The Man and the Ravens
An Anishnabe (Anishinabe) Legend
There once was a man that enjoyed watching the black ravens fly around, play, squawk, and chatter. He enjoyed them so much he would climb trees just to be closer to them. For many months the ravens ignored the man, but after a while, one of the ravens flew from a nearby tree and landed directly next to the man.
In utter amazement, the bird spoke to the man and asked, "You have been watching us for a long time. You have tried to get close to us. Why do you do this?"
The man replied, "I mean no harm. I have become enchanted with you and all your relatives. I enjoy the play, the squawking, and I wish I could learn your language so I could understand more about you."
Then the raven responded, "We are honored that you want to know us, as long as you do not cause harm, we will teach you our language."
For many months the ravens taught the man all about the language and how the ravens lived from day to day. The man became so educated that he knew everything there was to know about the ravens. Many of the ravens saw the man and accepted him as a friend.
One day, an older raven was flying far over the man, dropped a walnut perfectly on the man's head. It was done on purpose and all the ravens almost fell off their branches laughing so hard the way they do. One raven was flying and was laughing so hard he had to crash land right in front of the man.
The man was feeling bad and was hurt by being made fun of, so he asked the raven in front of him, "Why are you all picking on me."
The raven stopped laughing and became very serious. "We thought you understood us, but apparently you don't. If you did you would know that we are not mocking you... well maybe a bit, but it is done in our way of having fun. We are 'playing' with you and that is all. It is not to be taken seriously. You should know us better."
The man took sometime to understand this and over time a few more practical jokes were played on the man and he in turn pulled a few "good ones" on the birds. A good time was had by all and the man became even closer to the Ravens.
Then another event occurred. A young raven swooped out of the sky and pecked the man on the head. Then another young Raven swooped down and did the same thing. The man ran across the field and into the woods but the Ravens kept chasing him and very skillfully they flew at high speeds through the woods tormenting the man. Finally the two stopped and started to yell mean words, fighting words at the man.
Again the man did not understand, but he knew the two ravens were very mad at him, so he decided to leave and let the Ravens be. The man went away for many months.
As he did his duties in the his tribal village, he told all the people about his adventures and what he learned about the ravens. Some listened with intent, others just thought the man was a fool to study the Ravens so. The villagers gave the man a new name of "Black Feather" because of his close relationship to the birds, but the man objected and said, "I am no longer close to the raven people."
From above there was a squawking sound of a single raven. Some of the people looked up and were surprised that they could understand the raven, others just looked around because they could hear nothing but squawking. The raven was speaking to the man and said, "It is true, you are closer to us than any Anishinabe (Human) has ever come. You are close, but you still don't understand us fully. I invite you to return to us, many miss you."
Black Feather started to follow the raven but then stopped at the edge of the village. He looked around to make sure no other Anishinabe could hear then asked the raven, "why do you ask me back when the two Ravens where fighting with me and were mean."
"The raven landed at Black Feathers feet and said, "See how little you understand us. The two young ravens did not fight with you because you are Anishinabe, it is because they accepted you as a member of the raven people. You should know that we fight among ourselves too. It is a part of our way of life. Instead of sulking and leaving you should have fought back."
Black Feather stood in silence and said, "There is much about ravens I don't understand. Maybe we are too different people to ever understand each other. I should stop and return to my people in the village."
The raven again shook his head and told Black Feather, "That is your choice, but again I tell you that you have come closer to us Raven people than any other Anishinabe. Would you throw this all away just because you can't understand us yet?"
Black Feather responded, "It's useless, how can I ever understand you, I can't even fly!"
A thousand bursts of laughter was heard from all the surrounding trees and Black Feather knew that all the Raven People were there, hiding and listening.
"Of course you can't fly. You are Anishinabe and we are Ravens. But we accept you as one of us. We play with you. We fight with you. We love you and want you back. We also recommend you don't try to fly in order to be like us, because then, you would not be Anishinabe nor a Raven but something else. We like you as an Anishinabe that understands us as Ravens. Join us or not the decision is yours."
Black Feather returned to the Anishinabe village and bid everyone farewell because he had decided to live with the Raven people. After all the farewells and such he started to leave the village. All the Anishinabe people were there to see him off, and high over head was a thousand ravens.
Then from high above one of the older ravens dropped a walnut shell and again with remarkable aim, plunked Black Feather right on the head. All the Ravens started laughing hard and all the Anishinabe were laughing too.
Black Feather laughed and looked up at the old raven and said, "Good one."
Reprinted by permission by the author since 2005, Charles P. Whitedog, Ojibway. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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