Saturday Surprise — Quoth The Raven, Nevermore!

Good morning and welcome to the …weekendI missed Saturday Surprise … was it last week, or the week before?  Anyway, I am told by Gem that young Benjamin was disappointed, and I cannot let down my youngest reader, so I have something special in mind for today that I think all of you, from youngest to oldest will enjoy!  Our friend David told me something last week that I had to confirm via Google.  I think David was a bit miffed with me when I told him I thought he was pulling my leg (not that he would ever do such a thing!), but it turns out he was right.  He told me that ravens guard the Tower of London!  Well, not only was he right, but the stories surrounding the ravens are fun and fascinating!

The legend of the Tower ravens

It is said that the Kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. There are seven ravens at the Tower today — the required six, plus one spare!

Charles II (reigned 1660–85) is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned that the crown and the Tower itself would fall if they left.

The King’s order was given against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower.

There are numerous variations of the legend, but we’ll stick with this one, for I’m writing a post, not a book, and there are other fun things.  This is the earliest depiction of the ravens in a drawing from 1883 titled Ravens in the Tower of London.Ravens-Tower-London.pngNow, you might wonder what keeps the ravens in the tower grounds.  Well, from the book by Boria Sax, City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History of London, the Tower and its Famous Ravens

“The ravens are now treated almost like royalty. Like the Royals, the ravens live in a palace and are waited on by servants. They are kept at public expense, but in return they must show themselves to the public in settings of great splendour. So long as they abide by certain basic rules …”

And it was just those “certain basic rules” that got one Raven, George, exiled for his bad behaviour.

George had a very good assignment, for a raven in the 1970s. Living at the Tower of London, he was fed better than any raven would have been in the wild—a steady diet of raw meat and blood-soaked biscuits. He lived alongside a small corps of other ravens, where visitors streamed by each day. The one restriction on his life was movement: With one wing clipped, he was confined to the Tower grounds.

raven-2That captivity chafed, though, and George would not abide it. George figured out how to climb a fire escape, perch high up on a wall, and glide down safely. Finally, in 1981, he went AWOL. Apprehended at a pub, he was forced to return to duty at the Tower. But still, he could not uphold the standards demanded of his station. Five years after, the Tower announced:

“On Saturday 13th September 1986, Raven George, enlisted 1975, was posted to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Conduct unsatisfactory, service therefore no longer required.”

His final offense? He had destroyed five TV antennas in just one week.  In 1996, two more ravens fell out of favour and were dismissed from the Tower for “conduct unbecoming Tower residents.”  In 1981, Grog the raven decided to leave the surroundings of the Tower for those of a pub, after 21 years of faithful service to the Crown.  In contrast, a raven named Mabel was kidnapped from the Tower soon after World War II, a mystery that has never been solved.

raven-3And then there’s the tale of two ravens named James Crow and Edgar Sopper.  James Crow, who was a much-loved and long-lived raven, had died. After noticing the commotion surrounding the other raven’s death, Edgar Sopper decided he could “play dead” in order to bring more attention to himself. His trick was so convincing that the ravenmaster fully believed that Edgar Sopper had died. When the ravenmaster picked up the “corpse”, Edgar bit the man’s finger and “flapped off croaking huge raven laughs”.

In April, 4 raven chicks were born to Huginn and Muninn … take a look at proud ravenmaster Chris Skaife tell the tale …

It is the first time in 30 years that new raven chicks have been hatched in the Tower of London, so needless to say, there was much joy!  Only one of the chicks will be staying at the Tower of London once they’ve all matured. Depending on which one gets to stay, it will be named George or Georgina, in honor of its birthday on April 23, also known as St. George’s Day. The other three will be sent to a breeding specialist in Somerset.raven-trash-dutyIn addition to Muninn and Huggin, and eventually little George or Georgina, the other ravens at the Tower of London include females Erin, Poppy, and Merlina, and males Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, and Rocky.  Jubilee was presented to the Queen to mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and later released in the Tower, bringing the total number to eight.

Jubilee and Munin Ravens

Jubilee and Muninn

For everything you always wanted to know about the tower ravens, watch ravenmaster Chris Skaife answer all those questions you didn’t even know you had!

And on that note, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  Keep safe and do something fun!raven-on-watch

37 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Quoth The Raven, Nevermore!

  1. I will not chide you concerning the overlooked, though of significant importance, Book Lovers Day celebrated every August 9th. Sadly, there are far too many other things that are of utmost importance that you address on a daily basis. This makes this week’s Saturday Surprise a sparkling highlight at the end of a less than stellar week of good news. I only mention Book Lovers Day because of your inclusion of Boria Sax and one of his many books, the 2012 “City of Ravens”. Sax is the magnificent author of many delightful books that explore myths and mankind’s fascination with them. Two of the most recent are the 2013 “Imaginary Animals : The Monstrous, the Wondrous, and the Human” and the latest (published at the age of 69) 2018 “Dinomania : Why We Love, Fear and Are Utterly Enchanted by the Dinosaur”. These three are books that I hope Benjamin will read in years to come. What he assuredly will “read” and enjoy, with the assistance of his Gem, is this fascinating and enlightening post about Ravens. We may have true Ravens here, but it is the smaller Crows that we hear and see in my backyard…known as the peanut thieves! Benjamin is forgiving of their greediness as “Crows have to eat too.” Thank-YOU!!

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    • Ahhh … trust me, dear Ellen, I did not overlook Book Lover’s Day, but spent part of it happily at my local Barnes & Noble, and came home with not one, but two new books! And, while I had never heard of Boria Sax, I have put “City of Ravens” on my TBR list for some point in the future. I’m glad to know that Benjamin will enjoy Saturday Surprise … I left out a few things, such as the deaths of two ravens by a fox assault, and another by a bomb-sniffing dog, so as not to be too upsetting, or to make you do extra editing! 😊

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  2. Oh man! Where were you a few years ago when I visited London? Had I’d known I might have invited them to tea, it’s imperative to remain in good books of these sentries. In my neck of the woods (Vancouver) we only have their little brother, the Crow. That said, crows have my upmost respect – pity the fool who messes with them! There are 2 rookeries in the greater Vancouver region. At dusk, endless tendrils of birds head for one or the other, population density be damned. The closest rookery, a few kilometers from work, happens to be a industrial area home to McDonalds headquarters for western Canada. As light fades crows lay siege to their primordial homeland. Within the span of an hour McDonalds corporate office is festooned in cacophony of the crow kingdom – every inch of power line wire, rooftop, parking lot, grass – shrouded in black feathers. So cool! 🙂

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  3. Ravens don’t like nacho chips!
    Take it from me. We had some leftover nachos from a small gathering last week, and for some reason I decided to share with the local ravens. (We like to entertain our cats by drawing birds to our back deck right where they cat be easily seen through the french doors by our family cats. Safely hidden behind the glass doors, our cats love to think they are big bird hunters. They sit quietly on various perches around the door waiting for the ravens and other birds to land. We call it cat television.)
    Spreading the nachos out on the deck, it didn’t take long for the big birds to arrive. With the cats doing their hunting clicks from inside the house, the ravens calmly picked through the food. First they ate the ground beef! Then they ate the melted cheese and green onions. Finally they ate the jalepeno peppers! But not one nacho chip did they eat! None of the smaller birds did either. Beggars can be choosers! And ravens don’t like nachos chips!

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    • How very strange that they would eat onions and even jalapeños, but not the chips! Poor kitties … ours try to scratch holes in the glass windows when they see birds outside in the flowers! And they spit on the windows, which is why I have to wash windows every single week!

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