Obscure Fairy Tale: The Seven Ravens
Since a number of you seemed to like last week's brother-to-bird tale, The Six Swans, and since AnnaDee made a special request, I thought I'd follow up with another, The Seven Ravens, which is actually my favorite of the sibling-to-fowl genre. Without further ado...
The Seven Ravens (from the Brothers Grimm)
Once upon a time... a man has seven sons and wishes for a daughter. When she's finally born, he sends his sons to the well for water for her baptism.
Really tempted to make a "how many fairy-tale characters does it take to screw in a lightbulb" joke here. Must resist.
The sons accidentally drop the jug into the well.
Every time I read a fairy tale like this, I am grateful for indoor plumbing. Seriously, how many times in fairy tales are people dropping things down wells, climbing down wells, falling down wells...? Those things are hazardous.
The sons are afraid to return home without the water. Meanwhile, the father grows impatient and shouts, "I wish they were all turned into ravens!"
I never think to say anything like this. Sure, I grumble when I'm annoyed, but it never occurs to me to curse someone with a totally random transformation. "You, sir, failed to stop at that red light! May you turn into a manatee!"
A few seconds later, seven ravens fly overhead.
Talk about an "uh-oh" moment.
The girl grows up without knowing about her brothers until she overhears someone say that she is to blame for their fate. She asks her parents to explain, and they tell her the truth.
Now that must have been an awkward conversation.
She sets out to rescue her brothers, taking only some food, water, and a little ring.
Douglas Adams would also recommend taking a towel. I'd recommend a change of underwear. And a toothbrush.
She walks to the end of the world where she visits the sun, but he's cruel and likes to eat people so she flees from him.
She visits the moon, who is also wicked, and flees from him.
The thing I love about this story is that there's a whole cool kick-butt adventure implied in that simple action. I mean, evil moon! Awesome! I'm picturing snowmobiles and leaping from airplanes with the yawning maw of the moon closing in behind her...
Then she visits the stars, who are kind to her. The morning star gives her a drumstick and tells her to use it as the key to the glass mountain where her brothers live.
What are they doing in a glass mountain? How did they get there? Why would a bone open the door? Why does a star have such a bone? How does a star hand her anything without opposable thumbs? Just askin'.
She journeys to the glass mountain, but when she arrives, she discovers that she's lost the drumstick.
This is the other thing that I really love about this tale: she's lost the magic item. I think that's totally plausible. It makes me think of those fantasy novels where there's a sixteen stanza prophecy stated once about three thousand miles before the finale and yet somehow the hero remembers every single line. I'd totally blank.
So she cuts off her little finger and uses it as a key.
Gross, yet strangely awesome. You go, girl. Way to commit to a rescue. On the other hand, if all that's needed is a bone, I think I'd head back to town and fetch me a chicken leg.
Inside the glass mountain, she finds a table with seven plates and seven glasses. She drops her ring into the last glass, and she hides.
I love a sensible heroine. In other fairy tales, there are ogres and giants and robbers and so forth in such locales. She doesn't know what she's going to find. Her precaution is admirable. Also, remember she's never met her brothers. It's possible that they're, y'know, evil. The ring makes a good test.
Soon after, she hears a flurry of wings. Seven ravens sit down at the table to eat. The seventh raven discovers the ring and says, "Someone is here! If only it were our sister, then we would be free!"
Um, why? Why would this set you free? Who is holding you? Did the father issue a caveat with the curse? I mean, I shouldn't complain. It's very nice for poetic reasons, but who made the rules? And why would anyone utter such stilted dialogue?
She emerges from her hiding place, the ravens are restored to human form, and everyone lives happily ever after.
For once, I actually believe this really is a happily ever after. I hope they get to keep the Glass Mountain. That would make a sweet summer-home...
For more obscure fairy tales (with commentary), check out the Obscure Fairy Tales page of my website, where I've gathered links to all my prior fairy tale posts.
Labels: Obscure Fairy Tales