The Battle of the Birds
A tale used to illustrate Jung's interpretation of symbols and their relevance to Jungian therapy.
There was once a time when every creature and bird was gathering to battle. The son of the king of Tethertown said, that he would go to see the battle, and that he would bring sure word home to his father the king, who would be king of the creatures this year. The battle was over before he arrived all but one fight, a great black raven and a snake, and it seemed as if the snake would get the victory over the raven. When the king’s son saw this, he helped the raven, and with one blow takes the head off the snake.
When the raven had taken breath, and saw that the snake was dead, he said, ‘For thy kindness to me this day, I will give thee a sight. Come up now on the root of my two wings.’ The king’s son mounted upon the raven, and, before he stopped, he took him over seven Bens, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain Moors.
‘Now,’ said the raven, ‘seest thou that house yonder? Go now to it. It is a sister of mine that makes her dwelling in it; and I will go bail that thou art welcome. And if she asks thee, Wert thou at the battle of the birds? say thou that thou wert. And if she asks, Didst thou see my likeness? say that thou sawest it. But be sure tht thou meetest me tomorrow morning here, in this place.’ The king’s son got good and right good treatment this night. Meat of each meat, drink of each drink, warm water to his feet, and a soft bed for his limbs.
On the next day the raven gave him the same sight over seven Bens, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain moors. They saw a bothy far off, but, though far off, they were soon there. He got good treatment this night, as before--plenty of meat and drink, and warm water to his feet, and a soft bed to his limbs--and on the next day it was the same thing.
On the third morning, instead of seeing the raven as at the other times, who should meet him but the handsomest lad he ever saw, with a bundle in his hand. The king’s son asked this lad if he had seen a big black raven. Said the lad to him, ‘Thou wilt never see the raven again, for I am that raven. I was put under spells; it was meeting thee that loosed me, and for that thou art getting this bundle. Now,’ said the lad, ‘thou wilt turn back on the self-same steps, and thou wilt lie a night in each house, as thou wert before; but thy lot is not to lose the bundle which I gave thee, till thou art in the place where thou wouldst most wish to dwell.’
The king’s son turned his back to the lad, and his face to his father’s house; and he got lodging from the raven’s sisters, just as he got it when going forward. When he was nearing his father’s house he was going through a close wood. It seemed to him that the bundle was growing heavy, and he thought he would look what was in it.
When he loosed the bundle, it was not without astonishing himself. In a twinkling he sees the very grandest place he ever saw. A great castle, and an orchard about the castle, in which was every kind of fruit and herb. He stood full of wonder and regret for having loosed the bundle--it was not in his power to put it back again--and he would have wished this pretty place to be in the pretty little green hollow that was opposite his father’s house; but, at one glance, he sees a great giant coming towards him.
‘Bad’s the place where thou hast built thy house, king’s son,’ says the giant. ‘Yes, but it is not here I would wish it to be, though it happened to be here by mishap,’ says the king’s son. ‘What’s the reward thou wouldst give me for putting it back in the bundle as it was before?’ ‘What’s the reward thou wouldst ask?’ says the king’s son. ‘If thou wilt give me the first son thou hast when he is seven years of age,’ says the giant. ‘Thou wilt get that if I have a son,’ said the king’s son.