Origin Tales: How Snowy Owl Turned White

Snowy Owl

Illustration by Luke Clayton.

How Snowy Owl Turned White.
By CC Clayton

Have you ever heard the tale of why Snowy Owl is white? Or why she flies around at night?

A long time ago, before the Internet, before humans found fire, back when the world was first forming, Snowy Owl perched in the World Tree watching the sun rise. Every day at dawn, Snowy Owl would wake the forest creatures with her elegant song and a flourish of her colorful plumage.

Back then, Snowy Owl had the best voice of all the birds. So beautiful that Crow, that black-feathered trickster, envied her above all others. Not only did she have the most beautiful voice, but Snowy Owl was also the most colorful of the birds. Blue, red, green, yellow, you name the color and Snowy Owl had it in her feathered dress. Crow had only black feathers and his song was anything but beautiful.

As Snowy Owl sang her morning song, Crow shook his head awake and glared up at her. He had had quite enough. He couldn’t take one more day of Snowy Owl waking him up. He let out a most hideous “caw” and flapped his raven wings. He hopped up the branches until he was perched along side Snowy Owl.

“I thank you for waking me up this fine morning,” Crow said. “The sun is such a magnificent thing, isn’t it?”

“Oh, it’s the most beautiful thing in the whole world,” Snowy Owl said.

“Well, it certainly is pretty,” Crow said, “but I know of something prettier still.”

Snowy Owl swiveled her big head and looked at crow in surprise. “Nothing can be as beautiful, surely?”

“Have you ever seen the moon light up the night sky?” Crow asked.

Snowy Owl shook her head.

“I’m telling you,” Crow said. “It makes the sun look sad to see such a sight. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen such beauty.”

“Well, I must see the moon this very night. I can hardly stand to wait!” Snowy Owl said.

Crow just bobbed his head and smiled inside.

That night, Snowy Owl stayed awake as all the other daytime flying creatures roosted in the World Tree below. She blinked her eyes and waited. And waited. And waited.

Crow had played an even harsher trick on Snowy Owl that night because there would be no moon rising. It was what we call today a new moon, where the moon takes the night off for some much needed rest. So Snowy Owl just waited, staring at the horizon for a moon that would never come.

When the night was at its darkest, and Snowy Owl’s eyelids at their most heaviest, Crow hopped silently up through the branches of the World Tree. Black as the night around him, no one saw him climbing.

Crow climbed until he was just below Snowy Owl. He could see her huge, slow-blinking eyes straining to catch sight of the rising moon. He let all the envy boil in his breast, churning into a frothy brine. When he couldn’t hold it back any longer, Crow let out the most hideous cry that anyone has ever heard.

Snowy Owl leaped off her perch into the night sky, so scared the color drained from her feathers and she turned as white as a ghost.

“Who? Who?!” she yelled into the night. Her big eyes searched but Crow hid behind a branch and she flew on.

To this day, Snowy Owl stays up all night in search of who scared her color away. No one but the moon hears her beautiful song.

And what about Crow, you ask? He got what he wished for but at a price. Every day, Rooster reminds Crow how much he misses Snowy Owl greeting the sun.

The End

Old Crow

Illustration by Luke Clayton.


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