Smarty Pants Podcast

Black Birds of the Tower

There’s evermore to ravens than you think

By Stephanie Bastek | October 12, 2018
Courtesy FSG

What’s spookier than the Tower of London, home to the ghosts of queens and the rest of Henry the VIII’s enemies? How about the half-dozen black ravens that inhabit it—without which, as legend has it, the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall? Since there haven’t been dead bodies littering the Tower Green for centuries, someone has to keep the ravens alive—and that person is the Ravenmaster, Christopher Skaife. As a Yeoman Warder, Skaife is one of the custodians of the Tower’s rich history and traditions, and he joins us to offer a bird’s-eye view of his life among the ravens.

Go beyond the episode:

  • Christopher Skaife’s The Ravenmaster
  • Read an excerpt about the birds’ daily routine
  • Follow Merlina the raven (with help from the Ravenmaster) on Twitter
  • For more scary tales, read ex-Yeoman Warder Geoffrey Abott’s book, Ghosts of the Tower of London
  • For photographs that Skaife says “come very close to capturing the true majesty and mystery of the birds,” see Masahisa Fukase’s Ravens series
  • Behold, the funerals of crows
  • For one of the “best books in the world on bird behavior,” according to Skaife, see Nathan Emery’s Bird Brain, and for dozens more recommended books on the Tower and its inhabitants, see the “Suggested Reading” section at the back of The Ravenmaster

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Music featured from Master Toad (“Dreadful Mansion”) courtesy of the Free Music Archive. Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

 

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