The Crow Girls

After the fantastic response to my audio recording of Charles de Lint's Make a Joyful Noise (listen to it here), I decided to make a concerted effort to find all the literary references to these two magical characters, the Crow Girls. I have read them in various stories and books of Charles de Lint's. I will revisit his books again to comb through them to find where and when they appear. If you know of any off the top of your head, please leave a comment and I will add them to this post. The first reference that comes to mind, aside from Make a Joyful Noise, is in The Onion Girl. This is one of my very favorite books by Charles de Lint and includes other amazing characters like Jilly Coppercorn who I believe everyone should have the opportunity to get to know. Another couple stories or books I remember reading about the Crow Girls were in Someplace to be flying, Triskell Tales and Triskell Tales 2 (available only for 2nd hand purchase). I will list all the pages where the Crow Girls debut soon. In the meantime, I found these wonderful references or stories about the Crow Girls around the web... The Crow Girls (art) by Erin Kelso

The Crow Girls (fan art by Erin Kelso)

Character Connections Charles de Lint by The Introverted Reader -- This is an interesting character connection and delightful description of the Crow Girls textually supported. =) A Crow Girls Christmas by Charles de Lint and his wife -- This is both a short story AND a wonderful artistic rendition of the Crow Girls by his wife, Mary Ann Harris. Click on the title to go to Charles de Lint's website to read this charming short story!

The Crow Girls Christmas (art by Mary Ann Harris)
The Crow Girls Christmas (art by Mary Ann Harris)
More to come soon...

The Crow and the Pitcher more than fable?

The Crow and the Pitcher, originally uploaded by AnnaleeBlysse.
Scientists believe the fable of the crow and the pitcher might have been fairly accurate given the new research showing rooks using rocks to raise the level of water where a worm resided... to bring the worm up to their level.1 They are such incredibly intelligent birds. The other animal who showed fluid mechanics was the orangutan. I will bet corvids are just as smart if not smarter than many of the primates. You can read more about the studies here.
  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5983953/Aesops-fable-is-true-shows-crow-study.html []

Corvid Bookends

I found these fantastic crow bookends, raven bookends and rook bookends all over the internet... Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" bookends
Photo Source: http://www.artigianalico.com/shop/home/library/bookends_frame.htm
  Handcrafted Wooden Raven bookends
Photo Source: http://www.etsy.com/listing/27804559/raku-raven-book-ends-handbuilt-pottery
  Antique Wooden Crow bookends
Photo Source: http://transporter.tripod.com/Bookends.html
 

Rooks and tools

Corvus frugilegus
Corvus frugilegus
Researchers in the Britain may have stumbled upon something interesting about rooks that Aesop observed some two-thousand-five-hundred years before. Rooks use different size stones to raise water levels in a tube that contains a worm. Is this really a recent 'discovery'...read Aesop's fable The Crow and the Pitcher:
A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life. Little by little does the trick.
We like to believe that we are ingenius in our technology and research methods. But what these scientists observed in a laboratory, Aesop must have seen in his everyday observation in nature. Albeit, the rich in 500 B.C. had a lot more idle time to observe nature in its glory. Here are a couple of videos for you to enjoy: Video 1 Rook using the stones to raise the water level Video 2
Corvus frugilegus
Corvus frugilegus

Rooks, Easter Lore and More

Like many in the corvid family Rooks are attached to many legends, myths, lore and superstitions. In Shropshire, it was believed that rooks never carried sticks to their nests on Sundays or Ascension Day, but simply sat quietly on trees and did not work. It was also believed to be futile to wear new clothes on Easter because the rooks would fly above and poop on them. Quite the opposite was said to be true as well. Some believed if you were hit by bird poop it was because you did not wear new or nice enough clothes on Easter. It was the Rook that was believed to make the decision if your Easter attire was nice enough. And it was the Rook who would carry out the punishment as well. It was a dirty job but somebody had to keep those English people well dressed on Easter. Rooks deserting a rookery were (and in some places still are) also thought to be an indication of a death coming. They were also looked to for predicting weather conditions for many. Such was the case in Devon, England where it was assumed that should the Rooks stay in the vicinity of their nests in the middle of the day, or return to the rookery early, then rain would follow, but if they flew far away, then fine weather would follow instead. And in Yorkshire, the saying went that if the rooks congreated on dead branches of trees, rain wuold come before nightfall, but if they perched on live branches it would be fine and dry.1 The rook is a predatory bird, cunning and intelligent, it will do most anything to survive. This is true for most corvids. But because of its sneaky nature it has gotten a reputation. The root of its name "rook" means 'to rook' or cheat someone. The distrust for rooks has long since held true in many places. In 19th century London a criminal ladened slums in the East End were referred to as a 'rookery'. This was indicative of the rook's sneaky nature but also a comment on the way they build their nests very close together---crowding in---similar to the slums. The name Rook is descendant of the Latin word frugilegus which means acquisitive. Fitting for the bird as Rooks often like to take objects including twigs and other nesting materials from other nests.2
  1. Tate, Peter (2008). Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. []
  2. Tate, Peter (2008). Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. []

Corvus frugilegus (The Rook)

Communique Originally uploaded by Mark Cummins
Another excellent photograph found on flickr. This one is by Mark Cummins. If you click on the photograph it will take you to the URL where it is originally posted. I am not 100% certain what particular bird this is in the corvidae family. However, I think it might be a rook but I am reluctant to say this for certain with authority because I am not so familiar with rooks to recognize off the top of my head. It looks like a rook and it looks like it the same bird I previously posted by the same photographer and it was a rook. So, I imagine it is either the same bird or a similar one. =) This is the Corvus frugilegus which means "food-gathering" in Latin. They are more commonly referred to as the Rook. I have not had the great pleasure of seeing this bird in person but I am very excited to learn about it. It looks like a harsher, thinner crow. It appears, to me, to have had a hard-knock-life. I like how it wears its character, much like I relish the quirks in people; a wrinkle earned through years of laughter and tears, an innocent freckle just above the wrist, the shy happiness in a crooked smile, the confident swing of a left-leaning gait. From what I've learned about the Rook, you can differentiate it from similar corvids by looking for the "bare gray-white skin around the base of the adult's bill in front of the eyes or the feathering around the legs; it looks shaggier and laxer than the congeneric Carrion Crow."1 It seems it is found all over Europe and east of Europe. I read that it is found in Great Britain quite frequently.
Where Rooks Live...
Normal Range of Habitat for the Rook (Where Rooks Live...)
Much like all corvids, it is a survivor. It will eat just about anything depending on where it lives. It prefers earthworms and insect larvae but will eat cereal grain, fruit, insects, crustaceans, small animals, acorns, bird eggs, and will pilfer through the trash for food scraps in urban areas.2 The Rook nests together in a colony. This is commonly referred to as colonial nesting which means nesting with many other birds in a safe place and living commune-style. The Rooks learn from one another and find food together. They protect one another but they are still predatory birds, so they can be found stealing from another from time to time. They prefer to nest way up high in trees. They typically have 3-5 eggs which are incubated for 16-18 days and the fledglings are cared for by their parents and other rooks for about a month. Once fully fledged, they get together with other single rooks and sometimes even jackdaws and fly around, presumably deciding who they will mate with in the future. Or perhaps just enjoying the free, young, single life...flying around without a care. You can hear a rook here. It sounds much like most crows but maybe a little throatier which matches how they look, for me anyways. =) I like their throaty "caw". Rooks are interesting birds. And so they are written about...people speculate about their abilities and even conjure up powers for these intelligent birds. I found the following on Wikipedia... it is a direct copy and paste but interesting.
Like many other members of the Corvidae family, the Rook features prominently in folklore. Traditionally, Rooks are said to be able to forecast weather and to sense the approach of death. If a rookery — the colonial nesting area of rooks — were abandoned, it was said to bring bad fortune for the family that owned the land. Another folk-tale holds that rooks are responsible for escorting the souls of the virtuous dead to heaven. William Butler Yeats may be making reference to the latter tale in his poem The Cold Heaven. In Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic book series, Abel reveals that the parliament would surround a single rook, with that one telling a story. If the story was not liked, the parliament would attack and kill the speaker. In Brian Jacques's Redwall series, rooks make an appearance in Mattimeo. Rooks, along with magpies and other similar birds make up the army of General Ironbeak, one of the villains in the book. In Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, rooks are seen as agents of the Dark and the sign-seeker, Will Stanton is warned never to fully trust one. In Phillip Pullman's book Northern Lights Lyra Belacqua and Roger Parslow catch and heal an injured rook on the college rooftop. In Stephen King's Dark Tower entry Wizard and Glass, one of the characters, Cuthbert Allgood, carries a rook's skull tied around his neck, claiming it as a good luck charm.
I am now an official fan of the Rook. I may always have been but I simply did not know it. Do YOU have a Rook story to share with me? I would love to hear one (or many!) If so, e-mail me below.

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  1. Wikipedia []
  2. Wikipedia []

Here Comes The Rural Rook

Here Comes The Rural Rook Originally uploaded by Mark Cummins
Ok, I know! I am going hogwild with the flickr photos today but really, aren't they worth looking at? This is a beautiful photo by Mark Cummins (on Flickr) of a Rural Rook. They are so interesting to look at, they are thinkers. I can appreciate that quality in them. Unfortunately, I have never seen a rook in person. Poor me. I will do some more research on rooks and see where I can find them. I should know this but I am on a journey of exploration here.