The Burrow: Ravenclaw: Ruthless or Relaxed?

by Sharon

Anyone who has ever read Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven,” knows that there is more to this stately bird than meets the eye. Growing up in a part of the country that saw thousands of crows, but never an actual raven, I must admit I underestimated this large and fierce animal. A trip to Baltimore granted me my first opportunity to see one up close. The bird was perched in a parking lot, just staring… I was not expecting the raven to be a bird larger than my cat. The beak alone was powerful enough to crush bone to powder. Ravenclaw’s mascot is the noble eagle, but the name “Ravenclaw” is oddly fierce.

Such it is with Ravenclaw–the house that wisdom built, the house that’s always second-best in everything. First it trailed Slytherin, now it trails Gryffindor. Our only real glimpse into the house is through mysterious females, much like the Grey Lady herself, who I can’t remember hearing about until the first movie. First we met Penelope Clearwater, who is seen emerging from the dungeons by a Polyjuiced Pair who mistake her for a Slytherin. Then we meet Cho, whose erratic behavior and confused affections keep all of us on our toes. We begin to see her as weepy and hard to please. When she loses the Quidditch Cup—again—she throws her broom and storms off. Cho’s got a temper, after all. Now we have Luna. Although I like Luna, we all have to admit that she’s eccentric and hard to read.

I get the feeling there is more to this house than meets the eye, as well. In Poe’s poem, a visiting Raven is at first a curiosity, then a novelty and finally a grim reaper of sorts, tormenting a man who has suffered the loss of his lover. Interestingly, he can never be happy again and feels as though he’s lost his soul. That sounds ominously familiar. I have no real basis to connect any of this with Ravenclaw house, but it’s certainly a well-known literary reference with which JKR would be familiar.

Ravens are historically sinister. They are powerful and sleek, true, but they are also terrifying birds of prey. According to naturalists at PBS, “Long recognized as one of the most intelligent birds, the raven also has a less than savory image throughout history as a scavenger that does not discriminate between humans and animals.”

One of the cleverest birds, apparently capable of cognitive thought, ravens are often manipulative and lead other scavengers to potential prey before stealing the prey for themselves once the “dirty work” has been done. One begins to wonder if Ravenclaw is just quietly biding it’s time, satisfied—for now—with being second fiddle to the more impulsive houses. Slow to anger and slow to act, perhaps, but something tells me when Ravenclaw does decide to act, we’d better hope we’ve stayed on their good side.