The Nature of Sacrifice

“They are my valuable comrades, devoting themselves to the dream I envision.” Griffith, Vol. 6 Ch. 6

Griffith never took anything that wasn’t his. He had never lied about his intentions, or the lengths to which he would go to see them done. His wo/men admired him for that. All the Hawks swore to die for his dream. Was his dream selfish? Maybe. That didn’t make it wrong, and it didn’t make him evil to ask of his troops that which they would freely give him: their loyalty, their lives. Sure, they expected the sacrifice would take place on the battlefield, but it would still be a sacrifice. There’s no fundamental difference between sacrifice on the battlefield and sacrifice to demons... if both further Griffith’s dream, heh. “I will decide the place where you die.” Of course, Griffith would never have sacrificed his men before the prison incident – he had far too much confidence in himself for that! But with everything else taken away from him, they were his last trump card, and he was willing to use it. This raises the question of whether he cared about his soldiers at all, or merely saw them as stepping stones on his path to glory.

“I simply have no emotional interest in you at all. Resentment, endearment, nothing. I just took the liberty of using you when the opportunity appeared. You were like a stone lying by the side of the path I walk. That, and nothing more.” Griffith, Vol. 8 Ch. 2

These were Griffith’s words to the Baron who he sold himself to when he was younger – right before he killed him. Were those words meant purely for the Baron, or could they apply just as easily to any member of the Hawks? Frankly, at the point they were spoken, it was hard to tell, but let’s take this one step at a time. No matter what Griffith told himself or others, the night he spent with the Baron did traumatize him. How much he repressed that pain by the time these words were spoken is anyone’s guess. The reason he gave himself to the Baron at all was because he wanted to lower the death toll of his troops, inspired by his sympathy for a little boy that died under his command. This could be interpreted in either a purely caring or a purely rational way, but that boy’s appearance in Griffith’s guilty conscience showed it was at least both. The stone metaphor was later used by Guts to describe his leaving as “like stumbling on a rock on the roadside” Surely we could all agree that it rocked Griffith’s world more than a little rock. The only question that remains is... How much did he care?

“As a sacrificial offering for the Invocation of Doom, not just any lump of flesh will do. It must be someone important to you, part of your soul... Someone so close to you that it's almost like giving up a part of you.” Slan, Vol. 3 Ch. 2

Ironically, it is the fact that the Hawks qualified as sacrifices that proves how much he loved them. You NEED people you care about for the ritual to work! There is no way around this! In the past, people have sacrificed their parents and their children... all who fit the Behelit's requirement of "own flesh and blood." Perhaps blood ties are designed to work by default, yet what Griffith sacrificed was much more significant: emotional ties that matched, if not surpassed, the strength of blood ties.

DISCLAIMER: Berserk and all the characters, story, and art therein is copyright Kentaro Miura. No copyright infringement is intended, and I hope that this essay inspires more people to read/watch Berserk! Translation in the text is by Dark Horse, translation in the images is by The Band of the Hawk, unless otherwise specified.