"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows."
— Henry Ward Beecher
They're dark. They sound ominous (quark). They'll eat just about anything they can find, including dead bodies on the battlefield or corpses hanging from the gallows.
Crows and ravens (both corvids) are serious—and seriously creepy—wherever they show up. (Except for the Idiot Crows.) In most of their fictional appearances, they are the go-to scary bird (at least when vultures aren't available), and are traditionally associated with death in many mythologies and cultures.
A group of crows is a murder; a group of ravens is an unkindness or conspiracy (and rooks are a building or parliament, jackdaws are a clattering)note Poetically speaking, anyway; in ornithological terms, a group of birds is always a flock, regardless of species.
On the other hand, corvids are also very clever. This is Truth in Television, as the Beecher quote shows. They may feature a crow as the Deadpan Snarker or the Trickster Mentor. While crows and ravens are genuinely capable of speech in Real Life, their speaking voices are almost cartoonish, although they have the ability to modulate their voices to be deep, booming or just creepy, hear it yourselves.
Because they are so visually similar, in many visual media it can be hard to tell whether the bird in question is meant to be a raven or a crow (note that some Old World crows are gray with black head and wings; in Eastern Europe, where this subspecies is ubiquitous, no troubles exist telling ravens from crows). There is little if any difference in how they are treated; however, ravens are more likely to cross over into Big Badass Bird of Prey territory)note Technically, corvids are passerines, or perching birds; some raven species are the largest passerines in the world. They'll often have the behavior of a crow, but be called "ravens" because the word "raven" sounds more badass.
Corvids suffer from a strange sort of form of the Conservation of Ninjutsu. A single crow will probably be intelligent (and, if one of the bad guys, will also take an unnerving interest in the heroes). On the other hand, a whole murder of crows/congress of ravens will just be mindless animals possibly under the control of something or someone external. They are also sometimes associated with Scary Scarecrows. Of course, the significance of various numbers of corvids (often magpies; see description of Magpies as Portents trope below) is the subject of some Older Than Feudalism superstitions. Sometimes corvids are shown more-or-less positively (although ravens are usually (but not always) more likely to be heroic characters than crows), and in this case their traditional characteristics are portrayed in a better light. Heroic ravens are often wise or intelligent characters, while crows tend to be friendly tricksters or Plucky Comic Relief.
On the other hand, crows (never ravens) are a staple of The Golden Age of Animation, appearing in countless funny cartoon shorts set on family farms, where their role is to drive farmers nuts gobbling up their corn crops. Cartoon crows are always played for humor and aren't the slightest bit scary, though they can certainly be annoying to the farmers (and the occasional living scarecrow). They tend to be Screwy Squirrel tricksters.
Crows and ravens tend to fall under the Trickster Archetype. What Measure Is a Non-Cute? is a matter of some disagreement. For more creepy birds, see Feathered Fiend, but also see the note on scavengers in Carnivore Confusion. For magpies, closely related both in Real Life and in tropes, see Thieving Magpie, which is about magpies' compulsion to steal, particularly shiny objects (any magpie-related examples related to thievery should go there and not here) and also Magpies as Portents (any magpie-related examples related to the "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy" nursery rhyme or to omens should go there and not here). For black feathers used as symbolism, see Feather Motif.
Shout Outs to Edgar Allan Poe are so commonplace as to be cliche.
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Anime and Manga
Uchiha Itachi in Naruto uses crows as part of his genjutsu. He can hide them inside his victim's body to deliver time-delayed brainwashing techniques.
Not to mention the infamous "Murder of Crows" jutsu, which is officially named the "Scattering One Thousand Crows Technique." Its user, Aoba Yamashiro, is said by fans to have scared two members of Akatsuki into running away with this technique, though it's more likely that there were reinforcements arriving and they were going to leave soon anyway. There are also a variety of other crow-related techniques used by various characters, and one of Kankuro's puppets is called "Crow."
The STNJ ( Witch Hunter Robin ) are headquartered in Raven's Flat, and crows and ravens are featured heavily in the series.
This is somewhat complicated in the ADV dub, where they use the words raven and crow more-or-less interchangeably (because the Japanese word karasu is used for both). They're pretty consistent for the Monster Raven, but everything else varies from line to line.
Rei Hino from Sailor Moon, aka Sailor Mars, has a pair of crows named Phobos and Deimos (Named for the Moons of Mars) Let's just say that, in the manga, they aren't ordinary crows... They're shapeshifting aliens from the planet Coronis whose job is is to protect Sailor Mars. They aren't this in the anime and only appear briefly as the shrine's pets and aren't named at all in the live action.
Tatsunoko's Karas movie series depicts a crow warrior as the main character (karasu is Japanese for crow).
Crows frequently appear when something is about to go bad in Paranoia Agent. Which is all the time
Bad Bird & the Ninja Crows (or Karamaru & the Karasu Clan, if you prefer) of Samurai Pizza Cats fame.
The 1st Patlabor movie has a memorable scene involving Noah being menaced by a room full of sinister-looking, possibly mind-controlled crows in a Shout-Out to Hitchcock's The Birds.
Birds, especially corvids, also show up in numerous pivotal scenes of the second movie, as well. Director Mamoru Oshii seems to be using them as a visual motif for the schemes of criminal masterminds who try to put themselves above the common people with their manipulative games: E.Hoba in the first movie & Tsuge in the second.
Toto, from The Cat Returns, is a stone statue shaped like a crow that is able to come to life. He enjoys pestering and insulting Muta, but is good friends with the Baron and very sweet when talking to Haru. He and his crow friends also play an important role at the end of the movie by preventing the rest of the gang from falling to their deaths.
The crows in Haibane Renmei bridge the line between Glie and the outside world. One acts indirectly as a spiritual guide for Rakka, and is implied to be some reincarnated loved one.
In Cowboy Bebop, Vicious seems to have some sort of pet raven than spends a great deal of time perched on his shoulder, complete with ominous flapping and crowing whenever he kills someone.
In the Korean manhwaRagnarok there's Muninn and Huginn, Odin's beholders. They are able to shapeshift from crows with necklaces of eyes and fangs into human women.
Ghost in the Shell uses these as a metaphor for individuality: when Batou is debating Goda on how a Stand-Alone Complex can be used to unite the people, we see an albino crow flying amongst a murder of regular crows.
There's a lovely example of this in the first ending for Death Note. Light is standing by water, surrounded by doves — except that his reflection is surrounded by crows instead.
A three-eyed crow demon is one of the first enemies that InuYasha and Kagome encounter and it sort of kicks off the series.
Nii Jienyi of Saiyuki is sometimes associated with carrion crows as well as with rabbits when in his mad scientist guise. When in his guise as Ukoku Sanzo, the crow imagery goes crazy. Ukoku translates literally as "a single crow cried", after what was going on in the background when he killed his master. He wears an unusual dark-colored variation of the standard flowing white sanzo robes, and the sleeves often look like wings when he strikes from above. In response to a young Hazel's distaste for corvids, Ukoku says that in Chinese folklore there's a good raven that lives in the dark spots on the surface sun...which seems to be an as-yet cryptic link to the extensive sun symbolism in the series.
In the Mai-HiME anime, Shiho's Child is Yatagarasu, named after the messenger from the gods in Shinto canon. It has one leg instead of three, possibly signifying that "loyalty, truthfulness and devotion" are replaced by the user's Yandere nature.
In Mai-Otome, the Valkyrie unit's armor was designed to invoke the actual raven-like image of the Valkyries, especially when they're in the form for fast movement.
In Noein the main character is called Yuu and he becomes a dragon warrior in the future version of himself and the name given to him is Karasu. His appearance is black and menacing so the Crow aspect is strong.
Child Ballad 26 "The Three Ravens" features three ravens discussing dinner. They mention a dead knight, but his body is being protected by his hawk and his hounds, and his true love comes to bury him and die of grief. It has a much more cynical variant, "The Twa Corbies", where the ravens instead discuss how the dead knight's hawk, hound, and lady have all deserted him, so they can eat his corpse.
Matthew the raven in The Sandman. Matthew is friendly, not a trickster (though a bit of a wise guy), pleasant and the most loyal guy in the Dreaming.
As noted above, Poe shoutouts are common. This is subverted when Matthew gets on top of a bust to shout "Nevermore!", only to say that he took it from "Peter Lorre in that Roger Corman movie", not knowing that the movie is an adaptation of Poe's The Raven.
Hans Huckebein, the unlucky raven, is the main character of a story by Wilhelm Busch. While not overtly sinister, he is a malicious, destructive prankster who dies by accidentally hanging himself when drunk at the end of the story.
Jonathan Crane of the Batman comics, better known as the supervillain Scarecrow, is frequently seen and associated with corvids. In various appearances he has a pet raven named Nightmare or a crow named Craw, and uses a flock of crows to attack Batman in Haunted Knight. On the other hand, in one version of his origin his Freudian Excuse involved his fanatically religious great-grandmother setting trained crows on him as a punishment.
A different villain named the Scarecrow, originally from the Iron Man comics but later used as a Ghost Rider villain, is a contortionist turned Serial Killer who uses trained crows to Zerg Rush his victims. In his first appearance during the Silver Age, the crows were stolen from another performer and used to aid in robberies.
In "The Raven", the king sees a dead raven on white marble and thinks, ""O heavens! and cannot I have a wife as white and red as this stone, and with hair and eyebrows as black as the feathers of this raven?"
Alexandra Quick plays with this. The wizarding world plays it straight by associating ravens and crows with dark wizards and witches. Alexandra picks a raven as a familiar, both to screw with people's expectations of her and to say bullocks to the conventions. Said familiar, Charlie, subverts the trope. Jury's still out on whether Abraham Thorn's association with them is a subversion or a straight example.
In Corpse Bride, crows appear to be one of the few types of animal who can visit the Land of the Dead while still alive. Both times Victor is pulled down to the Land of the Dead by Emily, they're surrounded by a flock of them. Crows also live in Elder Gutknecht's tower — he uses their feathers and eggs for magical purposes.
In Fritz the Cat, crows represent black people, much like in Dumbo.
Films — Live-Action
In The Virgin Spring, as Ingeri and Karin enter the woods and approach the scary, ominous cabin of a creepy hermit, a raven appears and squawks. The creepy hermit is strongly implied to be the god Odin, granting Ingeri's wish for a curse on Karin, who is promptly raped and murdered.
In The Avengers, when Thor hauls Loki off to the mountaintop for their "discussion," a pair of ravens can be seen briefly flying past the screen. These are presumably their father Odin's ravens Hugin and Munin.
James O'Barr's The Crow, both the film and the graphic novel version, has the bird as a kind of guide and familiar to the undead avenger protagonist. In the film version, if the crow dies the avenger becomes mortal again, but doesn't lose his other powers.
However, a less malevolent raven appears with a student at the end of the last film, suggesting that wizards keep them as pets.
In the new Sherlock Holmes, Lord Blackwood, whose father notes at one point has been followed by death his entire life, is also followed by a rather sinister black bird.
In The Matrix Reloaded, Agent Smith's arrival is heralded by a flock of crows. This is done because in older, superstitious cultures, crows showing up was considered to be a sign that something bad was on the way.
In The Bird War, the villain is a Feathered Fiend named Fagin, but it is never specified if he is a crow or a raven.
Like in the book, ravens and crows are generally an ill omen in The Lord of the Rings. The "crebain from Dunland" that Legolas sees near the Misty Mountains are implied to be servants of Saruman.
Gandalf: The Enemy has many spies ... beasts, and birds ...
The evil queen Ravenna in Snow White & the Huntsman uses a corvid motif, and is able to transform into a flock of ravens at will, while her minions change into a murder of crows when killed. However, some magpies serve as Snow White's friends and allies.
A flock of crows are heard at the beginning of the Holocaust drama Conspiracy. Crows commonly symbolize death, so the connection to the planned genocide is quite obvious.
In Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Prue's brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows.
In Peter S. Beagle's A Fine And Private Place; a raven helps and cares for the protagonist, Jonathan Rebeck, who lives in a graveyard, giving him food and, later, news.
In Hiromi Goto's Half World, crows can fly between the mortal world and Half World, and even serve as a literal bridge. They also follow Melanie whose parents came from Half World around, which makes her classmates think she is creepy and are one of the reasons she is bullied. Subverted in that they are her allies, eventually helping her fight the Big Bad.
In the "Lay of Leithien", Beren returns to the hiding place of his comrades to find they have all been killed and crows are feasting on their bodies. Then he hears the crows mocking him for arriving too late to save his companions.
In King Crow, this is half played straight and half averted. The crow is clever but not spooky, even though it makes its first appearance on a battlefield (setting up an Androcles Lion situation).
Harry Potter: Ravenclaw House, although intelligence is its defining trait and it is not the most sinister of the Houses. Despite the name, Ravenclaw's mascot is an eagle.
Mat from the Wheel of Time series is based on Odin and acquires a ring with ravens on it late in the series. He also has a Blade on a Stick with an inscription referencing "Thought" and "Memory", the names of Odin's two ravens. In the 11th book he even becomes the Prince of Ravens through marriage. The Dark One uses ravens as spies, and at one point early in the series a huge flock of them is shown patrolling a forest, swarming and completely stripping the flesh from anything that breaks from the cover of the trees.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow, As black as a tar-barrel; Which frightened both the heroes so, They quite forgot their quarrel.
Speaking of Lewis Carroll: "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?" There is no real answer but Lewis Carroll himself suggested: "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!"
A very rare breed of white raven exists, significantly more intelligent than the black kind. They can be trained to talk, and Jeor Mormont's bird has an unsettling habit of saying all-too-appropriate, or outright prophetic-sounding, things.
It is mentioned offhand that ravens used to be the patron bird of Blind Io due to their intelligence. Ravens seem to have an obsession for eating eyeballs (if Quoth is any indication). Consider the fact that Blind Io has dozens of disembodied eyeballs floating around him, and one sees why ravens are ''no longer'' his patron bird.
Small Gods revealed that this trope's members have an even more disreputable Klatchian relative, the scalbie, which resembles a crow that's caught mange and is too lazy to fly. Scalbies will eat things that make a vulture sick. Scalbies would eat vulture sick. Scalbies eat anything.
The conspiracy of ravens living in the rooftops and towers of Unseen university are intelligent enough to be able to speak and stupid enough to be completely annoying.
The seventh book in A Series of Unfortunate Events takes place in a small village that's just overrun with crows. Later books mention or imply that V.F.D. uses them as messenger birds.
Seventeen books later, Doomwyte features an evil corvid cult that lives underground, including ravens, crows, and magpies. They are led by a raven named Korvus Skurr.
Subverted in the Chronicles of Prydain with Kaw the crow, who, although talkative and mischievous, is an ally of the good guys. Kaw starts out as the Team Pet, though he later becomes a real hero.
Neil Gaiman has the goddess Bird in Anansi Boys portrayed as ravenlike. When she starts sending all birds in the world
after Spider, it edges into this trope, Hitchcock-style, but mixes it up by also throwing a violent flock of flamingos at him.
American Gods features Odin as an important character who, at one point, sends a raven to guide the protagonist, Shadow. The raven is able to repeatedly speak the name of the town where Shadow is supposed to go next, and nothing else... until Shadow tries to coax it into saying "nevermore", at which point it replies "fuck you" and flies away.
Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series uses crows as a symbol of death and battle constantly. "Crows" is also commonly used as a swear word, likely for the same reason. They are not considered very clever, though.
People are quite accustomed to them appearing on a battlefield to feast on the dead. A bit too accustomed, when the Vord hide their Marionette Masters in a murder of crows.
In Cursor's Fury, when the flag of one of Tavi's units is charred and resembles a crow, the soldiers embrace it, becoming the "Battlecrows", so that their foes know the crows are coming for them.
In The Edge Chronicles, white ravens are often feared as omens of death. For the most part they are voracious, scrawny scavengers, but at least two white ravens are shown as relatively friendlier and can speak due to being taught by sapient creatures.
In Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, the main villain, Nettlebrand, employs flocks of red-eyed ravens as Mooks. It turns out that these ravens aren't real ravens at all, but enchanted crabs.
Huge flocks of reanimated crows called Gore Crows feature in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. An entire flock is animated by a single Dead spirit and acts with a singular purpose. On top of it all, being reanimated doesn't mean they've stopped decomposing.
Corvids are a slightly unusual pick for Tayledras Bondbirds in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books (most choose various falcons and hawks). Ravens are known for being huge even by bondbird standards (which are invariably larger than their unmagical counterparts) and among the most intelligent birds, able to compete with humans. Crows are known as tricksters, and unusually gregarious- Tayledras who choose to bond with them often bond with an entire flock instead of the normal single bird.
Charles de Lint's Newford series has the Crow Girls. The series is heavily influenced by Native American Mythology, so it doesn't have quite the same connotations as many of the others listed on this page; they're trickster-ish, but mostly just playful young girls (ambiguously aged). There's also Jack Daw and a few other characters who fall into this bird type.
The Trickster books by Tamora Pierce feature a flock of crows. They're portrayed as very intelligent and curious birds, and they help the main character as part of a bargain with their god. They are considered by the people as 'brothers', and can, literally, change into human form, which comes in handy when the good guys are outnumbered during an assault. One even chooses to remain in his human form, and becomes the Hero's Love Interest.
The Nicholas Flamel series has Morrigan the Crow Goddess, who, during her first appearance, sends an entire army of birds after the heroes.
In His Dark Materials, the school master has a raven for a daemon. John Faa in turn has a crow, and later Mary Malone's daemon turns out to be an alpine chough.
Stephen Bauer's fantasy novel Satyrday centers on the attempts of the protagonists - an orphaned boy, the satyr who raised him, a fox-spirit, and a sympathetic raven named Deirdre - to combat a malevolent owl and his plot to kidnap the Moon (who is a character in her own right). The owl has forced vast numbers of ravens to serve him, with some of them "Just Following Orders" a bit too enthusiastically, while others question the owl's regime. Deirdre is interested in persuading the other ravens to abandon the owl.
Dan Abnett's Ravenor and Ravenor Returned have the sheen birds, mechanical birds that were created to live in a city where the pollution would kill most unprotected wildlife. They work for the Unkindness, controlled by heretics to perform assassinations almost like a force of nature, using their collective sharp-edged wings to strip victims down to their bloody bones.
Ravens are a constant motif in the books of Elaine Cunningham. In the Forgotten Realms novels they are everywhere, from Liriel's representation in a prophetic vision (and later nickname) to a named character. Shopscat, a pet raven of Curious Past shop (Thornhold), is able to say several meaningful phrases and has discouraged many a thief with his sharp beak.
Shopscat: Think about it.
In The Dark Is Rising, rooks (a corvid relative) are the agents of the Dark and appear at various points either as spies, harbingers of doom, actual receptacles of evil (the attack on the church on Christmas comes to mind), or simply to look ominous. There is some confusion as to whether they are genuinely wicked or merely misled and controlled by the villains; most of the time they seem rather mindless, and never do they cause any outright harm, but Merriman later says that they "chose to aid the Dark" or words to that effect, a choice they regretted when the Wild Hunt harried them to the ends of the earth. In any event, after book two the rooks are never shown to cause any problems again, whether they were freed from Mind Control or simply learned their lessons and decided to stay neutral from then on.
Crows appear in The Vile Village. The town is called VFD which stands for "Village of Fowl Devotees". They've infested the town, a la The Birds, but no one seems to mind.
In the Keep of Time: Before the children go to the past, a dark omen of sorts occurs in the form of a starving black bird trapped in the tower, and it falls to its death after they startle it from a window ledge. Later, when the children are returning to the present, another such bird swoops down on them right as they are turning the key.
Subverted in The Crows of Pearblossom, a children's book by Aldous Huxley (yes, that Aldous Huxley). The main protagonist is a perfectly agreeable mother crow trying to protect her eggs from a rattlesnake.
In Feather And Bone: The Crow Chronicles, crows are the protagonistic species and live in strictly organized groups, with their own culture and folklore.
Corvids in general, especially magpies and crows, are the resident Always Chaotic Evil species in the fantasy novel One For Sorrow, Two For Joy, in which they are mostly portrayed as either stupid, sadistic, or Ax-Crazy and kill smaller birds for fun.
In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus novel The Mark of Athena, Annabeth, deducing the secrets of the ghosts' Mithras cult, scolds one ghost for talking when it was merely a raven, the lowest order of initiate.
In a flashback chapter of the web-novel Domina, Akane's father has a sword named "Karasu," which he translates as "raven." Although technically that is correct, it would be more accurate to translate it as "crow." Maybe the Japanese word for raven (watarigarasu) didn't sound cool enough.
Crows are among the minions of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and they also figure heavily in the Scarecrow's backstory - when he was unable to scare them, an old crow taught him about how important brains were.
On a similar note, Elphaba uses crows given to her by Princess Nastoya in Wicked.
In the Elemental Masters series, Nan's familiar is a raven named Neville, who chose her when she and the rest of her school were visiting the Tower of London. Neville is much more intelligent than the other ravens, and starts speaking in a sequel book, when it becomes necessary for him to communicate with people other than Nan. It is stated that Neville's father is also intelligent, and formed a similar bond with the previous Raven Warden, leaving with him upon retirement.
Raven, the host of the children's fantasy game show Raven, (who is actually a metamorph rather than a bona fide bird), is a subversion of the norm in terms of personality—he's a pretty nice guy, who's probably supposed to be more Stern Teacher and Mr. Exposition than anything else. He was also, apparently, an immortal Celtic warlord which fits the trope somewhat closer.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data dreams of a raven who leads him to Dr. Soong, who built him. It's revealed in a different episode that Dr. Soong liked dinosaurs, which suggests the raven might also be an android. Birds = BadassDinosaurs.
In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine also dreams of a raven; in this case it's because her family's ship (upon which she had been assimilated) was called the Raven.
Six Feet Under. Ravens never appeared in the actual show but the season trailers, DVD boxarts and the awesome opening sequence frequently featured a raven to symbolize the show's close connection to "death". The trailer for the fifth season had a shot of the raven dead as a means of foreshadowing the Deadly Distant Finale.
In the episode of Deadliest Catch that has Captain Phil going to the hospital because of a stroke, there was a raven just sitting on the Cornelia Marie.
When Christopher Moltesante becomes a made man in The Sopranos a raven (or crow) appears in a window as the ceremony is taking place. Chris and his girlfriend later argue about the good or bad luck portents associated with seeing a crow or raven.
The Stand: Flagg is represented by a raven many times in the miniseries, although allusions are made in the novel.
The X-Files: Raven occurs at every crime scene and several other times. They are really creepy and disturbing. Lampshaded by Mulder when Skinner asked him about them while he was assigning him the case.
Skinner: Ravens. What do you know about them — their mythological or... paranormal significance?
Mulder: Well, the, uh... the... the raven is considered a... a very powerful symbol in certain Norse, Celtic and Native American cultures. Uh, mostly, a negative one. Indians view it as a deceiving spirit, Christianity mostly associates it with evil and, then, of course, there's Poe's Raven and, "nevermore"... and all that stuff.
Crows make frequent appearances in Ravenswood, not to mention that the towns name is Ravenswood. Also in one episode after the contract that created the curse is signed by the town fathers Gabriel Abbadon turns into a crow
In the mythology of the Insane Clown Posse, corvids are a means by which the dead watch and act upon the world of the living.
"Krähenfrass" by German Band Subway to Sally is based on "The Twa Corbies" mentioned above: Two crows are discussing dinner. They find a dead soldier and while eating him talk about how he is no different from his foe and how they love war and death because it provides them with food - as it is "der Soldaten Sinn und Zweck" (spirit and purpose of a soldier). However, the crows are also shown to be much more caring towards each other than humans are.
The promotional animated music videos for Queens of the Stone Age 's ...Like Clockwork album by Boneface have ravens hanging around the city before the apocalypse, one raven trying to snack on the body of an unnamed man in bloody bandages it thought was dead.
Odin had two ravens as companions. Their names, Hugin and Munin, suggest that they are his literal Thought and Memory. He sends them out all over the world each day to reconnoiter, and then they sit on his shoulders and tell him what they have seen.
The Japanese Tengu, half-man, half-crow monsters that were telepathic martial artist tricksters.
Raven is one of many trickster heroes in Native American mythology. In more than one case, the raven is actually the creator of the universe.
The crow has a role of the creator of the world in Australian Aboriginal mythology.
Frederick Barbarossa is asleep in a mountain until the ravens stop flying about it; he wakes every now and again, long enough to send a boy to check for them.
There's a story that says that the if the Tower of London's famous ravens ever leave it, the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. After two major disasters struck London in as many years, the king decided he didn't want to find out if bad luck really comes in threes, so he had several ravens' wings clipped to make sure they'd never leave. All but one raven died during World War II, they restocked the tower after the war with new ravens... The King was told at one point that Ravens were disturbing a scientist's work, and that they must be killed. Of course, that meant bad luck, so the King reached a small compromise - he got rid of all but 7. Since then, there are always meant to be 7 ravens in the tower grounds. They do, however, keep a few extra so they can easily get another if one dies. Which is also where the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time comes from — the ravens were disrupting the Royal Observatory at the Tower, and rather than take the risk of getting rid of the ravens, Charles II moved the observatory to Greenwich.
In Japanese Mythology, Yatagarasu is a three legged crow with three magatamas who reports to the Sun goddess Amaterasu. The three-legged crow of the sun is the counterpart to the rabbit of the moon in most Asian mythology.
Yatagarasu is also associated with a more obscure japanese sun god, Terashi Haru-omikami.
The 'Alala was occasionally kept by Hawaiian priests to translate the speech of the Land Snail and other spiritual creatures into human language so that the wishes of the natural world and the gods may be better known.
In Hindu Mythology, the mount of the Navagraha Shani is a raven or vulture.
Similarly to the Book of Genesis, Utnapishtim of The Epic of Gilgamesh sends a raven and a dove to search for land. The raven does not come back, causing Utnapishtim to realize that it found a place to rest.
In Chinese Mythology, there were once ten suns, each inhabited by a crow. When all ten suns rose at once, the archer Houyi shot nine of the ten crows to prevent the world from burning up.
In one of Aesop's Fables, a crow fills a pitcher with pebbles to reach water, a behaviour which has been observed in real life. In contrast, jackdaws (crow relatives), are usually foolish characters, and occasionally crows are, too (as in The Fox and the Crow).
In some stories, King Arthur was reborn as a raven after his death.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. Which, incidentally, has a lot to answer for in how the genus has been portrayed since. People tend to miss the fact that the bird isn't evil, per se, just a reminder of the narrator's lost love.
Sting's "black with white facepaint" attire is nicknamed "Crow Sting" by fans.
In The Bible, ravens get several mentions, mostly in the Old Testament:
A raven was one of the first birds released from Noah's Ark. Unlike the doves, the raven 'kept going and returning' (rather then searching) until the land dried up enough.
The book of Leviticus—which consists of laws and priestly codes—forbade eating ravens as they were considered unclean.
In the book of Job, God asks Job if he knows who feeds the raven when its young are starving—as part of a longer monologue about God's place in the world. This is echoed in one of the Psalms, and Jesus also references this in Luke's gospel.
In the book of Kings, ravens brought food for Elijah during his time in the Kerith Ravine.
Ravens are associated with some saints, such as Saint Benedict of Nursia and Saint Vincent of Saragossa.
In the Qur'an's Sura Al-Ma'ida, a raven teaches Cain how to bury his brother.
The Baltimore Ravens of the NFL. As stated in the film Finding Forrester, they're the only team with literary roots: Edgar Allan Poe lived in Baltimore much of his life. Unsurprisingly, instead of just one mascot, they have a trio—named Edgar, Allan, and Poe.
The Adelaide Crows in Australian Rules Football—ironic, considering that Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, whose inhabitants are nicknamed "croweaters".
The nickname was originally a slur on South Australians, accusing them of eating carrion birds, being Australian they took it on.
In Warhammer 40,000 two Space Marine Chapters named themselves after ravens: the Raven Guard, noted for their use of tactics rather than straight brute force, and the Blood Ravens, who value and seek out knowledge.
The Night Lords legion has somewhat of an association with corvids; the original second in command of the legion was called "Prince of Crows".
One of the sorcerer-cults of the pre-heresy Thousand Sons legion was the Corvidae - specialising in the magicks of divination and fate. The Arch-Sorcerer Ahriman was once a member.
Who, incidentally, did NOT take well to being confused with crows...
A raven is the symbol of Morr, the god of death and dreams in Warhammer.
Tzeentch, the Chaos God of knowledge, magic, and intricate scheming, is sometimes referred to as the Raven God. In Warhammer Online the Tzeentch-aligned Chaos warcamps usually have a dozen or so ravens either flying around or perched on gibbets, and caster wargear often incorporates a bird skull motif to creepy effect.
The raven is also a symbol of the elven goddess of fate, Morai-Heg, and a popular heraldic symbol among the elves of Nagarythe - both of High and Dark Elf persuasions. During the wars of the Sundering the mysterious order of the Raven Heralds was ubiquitous in providing information to both sides.
Points Of Light, the intentionally vague default setting of the 4th edition, has The Raven Queen as the goddess of death, who is, as her name implies, heavily associated with various corvids. Interestingly, she is not evil, but True Neutral. Death comes equally to everyone, after all.
There's also a spell called "Blood Crow Strike," which creates energy blasts in the shape of fiery crows. Perhaps predictably, it has the evil descriptor.
There are at least two sorts of psychopomp (the servants of Pharasma, anotherTrue Neutraldeath goddess) that look, or can look, corvid: The huge, powerful yamarajes appear part raven and part dragon, and the tiny nosoi often resemble crows.
Eclipse Phase has uplifted ravens and crows, though they share the same "neo-avian" stats as the more common parrots.
And his successor, Raging Raven, who actually looks vaguely like a raven.
Literal ravens and crows also appear in both games (all on Shadow Moses Island). It is also implied in Metal Gear Solid that Vulcan Raven's presence on Shadow Moses Island also resulted in the raven/crow population increasing on the base.
Murkrow and its evolution Honchcrow in Pokémon. Their behavior in the anime can best be summed up in two words: Flying Jerkass. Mostly because one of them is trained by Ash's rival Paul.
The Phantom Thief Yatagarasu in Ace Attorney Investigations takes its name from the three-footed raven mentioned above. Kay even works it into her motto, saying the Yatagarasu is there in darkest night "when no other bird dare fly".
That and the fact that his name is Latin for raven, or crow.
The Elder Scrolls in general features Nocturnal, the Daedric prince of night, darkness and thieves, who is always seen with a raven on each arm, and likes to appear in a flock of them. Corvus' Grey Fox mask is in fact an artifact of hers.
In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, Raidou receives orders from the Yatagarasu - often depicted as crows, but only in a boss( Amatsu Mikaboshi)'s battle quote is it made explicit ("So the Foxes still serve the crows!"). They are mainly associated with divine will, linking them to the Law Alignment.
Haer'Dalis in Baldur's Gate II tends to call the protagonist "my raven" for some reason. Possibly due to his/her bloodline as the offspring of the Lord of Murder, Bhaal, which Haer'Dalis—being a doomguard—instinctively senses if not having been told.
Haer'Dalis refers to several people with bird-nicknames (he, himself, is "Sparrow").
In Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, the Druid can summon a murder of ravens to "peck his enemy's eyes out".
Mega Man X 7 has Wind Crowrang, the spiritual successor to Storm Eagle. He's a fast and agile foe, and one of the harder Mavericks to fight. He's mostly black and gray with yellow trim and highlights (though his beak is black), and his dialogue and fight quotes are riddled with caws.
The original series had Tengu Man (Mega Man 8, & Bass).
Dragon Age: Origins has the Antivan Crows, an organization of assassins, and of which Zevran is a member. Interestingly, most times the player comes to an area teeming with some literal crows, the Antivan variety are not far behind.
Crows can be seen in several places in Prototype; pecking at corpses in the intro, flying around infected water towers, and being used by Alex Mercer as building material to regenerate after he failed to Outrun the Fireball.
Fiddlesticks and Swain from League of Legends. Swain turns into a giant crow beast and has two more Poe-based attacks, and Fiddlesticks, well, three words: Caw Caw Caw.
Fiddlesticks has a crow theme going for him, being a scarecrow and all. His Dark Wind ability takes the form of a crow, and his Crowstorm ultimate can ruin an entire team's day when he pops out of the brush with it.
Bioshock Infinite gives us the Murder Vigor which summons a flock of crows, much like the Insect Swarm plasmid in previous games. There's also Songbird, who is both nightmarish and distinctly crow-like. Crows are also revered by the Fraternal Order of the Raven, a KKK-like group who revere John Wilkes Booth as their patron saint.
In fitting with the dreary pseudo-Victorian atmosphere, Gilneas City in World of Warcraft has crows hanging around all over the place. They don't really do anything, though; they're just there for the ambiance.
Druids of the Talon have the raven as their totem animal, and can change into ravens (the Druid Flight Form for the Tauren, Night Elves and Worgen is also a raven). The hippogryph has the head, front legs, wings and tail of a raven and the neck, body, rear legs, and antlers of a stag.
In keeping with the series' theme of using birds to denote important locations, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has crows and ravens flying around towers which are under the Borgia's control.
Demon's Souls features a giant crow named Sparkly, with whom the player character can trade "sparkly, twinkly" items.
In Fire Emblem Awakening, Henry the Sociopathic Hero is often seen surrounded by crows. When he appears, there are so many crows around him that the area is obscured, and Chrom can't help asking him where do they come from.
Dr. Tan and his son Oblio, from the video game Dance Central, love crows and live among them... and even dress like them.
Team Fortress 2 offered a limited-time raven companion during the Halloween 2013 event, which can be equipped at Halloween or during a full moon. Its default name? "Quoth."
The Order of the Stick: Vaarsuvius's familiar, Blackwing. Though there was originally a Running Gag that he'd only appear when V remembered him (and he didn't even have a name until Haley named him), after a certain series of events, Blackwing is present all the time, mostly serving as The Conscience to V.
.Memoria: Lampshaded and then played straight in this comic. A raven is seen in the park, adding to the creepy atmosphere. The main characters comment on its being there, and aren't especially frightened by it at first. Then, of course, things get worse, and they are attacked by an entire flock of ravens.
Homestuck: Dave Strider's apartment block is surrounded by quite a large crow population; one crow dares to invade his room and gets run through with one of Dave's katanas in an inventory mishap, but not before making off with his copies of Sburb. It's later prototyped into Dave's sprite, giving enemies in Sburb wings and a sword through the chest.
In Off-White Ravens are the minions of the dark spirit wolf, though, whether they or the wolf are evil or not has not been revealed yet. And in keeping with the Norse theme naming they're named Hugin and Munin.
The Depraven hails from Bogleech's Mortasheen. It actually doesn't have THAT much distortion in terms of MOST of its anatomy compared to the other Eldritch Abominations you might meet there, and you may even mistake it for a real crow. That is, of course, until you look between its legs and find out, a second too late, that it's got a GREAT BIG PAIR OF DICKSthatit isn't afraid to use.
The Harry PotterForum RoleplayAbsit Omen has a raven as its logo juxtaposed next to the site's motto "Let there be no (omens of) evil here" although the raven is seen as an omen of evil. This is to symbolise that no matter how much the players try, evil will always be around somewhere...
The plot of one episode of The Simpsons had Homer destroy a scarecrow, gaining the loyalty of the crows it was meant to get rid of. They proceed to serve him loyally, and possibly killed a few people, until they nearly kill Maggie by accident. After that Homer tries to get rid of them, but they turn on him and hurt his eyes.
Marge Simpson: I don't want a flock of crows in our bedroom! Homer Simpson: It's a murder, honey. A group of crows is called a murder.
A crow call is often heard in establishing shots of the Springfield nuclear plant, perhaps as a sign of the ominous doings that often occur therein.
The first Treehouse of Horror did a version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. which is one of the least changed adaptations of the poem.
Goofy's pal Ellsworth in the Disney comics is formally a mynah bird, not a crow, but is drawn and characterized almost indistinguishably from the Columbia crow, with the sole difference that Ellsworth talks like a sarcastic snob rather than a sarcastic New Yorker.
Napoleon Jones of Mumfie is a heroic French raven who thinks he is unable to fly after his wings are clipped.
In one episode of SuperFriends, the Scarecrow, as a member of the Legion of Doom, uses crows to attack Batman and Robin, and in a later season keeps one as a pet.
Do visit the Big Crow F.A.Q., which maintains that fictional corvids are boring compared to their Real Life counterparts. You can also watch Joshua Klein talk about the intelligence of these birds, and how he got some to use a vending machine.
Indeed, researchers have recently discovered that the Corvidae, especially crows, ravens and magpies are the most intelligent species of birds, and are actually comparable to chimps in creative thinking, although their cooperation skills don't quite match up (but are still considerable).
Crows will eat anything edible, which might have started their scary reputation.
Many people are surprised to find out that ravens and crows can actually talk like parrots.
Unlike the high pitched childish speech of most parrots, ravens can tone their voice to terrifyingly low levels according to who they're listening. Never has "WHOSAGOODBIRD" sounded so intimidating.
Crows have demonstrated their ability to make tools, in fact. Being among the most intelligent genus of birds, any one of the corvid species may be capable of pulling this off, but the The New Caledonian Crow is the best known and documented. Check out this video depicting one fishing some food out of a plastic tube, using nothing but a bent piece of wire and a good dose of intuition.
Increasing evidence suggests that crows have a rudimentary vocabulary, using different calls to alert their fellows to possible predators or worrying situations. They even have two different sets of vocabulary: a soft-toned, quiet version for communication within their immediate family, and a harsh, carrying voice used to convey similar sorts of information to non-relatives in the same flock.
While unproven, the existence of the first, quieter tone of crow-calls strongly implies that they keep secrets (e.g. where to find food) from unrelated flockmates.