Story Insights: Why Ravens?
My epic fantasy novel, The Raven features – you guessed it – ravens! Why choose ravens as a mythical, magical creature for my story? Read on...
I love watching ravens.They often wage war on the resident magpies here on my small farm. They're rather shy and if they know I'm near they will fly off, but sometimes I can out-sneak them and study them for a while. In the sunshine, their feathers are glossy and fascinating to watch. They're graceful and silent fliers. And their mournful 'caw' can be seriously creepy on a foggy morning as it echoes through the trees.
I knew I had to include them in one of my stories, and that it had to be epic fantasy. Of course, I ended up writing an entire novel called, The Raven, and ravens also feature heavily in Dragonshade and The Doom of Arlg-Teg, and they will continue to appear in all books in ‘The Secret Chronicles of Lost Magic’. Ravens have been done to death in fantasy fiction, as symbols, as characters and in titles. A quick search of 'fantasy books ravens' in Amazon, will bring up thousands of samples. So, why are ravens so popular in fantasy fiction? It definitely has something to do with the look of them. Such a deep black. Of course they are carrion birds who feed on the dead. Over time we have come to see their darkness and their attraction to death as symbolic of something a little sinister. As we've all heard in Game of Thrones, 'Dark wings, dark words.' The Ancient Greeks considered ravens to represent good luck, and believed them to be Apollo's (a god of prophecy) messengers. They served a similar purpose for the Viking god Odin. His ravens, Huginn and Muninn, would fly all over the world and bring back important tidbits on what they had spied in their travels. In Celtic mythology (my favourite) they symbolise warfare in Ireland, and in Wales they're associated with the god Bran the Blessed – whose name actually means 'raven' in Welsh. And, of course, in England it is known that if ever the ravens at the Tower of London fly away, the Crown and Britain will fall. Ravens hold significance in almost every culture throughout history.
They are also considered to be the most intelligent bird of them all. Many studies have documented the high-level problem solving capacity of ravens (and crows). “They possess surprising and sophisticated mental abilities", according to biologist, Bernd Heinrich. Ultimately they are a dark and mysterious creature that will no doubt continue to spark our imagination and our fascination for the fantastic.