According to popular belief, Charles II of England (reigned 1660-1685) once heard a prophecy that if ravens left the Tower of London it would "fall," so he ordered that the wings of seven ravens in the Tower be trimmed. Until recently, this claim was not challenged even in scholarly literature. There are, however, no allusions to the Tower Ravens before the end of the nineteenth century. The ravens, today meticulously cared for by Yeoman Warders, are largely an invented tradition, designed to give an impression of continuity with the past. This article examines the few known references, both graphic and textual, to the Tower Ravens through 1906. It concludes that the ravens were originally brought in to dramatize the alleged site of executions at the Tower. Although not accorded great significance at first, legends that would eventually make the ravens mascots of Britain began outside of the Tower.
This paper explores the Nazi view of nature as violent but orderly, contrasted with what the Nazis took to be the chaos and confusion of human society. In imposing strict authoritarian controls, the Nazis strove to emulate what they viewed as the natural discipline of instinct. They saw this as embodied in wild animals, especially large predators such as wolves, while the opposite were domesticated mongrels whose instincts, like those of overly civilized peoples, had been ruined through careless breeding. Those who anticipated this view included Nietzsche and Kipling. The author finds the Nazi perspective best articulated by Nobel-laureate Konrad Lorenz, a member of the Nazi party and its Office for Race Policy, who believed that traits indicating genetic decline crossed species lines. He advocated correcting the alleged damage done to animals and people by civilization through eugenic controls.
This article looks at legends of the basilisk, a fabulous creature of ancient and medieval lore that was believed to kill with a glance, and shows how many characteristics of the basilisk were transferred to the rattlesnake in the New World. The deadly power of "fascination, " also known as "the evil eye, " which legend attributes to both basilisk and rattlesnake, was understood as an expression of resentment over the perceived lack of status of reptiles in the natural world and directed at so-called "higher" animals. The persistence of such legends suggests some of the limitations of capitalistic American society in dealing with inequalities.