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Are we suppose to like the Blackwoods and dislike the Brackens ?


Vaegon the dragonless
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It seems to me that the story is heavely on the side of the Blackwoods for no good reason. I understand that for meany people house Blackwood is one of they're favourite house, it is also one of mine, but I just think that they're rivals are quite lacking. It seems that the main thing of the Brackens is being the nemesis of the Blackwoods.

The Blackwoods are very unique and cool, they are the only major house that we know of that practise the old gods religion south of the Neck, they're sigil is pretty unique, they have that massive dead Weirwood, wich to my knowledge migth be one the biggest Weirwood in the series and they're totem animal is also unique. Adding to that they seem to have a strong connection with ancient magic, one of they're members being the three eyed raven and all. All around the Blackwoods are very unique and memorable.

In opposition the Brackens are very normal, they dont seem to have anything that is really they're thing. They're sigil is similar to the Ryswells, just like the fact that horse breeding is important to them. They have the same gods as everyone around them, no special connection with anything other than the Gold Compagny and even that one is not does not seem that deep. Outside of they're rivalry they seem to just lack flavour.

So I dont know if Im missing something about the Brackens or if this is on purpose but I find it sad that it is quite hard not to favour one house over the other in this rivalry.

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I think GRRM purposely appeals to the human instinct to find "good guys" and "bad guys" in a story and then subverts our expectations by showing us that good and bad are relative terms or may differ depending on one's vantage point or prejudices. 

Readers are led to reach a conclusion about Jaime, for instance - what kind of guy would push  a child out of a window and/or murder a king? - but later find out that Jaime is a more complex, nuanced person who has just motives in stopping the violence of King Aerys and who may evolve as a compassionate being.

You have hit on another example of this, I think. GRRM seems to be encouraging us to admire Bloodraven (even though he is ruthless in some of his actions) and Melissa Blackwood. He seems to be steering us toward disapproval of Barbra Bracken and her son, Bittersteel. If you sit back and think about it, though, Bittersteel may be perceived as "bad" simply because his faction lost during the Blackfyre rebellions. We are told that the Bracken mistresses of Aegon IV fell out of favor but, honestly, who would want to be a favorite of Aegon IV? He was disgusting. 

A Jaime POV tells us that he secretly admires the Blackwoods over the Brackens for their loyalty to Robb Stark, even though the Lannisters wanted to defeat House Stark and Tywin (we believe) was active in turning Stark supporters into secret allies of Houses Lannister / Bolton / Frey. 

Why would the author steer us this way? I think he may be setting us up for a surprise and we will see a Bracken do something noble or admirable in the upcoming books. 

Some clues about potential upcoming Blackwood / Bracken revelations are the two hostages Jaime has taken after his "justice" tour of the Riverlands. A young man from the Blackwoods and a young woman from the Brackens. Will there be a betrothal and wedding/bedding?

I suspect plot resolutions in ASOIAF may involve reconciliation or rebalancing of a lot of "opposites" that GRRM has woven into the plot: winter / summer, bitter / sweet, fire / ice, death / birth, smiler / slayer, shaggy / sharp, water / wine, etc. We can look to history for other examples of balance and imbalance: the two wives of Aegon the Conqueror may represent a necessary balance that was lost when one wife disappeared. 

Edited by Seams
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4 hours ago, Vaegon the dragonless said:

It seems to me that the story is heavely on the side of the Blackwoods for no good reason. I understand that for meany people house Blackwood is one of they're favourite house, it is also one of mine, but I just think that they're rivals are quite lacking. It seems that the main thing of the Brackens is being the nemesis of the Blackwoods.

The Blackwoods are very unique and cool, they are the only major house that we know of that practise the old gods religion south of the Neck, they're sigil is pretty unique, they have that massive dead Weirwood, wich to my knowledge migth be one the biggest Weirwood in the series and they're totem animal is also unique. Adding to that they seem to have a strong connection with ancient magic, one of they're members being the three eyed raven and all. All around the Blackwoods are very unique and memorable.

In opposition the Brackens are very normal, they dont seem to have anything that is really they're thing. They're sigil is similar to the Ryswells, just like the fact that horse breeding is important to them. They have the same gods as everyone around them, no special connection with anything other than the Gold Compagny and even that one is not does not seem that deep. Outside of they're rivalry they seem to just lack flavour.

So I dont know if Im missing something about the Brackens or if this is on purpose but I find it sad that it is quite hard not to favour one house over the other in this rivalry.

We are supposed to heed Syrio's lesson about the sealord's cat. Ignore what people say, words are wind. Look with your eyes, hear with your ears, etc. Find the truth from the facts, not the talk.

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5 hours ago, Seams said:

I think GRRM purposely appeals to the human instinct to find "good guys" and "bad guys" in a story and then subverts our expectations by showing us that good and bad are relative terms or may differ depending on one's vantage point or prejudices. 

Well said.

I'm always surprised by how people treat the various houses like baseball teams and pick sides. Even minor houses! Now, I admit, I am a Dayne-phile, but not to the point where if we found out they were eating children  or kicking puppies that I would try to justify it. 

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6 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

We are supposed to heed Syrio's lesson about the sealord's cat. Ignore what people say, words are wind. Look with your eyes, hear with your ears, etc. Find the truth from the facts, not the talk.

Oh for sure but funnely enougth it seems to me that the only time the conflict seems to be presented has non-biased is by Lucas Blackwood when he talks with Jaime, but the supposed facts of history seem to point to the Blackwoods being in the rigth.

1 hour ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

I hate the Blackwoods specifically because of how biased the story is towards them :dunno:

I can get that, personnaly I quite like both house so I find it frustrating that outside of Bittersteel the Brackens seem to have nothing to them.

 

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7 hours ago, Seams said:

I think GRRM purposely appeals to the human instinct to find "good guys" and "bad guys" in a story and then subverts our expectations by showing us that good and bad are relative terms or may differ depending on one's vantage point or prejudices. 

That might be his general idea, but I don't think this works in the case of Blackwood/Bracken. We're never given a reason to sympathise with the Brackens, the three we know of (Barba, Bittersteel and Jonos) aren't very likable. Unlike most Blackwoods.

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I don't know man! Gylidane and Yandel certainly seem to favor Blackwoods over Brackens in their history books .

but if we look at the facts, Brackens are actually not the bad guys . Braba and her sister were AegonIV's mistresses and both of them paid for it . their dad is said to have been ambition after Aegon had already been sleeping with Barba but if he really wanted Queen Naerys out of Barba's way , we would have at least heard about rumors of assignation attempts while all we get is more equivalent of "heir for a day" comment.  then we have Bittersteel who is described as bitter which is completely understandable when you think about how he and his mother's family's been treated and he backs Daemon Blackfyre and was close to him who , rebellion arguments aside, seem to have been a decent guy.  so , I wouldn't be surprised if house Bracken turn out to be the "good guys" or as close as it can get in the main story . I personally like the theory that Brackens and Blackwoods are now working together with BwB against the Lannisters :)  

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16 hours ago, Vaegon the dragonless said:

It seems to me that the story is heavely on the side of the Blackwoods for no good reason. I understand that for meany people house Blackwood is one of they're favourite house, it is also one of mine, but I just think that they're rivals are quite lacking. It seems that the main thing of the Brackens is being the nemesis of the Blackwoods.

The Blackwoods are very unique and cool, they are the only major house that we know of that practise the old gods religion south of the Neck, they're sigil is pretty unique, they have that massive dead Weirwood, wich to my knowledge migth be one the biggest Weirwood in the series and they're totem animal is also unique. Adding to that they seem to have a strong connection with ancient magic, one of they're members being the three eyed raven and all. All around the Blackwoods are very unique and memorable.

In opposition the Brackens are very normal, they dont seem to have anything that is really they're thing. They're sigil is similar to the Ryswells, just like the fact that horse breeding is important to them. They have the same gods as everyone around them, no special connection with anything other than the Gold Compagny and even that one is not does not seem that deep. Outside of they're rivalry they seem to just lack flavour.

So I dont know if Im missing something about the Brackens or if this is on purpose but I find it sad that it is quite hard not to favour one house over the other in this rivalry.

We are to judge the individual instead of the family. 

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6 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

We are to judge the individual instead of the family. 

Sure but when it seem all the individuals in the family are in some way or in another portrayed as bad it is hard to not see the family as bad or not. Same thing can happen with the Bolton, the only historical Bolton that seemed somewhat normal is Barba

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There's a pattern that is being repeated with every armed conflict involving the Riverlands: the Blackwoods take the side the reader is expected to favor, and they have the more likeable leader. Meanwhile the Brackens go for the morally questionable choice, and they are punished for their choice.

  • In the Ironborn conquest of the Riverlands, the Brackens betrayed their neighbors and sided with the invaders. Ages Blackwood is brave and defiant even after defeat, and Lord Bracken ended his days on a crow cage.
  • In the Dance of Dragons, Black Aly and Bloody Ben show unwavering loyalty to the black cause, and make countless prowess in spite of their youth. The Brakens join the greens, they are defeated in battle, and Stone Hedge is taken.
  • In the Blackfyre Rebellion, the Brackens are join rebels against a likeable king. Their side, again, loses. Bittersteel is humorless, irritable, resentful. Bloodraven is smart and charming.
  • In the War of the Five Kings, the Brackens abandon the Northern cause and side with the treasonous Lannisters. In the Jaime chapter, Tytos is clearly shown to be a much better lord and parent than Jonos Bracken. And then  not only the Brackens recieve a much meager reward than they had expected, but they are forced to surrender a daughter as a hostage to the Iron Throne.

It seems clear to me that the author has a clear favoritism in the Blackwood-Bracken feud. :P

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1 hour ago, Aejohn the Conqueroo said:

do you think we're being set up for something? I can't help but suspect the setup

I think it's a green vs. black set-up, or a Dark Sister vs. Blackfyre set-up. We know that Bloodraven and Bittersteel were rivals and enemies, and that they were on opposite sides of the Blackfyre rebellions. 

The symbolism of roots is strong with both houses, in my humble opinion. Bloodraven has roots growing through his face when Bran meets him. When Jaime is sent to the Riverlands after the Red Wedding, he walks in on Jonos Bracken having sex with Hildy, who may represent the personification of Missy / Barbra's Teats as well as Pennytree, and who has a strong association with roots as turnips.

We also know that the Blackwoods accuse the Brackens of killing their weirwood tree with poison.

Bloodraven's cave seems like an entrance to the Underworld, and I suspect Pennytree is also such an entrance. (In Celtic lore, there could be more than one Underworld or Otherworld.) So it's possible that the Blackwoods and Brackens are competing to control the entrance to the Otherworld at Pennytree. 

Of course, in ASOIAF, ancient disputes like these are all reduced to a question of who is the rightful king. Since kings are not immortal, the question is posed anew after some years or generations or after a war of succession. So the Bracken / Blackwood dispute will be reopened again eventually, even if peace is achieved in this generation. 

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13 hours ago, Aejohn the Conqueroo said:

SO do you trust it, or do you think we're being set up for something? I can't help but suspect the setup, but I think the payoff has to be more than 'Bloodraven is a bad guy'

I don't think it's a set up. We'll see.

The casual readers of ASOIAF do not even identify the three-eyed crow with house Blackwood. All the clues that we got so far it that he's named Brynden and that he is a pale man with a red stain on the neck. Even among the ones that have read D&E or AWOIAF, many won't make the connection.

It seems more likely to me that the Blackwood-Bracken feud is just what it seems. An additional world-building element that's a bit skewed towards one side.

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The Blackwoods have had more attention. It does not indicate that the other family is bad. The purpose is to show how deep the enmity is between the family. The quarrel goes way back. New quarrels are starting among the people. A strong leader is needed to focus attention to the existential threat of the Winter.  The leader ideally would not come from the noble houses but from the Targaryen family.

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