Wise Ravens

thorin_oakenshield_and_roac_the_raven_by_cfgriffith-d7psy6lOn Friday, I went for a walk in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I heard a distinctive three-note bird-call. I listened, followed the sound high up into a pine tree, and saw a Common Raven. Later, I saw a pair of ravens strutting on the grass in front of the Conservatory of Flowers.

I recently read A.S. Byatt’s book, Ragnarök, which is not a cheerful book (though it is an interesting one). In it, the author remembers reading about the Norse gods as a child during wartime. She remembers Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muginn, whose names mean “thought” and “memory.”

These birds were likely the precursors of Tolkien’s talking ravens in The Hobbit, and especially of Roäc, a name remarkably close to the sound the bird actually makes.

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