The Raven of Easterlun
Popular with: Gaunt, Oresund, Northern Tarsikka
Unpopular with: None
Less known by: Athral Isle, Akathia, Principalities
Archtypes, if any: Warrior(2,4), Wise Man(1), Wise Man or Trickster (3,5)
Variations, if any: NA
A travelling witch1 came to the castle of a King, and was brought in to tell stories to his children. She told them that, in the land of Easterlun, every year there was a marvelous battle, where every bird of the air fought; whoever won would be the King of the Birds for that year. The King's eldest son2 was so consumed by this tale, he announced the next day to his father that he would go to the land of Easterlun, and he promised to bring back to his father the news of who would be the king of the birds in the upcoming year. He arrived when the fight was almost over, but a kite and a raven still fought. He cut off the head of the kite. The raven, in gratitude, flew him to a castle and the prince spent the night there. The next morning he met a youth3, who had been the enchanted raven. The youth gave him a bundle and warned him not to open it until he was in the place where he most wanted to be.
On the way back, as he traveled through the Eastern Lands, the Prince was unable to contain his curiosity any more, and he opened the bundle. A great castle sprang up, and an irate Troll demanded to know why he had put it there. The prince explained that he had no desire to occupy the Troll's lands, but he did not know how to get the castle back in the bundle. The Troll offered to put it back if the prince gave him his first child, when it reached seven years of age. The Prince agreed, returned to his father's lands, and opened the bundle there. He went into the castle, and found a pretty maid who was willing to be his wife. They had a child, and seven years later, they tried to put off the troll with the cook's child, and the butcher's child, but finally had to yield their own.
The troll raised the youth4 as a member of its tribe. One day, he heard music and found the troll's youngest daughter5. She told him the next day the troll would ask him to marry one of her two older sisters, but she wanted him to insist on her, because she did not like the bridegroom he wanted for her.
The youth asked, but the annoyed troll demanded that he clean out the byre, or he would not get his youngest but be killed. He started to clean. At noon, the youth fell asleep, but a wren saw and told the King of the Birds, the same Raven that his father had helped in his youth. The Raven sent a hundred birds to the byre, and lo! The byre were clean when he woke. The troll knew he did not clean it, but set him to thatch it with birds' down. The prince tried to hunt the birds, but at noon again, he fell asleep. Having seen this, the Raven asked his hundred birds to each pull out a tuft of feathers, and lo! The roofs were thatched when he woke. The troll knew he had not done it, and set him to fetch down a bird's nest from the top of a great Fir tree. He tried to climb and got no more than half way. The Raven told a Cuckoo, who roosted in that tree, to take her nest down and give it to the youth. She agreed, on the condition that Raven let her keep her children in the nests of the other birds until they were grown. The King of the Birds agreed, and so she fostered her children elsewhere (just as cuckoos do to this day!) and brought the nest down to the youth.
The Troll could have no more objections, but demanded that the youth could have his youngest only if he picked her out from her sisters. When the moment came, the Raven flew over the wedding fire, and a single feather dropped down in front of the correct daughter. The youth picked out his bride from her sisters immediately, and the wedding continued apace. The troll told them to go to rest. The daughter told her husband that they had to flee at once, and they took a gray filly. Her father gave chase. When the troll nearly caught them, the daughter had the youth take a twig from the filly's ear and throw it behind them: it became a forest. The troll got through it, and they threw a pebble that became a mountain. The troll got through it, and they threw a flask of water that became a wave and drowned him. They escaped to the castle of his father and mother, and when they arrived, the family was horrified that their son had married a troll woman. but the youth did not know that he wasn't a troll himself, and was shocked by the abuse his wife received. Suddenly, they heard a tapping at the window-- the Raven, sitting on the window-pane. He upbraided the boy's parents for their treatment of their son's wife, and said he had come to give his wedding present. They watched as he plucked out all of his feathers, weaving them into a marvelous and shining black cloak. He tossed the cloak over the troll-wife, and she became a beautiful human woman, known far and wide as an extremely clever enchantress. Stripped of his feathers, the Raven King of Easterlun appeared as a normal human, and he said that the boy's parents must now come with him to Easterlun, and serve him for a year and a day in his court, as his personal scribes. They did so, and the youth and his newly-human wife lived in the castle until the youth's grandfather died, upon which he became the Warlord, and conquered many dukedoms and fiefdoms of his enemies.