Xin Yu Cui – The Queen and the Raven
It had long been believed that the killing of a raven would bring one’s wish to fulfillment.
The sacrifice pleased the gods, it was thought. The bird would be killed on every occasion; at each wedding and ceremony there was a raven to be seen. This caused that the sighting of the bird was now considered a rarity. People often think to know what the gods want, but they are seldom right.
In a distant kingdom, a queen sat within the stone walls of her castle and wished for a child. She was young and healthy and so was her king, but the years passed and still their family had not grown. One day the queen prayed to the heavens, and her prayer was heard. The gods sent down a messenger, and the queen stood up startled as the raven perched on her windowsill. The bird had not been seen for decades. The desperate queen took this as a sign, and grabbed the poor beast before it had the chance to speak. “I wish for a daughter.” she whispered to the sky as she twisted it’s small neck. The gods were outraged. “She wishes for a child? Then a child she shall get!” Indeed, not a moon had passed and the queen was expecting. The whole court rejoiced, but this joy did not last. The little girl was born in the dead of the night and the Queen’s high pitched screams were echoed by the midwife as soon as she set eyes on the child. The candlelight illuminated the infant’s face to show pink cheeks, a tiny mouth and a pair of milky white eyes. Much like the ravens, blindness was rarely seen in the kingdom. “It cannot see.” the midwife uttered, and hurried to bring the news to the king. Not a moment later the king stormed into the room. His face filled with horror as he looked at the crying newborn. “This is the work of the devil, Marisa. We ought to drown it; the throne is not fitted for a blind queen.” The child looked at the queen with it’s white but doe-like eyes and cackled as only a child can, and in that moment the queen knew that she would love this child no matter what. “Don’t listen to your papa.” she whispered softly to the child. “He is a foolish king.” Then she turned to the king. “Do not forget that I am queen, and you were only a merchant’s son. Hurt my daughter and I can and shall banish you.” “Marisa, be reasonable. How could she rule over a kingdom when she cannot even see it?” “There is more to the world than meets the eye.” the queen simply replied.
As she grew up, the king’s aversion never faded, but her mother always loved her dearly, and so the king’s hatred never touched her heart. That was until, in the late summer, the queen fell sick. Doctor’s all over the land and beyond came to see her, but none could find the cause of her suffering. By the time the leaves started turning the queen was already dead. As soon as the body was carried out of the palace gates, the king took off his black gloves and started devising a plan to rid himself of the princess.
One morning the girl was out in the palace garden, barefoot and dressed in linen. It had been the first day after the mourning, and the summer sun felt warm and pleasant against her pale skin. Her fingers trailed along the castle wall for guidance as always, when she heard a loud barking coming from among the trees, followed by a raspy cry. As a child she’d often played in the palace gardens, and she knew the song of every bird, but this was not one she recognized. She followed the sound to the willow just behind the well, where a faint cawing rose up from the foot of the tree. Carefully she felt around the thick roots until her hands touched a small bundle of feathers. Again came that cry and the thing moved once, twice, before it fell still. The bird had been mauled nearly to death by one of the servant’s dogs, and she felt that one of its wings was missing. The girl began tearing into her dress when a voice spoke to her. “You seem like a good kid. Take a knife and make a wish; I pray that the gods will grant it to you. I cannot fly with these wings, and a grounded raven is a dead one.” The girl did not know what a raven was, but nevertheless she wrapped the fabric around the wounded bird. She could not see the red blood that stained the white linen, but she could feel the sticky fluid leaking through the cloth. She pressed firmer and tucked the bird under her arms. She spoke as she ran back to her room, careful to keep out of sight of the servants: “I do have a wish, but I do not see why I need a knife for that. All I want is a friend, for I’ve been so lonely since mother passed. None of the servant boys will play with me because I cannot see. ” The raven thought about this. “Then let me be your eyes”, he said. And so the black bird filled her world with color.
Six weeks later, the annual feast was held in the grand hall of the palace. A servant offered a glass of wine to the princess. She accepted it, but underneath the table she could hear the raven whisper “Your mustn’t drink it, I saw the king taint it with belladonna berries.” The girl beckoned one of the butlers. “Let a king have a taste of my wine, it is truly delightful.”
And so they reigned for many years to come. The queen and the raven.