Native American Tales

The Raven

The RavenThe Raven

Athapascan

There was an old couple who wanted their daughter to marry a rich man. Every time a new man came into town, they would have their son check to see if he had signs of wealth. One day the son came back saying there was a very rich man. He was invited to the house, but was displeased with the dog, so the dog was taken out to be killed. The next day, bird claw marks were found all around the place where the dog’s body had been and his eyes had been pecked out.

The mother had everyone present take off their shoes to check and see if any were Raven, who could fool people into thinking he was a person. The rich man was in fact Raven, but he removed his shoes and put them on again so fast that nobody could see his raven feet. It was decided that the girl would marry Raven.

He took her off in a boat, but it began to rain. The color started to come off of Raven. The girl figured out who her new husband was and decided to get away. She tied his tail up and said she had to go into the woods for a few minutes, she wouldn’t be long. Instead of doing that, she ran away towards home. Raven couldn’t get away immediately because his tail was tied, so he had to turn back into a bird.

Another time, Raven had been tricking the people so his beak had been taken away and he wanted it back. He made a bunch of rafts, that looked as if there was a warrior fleet coming to attack the people. Somehow a lone girl was sent out on her own and Raven demanded his beak back and got it. The people found that the rafts were nothing more than a bunch of moss.

Observations

Ravens and crows, that whole family of birds, can be very smart and very tricky. They’re actually very, very smart for birds. Raven is tricky in stories because ravens are tricky in real life. They will be annoying. They will play tricks on other animals. They’ll go in your garden and pluck up your seedlings and just leave them there without eating anything. They’ll start pyramid schemes…

Themes

The Raven was tricky and deceitful and his wife got away because he had been deceitful. If you’re deceitful do you deserve that wife? Really, should a relationship be started on deceit? “I’m actually a bird,” is a pretty big statement that should not be found out after already being married to someone. Can you imagine getting married and then having your spouse be like, “Well, I’m actually a bird. I didn’t want you to know because I was afraid you wouldn’t marry me.” I get that maybe Raven was lonely and wanted a wife, that’s cool, but most people don’t want to marry birds.

If you take away the whole bird/person thing, Raven’s difference could define the fact that he’s a different race or religion, but that wasn’t the problem here. The problem was that he was deceitful. From the story, it just looks as if he was deceitful just to be deceitful. The story doesn’t say he was a lonely and wanted a wife, but no woman would marry him because he was a bird. The story is just about Raven and all his tricks. I think everyone didn’t necessarily care about him being a bird. It was more about the fact that he was kind of a jerk and he was a liar.

Lies are a pretty big deal. Lying about something bad can do more damage than the something bad. So what if you’re a freaking bird? Lying about it means you were deceitful, first of all, you didn’t trust the other people involved, second, and you thought that lying was ok, third. I’ve personally been in situations where a lie was so much worse than the truth, even if the truth was bad. Getting lied to hurt more than being told the awful thing. The awful thing was like walk in the park compared to being deceived and being unable to trust the person to tell the truth.

For all of Raven’s ill-repute, it would have been better if he had just told the truth.

Overall

It’s one thing to be a scum-bag, but it’s another to be a scum-bag liar.

Weigh In

In your opinion, would Raven have fared better had he told the truth?

Do you think that the girl would have still married him had she known he was a raven?

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