What the Raven Told her

There was once a lonely girl who had a father and an imagination and a wish to be free. Her name was Lo and Lo’s father was a poor farmer. He couldn’t keep much in the home for her—no trinkets, no dolls, and especially no books. What he could give her were animals, all the animals on his farm and all the wild animals that roamed the forest and hills surrounding the farm. He gave her everything he could to make her happy, but she always wanted more.

PeacockWhen she told him she wanted something beautiful to look at, he gave her a peacock in a cage. She spent many days happily plucking its feathers and placing them in her yellow hair. She plucked so many feathers that she had enough for a crown, royal blue and emerald green. She wore it on her head day and night and called herself the queen of the birds.

But Lo did not like to look at the peacock anymore; it was bare in places where she had pulled whole clumps of feathers. The peacock looked sad and no longer beautiful, and Lo eventually grew bored with it and wanted to play with something new.

“Father, may I have a new friend to play with?” Lo asked her father one night after he had finished his supper.

“You’ve grown tired with your peacock already?” He asked her in return. He tugged at his graying beard.

“My peacock was sad, father. I released it from its cage earlier today,” her lower lip quivered as she said this.

“Did something happen to it?”

“Yes. A wolf came from the forest and killed it. Now my only friend has gone.”

“I’ll think of something for you, Lo,” he promised.

“Father?”

“Yes Lo.”

“May I have a wolf?” She longed to run through open fields with the gray creature, to crawl beside it in the forest, stalking its unsuspecting prey. She wanted to kill foxes with it and wear their fur around her shoulders. She wanted to feel dirt under her fingernails.

“No, Lo, you may not. A girl does not need a wolf for a friend. I’ll find you something safer.”

The following morning, Lo woke to find a crate at the end of her bed holding a small kitten and a bowl of cream. She picked up the kitten and cradled it in her arms. It was a black and beige splotched stray that her father had found roaming the barn, chasing mice and mewing for attention.

Lo nurtured the kitten and carried it always in her arms, like a baby doll. When the kitten grew large enough to be called a cat, Lo began playing with it in the yard and in the barn. She watched the cat return to its instincts as a hunter, watched it find its wildness.

Longing for her own wildness, or at least for the tomcat to grow to the size of the cougar her father claimed he once saw in the hills, she took the small saddle off her old wooden rocking horse and placed it on the cat. Lo sat on top of the cat, hoping to ride away into the sunset. She promptly crushed the cat and it died almost instantly.

The following night at dinner Lo explained what had happened. “I accidentally killed my cat today, Father, and now I have nobody to play with.”

Her father ate his food in silence, seeming to consider his next option for his accident-prone daughter. “Perhaps you’d be better off with something small. I could go to the lake tomorrow and try to catch you fireflies. If we put them in a jar, you’ll have your own nightlight.”

Lo imagined how dull a few floating lights could be and wondered how many air holes she could cover before her new pets suffocated. She didn’t want to waste her energy.

“Could I tend the sheep, Father? I know Jack helps you with it, but I’d like to learn how.” Lo had spent many afternoons staring out the window and watching the farmhand and his trusted dog herding sheep. Sometimes when her father went to town, Lo sat on the fence with Jack and listened to his stories of the world beyond the farm—of the elk he hunted in the woods and the fish he caught in the river.

“That isn’t a job for a young girl to perform, Lo. I’ve told you before, leave the work and the rough stuff for your old man. You just need something fun to play with and you’ll be happy again. Now, we have to come up with something that you won’t grow tired of.”

“Father,” she whined. “If I can’t go out with you, won’t you please bring me a raven? Jack told me they make the best companions. But first you must cut its tongue down the middle so it will speak to me. Jack swears that’s what happens when a raven’s tongue is cut in two. Oh daddy, I long for a friend to tell me everything.”

Her father agreed and soon she had a raven to whisper secrets to her at night. Her father did the cutting, of course, after supper and out in the barn, away from Lo’s sight. She could hear it, though, the squawking of the captured bird, the hard whack as her father’s knife swung through the air, and then, silence.

“It must be a dud, Lo,” her father explained as he brought the bird in its small cage into her bedroom. “But it ain’t half bad to look at. It will have to do until I find you something else. Maybe we can get a dog.”

After her father left her room, Lo threw her yellow sundress over the raven’s cage, eager to hide her failure.

Stay tuned next week to find out just what the raven told her…

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