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Notes On The Raven King


This is an essay of commentary on the epic poem The Raven King. It will make more sense if you read Reflections on Zhandivar first.


The Raven King, the were-raven who walks as a man and forments wars that his people might feast on battlefields corpses, is a recurring figure in the Elonian mythos. The present poem, The Raven King, is the only one in which he appears as a principal character. Usually he appears only as a presence lurking at the edge of battle, "All dressed in black, his nose a noble beak". It is notable that Elonian mythology, unlike European mythology, had no other were creatures except, of course, for Tionymis who scarcely counts.

The Raven King is part of the Alderman cycle. In the Elonian mythos Alderman is a fair land which is sacked by adventurers from Zhandivar. In the cycle proper the adventurers are always led by a Lord Marek. There are quite a number of tales in this cycle; they are not entirely consistent. It is not clear whether this is because Alderman was sacked a number of times or whether the tales are simply inconsistent.

The House of Marek was an old and prominent house in Zhandivar. In The Lamentations of the Kings, it is said to be founded by a younger brother of the legendary first King, Darion I. It is known that the House of Marek figured in the great civil war known as The War of the Brothers; there has always been a rumor that the true Royal line was extinguished during that war and that a younger son of the House of Marek usurped the throne. Nothing can be known for certain; so many records were lost during The Terror of the Dragons.

The Raven King is written in the traditional form used in epics of the Elonian mythos, the quintad, which contains five lines, the quatrain and the refrain. The lines may have three or four iambic feet, although the meter is often loose. When recited, the refrain is declaimed as though it were a partially separated verse; it is traditionally known as the fallaway line.

"Some voices moaned within the vaults" is a muted reference to the undead traditionally thought to be interred in the vaults beneath Zhandivar.

"The left fork leads to Liapram; They do not welcome strangers there." The stranger dressed in black lied.

The patchwork beast is a major figure in the Elonian mythos; see Reflections on Zhandivar for a discussion.

"Come cry, my friends, for younger sons": Zhandivar, like most societies with a stable nobility, used primogeniture - estates were passed to the eldest son. There was no entailment, though, and noble houses could and did rise and fall. The House of Marek was one of the 31 Electors, Electoral Houses which were maintained directly on the bounty of the Realm. The younger sons in noble houses were, in effect, halfway between the peerage and the commoners.

"No wars save mine the King declared": The nobility was the armed class of Zhandivar and was traditionally fractious. The rights of the King to maintain a standing army of his own were strictly limited. The conflict between the King and the Nobility over the power to conduct war was a central political issue in Zhandivar.

This page was last updated November 1, 1998.