Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd

Excerpt from the Mabinogion* via the Wiki-page 

"So they proceeded to the place where was the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd.

"Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, here is an embassy from Arthur; knowest thou aught of Mabon the son of Modron, who was taken after three nights from his mother?"

"If I knew I would tell you. When first I came hither, the wide valley you see was a wooded glen. And a race of men came and rooted it up. And there grew there a second wood; and this wood is the third. My wings, are they not withered stumps? Yet all this time, even until to-day, I have never heard of the man for whom you inquire. Nevertheless, I will be the guide of Arthur's embassy until you come to the place where is the oldest animal in this world, and the one that has travelled most, the Eagle of Gwern Abwy.""

* A collection of medieval Welsh stories based on pre-Christian Celtic mythology.

Further owl stories on this website can be accessed by clicking on the links:

Or an owl fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm:

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Blood-Curdling Call of the Barn Owl

Taken from: British Birds, W. H. Hudson, 1902:

The following account by W.H. Hudson in 1902 describes our strange relationship to the beautiful barn owl, a mingling of fear, respect and awe.

The Barn Owl

"Another general remark about this most strange and fascinating fowl may be made in this place. The barn-owl, being so widely distributed, and in many countries the most common species, and being furthermore, the only member of its order that attaches itself by preference to human habitations, and is a dweller in towns as well as in rural districts, is probably the chief inspirer and object of innumerable ancient owl superstitions which still flourish in all countries among the ignorant. His blood-curdling voice, his whiteness, and extraordinary figure, and, when viewed by day on his perch in some dim interior, his luminous eyes and great round face, and wonderful intimidating gestures and motions, must powerfully affect the primitive mind, for in that low intellectual state whatever is strange is regarded as supernatural.
Before sitting down to write this little history I went out into the woods, and was so fortunate as to hear three owls calling with unearthly shrieks to one another from some large fir-trees under which I was standing, and listening to them, it struck me as only natural that in some many regions of the earth this bird should have been, and should be still regarded as an evil being, a prophet of disaster and death."

Read this alongside the Tragic Tale of the Schuhu by Grimm (See below). 

Or more about owl mythology:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

An Owl Fairy Tale from the Brothers Grimm


Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 174: The Owl

Or the Tragic Fairy tale of a Schuhu

A few hundred years ago people were not as smart or sophisticated as they are now and a strange tale was reported to have happened in a small village. One of the very large owls that folk refer to as a Schuhu came out of the neighboring forest during its nightly foray and took refuge in the barn of one of the farmers. When daylight broke it did not dare leave its corner in the barn for fear of the other birds who would let out a fearful screech if they saw it. When the stable boy went into the barn in the morning to fetch some straw, he became frightened at the sight of the owl, who sat in a corner and looked so enormous that the lad ran away and reported to his master that he had seen a monstrum as no other sitting in the barn; it could turn its eyes around in its head and swallow a person whole in one gulp.


"I know you quite well, young lad," the master said. "You are brave enough to chase a blackbird in the meadow but if you come across a dead chicken, you first grab hold of a stick before you approach. I shall have to see for myself what kind of monster this is." And the master entered the barn bravely and looked around. But when he saw the strange and hideous animal with his own eyes he fell into a panic that was not less than that of the stable boy.  In large leaps he fled from the barn and ran to his neighbor and pleaded for help against an unknown and dangerous beast.   The entire city might fall into danger if the monstrum broke free of the barn where it sat. Fear spread through the town and screaming could be heard in all the streets. The citizens arrived armed with pikes, pitchforks, scythes and axes to take on the enemy. Finally the councilmen also appeared with the mayor at the head of the crowd. After arranging themselves on the market square they moved on toward the barn and encircled it from all sides. At which time one of the bravest amongst them stepped forward with pointed spear and entered the barn. But he immediately took heel with a scream and came running out deathly pale. He could not utter a single word in his fright. Now two others took their turn and entered the barn, but things did not go any better for them. Finally a large and strong man, who was famous because of his deeds in war, spoke " You won't be able to dislodge the monster just by looking at it! We must employ an earnestness in this task but I see that you have all become old women and no one wants to bite the fox!" 


He had them bring him arms, a sword and spear and thus prepared for battle. Everyone admired his courage although many were concerned for his life. Both barn doors were now opened and one could see the owl perched on the middle of a large beam. The man had a ladder brought to him and when he leaned it against the beam and was ready to climb it, the crowd yelled to him to act in a manly fashion.  They commended him to St. George the dragon-slayer. When he had climbed the ladder and the owl saw that the man was after him, it became confused by the the crowd and screaming and did not know where to turn. So it turned its eyes, raised its feathers and spread its wings, snapping with its beak and cried out Schuhu Schuhu in a rough hissing voice. 


"Stab it, stab it!" cried the crowd to the brave hero. He responded "Whoever stood in my shoes would not be calling out to stab." He took one step higher on the ladder but then began to tremble. He turned back and almost fainted in fear.


Now there was no one who would put himself in danger. "The monster!" they said, " had poisoned and mortally wounded the strongest man amongst them with its snapping and breathing alone. Should we put other lives at risk? They now held counsel about how to save the entire town from utter ruin. For a long time everything seemed lost until finally the mayor found the solution. He spoke "It is my opinion that we take money from our common treasury, enough to pay for this barn and everything inside, grain, straw and hay, pay the owner and do not hold him at fault. But then we shall burn down the entire building and with it the terrible creature within. In this way, none among us shall wager his life. We have no time to spare and it is not the time to be stingy."


Everyone agreed. And so the barn was set afire at its four corners and everything including the owl was wretchedly burned. And whoever does not believe this story happened should go out and inquire about it himself.   


To read more about the Ghost or Death Owl hit the following Wiki-Link:

Links to owl themes & mythology:

To read further fairy tales, click on the link:

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