In Danish folklore, a valravn (“raven of the slain”) is a supernatural raven associated with death.
These Ravens of the Slain appear in many traditional Danish folksongs which describe them as originating from ravens who eat the bodies of the dead on the battlefield.
According to Danish folklore recorded in the late 1800s, when a king or chieftain was killed in battle and not found and buried, ravens came and ate him. The ravens then became valravne. The valravne that ate the king’s heart gained human knowledge and could perform great malicious acts, could lead people astray, had superhuman powers, and were “terrible animals”.
They are said to be capable of turning into the form of a knight after eating the entire heart of a child, and, alternately, as half-wolf and half-raven creatures.
In another account, a valravn is described as a peaceless soul in search of redemption that flies by night (but never day) and can only free itself from its animal countenance by consuming the blood of a child. This is reflected in a Danish traditional song that describes how, after refusing offers of riches, the Valravn makes an agreement with a maiden to take her to her betrothed after she promises the valravn her first-born son. After the agreement, the valravn flies away. In time, the couple have a child and the Valravn returns, and asks the maiden if she has forgotten her promise. The valravn takes the child away, and tears into the chest of his won wager and consumes the blood contained within the child’s heart. As a result, the valravn transforms into a knight.
This traditional song was reinterpreted by the electro-folk band Sorten Muld and became a hit for them in 1997, under the title Ravnen.
Other accounts describe valravns as monsters that are half-wolf and half-raven.
- Grimm, Jacob (James Steven Stallybrass Trans.) (2004). Teutonic Mythology: Translated from the Fourth Edition with Notes and Appendix by James Stallybrass. Volume III. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-43548-2
- Kristensen, Evald Tang (1980). Danske Sagn: Som De Har Lyd I Folkemunde. Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck, Copenhagen. ISBN 87-17-02791-8
- Olrik, Axel; Falbe, Ida Hansen. (1908) Danske Folkeviser. Gyldendal. Vol. 1.
- Stuckenberg, Viggo Henrik Fog (1908). Valravn og Sol: smaa romaner. Gyldendal.
by Njord Kane © 2017 Spangenhelm Publishing
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