Stories from the Barn

A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands

A Parliament of Owls

owls in literature

Advent Calendar 4

A Parliament of Owls, the collective noun for a group of owls. I grew up with the tales of Narnia spinning inside my head. There was no better place to be than the ice bound land and no better way to view it than on the back of an owl. When C.S Lewis coined the phrase ‘A Parliament of Owls’, it is thought he was inspired by Chaucer’s ‘Parliament of Foules (Fowls). Wherever the inspiration came from, the collective noun was adopted. The owls in Narnia form a council who meet at night to discuss the affairs of Narnia. These are the wise creatures of the land. In Chaucers work, it is an assembly of fowls who have a parliamentary debate about the choosing of a mate.

“Now” said Glimfeather, “I think we are all here. Let us hold a Parliament of Owls”

The Silver Chair  C.S Lewis


Are owls Solitary?

Moving on from a Parliament of owls, literature gives us plenty of other owls to consider. Are owls solitary? The simple answer is yes so that does away with the idea that they congregate in large groups or Parliaments.

Find out more about owls by visiting the Owl Trust.

owls in literature

The Barn Owl

Owls in literature.

Why do owls appear in so much of our story telling? The owl is the bird that captures our imaginations. There is something of the other world about the owl. The silent flight, their disappearance during the day, the mournful calls. All this has helped create a very special aura around the bird we all love. The first owl many of us meet is ‘Owl’ in Winnie the Pooh. The wise old owl who spells his name ‘Wol’ as every sharp eyed child spots. He is often having to bluff his way through life, not being quite as wise as he would have us think!

Miss Potter brought us another owl. Owl Brown of Owl Island. This owl is a bit of a tougher character and the squirrels who need to collect the nuts on his island bring him gifts of dead mice and voles to placate him.

Owl Brown

The poem the ‘Owl and the Pussy Cat’ is a rather bizarre love story by Edward Lear. The guitar strumming owl and the jar of honey forever fixed as a mental picture.

The Owl and the Pussy Cat

‘Plop’ the little barn owl from the story by Jill Tomlinson. ‘The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark’, is a story about a little barn owl who was afraid of the dark. It is a warm and delightful depiction of the owl. Not a solitary owl but one surrounded by loving and caring friends. A great story for children who are afraid of the dark.

A favourite owl poem.

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field

Coming down out of the freezing sky with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —

as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

Mary Oliver

solitary white owl