Once there lived a beautiful raven. He was raised in a wire cage that was leaned up against the house of a man, under the roof’s eaves. The man was kind, with a soft voice and a great big beard. Every morning he came out, praised the raven for his dark, shining feathers, and stroked the soft plumage on his chest. He would leave a cup of seeds, dried berries, and sometimes mealworms, and then drive away. The raven watched him leave and then turned to staring across the vast open field towards the forest at the edge of the man’s property. He ate, watching the winter wind stir the tops of the trees.
One day, as the raven was preening his feathers, he heard the cry of a fierce eagle. Looking up from the bottom of his cage to better see the sky, he saw the silhouette of the other bird high in the sky, soaring in front of the sun. All day, the eagle showed off with a number of amazing aerobatic tricks; the eagle dipped, dived, and circled. The raven watched in awe.
Then, suddenly, the eagle swooped down, falling from the sky with his wings pressed close to his body. Scared, the raven hopped back as the eagle struck, long talons scraping the metal bars. The raven’s entire world rattled, and a deafening noise rang through the air, louder than when the man’s car finally turned over in the morning, more booming than thunder in the spring. Just as everything began to quiet, the cage shook again with the same cacophonous clatter. It came again, and again, and the raven’s head spun as he bounced about, confused and overwhelmed.
Finally, there was a crack, like a log being split by an axe, and the cage began to topple. All the raven’s perches few askew, the newspapers at the bottom of the cage went flying, and the wire top popped off of its base when the entire thing it hit the ground with a final crashing crescendo. The raven was shaken, but unhurt, and after gathering himself, he hopped away from the wreck that was once his home, stepping cautiously over the freshly fallen snow.
“Be free, my brother,” the eagle cried before lifting himself high into the sky with a triumphant screech.
The raven took a minute to realize what had happened. Indeed, now he was free. Though he had lived in that cage since he was an egg, he spread his wings, hopped out of the shadow of the man’s house, and managed to take to the skies, albeit rather clumsily. Chasing after the eagle, teetering as he flew unsteadily on wings rarely used, he tried to catch up, to speak to his savior and thank him, but he was too slow, and the eagle disappeared into the horizon, towards the setting sun.
All night the raven flew across the land, enjoying the wind through his feathers, chasing the twinkling stars and the round moon across the open skies. Sleeping never even crossed his mind; there was so much to do and so much to see.
When morning came, the raven was so tired from flying that he had to perch on a tree to rest, wings sore and cold from his exploration in the chilly night air. Watching the sun come up as he rested, the raven discovered he was quite hungry as well. Even though he was weary and sleepy, he forced himself to go in search for food. The first place he thought of, of course, was the man’s house, remembering the spilled bowl within the toppled cage. So, he flew up into the sky, returning to the direction he had originally come from, and, after a while, came upon the man’s house again. The cage had been righted again, but the man was nowhere to be found. The crow landed on the ground, looking for the nuts and berries he was so used to eating every morning. However, the squirrels had stolen all the food away, leaving nothing but the pattern of the cage’s wiring imprinted in the snow.
That was fine, the raven thought, he would simply wait for the man’s return. So, the raven found a comfortable spot on the roof of the small house, closed his eyes, and waited for the chugging of the man’s old car. Dusk came and the man had not returned. His car was nowhere to be found, and there were no lights in the house. The raven was absolutely famished by that point.
Desperately, he gathered the last reserves of his strength and soared towards the forest, hoping to scrounge around for something to fill his empty belly. But it was winter; the lands were barren and only the pine trees still held their leaves. The raven checked every branch and bush for berries, scratched the ground for nuts, but there was nothing to be found. All the food had already been stored away by the woodland creatures anticipating the cold months. The raven was left hungry.
Not knowing what to do, the raven had no choice but to keep searching, even as the night fell again. He flew far from his home, hoping to find a patch of trees with just a few frosted berries or a small abandoned stash of seeds, but he had no luck. He searched and searched, flying for endless miles, but the winter was cruel and merciless.
Unable to fly any further, the raven finally plummeted down onto a wide, open field, covered with a blanket of pure, white snow. Looking up to the skies, the last thing he saw was the silhouette of an eagle circling above as the sun began to rise high into the sky.