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The Raven in Fantastic Fiction


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Feb 17, 2012, 12:13pm Top

Somewhat inspired by Poe's poem I am planning to do a blog post on the appearance of this bird in fantasy/gothic/horror fiction- can anyone anyone suggest any appearances they are aware of?

Feb 17, 2012, 12:20pm Top

Strangely, earlier today I was trying to find a book that had been tagged "Ravens" - this was all I could remember about it. If you search for the Raven/Ravens tag, about 400 titles come up, of which many are fantasy/gothic. Good luck, that sounds like an interesting topic.

Feb 17, 2012, 12:28pm Top

Crows/ravens are very important as messenger carriers in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Not fantasy, but in the French novel The Horseman on the Roof Le Hussard sur le toit by Jean Giono, ravens play a roll in the spread of disease during a cholera epidemic. That one was made into a pretty terrific movie a few years ago.

Edited: Feb 17, 2012, 1:11pm Top

Birds were mentioned a number of times in The Lord of the Rings as messengers/scouts of Sauron.

And, not a book, but The Birds (the movie) by Alfred Hitchcock is a good one.

Edited: Feb 17, 2012, 1:32pm Top

The movie The Birds is based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier, so it's still good.

Ravens appear in American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay, both Norse mythology related.

Feb 17, 2012, 2:51pm Top

Crows are quite important to one of the storylines in Deadhouse Gates.

Feb 17, 2012, 3:29pm Top


This link leads to a list of books tagged Raven on Librarything. Not sure if that will help.

Feb 17, 2012, 4:02pm Top

Charles de Lint has a recurring native american Raven character in his Newport books - especially Some place to be flying.

Feb 17, 2012, 4:10pm Top

>4 JonathanGarrett: Don't forget the ravens in The Hobbit who are very helpful to the dwarves in scouting and bringing news.

Edited: Mar 4, 2012, 5:26am Top

Crows are messengers for the bad guys in The Wheel of Time, though I don't know if they (the crows) are aware of it. They kinda strike me as collateral since the good guys are always shooting them down.

Feb 17, 2012, 5:31pm Top

Norse Code by Greg Van Eekhout has 2 of them (and they are important in the whole thing)

Feb 17, 2012, 11:53pm Top


A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle

Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (white raven)
(I had to google to make sure it was in fact a raven, and not a crow.)

Flood and Fang (The Raven Mysteries series) by Marcus Sedwick
(I don't know anything about this, but I found it when googling "Gormenghast.")

Fables (graphic novels) by Bill Willingham
(One supporting character is Clara, a dragon turned raven.)

Other Corvidae:

The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown (crow)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (crow)

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia (jackdaw)

Feb 18, 2012, 6:43am Top

Ravens are very emblematic and important in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

Feb 18, 2012, 7:10am Top

A white crow called Irc is a character in The Crow: The Third Book of Pellinor by Alison Croggon, part of a rather superior Tolkienesque fantasy sequence which I can recommend.

Feb 18, 2012, 10:20am Top

Have we mentioned Matthew the raven in Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel series?

Feb 18, 2012, 11:17am Top

The raven is the absent king in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Rooks are eyes of the Dark in Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence, particularly The Dark is Rising itself.

Odin's ravens, Thought/Huginn and Memory/Muninn crop up often - eg the Norse mythology related books Sandragon mentions above; another from my childhood is Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones.

Feb 18, 2012, 11:25am Top

IIRC, there is a talking raven in Tad Williams' Shadowmarch series. (I think it was a raven, not a crow? Hmm.)

In the Book of the Long Sun series by Gene Wolfe, which is technically sci-fi but FEELS like fantasy (science fantasy?) there is a talking night chough, a bird which seems very similar to a raven...

I feel like there are others I'm missing...hmm...will keep thinking and get back to you if I come up with more....

Feb 19, 2012, 4:01am Top

A talking raven is one of the main characters in a children's book called The Golden Acorn by Catherine Cooper.

Edited: Feb 19, 2012, 9:50am Top

Odin's Ravens and The Morrigan (who often takes the form of a crow or raven) both crop up in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.

Feb 19, 2012, 2:16pm Top

Isn't there a raven in Joan Aiken's children's book Arabel and Mortimer and others in the series? Mortimer is the bird. Oh, I've just checked, and Arabel's Raven is the first in the series.

Feb 19, 2012, 3:41pm Top

Thanks everyone for those helpful suggestions :-)

Feb 21, 2012, 10:45am Top

A raven called (at least in the french translation) Solon the Wise plays a role in The Glassblower's children by Maria Gripe. Definitely not a villain but still a somewhat somber presence IIRC, with some indirect references to the Odin myth.

Feb 21, 2012, 1:26pm Top

Hugin and Mugin are supporting characters in Proposition Player

Feb 21, 2012, 5:09pm Top

Jeri Smith-Ready's Eyes of Crow and sequels feature both Crow and Raven as totems/gods. Raven is, IIRC, the topmost in the hierarchy and only very rarely chooses someone to bear its Aspect.

Mar 3, 2012, 6:01pm Top

Several of Stephen King's novels and stories feature this bird.

Mar 4, 2012, 8:03pm Top

Ravens in secondary/non-Earth-based fantasy:

Patricia Wrede's The Raven Ring is about a young woman who inherits a magic ring engraved with a raven from her mother, who was killed in battle. Ravens are a protective symbol in the Cilhar mercenary culture the protagonist is part of.

Patricia Briggs' Raven's Shadow and Raven's Strike duology concern a culture, the Travelers, where different professions/trades are symbolized by birds- the protagonist is a Raven, a mage, and she and her children are trying to find her husband, an Owl/Bard who disappeared.

Edited: Mar 7, 2012, 11:12pm Top

This was just posted on the March fantasy thread:

>I'm in Ireland - halfway through Raven Calls by C.E. Murphy.

From the tags, sounds like it might fit your parameters, and Murphy is a solid author for supernatural fiction. I'll be looking for it, myself.

Mar 9, 2012, 5:57pm Top

The first paragraph of prince of thorns runs thusly:

Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the church even before the injured became the dead. Even before Rike had finished taking fingers from hands, and rings from fingers. I leaned back against the gallows-post and nodded to the birds, a dozen of them in a black line, wise-eyed and watching.

Mar 10, 2012, 4:53am Top

As far as I can see, while Odin's ravens have been mentioned, ravens from other mythologies haven't, and as far as I am concerned much of mythology is fantasy anyway (as well as being a seam that is mined incessantly by modern fantasy writers) and deserving of being brought up in this discussion.

So here I will mention the Trickster Raven of Native American myth, and though I can't point to a single one authoritative source for the tales I'm sure others can.

I'll also mention Welsh myth (the Irish Morrigan has already been cited above). First, BrĂ¢n the Blessed (Bendigeidfran in Welsh) is a giant who appears in the second branch of The Mabinogion; while he never appears in a bird guise, his name in Welsh simply means 'raven'. His unfortunate sister's name, Branwen, translates as 'White Raven' (though it's likely her name was originally Bronwen, 'White Breast' and says a lot about the medieval author's creative licence).

Real ravens, though of a rather fantastic sort, appear in the tale appearing in the Mabinogion collection: The Dream of Rhonabwy. Here the corvid creatures (perhaps a by-word for 'warriors') of Owein fight with King Arthur's servants in a magical tale of dreams, time-travelling and ancient myth in the medieval period.

Ravens appear in a more modern myth about King Arthur. The seven ravens of the Tower of London are supposed to represent the presiding spirit of King Arthur: when there are no more ravens at the Tower then Britain will fall to an invader (an echo of the tale of the talismanic head of the giant Bendigeidfran which was supposed to have been buried at the tower to protect against invasion -- until proud King Arthur dug it up). Here the easy equation (Bendigeidfran = raven = King Arthur = protective talisman) makes perfect mythological sense, even when you realise that the ravens don't seem to ever have appeared in the Tower menagerie (itself established in the time of King John, of Magna Carta fame). However, the 'tradition' of the talismanic ravens has, sadly, been shown to be a modern myth (http://www.animalsandsociety.org/assets/library/737_s4.pdf).

And yet, as I sit here scrunched over my laptop in the far west of Wales, the frequent cronk of a pair of high flying ravens over the wild hills reminds me that these birds have a mystery about them which prosaic research does little to evaporate...

May 2, 2012, 4:58pm Top

Seems like a Jungian, Joseph Campbellian Archetype to me. I knew it ran through some novels but I didn't realize it was so prevalent.

May 2, 2012, 4:58pm Top

Try the tag 'crow' or 'crows' as well.

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