Countdown to Halloween #16: Poe’s ‘The Raven’

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —
Only this and nothing more.”

This was the poem that started it all.  In January of 1845, American writer Edgar Allan Poe published his narrative poem, The Raven.  The physical embodiment of the Raven has remained an eerie manifestation referenced in writing, film, television, and comics ever since.  For this reason, it deservingly sits at #16 on the Grizzly Bomb Countdown to Halloween.

I love looking at the different depictions of the Raven over the past 167 years because it shows how truly open any art form is to interpretation.  I have found the film adaptations to be some of the most interesting.  For those familiar with Bela Lugosi in 1935’s The Raven, the film is presented more as an obsession with Poe than actual elements of the original poem.  The Pit and the Pendulum was more apparent than anything else.  In 1963, the Vincent Price film of the same title follows a bit closer to the original poem, but is still a very loose adaptation.

In the recent 2012 John Cusack film of the same title, a murderer is committing crimes in line with several classic Poe tales.  Poe himself is portrayed by Cusack is tapped to catch the killer.  So why name it The Raven?  I don’t know, but it just comes to show that the term, “The Raven” will spark intrigue.  It’s interesting that one of the truest adaptations to date would be the Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror in which Homer reenacts the poem up to the last two lines of the 17th stanza.  Darth Vader himself James Earl Jones voices all narrative portions, and Homer acts out all spoken verse.  Simply exquisite.

I find the poem to be simply terrifying.  That creepy little bird ignites so many fears I didn’t know were there.  That is what happens when you let the mind go free.  Some might think it’s just a bird messing with a guy in the middle of the night.  I however picture a man instigating an argument with Death himself.  Not only is the mood set perfectly, but I can’t help but imagine the sharp, angular, black features of The Raven as the cloaked skeletal form of Death.  A man reflecting upon his loss is lonely, angry, and willing to question Death.  He begs for a response.  A response from Death could actually be death if he lays his hands upon you.  This shows how close the man is to insanity if not suicidal tendencies.  He is so pained by the memories of his lost Lenore that even to hold a pleasant memory is pain.  For this reason, he is willing to challenge Death.  His memories slowly drive him mad.  And why?  Because the only response he receives is, “Nevermore.”

It shouldn’t be too absurd to question if The Raven physically exists or not.  Is The Raven truly a manifestation of Death?  Is the man haunted by his own imagination?  That is the beauty of this poem.  No one is capable of creating a greater terror than what is already inside your head.  The greatest fears are those not spoken, only to be created by your own mind.  My recommendation is to go back and read the original poem and truly reflect upon it.  The modern films you may be familiar with are only mangled interpretations of what it once was.  This proves that any art form is free to interpretation.  When it comes to The Raven, I prefer to get it from the source.

I suppose I am just being honest with myself when I say that one of my greatest fears is the unknown of death.  To see a man so desperate that he calls out The Raven and demands answers appears to be a man questioning Death and waiting for a response.  Me being a man with a full grasp of sanity, prefers to stay as far away from Death as possible.  If suddenly there comes a tapping, tapping at your chamber door…  Just ignore it.  Only idiots answer the door.

Keep an eye out, another character on the Countdown will be revealed at every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.

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