How the Raven Saved the Hunter

Once upon a time there was a very poor man with nothing much to eat and very little to wear, who made his living by hunting. One day he went out to hunt and traveled and traveled up hill and down. At last he came to the top of a mountain, hungry, tired and thirsty, as he had had nothing to eat all day. He stood still a few minutes thinking and wondering what he would do.

Looking around he saw a valley far below with a cold stream of water flowing through it. Starting down, he made him a cup of a leaf as he went, came to the stream, dipped his leaf full and started to drink it. Just as he was ready to swallow it a big raven flew by and with his wing struck the cup from his hands. The hunter thought it was an accident, so dipped another drink, when the old raven knocked it from his hand again. Then he began to be angry at the bird, when he dipped the third time and the raven knocked this out of his hand.

He said angrily, “All right, I’ll fix you,” drew his bow and shot the raven dead. When the bird was dead the man began to wonder why he didn’t want him to drink the water. “Perhaps I had better not drink now, but I’ll go to the head of the stream and see where the water comes from.” He went a short distance and found that the stream issued from the mouth of a great snake, and looking along the banks he saw many skeletons of birds and animals that had been drinking the water. Then he grieved greatly because he had killed the raven that had tried to save his life.

(from the book ‘Tibetan Folk Tales’ compiled by Albert Leroy Shelton)

Image Attribution: The image above is sourced from Wikimedia Commons, and shows an illustration of  the House Crow (Corvus splendens) from ‘Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d’oiseaux’ (dating back to 1838). The book was published in France between 1820 and 1839 by Coenraad Jacob Temminck (a Dutch aristocrat) and Meiffren Laugier de Chartrouse (a French ornithologist) and contained hundreds of colour plates of bird species from across the world. Ravens are closely related to house crows. The latter are considered to to be very clever, and figure in several South Asian tales.