The Symbolism of Ravens: Background information when reading Raven Summer

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Raven Summer

by David Almond

Raven Summer by David Almond
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2009, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2011, 208 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Symbolism of Ravens

Print Review

Raven Summer begins with a raven beckoning to Liam to follow him. He flies a bit ahead, stops, calls to Liam - Jak jak! Jak jak! - and then flies a bit ahead again. Like this, the raven leads Liam to the abandoned baby. What is the symbolism of this loud, large beaked, black bird?

Ravens figure prominently in many legends from around the world.

Welsh: The Welsh hero, Bran, whose name means raven, was the holder of ancestral memories. He was said to be so intelligent that he had his head interred in the Sacred White Mount in London (where the Tower of London stands) - this is after being decapitated in a battle with Ireland and his head becoming an oracle! Ravens roost there and are said to be protecting Bran's wisdom.

Norse: The Norse God, Odin, was known as the Raven God. He was accompanied by two ravens: Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), who he would send out into the world to deliver messages and gather information that they would report back to him. Odin's daughters, the Valkyres, were said to take the shape of ravens.

Native American: The raven is sometimes depicted as a trickster and sometimes as a messenger spirit. It symbolizes the void - the mystery which is not yet formed - and is the guardian of ceremonial magic and healing circles.

Chinese: The raven is a solar symbol in Chinese mythology. A three legged raven lives in the sun and is symbolic of the three phases of the sun: rising, noon, and setting.

Australian Aborigine: In this lore, the raven tried to steal fire from the seven sisters - the Pleides - and was charred black in the attempt.

Greek: In Greek mythology, ravens are the messengers of the sun gods, Helios and Apollo.

Scottish: The goddess of winter, Cailleach, is supposed to be able to take the form of a raven. A touch from her brings death.

Ravens are intelligent birds. In fact, they can actually learn to speak when kept and trained in captivity. This makes them the ultimate oracle in many legends, and they are often considered a messenger of important information. But they are also thought to be the custodians of secrets, perhaps because of their intelligence, and so they are both the keepers and givers of information. In this way, their meanings are contradictory; they are simultaneously one thing and its opposite.

This is precisely what David Almond creates in Raven Summer - a breathtaking and painful examination of the complicated contradictions within a human being. Perhaps the raven within us all.

Image above: Raven, by William B. Ritchie, 1984. Permanent Collection of the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Article by Tamara Smith

This article was originally published in February 2010, and has been updated for the September 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...
  • Book Jacket: Temporary People
    Temporary People
    by Deepak Unnikrishnan
    In this powerful and innovative collection of 28 short stories, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents a ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    If We Were Villains
    by M. L. Rio

    An intelligent and captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -