- In general, ravens are unlucky birds, and their croaking an *omen of death. However, the tame ones at the Tower of London are England's *mascots; if ever they die out, or fly away, the Crown and the country will be destroyed. It was Charles II who gave the first ravens to the Tower, and the belief may only date from his time. On the other hand, *Arthur himself, the archetypal protector of Britain, was linked with these birds. Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote (1605, book II, chapter 5) that no Englishman will kill a raven because 'there is an ancient tradition common all over that kingdom of Great Britain that this king did not die, but by arts of enchantment was transformed into a raven'. Similarly, a contributor to N&Q (1s:8 (1853), 618) told how his father, some sixty years earlier, aimed a shot at a raven on Marazion Green (Cornwall), and was rebuked by an old man who said King Arthur was still alive in the form of that bird.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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