Tag Archives: Ravens

The Ravens

10 Aug

My favorite part of the Tower of London is definitely the ravens. Finally, some real animals up in this joint instead of ones made out of wire and chained by their ankles with sad, pained looks on their faces. And ravens are total bad-asses, otherwise known as assholes, and if you read my blog, you know I have a long and storied experience with asshole animals. These birds don’t mess around: they eat raw meat, raw eggs, and the occasional “treat” of whole rabbits. Yum. And they are huge. Just look at that guy.

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But don’t misjudge them, there’s a softer side to the ravens, too. They mate for life, and that’s not a paltry commitment as they’re known to live a long time for bird-years. A raven named Jim Crow lived until he was 44 years old at the Tower. They can only be handled by their Yeoman Ravenmaster, who they consider to be another raven; anyone else would get their fingers taken off by their raven-beaks. Yeoman Ravenmaster: How’s that for a cool-as-hell  job title?

“What do you do for work?”

“I’m an accountant, you?”

“Oh, nothing much. Just a Yeoman Ravenmaster at the Tower of London.”

“Oh, um. That’s cool. I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing.”

Bite me.

Bite me.

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Raven house

But why are there ravens at the Tower? Well there’s a pretty cool reason. As the helpful sign pictured below explained to me, the legend is that King Charles ordered that all the ravens who had decided to make the grounds of the Tower their home be destroyed because picky astronomer John Flamsteed complained that they were flying around and messing up his work. Astronomers can be so annoying, am I right? However, before the birds were killed, Charlie got wind that there was a prophecy that his kingdom and the Tower would fall without the protection of the birds. This prophecy is likely linked to the legend of the giant Bran, whose name means “raven.” Bran ordered that his head be cut off while he was dying in battle and it be buried to protect the kingdom. The ravens symbolize the giant’s strength, which is nice, as I’d much rather come and visit ravens then a severed head. Just saying.

Anything that has a legend behind it is automatically awesome.

Anything that has a legend behind it is automatically awesome.

I think the ravens and the legend surrounding them are pretty awesome. Shout out the marketing people at the Tower though: why don’t you sell raven stuffed animals at the gift shop? I would have left with like five of those buddies, and I highly doubt I’m the only one. Get your marketing team on that, stat. As it was, I was left buying my niece a princess wand, which I told her a real princess from a real castle in England gave to me for her. She took it from me very reverently, looked it over, and then promptly asked me why it had a price tag on it if a “real princess” gave it to her. Move over, animals. Little kids can be assholes, too

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The Tower of London

28 Jun

My next stop was the Tower of London, conveniently located within walking distance from my hotel and enabling me to avoid any tricky mass transit. A tourist site, you ask? When you’re well-traveled and fancy and first-class? Yes. Because I was a tourist, and my friends and I could dress it up with fancy champagne and dinners, but come on. I think I proved in my previous post that I, at least, wasn’t fooling anyone to the contrary. And the Tower of London has ravens. Sign me up.

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Older than my apartment building.

Older than my apartment building.

I’m not going to go into a bunch of traditional history on the place, because, well, Wikipedia that shiz. But it’s amazingly interesting and I hope I don’t have to be the one to tell you that. I had been there once before with my family when I was about fourteen and we took a great tour of the place, but this time around my friends and I had a very limited amount of time as we were due to high tea (how Londony can we get?). So we decided to basically speed walk through the place, bowling over small children and foreigners (of which I realize we were as well (foreigners, not small children) in order to see as much as possible in about forty minutes. Being an animal lover, the first thing I noticed was the wire mesh lions they had out front replicating actual lions that used to be prowling  the grounds. I paused to take about fifty pictures of these guys, which mystified my friends considering we were still outside of one of the most famous spots on the planet, but I mean, come on, guys, wire lions. Little did I know, these were the first of the wire animals we’d encounter on our journey.

My three new best friends

My three new best friends

The entrance: I like any decorator who incorporates unicorns in a classy way.

The entrance: I like any decorator who incorporates unicorns in a classy way.

Our attempt at a selfie with the unicorn crest behind us. As you can tell, we missed the crest entirely and we look GORGEOUS. Well done, us.

Our attempt at a selfie with the unicorn crest behind us. As you can tell, we missed the crest entirely and we look GORGEOUS. Well done, us.

Once inside the castle, we raced up tiny stone stairs that twisted up skinny spiral stairwells and looked out thin, rectangular windows. It’s really stunning to stop and realize that you’re touching stone and tile that is so amazingly old. It takes your breath away. So does trying to beat a group of French tourists to the site of King Henry VI’s death, let me tell you. But we managed.

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He became king at nine months old, the youngest person ever to become king of England. Seems like a lot of pressure if you ask me. I know I wasn’t doing much of anything at nine months, and no offense to Kate and Wills, but George doesn’t seem like he’s ready for that kind of commitment, so good on Henry VI.

I’ll pause here to provide you with the beauty shot of Tower Bridge.

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You’re welcome. But I don’t know why you’d want to see that when you can see…

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An elephant! A wire elephant! Now, I need to admit to you, dear reader, that it was about this point in the day where I got a little wacky. There were signs that simply read “Elephant” with arrows leading us down stairs and around paths, and for some reason, I really thought there was going to be a real elephant in the Tower of London. And if you’ve been reading along with the postings about this trip and haven’t yet concluded that I am a real and true moron, now is where you will finally give up and decide that I am mentally deficient. Thank you for your faith and sorry to have disappointed you. I actually argued with my friends, telling them that NO I was sure there was going to be a live elephant at the end of these signs. And when we found the above wire elephant? I had a brain freeze and still thought maybe he was the entrance to where the real elephant was living. I honestly have no excuse for this other than possible alcohol poisoning. It wasn’t until we saw the below sign that my friends read to me very slowly like one would to a child that I finally understood our large wired friend was the only pachyderm I’d be seeing that day.

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It seems that King Louis IX of France made of gift of an elephant, as one does, to King Henry III, in 1255, to which Henry decried “Make a building without delay at the Tower for the King’s elephant, 40 feet long and 20 feet wide.”  Well. I suppose if that was in the year 1255, he’d be one old ass elephant to still be hanging around.

Next up was the Crown Jewels, which we almost left without seeing because the line was as long as the new “in” brunch spot in Soho, but we toughed it out and got to see some of the fanciest glittery-sparklies you’ve ever laid eyes on. This, however:

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Get your mind out of the gutter.

Was the only photo I could take or else I’d end up imprisoned in the Tower myself.

And wait! There’s more! One last wired friend! Sad Bear, who I named because he was a sad looking bear and he made me sad when I looked at him. Deep thoughts, I know. Just look at that ankle chain. Yes, I realize he is made of wire. But he represents a real bear who was once chained by his ankle at the Tower of London. And yes, I realize there are many other, worse atrocities that were committed at the Tower, to humans, but… he’s a bear. With a sad face.

 

Sniff. I can’t go anywhere. This chain is like a foot long. Plus, I’m made of wire.

Sniff. I can’t go anywhere. This chain is like a foot long. Plus, I’m made of wire.

And on that lovely note, we leave the Tower of London, because you have read enough and my friends and I had a tea to get to. What’s that you say? I promised ravens? I did! You are correct. But because I am strange and I love ravens, I am saving the Ravens of the Tower for their very own post. And unlike the elephant and all the other wire animals in this one, the ravens are decidedly alive.