The Tower of London is built on White Hill or Tower Hill, name depending on era. As we know, ravens have lived there since time immemorial, and legend says that if the ravens were to ever leave the tower, England would fall. Thus, there are always ravens living there, and their wings are clipped so that they can't fly away. They're huge birds, the size of chickens.
Now, a curious bit of Welsh myth from the Mabiongion, in "Branwen uerch Llyr": King Bran the Blessed (Bendigedfran) died while at war with Ireland. Now, being a god,1. and more than that, a Celtic god, he possessed a magical head that stayed alive after the rest of him was dead. His brother Manawyddan, nephew Pryderi, and friend Taliesin, all returned home from the war with his head, feasting on magical isles and never growing older. Until the day that someone broke a taboo, that is. So, the head now dead, the three, plus four companions, take the head to the White Hill of London (now Tower Hill) and bury it as a protection against the successful invasion of Britain by outsiders. King Arthur, according to the Welsh Triads, dug it up out of arrogance, believing he could protect Britain on his own. Of course, Mordred kills him and the Saxons take over the island.
I mention this, because of what the name Bran means in Welsh--raven.
When I was in England, I asked a beefeater whether he knew this story. He didn't, but said he'd look into it out of curiosity.
I've heard that only one prisoner ever walked out of the Tower alive--she went on to become Elizabeth I. However, I do not know if this is true, that she is the only person.
By the way--the raven on my index page? Yes, that's one of the ravens at the Tower of London.
1. To the Celts--as with the Norse--their gods can die. It's strange sort of mortal divine, but as the Celts simply saw death and life as equal passages, and one lead as easily to the other and vice versa, this isn't too surprising.
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Mary Jones © 2003