The Last Viking Returns

Designing Odin’s Ravens, Huginn and Muninn

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I thought people were hard to draw. Turns out ravens are impossible.

Okay, I’m being melodramatic. They’re not impossible- just difficult. I’ve never made a habit of drawing birds before, so I’ve had to start practicing.

I’m paying attention now. In the last year whenever I’ve seen crows or ravens about, I’ve stopped doing whatever it is I’m doing and I’ve stared. I’ve chased crows around the park with my mobile phone, trying to take videos and pictures. I’ve sat on the grass with my sketchbook and tried to draw them as they hop around, then inevitably fly off, their opinionated squawking trailing into the distance. And my drawings have gotten better (mostly).

Ravens are incredibly intelligent birds, capable of logic and problem solving- I had no idea how intelligent until I started researching on youtube.

There are two ravens in Norse mythology- their names are Huginn and Muninn, which mean Thought and Memory. They belong to Odin; every day they fly around the world (the land of humans known as ‘Midgard’) and note the events taking place. Then they fly back to Odin to report.

So in our story, the ravens provide a vital link between Josh’s world and the world of the Viking Gods. When the ravens turn up, the Gods aren’t far away.

My first sketches in the storyboards were merely placeholders- rough ideas of where the ravens would go, once I knew how to draw them.

ravens-1

Many sketches later…

ravens-recent-sketches-1

…and I’ve learnt to draw some better looking birds.

ravens-2

Random facts about ravens:

  • You’ve probably heard that a group of crows is called a ‘murder’. The same name is used for a group of ravens, but there are some other suggestions floating about too : a conspiracy, an unkindness, a storytelling, a congress and a parliament are also used. (Or at least, that’s what a quick google search told me).
  • Ravens were used as symbols in Viking times, and can be found on flags, in the Bayeux Tapestry, and on helmets.
  • There is an Australian species of raven, found in WA (around Perth and on Rottnest Island), and in much of the eastern states.
  • There isn’t much difference between a crow and a raven. They belong to the same family of birds. Ravens are usually bigger.
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Author: James Foley

James makes books for courageous kids. His books include 'The Amity Kids Adventures', 'In The Lion', 'The Last Viking'. A couple of these books have won awards. People have also bought copies, and for that he is grateful. His new book 'The Last Viking Returns' is out now. Follow James at www.facebook.com/jamesfoleyillustrations , @James_R_Foley on twitter and instagram or at www.jamesfoley.com.au

2 thoughts on “Designing Odin’s Ravens, Huginn and Muninn

  1. We have a nest on the power tower in our street.

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