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As The Crow Flies

Artist Nicole Climmons, "The Hoodie Crow" after the namesake fairy tale from Andrew Lang's "The Lilac Fairy Book"

Crow Appreciation Day

Apr 27

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"The crow wished everything was black, the Owl,
that everything was white."

~ William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793)

In an archetypical fairy tale from the West Highlands, "The Hoodie Crow" the youngest of three sisters agrees to marry a Crow. Once married, she discovers that her husband is really a handsome man under a curse. Due to her great love, the curse is partially lifted, but she is forced to decide whether she wants her husband as a man or a Crow during the day. The bride eventually decides that her husband will be a man during the day and a Crow at night. But her happiness does not last, and as the curse begins to manifest more strongly, the Crow flies away leaving her with just a single feather ... and that is just the beginning! Caw! Caw! 🪶

As The Crow Flies

April 27th is Crow and Raven Appreciation Day, for the black birds of legend and lore who congregate in "murders" and "conspiracies."

The expression "as the crow files" is an idiom referring to the shortest difference between points.

Crows and Ravens figure prominently in the folklore of many cultures and regions, including that of the West Highlands.

The hooded crow (Corvus cornix) (also called a "hoodie") is a widely distributed species also known locally as the Scotch crow and Danish crow, and is an ashy grey bird with black head, throat, wings, tail, and thigh feathers, as well as a black bill, eyes, and feet. 

In Celtic folklore, the bird appears in several mythological contexts, including a manifestation of the Winter goddess, the Cailleach.   Additionally, the hooded crow is associated with fairies in the Scottish highlands and Ireland.   In the 18th century, Scottish shepherds would make offerings to them to keep them from attacking sheep.


One famous crow folktale, of the "search for the lost lover/husband" variety, is "The Hoodie Crow," a story collected by John Francis Campbell in his "Popular Tales of the West Highlands."

A farmer's three daughters are each wooed in turn by a hoodie crow. The older two repulse it because it is ugly, but the youngest accepts it, saying it is a pretty creature. After they marry, the crow asks whether she would rather have it be a crow by day and a man by night, or the other way around. She chooses a man by day, and during the day, he becomes a handsome man.

She has a son. One night, after music puts everyone to sleep, the baby is stolen. The next two years, it happens again, with two more babies. The hoodie crow takes her, with her sisters, to another house. He asks if she has forgotten anything. She has forgotten her coarse comb. The coach becomes a bundle of faggots, and her husband becomes a crow again. He flies off, but his wife chases him. Every night, she finds a house to stay in, in which a woman and a little boy live; the third night, the woman advises her that if the crow flies into her room in the night, she should catch him. She tries, but falls asleep. The crow drops a ring on her hand. It wakes her, but she is only able to grab one feather.

The woman tells her that the crow flew over the hill of poison and she will need horseshoes to follow him, but if she dresses as a man and goes to a smithy, she will learn how to make them. She does so and with the shoes, crosses the hill.

She arrives at a town to find that her husband is to marry a daughter of a great gentleman. A cook asks her to cook the wedding feast, so that he can see a race, and she agrees. She puts the ring and the feather in the broth. He finds them and demands to see the cook, and then declares he will marry her.

They go back and retrieve their three sons from the houses where she had stayed.

For more on the many expressions involving the crow, click the Henry Justice Ford illustration from the story in "The Lilac Fairy Book," Andrew Lang's collection from 1910.

As The Crow Flies
As The Crow Flies

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