Raven's Disappearance Raises an Old Legend in London

Merlina was queen of the roost at city's famed tower
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2021 11:43 AM CST
London Is Worried About a Missing Raven
A raven at the Tower of London.   (Getty/Kawisara Kaewprasert)

It's not like Britain didn't have enough to worry about, given the surging pandemic and Brexit, but a missing raven has been added to the mix. The Tower of London announced the "really unhappy news" Wednesday that a beloved raven named Merlina hasn't been around for several weeks and is feared dead, reports ITV. Her disappearance reduces the number of ravens at the tower to seven, and the Guardian explains that if two more go missing, an old legend dictates that the very kingdom will fall. Which is why the tower has an official ravenmaster who tends to the birds. "We do have seven ravens here at the Tower of London, six by royal decree," Christopher Skaife tells BBC Radio. "And of course I still have a spare one, so we're OK at the moment."

It's possible that Merlina—who joined the tower ravens in 2007 and had become the "undisputed ruler of the roost," per the tower—has merely flown off for greener pastures. The Independent notes that the ravens have been straying farther than normal from the tower this year, perhaps because the coronavirus lockdown has drastically reduced the number of human visitors. And Merlina in particular is known as "free-spirited," according to the ravenmaster. "I'm her buddy and she normally comes back to us, but this time she didn't," he says. "So, I do fear that she is not with us any more." Both outlets note that the legend of the ravens is believed to have begun in the 17th century during the reign of Charles II. Legend has it that a witch warned him the monarchy would crumble if the ravens abandoned the tower. (Read more Tower of London stories.)

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