“The Raven’s Call” is a short story written by artist Bill Reid in 1996. He deliberately left the story open-ended. In 2008, Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas adapted the story to animation in his signature style of "Haida manga." He, too, left the story unfinished.
A tall ship crosses the Hecate Strait on an old map showing Haida Gwaii. The ship arrives at night in the village of Tanu.
The full moon highlights Tanu. The village is very quiet.
Narrator: “This is the story of the Raven’s Call, and of an old pole from a village in Haida Gwaii.”
Close up of pole. Two men in top hats with a swede saw are cutting it down.
Narrator: “For more than a hundred years, the pole watched the comings and goings, the joys and the sorrows of this village.”
A Raven at the top of the pole sounds the alarm. We pull back to see the entire village in the moonlight with the two men sawing the bottom of the pole.
Narrator: “One year a group of strangers came into the quiet village and took the pole away.”
The pole falls backwards as the Raven takes flight revealing the full moon.
Narrator: “Although the years passed, some things stayed the same.”
Two Ravens play on the base left from the pole. Then one Raven lets out a loud caw. The caw vibrates the air as it travels over the Hecate Straits and then quickly across Canada.
EXT. DAY/ A museum
Medium long shot pans into glass door in front of which a guard is standing.
Narrator: “Then one day, in a museum far across the country….”
Inside we see the Tanu pole as the camera pans towards it. Electric shocks seem to run through it as the eye of the figure on top starts to blink.
The museum guard talks on his radio as the air vibrates in the museum through the doors behind him.
A huge gust of wind blows the door closed startling the guard. The pole behind the guard is now gone.
FADE TO BLACK
EXT. NIGHT BLACK
We get a glimpse of a grain tower as the train roars by.
Close up of train. The camera pans right across the windows.
Narrator: “Now things had obviously changed a little over the years”
We see the Watchman playing cards with Cormorant. Cormorant motions through animation to: Go fish!
Sound: Clatter of wheels.
In the next compartment big Orca is asleep leaning against the car window. He is snoring away. We see Owl is squashed against the window by the sleeping Orca.
Train whistle sounds. Pull back to see train moving over mountains. Dawn is coming.
Train Announcer:“Attention passengers. Our next and final stop is Prince Rupert.”
Camera pans left to silhouette of ferry boat on the ocean.
Ferry Announcer: “We’re going to be docking in Skidegate real soon.”
EXT. HAIDA GWAII DAWN
Pan left to show the silhouette of a pickup truck driving into the village. A Raven sits on top of one of the village poles. The sky is getting brighter.
In the foreground at bottom left we see a pod of Orcas are swimming and leaping in the ocean.
Sound: outboard motor.
In the foreground at top right a boat is speeding along, the Haida Gwaii Watch No. 1. It eventually speeds past the frame and reveals Tanu.
Raven is flying into Tanu, and all the other members of the pole are hanging on.
Medium Long shot
Our characters land with a thud in Tanu, initially landing on top of each other in a pole formation, but then tumbling off from the impact of landing.
Narrator: “Come on. Everyone get in your places. Stop fooling around!” ordered the Watchman.”
“I think I’m going to take a long swim,” said Killer Whale.
“Did you see that boat?” asked Cormorant. “That looked like fun!”
“Hang on a minute!” exclaimed the Watchman. “It’s our job to be a pole. Not just anyone gets to stand on guard for heritage and traditions.”
“Not to mention we look pretty good,” chimed in Owl. “I like it when people admire me. I want to go back to the museum.”
“We look good right here,” argued the Watchman.
“It was cool driving the train,” Beaver objected. “I don’t want to be stuck holding someone’s butt up in the air. I’m going back to the train!”
Throughout the foregoing we see the characters arguing as described.
Narrator: “The argument grew more and more heated until ...”
We see Raven in the foreground on a tree branch. He flies down to land on the stump where the pole once stood.
Narrator (as Raven): “Hey, we can figure this out!”
The stump and Raven become the period in a giant question mark as the story ends.
Will the characters go back to the museum? Will they stay in Haida Gwaii? What are their choices?
There are many ways to end this story. See the endings that others have created.
Bill Reid felt that there were probably many possible endings to the story, as different as the voices that would tell them. Each character must decide how the story ends. Create your own ending and share it with others.
Acclaimed Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas was invited to adapt Bill Reid's short story, “The Raven’s Call,” in his signature style of "Haida manga" animation. In so doing, he modified the story to express his own artistic and cultural vision. Compare the written versions of the original story and the adaptation, side by side.
Explore the concepts of identity and belonging with your class, using Grade 4 and Grade 9 lesson plans for combined social studies and visual arts learning, and an all-grades guide to using "The Raven's Call" story and animation.