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I saw an image macro on facebook the other day that started me thinking;

Potter confronts Umbridge

I tried to look into it and I found two separate styles.

Pottermore Style

Fan-drawn Ravenclaw House crest

Book Style

*Deathly Hallows* Hogwarts crest showing Ravenclaw eagle

Neither of these to me looks anything like a raven, besides being bird shaped.

Is the crest meant to show a raven, or just some sort of bird?

I've struggled to find an 'official' rendition of the crest, and this is the best I could find, but I've seen plenty of fan-mad crests that do show a raven, seemingly correcting this 'mistake'.

So why does the Ravenclaw symbol show an eagle, and not a Raven?

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It appears from @Slytherincess' answer that it is intended to be an eagle but I would also point out that the bird in the Pottermore-style crest does look a heck of a lot like all the ravens I have seen, and the bird in the book-style crest looks as much like a raven as it does an eagle (an angry chicken perhaps?). –  KennyPeanuts Dec 8 '12 at 16:08
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In heraldry, a raven and an eagle are not really distinguishable. Generally, if it's displayed (wings out to either side), then it's an eagle, and if it's in profile (especially if it has something in its beak, and/or if it's fuzzy), then it's a raven. –  Martha Dec 8 '12 at 16:29
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Gryffindor has a lion as their animal - why don't they have a griffin? Hufflepuff has a badger - why don't they have an out of breath puff? –  Dason Dec 8 '12 at 17:47
    
Do the books have a textual description of what animal it is? Or is this solely based on the drawing? –  b_jonas Dec 8 '12 at 19:29
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@b_jonas - It's an eagle. Goblet of Fire says: blue with a bronze eagle for Ravenclaw in chapter 15, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. :) –  Slytherincess Dec 8 '12 at 20:49

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

When is a raven not an eagle?

When the word raven is describing a color not the bird. It is an easy mistake to make if you are unfamiliar with old world naming conventions.

Raven

/ˈrāvən/ -

Noun: A large heavily built crow, esp. the all-black common raven (Corvus corax), feeding chiefly on carrion.

Adjective: Of a glossy black color

Verb: (of a ferocious wild animal) Hunt for prey.

Synonyms

  • noun: crow - corbie - rook;

  • adjective: black;

  • verb: pillage - loot - maraud - harry - devour

The name of the founder was Rowena Ravenclaw. The raven being described is not a bird that is a raven, but the color of the claw of the bird (an eagle) that is being described. Rowena Ravenclaw gave her name and her standard which included an eagle that is described in its name as raven-clawed. (black colored claws)

enter image description here

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Her name was Ravenclaw. It has nothing to do with house colors. It is merely a naming convention, nothing more. The bird on the standard is most likely an eagle since ravens were more associated with carrion birds. So people are confusing her name with the bird, believing there should be a raven on the standard, not an eagle. Familiarity with heraldry helps understand how this misunderstanding could take place. –  Thaddeus Dec 8 '12 at 20:23
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Well, I get what you're saying. In Dason's answer, though, Martha says the opposite about heraldry, citing a practice called "punning" which does associate an animal with a name if possible. Forget what I said about the house colors -- I was responding to your comments about the color of the talons, but it's irrelevant to the issue of heraldry, which I think is more at issue. :) –  Slytherincess Dec 8 '12 at 20:41
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A book written by a modern writer creating a fictional universe overlaying thousands of years of history in a rather lackadaisical and unsystematic fashion and you find MY answer deeply unsatisfying? OED first reference for the English word is 17th century. Earlier versions of the word exist in French and Latin as well, with differing meanings. Punning may also be responsible for those changes as well. –  Thaddeus Dec 8 '12 at 21:24
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@Micah I find it amusing you criticize Thaddeus for an English definition not being a valid name for someone born in 993 AD. In Scotland 993, they spoke Old English. Obviously, Ravenclaw (a combination of two post dark ages English words) was not her name, but a translation of her name. The OE word for night is nihthræfn, while the OE word for claw is clifer. Her name was likely Nihthræfnclifer, or somesuch, meaning Nightclaw. Thaddeus' answer stands just fine as a post-Dark Age English ideologic translation of Nihthræfnclifer. –  Gabe Willard Dec 8 '12 at 22:32
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Raven descends from the same OE word, as does night. Both would be valid translations, but Raven is closer to the interpretation "dark" as opposed to the possible "time period" interpretation. –  Gabe Willard Dec 8 '12 at 22:34

The Ravenclaw house crest shows an eagle, according to Pottermore, because eagles soar where others cannot climb.

This is the official eagle image for Ravenclaw from Pottermore:

Eagle emblem - Ravenclaw house crest

I would pay no attention to the fan-made house crests, aside from enjoying them as fun examples of fan art.

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that is kinda funny because a raven can soar just as good as an eagle... now if they put a turkey vulture on the crest, that would be a different story. –  KennyPeanuts Dec 8 '12 at 16:11
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+1 I'm surprised it's not a raven. Ravens (crows in general) are famed for their very exceptional intelligence so they would be the perfect animal for Ravenclaw. As for soaring where others cannot climb... I thought that kind of greatness belonged to Slytherin. –  commando Dec 8 '12 at 17:20
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@DQdlM - Thanks for the info re: turkey vultures. I once met a turkey vulture name Kurt at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, California. Not a very glamorous bird, but he put on a good show :) –  Slytherincess Dec 9 '12 at 17:14
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The artists behind the Pottermore house crests shared their design process, and they call it an eagle, not a raven: insider.pottermore.com/2011/10/… –  alexwlchan May 28 at 9:58
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@alexwlchan -- Which makes complete sense ... wait, it doesn't make sense ... !!!! :) –  Slytherincess May 28 at 17:18

Why should it show a raven? The house is named after Rowena Ravenclaw. Sure her name has "raven" in it but I see no reason that Ravenclaw should choose a raven to use as their symbol; just like I see no reason why Brazil should have a bra on their national flag (thankfully they have common sense as well and don't have a bra on their flag). The eagle is meant to represent that Ravenclaws "soar where others cannot climb" so there is meaning there. It doesn't seem to be in the nature of Ravenclaw to choose a raven solely because there is a raven in the house name unless there is other meaning they would wish to ascribe to that symbol.

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Heraldry has a concept called canting: alluding to or punning on the bearer's name. Thus, it would be totally normal for the Ravenclaw family to have a raven on their arms. In fact, if the arms had a bird on it that was not displayed (i.e. not definitely an eagle), then a herald would probably conclude that the bird is meant to be a raven, just based on the name. (This happens a lot in hastily-painted rolls of arms: about all you can tell from the picture is that it's a critter of some sort, and then you see that the name is Brock, so then you conclude that the critter is a badger.) –  Martha Dec 8 '12 at 16:34
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Sure. But saying "Ravenclaw's animal isn't a raven and that doesn't make sense" seems silly to me. You could allude to Ravenclaw's name by making the symbol a raven. Or you could use something that makes more sense that actual represents the house itself. It just seems to me that Rowena Ravenclaw would choose to use a symbol that she felt symbolized the house itself (and canon seems to back that up). –  Dason Dec 8 '12 at 17:46
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Except that heraldically speaking, it doesn't make sense: if there's an obvious cant available, its very surprising (to put it mildly) to not have that on the arms. And then to have something that is close-but-not-quite? That just smacks of "someone didn't study their heraldry". –  Martha Dec 8 '12 at 19:32
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And you're right: Gryffindor should have a gold griffin on their arms. Which is just more support for "someone didn't study their heraldry". –  Martha Dec 8 '12 at 19:36

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