n the long ago and far away there
was a little boy, and his name was Vanyan. Now long ago and far away are not so
long and far as to change a boy’s nature, and Vanyan was very like you…and you…
and you. Vanyan enjoyed his mother’s kao-kao cookies but hated going to bed on
time. He would gladly throw stones to keep the corbies off the grainfields, but
was very good at vanishing when it was time to help his father bring in the
One day Vanyan was out by the edge of his father’s fields, pulling up carroots
idly and rubbing the dirt off on his breeches. It was almost lunchtime, but
Vanyan was not fond of porridge, and porridge was going to be on the table for
lunch again. He pulled up another carroot, but just as he was about to crunch
into it, he heard a sharp cawing from the forest edge beside him. “Vaaaaah!
The noise came again; “Vaaw-yaaaw, vaawn-yaawn…” and it sounded very like his
Vanyan dropped his carroot and looked into the forest. It was a thick, dusky
place, with the pine branches clustering close together and shielding the light,
and Vanyan could see nothing but a faint white spot, moving ever so little like
a fireflicker. He stepped inside the edge of the forest and began to walk
towards the white flicker.
“Vaan-yaan!” the caw sounded for the third time, and the white spot remained
flickering ahead of him. Vanyan pushed his way through the pine branches, and
there in front of him, hanging upside down by one sharp-clawed foot,
frowsy-feathered and bright-eyed…. was a pure white corbie!
Have you ever seen a white corbie? Well, no more have I, but that’s what Vanyan
saw. And that’s what Vanyan was hearing, as it cawed his name once more.
“Vaanyaan, help meee..” it squawked. “I haave caaw-ght my foot in dzis treeee
branzch and caawn not ezcape… Help me and you zhall haave dze anzswer to any
quesztion you want…”
Vanyan nervously put his hands out, and with a quick tug upwards the corbie’s
foot was free. It hopped up to a broad branch above his head and sat with its
bright eye fixed on him. “Aaask your question, Vaanyaaan. Asssk dze White Corbie
and you zhall have your anzswer!”
There were many questions Vanyan could have asked the White Corbie, and then we
should have known the answers – like, ‘Where can I find treasure?’ or ‘How can I
help my family?’ or ‘ Why does death take people?’ or even ‘How do you know my
name?’ but he did not.
Instead he asked quickly, “Why are you white instead of black like other
The Corbie shook its feathery head from side to side, sadly. “Aaall corbies are
white, Vaaanyaaan. It iz humansight dzat iz dark…”
And with that the bird spread its broad wings and leapt upwards into the
darkness of the pines and vanished. “Faaarewell, humaaan laaad!” Vanyan thought
he heard it caw at the last, but he was not sure.
Vanyan turned and went back towards the light that showed him where his father’s
fields lay, beyond the forest edge. He gathered his shirt full of carroots and
brought them home to his mother, and told her his tale. His mother shook her
head, rather like the Corbie, but said nothing.
And for lunch there was carroot pudding instead of porridge, and they finished
it off, and I’ve finished my tale.
What would YOU have asked the Corbie?