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The Brilliant, Playful, Bloodthirsty Raven
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9/24/2018 at 4:46:17 PM GMT
Posts: 115
The Brilliant, Playful, Bloodthirsty Raven

By Helen MacDonald —

“I can make a passable imitation of a raven’s low, guttural croak, and whenever I see a wild one flying overhead I have an irresistible urge to call up to it in the hope that it will answer back. Sometimes I do, and sometimes it does; it’s a moment of cross-species communication that never fails to thrill. Ravens are strangely magical birds. Partly that magic is made by us. They have been seen variously as gods, tricksters, protectors, messengers, and harbingers of death for thousands of years. But much of that magic emanates from the living birds themselves. Massive black corvids with ice-pick beaks, dark eyes, and shaggy-feathered necks, they have a distinctive presence and possess a fierce intelligence. Watching them for any length of time has the same effect as watching great apes: It’s hard not to start thinking of them as people. Nonhuman people, but people all the same.

The most celebrated ravens in the world live at the Tower of London, on the River Thames, an 11th-century walled enclosure of towers and buildings that houses the Crown Jewels and that over the ages has functioned as a royal palace, a zoo, a prison, and a place of execution. Today it is one of Britain’s most visited tourist attractions, and its ravens amble across its greens entirely unbothered by the crowds, walking with a gait that Charles Dickens—who kept ravens—described as resembling ‘a very particular gentleman with exceedingly tight boots on, trying to walk fast over loose pebbles’


To continue reading, visit the full article on The Atlantic’s website.

MacDonald, Helen. “The Brilliant, Playful, Bloodthirsty Raven.” The Atlantic (October 2018). <>

Last edited Monday, September 24, 2018

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