of Tear and Cairhien fighting the Shaido while trying to effect his own escape. He wins many skirmishes against the Aiel during this battle, in one even killing Couladin, earning the respect of the men and their generals, enough for them to name him their commander.

Known as "Shen an Calhar" in the Old Tongue, The Band's first members were from Tear and Cairhien, although their reputation has garnered significant numbers of recruits from Altara, Andor and Murandy. It is formed around military formations based on those used during the Trolloc Wars and Artur Hawkwing's time.


Due to events in "Knife of Dreams", the band is now in two sections. One part is with Mat moving northeast out of Altara; this group comprises three banners of horse (4500 cavalry) and four thousand mounted crossbowmen (horses for travel, fighting from foot). They lost four hundred crossbowmen and five hundred cavalry before their last battle in Altara, and recruited some Altarans (numbers unknown) who were fighting the Seanchan.

The other section, led by Estean and Daerid, comprises three banners of horse (again, 4500 cavalry), five banners of foot (15,000 infantry) and a Mason's Banner (an engineering corps, number unknown); it is moving north out of Murandy and into Andor.

The Band's ensign consists of a red-fringed white square with a large open red hand in the center. Beneath the hand, Mat's motto has been embroidered in red: "Dovie'andi se tovya sagain", or "It's time to toss the dice." Its unofficial anthem is "Dance with Jak o' the Shadows"---"Jak o' the Shadows" is a psyedonym for Death.

Redarms refer to members of the Band assigned to keeping the peace within the ranks, and they wear a red piece of cloth around their arm when it is their turn to perform their duties. Any damage caused by members of the Band while they are camped around population centers comes directly out of the Redarms' pay, giving them an extra incentive to make sure nobody gets too rowdy after a visit to the local tavern.

When in their battle gear, most everything they wear blends into their surroundings as Mat has had the soldiers of the Band paint their armor and helmets a dull green to fade into the background. Yet the army as a whole has adopted the style of wearing a length of red cloth on their arm.

Leadership & Organization

In "The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time", the Band of the Red Hand is described ("World", 232–233); its organization is said to mirror that of earlier ages, with Matrim “Mat” Cauthon identified as the patron and commander in chief.


Like the earlier Band, Mat's army is about half infantry and half cavalry (using lances, horsebows, etc.). He assigns roughly 1,500 men to a cavalry banner, while a banner of infantry consists of about 3,000 men. Contemporary armies typically divide the infantry, with about 80% pikemen and/or billmen, and the remaining 20% archers (bows, longbows, & crossbows). Mat differs from this tradition by significantly increasing the ratio of bowmen in his infantry. In "Knife", his bowmen comprise nearly half of his foot; he has said that he wants to return to the standard of the original Band when bowmen made up more than half of all the infantry ("World", 233), which was a necessity during The Trolloc Wars, where the Humans would frequently find themselves outnumbered, and would need to strike rapidly at the flanks of an army.

In "Knife of Dreams", the Band is nearly 30,000 strong.


* Captain General Matrim Cauthon: Often called simply “Lord Mat” by his men, in actuality he disdains titles and any pretense to nobility. Occasionally called “General” by others, he does not use the title to refer to himself. Technically he is a prince (thanks to his marriage to The Daughter of the Nine Moons), but this title has no bearing to his standing in the Band.

* Lieutenant-General Talmanes Delovinde: Talmanes, a Lord from Cairhien, originally commanded the First Banner of the original cavalry. In "Knife of Dreams", he leads the Altara contingent of three banners supplemented by a large group of crossbowmen.
* Lieutenant-General Estean: Battle-field/temporarily promoted to command the cavalry of the Murandy contingent, particularly three banners of horse.
* Banner-General Edorion: A Tairen Lord, leads a banner of horse in Altara under Talmanes.
* Banner-General Reimon: A Lord from Tear, leads a banner of horse also in Altara.
* Banner-General Carlomin: A Tairen Lord, leads a banner of horse in Altara.

* Lieutenant-General Daerid Ondin: A commoner, commands five banners of foot soldiers in the Murandy group. Mason’s banner also probably under his command.
* Banner-General Mandevwin: A Cairhienen, commands the crossbowmen temporarily attached to the Altaran cavalry contingent.

* Lord Nalesean Aldiaya: Originally commanded the Second Banner of the original cavalry, now deceased. Was part of the group trying to take The Bowl of the Winds out the Rahad, Ebou Dar, Altara and was one of the casualties of that fight.


The Band seems to have considerably more success than would be expected of any army; some of the reasons that lead to those victories are the following:


Mat has lamented that a true "ta'veren" would have men flock to his cause and enemies turn to allies; the irony is that is exactly what happens with Mat. During the Battle against the Shaido, The Band's Battles were ended either by a group of allied Aiel arriving to attack the Shaido, or being hit by lightning bolts Rand, Egwene and Aviendha were using. With little effort on his part, Talmanes has recently made antagonistic King Roedran a stanch ally. Although Tuon has not materially participated as an ally yet, the fact that she stood by while Mat destroyed her armies was incredible in itself. With virtually no recruiting, the Band has grown to more than five times its original size in the past few months.

"Battle Luck"

Mat is lucky, and as one of his commanders says he has battle luck, where a Company can find a chink in the enemies line, or catch the enemy unaware. Ever since his separation from the Shadar Logoth Blade, and then later his return from the Finns, his luck has increased and may well effect something as random as a battle can be.

"I remember times we were outnumbered, with enemies on every side, and he danced the Band around them. Not to slip away, mind, but to beat them. Beautiful battles. . . . You cannot deny there is battle luck, when you find a weakness in your enemy's lines that you never expected, that should not be there, when you find him arrayed to defend against attack from the north only you are coming from the south. Battle luck rides on your shoulder, my Lord. I have seen it" ("Knife", 595-6).

There is also some luck that when he was raiding his way out of Seanchan country, he was doing so almost concurrently with Rodel Itulrade, who was also spreading his troops out to raid over a vast area. It led the Seanchan to massively overestimate the numbers of men involved.


In "Knife of Dreams", when reunited with the Band Mat is informed of the new Crossbow Talmanes had acquired while journeying to meet him. Its a form of automatic crossbow, with the string being rewound simply by turning the crank 3 times. It has vastly improved reloading times, surprising enemies who expect a long reload time, and also causing the Seanchan to vastly overestimate his numbers. Talmanes brags that a good bowman can get off eight quarrels in a minute, meaning that they are now approaching the speed of bowmen with regular bows (who can get off up to 12 arrows per minute).


During the fight against the Shaido he frequently used deception to meet the enemy on ground he wished, or cause them to do something he wanted. In his battles against the Seanchan, he spread his forces out to raid as many places as he could, which along with the new crossbow and his fast movement of groups, caused them to vastly overestimate his numbers and pull back an entire army to face him; as it happens, that was exactly what he wanted them to do, and it allowed him to slip through the mountain pass and escape.

"Dragons & Eggs"

Named by Aludra (another unusual, unexpected ally) who has invented them, these are "The Wheel of Time" cannon and cannonball, introduced in "Knife of Dreams." Although not used in the books yet, prophecies and foreshadowing in the series indicate that Mat is crucial to their fabrication and deployment.

Already the precursor has been successfully implemented; slingmen are being used to throw Aludra's grenades---fireworks wrapped with rocks---at attacking armies.


A good proportion of The Band are seasoned soldiers, infantrymen and cavalry alike, all who have fought battles against different enemies. The Cairhienin especially have fought a large amount due to the Civil War there.

Since "The Fires of Heaven" they've fought different types of enemies, including Aiel and ordinary soldiers (The White Lions). Even more recently, in "Knife of Dreams" they've had experience fighting against the Seanchan and their conscripted allies.

They also have experience of fast marching, and the tactics Mat employs. They can also rely on the experience of their other generals in campaigning, all of whom have had experience in fighting, not just with the Band but more often than not in previous campaigns.

With more engagements (which come almost because of Mat's attempts to avoid them) than most fighting units, the Band has naturally become a better opponent. This becomes an ongoing, self-perpetuating cycle as more battles bring more success which then in turn makes them even better (and brings them many more recruits).


In the valley of Rhuidean Mat found a red stone doorway which brought him to the land of the Eelfinn, who resemble foxes. He was expecting to get answers, so when the Eelfinn offered him wishes instead, he rather squandered them: he wished to a) have the holes in his memories filled, b) be free from Aes Sedai channeling, and c) to be returned to Rhuidean. All this came true. Mat now has the memories of countless historical military leaders and is thus privy to over a thousand years of cultural and military knowledge.


In "Knife of Dreams", The Band has acquired its own mapmaker, Master Roidelle, who with his skilled assistants makes maps as they travel, and who also has a large collection of very good maps made by other master cartographers. One map has the positions of nearly every Seanchan position in Altara, gleaned from scouts and from information gathered when signing up Altaran Dragonsworn and bandits.


Ever since he took command in his first battles against the Shaido outside of Cairhien, the Band has believed in Mats' Luck, and trust in his luck to win battles for him. Mat has a few wild rumours surrounding him, but his men trust him and this gives them a great boost in morale.

Many of them believe their Luck is tied with Mat as well, so that when he was gone, a few of The Band deserted to the Aes Sedai forces, but the solid core remained, and when they rejoined Mat, the soldiers showed how much they believe in Mat.


While waiting near Cairhien after skirmishing with the White Lions, he asks for the poachers and horse thieves his generals had found in the army but been unable to find enough evidence to charge them. From the original members, he found more and more. He promised the scouts less work and more pay if they were willing to work as Scouts. The best scout is a horse thief named Vanin, widely acknowledged by even the scouts to be the best amongst them.


When moving towards Tear in accordance with the Grand Plan Mat, Rand and Bashere worked out, he forced the Band to march many more miles than any of them expected. They quickly proved they could manage the pace.

Utilising this speed he was able to later deploy his men to raid out of Altara, his troops spreading widely and raiding supply camps, men moving faster than any other army.

This is another factor that caused the Seanchan to overestimate his power, the speed of his armies, and the organization of raids and their power leading them to pull an entire army back to face him.


In "Knife" the Seanchan lament that they can never find Mat and his army; the rank and file are even calling his army ghosts. The speed with which the army moves and the intelligence its scouts gather aid Mat in remaining hidden from the Seanchan they are eluding, but they are also specifically aided by their ability to remain unseen. One of the main things they do is travel mostly at night and under cover as much as possible.

trategy & Tactics

Mat has hundreds of years of military experience in his mind, from both the winning and losing sides. He is able to interpret them and work out usable strategies.

He has moved more towards the formations and tactics used during the Trolloc Wars, when fast small armies could inflict fast damage and then melt away, the ratio of archers to pikemen being roughly 50:50.

He has shown a very good ability to think fast and work out tactics on the fly, utilising the strengths of his own forces and the weaknesses of others, as well as trying to minimise his own during fights.


Real World Comparisons

The name of the Band and its historical role is similar to the Red Branch Knights from the Irish Ulster Cycle.

The sigil of the Band may well be drawn from the Red Hand of Ulster. The Red Hand of Ulster were considered lucky and were led by the O'Neills. The O'Neills eventually fled ireland during the flight of the Earl, and became renowned throughout Europe as great soldiers and officers.

External links

*More on the Band of the Red Hand at [ WoT Compendium: Shen an Calhar - The Band of the Red Hand]

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