HOTD's Blackwood Vs. Bracken Feud Is More Important Than You Think

Warning: This contains SPOILERS for George R. R. Martin's Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon episode 7.While House of the Dragon introduced House Blackwood and House Bracken through a petty disagreement between children, don't be fooled - these are two of the most important names in the history of the First Men. Indeed, there are several reasons why the first House of the Dragon scene involving these families was made memorable by the Westerosi tradition of murdering one's political rivals in full view of the royal court. Although Willem Blackwood and the bully that he stabbed to death (Jerrel Bracken) were just children, the rivalry between these ancient houses dates back to the Age of Heroes. In Fire & Blood, House Blackwood and House Bracken were also crucial players in the Dance of the Dragons.


While both are sworn vassals of House Tully, the Blackwoods and Brackens are individually known for being the most powerful houses in the riverlands. As the Blackwoods rule from Raventree Hall and the northern banks of the Red Fork, the Brackens rule from Stone Hedge on the southern side of the river, both commanding the biggest armies in the region. The number of wars in which these two families have fought each other is rivaled only by the number of peace pacts and marriages between them. As Hoster Blackwood once said, "There's Blackwood blood in every Bracken, and Bracken blood in every Blackwood." Although marriage pacts fostered decades of peace between the two, even the smallest fresh quarrels were typically enough to reopen the old wounds of their rivalry. Throughout the history of Westeros, House of the Dragon's Targaryen family is just one of the many foreign forces that leveraged the Blackwood-Bracken feud in their own wars.

Related: House Of The Dragon Season 1, Episode 6 Ending Explained

This is why the small council in House of the Dragon spent time discussing the seemingly trivial matter of Lord Blackwood accusing the Brackens of taking their horses over to Blackwood fields to graze in the dead of night. While Alicent Hightower correctly pointed out that this was a matter for House Tully to resolve, Rhaenyra Targaryen also rightly reminded the small council that the Blackwoods and Brackens will use any excuse to spill each other's blood. Curiously, this starkly contrasts Rhaenyra's first encounter with the two vassal lordlings, in which Rhaenyra was indirectly responsible for escalating the altercation that led to Willem killing Jerrel, and then willfully ignored the results. Indeed, though the new characters introduced in House of the Dragon season 1, episode 6, "The Princess and the Queen" included no Blackwoods nor Brackens, Alicent and Rhaenyra's small council discussion foreshadowed how the two most powerful riverlands houses will continue their rivalry in the Dance of the Dragons.

The Blackwoods & Brackens' Rivalry Far Predates House Of The Dragon

Age of heroes westeros blackwood bracken riverlands kings

About 10,000 years before House of the Dragon, the First Men and the Children of the Forest forged the Pact, ending centuries of warfare and ushering in the nearly four thousand years of peace and greatness known as the Age of Heroes, during which the Brackens and the Blackwoods ruled as kings. According to the Blackwoods, however, the Brackens were just petty lords who hired mercenaries to usurp the Blackwood kings. Meanwhile, the Brackens claim that their ancestors were the kings, and that their vassals - the Blackwoods - were the real usurpers. As these events happened thousands of years before even Aegon's dream or prophecy - during the Age of Heroes which was recorded in stories and songs instead of books - the respective claims of the Blackwoods and the Brackens remain unverifiable.

Who The Brackens & The Blackwoods Support In The Dance Of The Dragons

Dance of the Dragons Blackwood Bracken riverlands trident

In Fire & Blood, during the Dance of the Dragons, House Blackwood backs Rhaenyra - the blacks - while House Bracken supports Alicent's greens and Aegon II's claim to the Iron Throne. Curiously, House of the Dragon's Willem Blackwood and Jerrel Bracken don't exist in the book - but were inspired by book characters, namely Lord Samwell Blackwood and Ser Amos Bracken. While the Blackwood boy got the upper hand against the Bracken in House of the Dragon, Samwell Blackwood actually lost a duel for Rhaenyra's favor against Ser Amos Bracken in Fire & Blood, and Amos even slays Samwell in a later duel. The show essentially reversed their fortunes from the book. That said, House of the Dragon season 2 is likely to remain faithful to which side of the Iron Throne the Blackwoods and Brackens found themselves on during the Targaryen civil war.

Where The Brackens & The Blackwoods Are During Game Of Thrones

Game of Thrones - Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven

Before House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones flew the respective banners of House Blackwood and House Bracken at the tourney in season 1, whose members were visiting King's Landing from their respective sides of the Red Fork in the riverlands. During the War of the Five Kings, Lord Jonos Bracken proposed that the lords of the north and the riverlands support Renly Baratheon, but later fought for House Tully and King Robb Stark. Meanwhile, following the Red Wedding, it was the Blackwoods who rose against House Frey after the northern-riverlands forces liberated Riverrun. Notably, the most important Blackwood in the history of Westeros also appeared in the show - Game of Thrones' Three-Eyed Raven, also known as Brynden Rivers or the Bloodraven, the bastard son of King Aegon IV and Lady Melissa Blackwood. It was the Bloodraven who taught Bran Stark not only to become a greenseer, but to become the next Three-Eyed Raven after his death. As House of the Dragon teases at unraveling the oldest known rivalry in Westeros, more Blackwoods and Brackens will be introduced to audiences soon.

New episodes of House of the Dragon release Sundays on HBO & HBO Max.

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