Raven and the Whale's Soul

Once there was a stupid, boastful and self-important Raven who thought he knew everything. He said he had made the whole World, and everything in it. He often got in his kayak, and rowed out to sea, then returned to the shore and boasted about how far he had travelled.

One day, Raven was out on the water in his kayak, when he saw what he thought was an island. He rowed up to it and tried to land his kayak, but a huge mouth opened up and swallowed him. It wasn’t an island at all, but an enormous whale!

As he went down the whale’s throat, Raven thought that he would surely die, but instead he saw the Whale’s ribs rise up around him like huge ivory columns. In the distance he could see a mysterious light, and could hear a faint sound as if someone was banging on a drum.

Raven followed the light and went further inside the Whale, where he came to a strange little house. He peered in through the window, then knocked on the door and went inside.

He came into a small room, and there in the corner sat the most beautiful young girl he had ever seen. Raven fell instantly in love with the girl. ’Won’t you marry me?’ he asked her ‘…and come out into the World with me?’ The girl smiled to herself. ‘I do not belong in the World’, she replied, ‘just as you do not belong inside the Whale, but you can stay here and keep me company for a while if you like. However I must warn you never to touch my drum or my lamp.’ She then stood up and started to dance.

When she danced quickly, the Whale soared through the ocean, and when she danced slowly the Whale rested gently near the surface of the water.

The girl then stopped dancing and walked straight out of the door. ‘Where are you going?’ Raven asked her. ’It’s not important,’ she replied. ‘Just a matter of breath and life, life and breath……’

Raven was starting to grow curious about the girl. ‘Who are you?’ he asked her when she came back in a few moments later, ‘…and why do you live inside a Whale?’

‘I am the Whale’s Soul and my drum is the Whale’s heart. My lamp must never go out, or I will die, and there will be nobody to beat my drum. I sing and dance all day and all night and never grow tired.’ The songs she sung were the most beautiful sounds Raven had ever heard, but she appeared very anxious and kept on walking out of the door and coming back in again a few moments later.

When the girl next left the room, Raven did something truly dreadful, and ignored everything the girl had said to him, as he felt he clearly knew better. He touched the Girl’s lamp.

Raven burnt himself on the lamp, and dropped it on the floor. As soon as it hit the floor, the flame went out. The girl fell in through the door and dropped down dead, the house collapsed and became a pile of dead whale bones. Suddenly Raven was all alone in complete darkness, inside a mess of blood, fat and blubber.

Raven clambered back up the Whale’s throat, and up through it’s blow-hole, and up onto the top of it’s dead body. The girl was the Whale’s soul, and she had to keep slipping out of the door for air every time the whale drew breath. In the distance, some men appeared in a boat. Raven pulled off his beak, his wings and his feathers, and turned himself into an ugly little man.

Instead of saying ‘I interferred with something beautiful that I didn’t understand and destroyed it,’ Raven leapt up and down and shouted proudly, ‘I killed the Whale! I killed the Whale!’ And the men, who didn’t know any better, took Raven into their boat and made him a very important leader of their people.

Raven and the Whale's Soul

Matthew Rogers

Bournemouth, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

An Inuit folk-tale, Retold and illustrated by Matthew Rogers

Artwork Comments

  • Valerie Anne Kelly
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