Have you heard the legend of the ravens at the Tower of London? If the ravens ever leave, the tower will crumble to dust and great tragedy will befall the people of England.
What is a raven?
Basically, a raven is a large black bird. They are in the same class as crows (the Corvus class), another common large black bird that most people have probably seen hanging around the neighborhood. Related yes. Identical no.
How are ravens different than crows?
- Ravens have a larger, heavier black beak.
- Ravens have shaggier neck feathers.
- Ravens have a wedge-shaped tail.
Here’s a little video to better explain the difference between them…
- A raven is all black, including the beak.
- A raven is large – average length is 25 inches and average weight is 2.6 pounds
- A raven’s lifespan in the wild is up to 21 years
- Ravens are omnivores
- Ravens are known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities
- Young ravens may live in flocks but mature ravens mate for life.
A Raven’s Brain…
Here’s an interesting podcast about ravens… The Wild-Inside the Mind of A Raven
Ravens in Culture
Ravens have been part of mythology, folklore, art, and literature across many cultures through time and around the world. You can check out the wikipedia entry about ravens in art and literature to get an overview of how expansive their appearance and influence have been over the centuries. For example, Shakespeare mentions the raven more than any other bird in his plays, notably in Macbeth and Othello among others. Because ravens eat carrion (aka dead animals), they are often associated with death and bad omens.
Edgar Allen Poe
The raven made famous in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, is probably the most iconic raven for me. Do you remember how the poem goes? If not, here it is read by James Earl Jones.
Remember that legend I mentioned above about the ravens at the Tower of London? If the ravens ever leave, the tower will crumble to dust and great tragedy will befall the people of England.
Now imagine being the Ravenmaster – the one man in charge of keeping the ravens at the tower. Sounds like a pretty high-pressure job doesn’t it?
See the Ravenmaster in Action
Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife recently wrote a book called The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London which takes us inside the tower gates and behind the white walls to see what it really takes to keep the ravens happy, healthy, and home at the tower. As you can imagine, this fits perfectly into my day-in-the-life obsession with a nice helping of animal love on the side. He has written the book to share his love of the ravens but also to attempt to answer the most frequent questions asked by visitors to the tower.
- Why are there ravens at the tower?
- Where do the myths about the ravens come from?
- How does he care for the ravens?
- What do the ravens eat?
- Who names the ravens?
- What happens to the ravens when they die?
- How and why do the ravens stay at the tower?
He introduces us to each of the ravens currently living at the tower, letting us get to know their various personalities as he shares various escapades of these remarkable birds. The raven roster at time of publication:
- Jubilee II
- Gripp II
In Skaife’s own words, “I’m really just an average guy with a greater-than-average amount of luck who has been fortunate enough to have spent a large part of my life with some of the most famous birds in the world as they go about their daily business.”
The most important lesson he has learned? Never, ever underestimate the ravens.
Merlina is a social media sweetheart and often featured on the author’s Instagram page. Sadly she disappeared in January 2021 and is missed greatly by Mr. Skaife and all of us.
Author Christopher Skaife reads The Ravenmaster
Want to hear the author reading his book? You can get a little tour around the castle while also hearing the story!
Here he is reading Chapter 1 of The Ravenmaster–
Visit his channel to see more of the Tower and hear the whole book. Then buy yourself a copy to keep!
A visit to the Tower of London and a chance to see the famous ravens in person!
I was fortunate enough to visit the Tower of London last August to see these beautiful birds and the White Tower in person. I spent several hours wandering the grounds, climbing stone steps, and soaking in the history of the tower. Even better was seeing this all in living color after reading about it in The Ravenmaster.
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