Crowflight focuses on Turn, a member of the Crow tribe – the people of the land of Nicht appointed by the goddess Atropos to lead the souls of the dead across the space between the worlds and to whatever comes after. But Crowns aren’t the only inhabitants of Nicht; there are the Ravens, nomadic sorcerers mistrusted by the other two tribes, and there are the Rooks, the keepers of justice and the law, who live in the ancient city of Calvaria. The three aren’t in any kind of open conflict – at least not initially – but none are especially fond of each other, though all three recognize that the other two have some purpose to serve in the organization of the world. Of the three, the Rooks and the Crows get along the best. No one likes the Ravens. The Ravens appear to have accepted this, given that there isn’t much they can do about it. But of course, when mistrust festers for long enough, the results can be terrible…
Obviously I chose ravens, rooks, and crows because of the ties to death and the afterlife that they have in many cultures. But as creatures, they’re awesome for a bunch of other reasons as well. Here are a few, which you might or might not know.
- Crows can recognize unique human facial features. They can also share information about who’s to be avoided.
- Crows also engage in tool use with leaves and stalks of grass, and have even reportedly been observed using breadcrumbs in a form of bait fishing.
- The oldest documented crow in captivity died in 2006 at the age of 59.
- Crows eat literally almost anything. Carrion, of course, but also seeds, eggs, fruit, and other birds.
- In addiction to being associated with death, crows are also associated with war in Irish mythology, via a connection to the Morrigan.
- In Norse mythology, ravens are associated with knowledge; Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s ravens, travel through Midgard and return to him with information.
- During WWII in America, the crow was apparently designated an “enemy of the public” and blamed for stealing the nation’s grain. Not 100% sure that this one isn’t apocryphal, but hey, people are weird.
- No one knows for sure what the whole “murder of crows” thing is about – the title that Crowflight originally almost had. It’s been lost to antiquity – prior to the 15th century. But it may have had something to do with the whole death association aspect. Again, people = weird.
- Ravens show up several times in the Bible, more than once as illustrations of God’s providence; they feed the prophet Elijah and Jesus uses them as an example in one of his parables.
- Legend has it that if the ravens of the Tower of London are ever removed, it will mean the end of England itself.
- The figure of the raven is also important to the mythology of many of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest, where it fills both the roles of creator and trickster, depending on the story. In one, Raven brings light to the world by forcing open a box belonging to Seagull, in which Seagull is keeping the sun.
So yeah, corvids are seriously cool. And it’s interesting how ubiquitous they are in various human cultures, as well as the ways in which a lot of their different depictions share things in common. This is only part of why they seemed natural go-tos for the inhabitants of a world that straddles the border between life and death. I hope that I’ve managed to keep them interesting.