Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/60

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50
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
"About his burning brow a cloud,

Black as the raven's wing, he wore;
Thick tempests wrapped him like a shroud,
Red lightnings in his hand he bore;
Like two bright suns his eyeballs shone,
His voice was like the cannon's tone;
And, when he breathed, the land became,
Prairie and wood, one sheet of flame.

* * * * * * *


"Afar on yonder faint-blue mound.
In the horizon's utmost bound,
At the first stride his foot he set;
The jarring world confessed the shock.
Stranger, the track of thunder yet

Remains upon the living rock."[1]

But besides the more ancient myths concerning crows and ravens, a volume might be filled with those degraded myths which, under the names of fairy-tales, or folk-lore (Mährchen), are found in all the languages of Europe; and though we can not follow each one, step by step, in its downward career, or trace all its varying phases with the same certainty that we can the metamorphosis of Odin into the wild huntsman of the Hartz, or the dethronement of Jupiter and his decretion into Jack the Giant-Killer, yet there are always preserved sufficient distinctive features by which their parentage can be traced.

In the Mecklenburg story of "The Three Crows," in the Grimms' collection, after Conrad had been beaten by his knavish companions until he was blind, and then robbed and tied to the gallows-tree, the three crows that perched over his head at night informed him how he could regain his sight, cure the sick princess, obtain a supply of water for the famishing town, and by so doing obtain the king's consent to marry the princess whom he had saved.[2]

We rarely discover in any one story so many of the mythological characteristics of the crow as are associated together here; the ill omened gallows, the black night, the more than human wisdom of the crows, their knowledge of prophecy, and the healing art befitting Apollo's birds, their power of obtaining water, and lastly their malignant nature; for when Conrad's wicked companions sat under the gallows tree, hoping to hear the crows tell something for their advantage also, the crows fell upon them with wings, beaks, and talons, and buffeted them until they were nearly dead.

In the story of "Faithful John," given in the same collection, we find the crows here also possessed of more than human wisdom in addi-

  1. A few miles from Big Stone Lake, on the borders of Minnesota and Dakota, there is seen an impression in the rock, similar to the imprint of a bird's foot, with the toes nearly a yard long; this track the Dakotas say is the footprint of the Thunder Bird.
  2. Grimms' "Popular Tales."