Tuesday, May 04, 2010

a raven for Dickens

i saw a very tame raven while hiking near Banff. i used to be dubious about the idea of taming ravens...they seem so sure of themselves & sensibly wild. but on the trail, a very stout raven marched up and down beside people eating lunch. i suppose he was waiting for the humans to drop their food. though very tame, he was very much aware of his obvious superiority to us.

he made me think of Dickens and his pet raven, Grip. (above photo is Grip, stuffed--now owned by the Free Library of Philadelphia) i always associate ravens very much with Canada, especially British Columbia & the Yukon...but in fact a variety of raven exists all over Europe, and Dickens' raven is probably the most famous.

Dickens described the death of Grip, his tame raven, like this: "On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coach house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed `Halloa old girl!' (his favorite expression) and died."

for the record, Edgar Allen Poe apparently felt that Dickens' fictionalized raven in Barnaby Rudge deserved a more important role in the plot.

having seen the enormous glossy raven on the path here, I agree with Edgar: if you introduce a talking tame raven into a plot, you'd better give it all the best lines.

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