In Edgar Allan Poe’s renowned poem The Raven, ravens are used as a symbol for the suffering associated with losing a lover, and the fear of death. It begins with a man sitting alone in his room, thinking about his lost love, Lenore, when he hears a tapping. He checks the door but there is only darkness. When he checks the window, a raven flies in and lands on a sculpture of Athena. He questions the raven which always responds with “Nevermore”. By the end, the speaker is losing his sanity. The raven represents the memory of Lenore, which will never leave him. (Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, http://www.houseofusher.net/raven.html, Accessed 17 Feb. 2016.)
My second choice is the English ballad The Three Ravens. I chose this ballad because it depicts ravens as scavengers and pests, which reflects how many people view them today. In the ballad, three ravens are consider eating a knight that has fallen in battle, but are unable to because he is guarded by “his loyal hawks and hounds”. A “fallow doe” tends to his wounds, acting as a metaphor for the knight’s pregnant lover. The doe buries him, leaving the ravens hungry. The ballad ends with the narrator commenting on the loyalty of the man’s companions.(12. The Three Ravens. Traditional Ballads. 1909-14. English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray. The Harvard Classics.” 12. The Three Ravens. Traditional Ballads. 1909-14. English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray. The Harvard Classics. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.)
The final story I chose is the Raven who stole the sun. Unlike in the first two texts, ravens in Native Alaskan myths are generally much more complex creatures. They’re seen as clever and mischievous rather than frightening, cruel animals, and are often acting in the best interest of humanity. Whether or not they intend to act selflessly depends entirely on which telling of the story you come across. This version begins in a world of total darkness. One day the Raven comes up with a plan to steal the treasure of a wealthy man- the sun. The Raven disguises himself as child of the man’s daughter, gaining the man’s affection, who eventually lets him see the sun. Once he has a hold of the treasure, the Raven transforms to his original form and flies away with the sun, tossing it into the sky, and bringing light to the world. (“Native American Legends.” Native American Indian Legends. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.)
I believe these stories would enhance the audiences understanding of the role ravens play in folklore. In current American culture ravens are often seen as a nuisance. They steal lunches from construction workers, loot in the garbage, and are widely viewed as rats with wings. Furthermore, many people are aware of the raven’s dark and ominous presence in myths throughout the world, but the opposing view, where the raven is the creator or the light bringer, is not always as prominent. I feel that it is important for people to be aware of both cultural contexts.