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The Brackens or the Blackwoods

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Brackens or Blackwoods

Who were the first?

There has been a lot of dispute and arguments over whether the Blackwoods or the Brackens were the original lords of their area. My take on it is that the Blackwoods were most likely the first out of the two to settle there.
A lot of this has been gone over before, so some of these concepts will be taken from posts I've made on other threads.

So, countless times throughout the series, and even from novellas such as The Tales of Dunk and Egg, and The World of Ice and Fire we hear about their famed rivalry.

Let's start from the beginning:

Blackwood: Origins

From A World of Ice and Fire we know the Blackwoods are an ancient house of the blood of First Men. Additionally, we know they came from the North.
Blackwood Coat of Arms

...And mayhaps even the Blackwoods of Raventree, whose own family traditions insist they once ruled most of the wolfswood before being driven from their lands by the Kings of Winter (certain runic records support this claim, if Maester Barnebys translations can be trusted)

-The World of Ice and Fire, The Riverlands

From this passage, we can see how early on in the Dawn Age this must have happened. First of all, notice how the word runic is used to tell of the evidence supporting this. This tells us that the exile happened before the Andals brought over their forms of writing.

A Dance with Dragons has given us what we know of Raventree Hall.

Raventree Hall was old. Moss grew thick between its ancient stones, spiderwebbing up its walls like the veins in a crone's legs. Two huge towers flanked the castle's main gate, and smaller ones defended every angle of its walls. All were square. Drum towers and half -moons held up better against catapults, since thrown stones were more apt to deflect off a curved wall, but Raventree predated that particular bit of builder's wisdom.

-A Dance with Dragons, Jaime I

The above passage tells us a great deal about the Blackwoods' ancient castle. The descriptions of Raventree Hall's towers tells us how the design is absolutely ancient, having been there before the Andals came with their greater knowledge of architecture and design.

The final part that helps us know how long the Blackwoods have been in the riverlands is in the castle's godswood, a heart tree so ancient its story named the castle itself.

Inside the castle walls, however, a bit of the forest still remained. House Blackwood kept the old gods, and worshiped as the First Men had in the days before the Andals came to Westeros. Some of the trees in their godswood were said to be as old as Raventree's square towers, especially the ancient heart tree, a weirwood of colossal size who's upper branches could be seen from leagues away, like bony fingers scratching at the sky. [...] It was a weirwood ancient and colossal, ten times the size of the one in the Stone Garden at Casterly Rock. This tree was bare and dead though.
"The Brackens poisoned it," said his host. "For a thousand years it has not shown a leaf. In another thousand it will have turned to stone, the maesters say. Weirwoods never rot."
"And the ravens?" asked Jaime. Where are they?"
"They come at dusk and roost all night. Hundreds of them. They have been coming for thousands of years. How or why, no man can say, yet the tree draws then every night." Blackwood settled in a high backed chair. "For honors sake I must ask about my liege lord."

-A Dance with Dragons, Jaime I

An originally Northern house, whose godswood has a heart tree so large it's ten times the size of the heart tree in Casterly Rock, a castle of one of the seven great houses. Not including that it has been dead for nigh on a thousand years.

Bracken: Origins

The Brackens are also an old house, with the blood of the first men in its veins. There is not much known about where they came from, or whether they are native to the Riverlands, however, there is some speculation that they as well come from the North.

The northern origins theory:

The theory that they are originally northerners starts that the Brackens are known horse breeders. This is supported by their sigil, a red stallion upon a gold shield, all on a brown field. Bracken Coat of Arms

The Ryswells, a northern house that is also known for horse breeding are the current lords of the Rills. Their sigil depicts a horses head, with fiery eyes and mane, over a bronze ridged pattern all on a black background. Ryswell Coat of Arms

According to this theory, the Brackens were originally the exiled Ryders, who were put down by the Kings of Winter. Not much is known of what happened to them, as the Ryswells rule the Rills.

Amongst the houses reduced from royals to vassals we can count the Flints of Breakstone Hill, the Slates of Blackpool, the Umbers of Last Hearth, the Lockes of Oldcastle, the Glovers of Deepwood Motte, the Fishers of the Stony Shore, the Ryders of the Rills...and mayhaps even the Blackwoods of Raventree, [...]

-The World of Ice and Fire, The North

The Ryders then headed southward to the northern tip of the Red Fork and occupied lands given to them by the Blackwoods in return to swearing fealty and paying dues to the Lords of Raventree Hall. They also adopted the name Bracken from the brackish water that streamed there. Eventually, however, they sought to be kings in their own right, just as they had been before, and refused, using their superior cavalry and wealth gained from selling their bred horses to gain independence from their sworn king.

While this theory is intriguing, some of it is a bit far fetched, and there is a greater chance the Brackens were just a minor house with a knack for horse breeding.


My conclusion is the Blackwoods arrived in the area first, and that when the Brackens arrived, they were allowed to settle and given lands for their horse breeding. The Brackens agreed and took the lands, submitting to the Blackwoods. However, they wanted rule over themselves, and not have to pay the taxes that were due, so they rose up and rebelled, with their horses providing an advantage enough to surmount the Blackwoods.

Additional sources relating to their history:
Red Fork
House Bracken Stone Hedge
House Blackwood Raventree Hall
House Ryder House Ryswell The Rills
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Blackwoods, on the basis that the older house will prove the more noble, reflected in both the Old Gods (more like the Starks) over the 7, and the Bloodraven/Bittersteel dynamic. The Blackwoods protect the realm, the Brackens attempt to overthrow it; makes them sound like natural usurpers.

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Blackwoods. Find it interesting that they're one of the only houses who have intermarried with both the Starks and the Targaryens. Would love to know more about them.

That's true. I've always wondered which side did the Blackwoods fought on during Robert's Rebellion? We know at least from Catelyn that the Brackens must of sided with the rebels because she doesn't put them on the list of houses who stayed loyal to the Targs when apprehending Tyrion and even states "My father counts Jonos Bracken among his oldest and most loyal bannermen". We don't really have that much information in regards to which minor houses fought on which side of the rebellion but I'm quite certain that just like the Blackfyre Rebellion, the Blackwoods fought for the royalists while the Brackens sided with the rebels. Of course this is just my theory but based on the history of conflicts between these two houses it could of happened that way.


Of course if the Blackwoods did fight for the Targs then more power to them because if a Targ takes back the Iron Throne then they may get raised to LP of the Riverlands in place of the Tullys and not to mention get back all the lands the Brackens took from them (something which was brokered by Jaime Lannister).

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Whether it was in Aegon IV time or now, the Brackens are antipathetic. While the Blackwoods have higher morale and are keeping the Old Gods in honor. And are still recognized by the Old Gods (the raven visiting their tree?). Maybe this is a trap, but I blindly vote for the Blackwoods.


Do they have a nice bride for Jon? :wub:

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think the Blackwoods had a different name (or no name) when they ruled much of the wolfswood. Warg King of Sea Dragon Point is a good bet to be the ancestor of the Blackwoods in the North. A daughter or a son of the WArg King might have escaped the defeat.


Or the extinct House Greenwood might have changed their color in the south.

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I'm going to say Brackens just because, as others have said, we are clearly SUPPOSED to favor their rivals


This. I can't believe how one sided the Bracken-Blackwood feud has been written. It makes me favor the Brackens just because someone has to.

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