Ravens appear throughout Burial Rites: they caw unexpectedly, land on fences, or fly overhead. According to Agnes, ravens are symbols of death, and they often foreshadow it. Agnes recalls how she once watched a raven move its head in the direction of a farm where a little boy drowned later in the week. Although many people fear ravens because of their association with death, Agnes says that she likes the birds because they are smart, even if they aren’t very nice. Agnes seems to sees something of herself in ravens, as she is likewise stigmatized for her intelligence. As a result, ravens not only represent death, but also people like Agnes who are marginalized because of their difference.
Ravens Quotes in Burial Rites
Cruel Birds, ravens, but wise. And creatures should be loved for their wisdom if they cannot be loved for kindness.
Where would I have gone? I knew only the valley of Vatnsdalur; knew where it was scabbed with rock, knew the white-headed mountains and the lake alive with swans, and the wrinkled skins of turf by the river. And the ravens, the constant, circling ravens. But Illugastadir was different. I had no friends. I didn’t understand the landscape. Only the outlying tongues of rock scarred the perfect kiss of sea and sky— there was no one and nothing else. There was nowhere else to go.