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King Oswald’s Raven is a new animation and set of videos developed by researchers at University College London and King’s College London as part of the Being Human Festival, 12-22 November 2020.

Animation picture of King OswaldThe five minute animation video retells the comic German legend about Peterborough’s most important medieval saint: Oswald of Northumbria.

The animation uses imagery from the Peterborough Bestiary, an medieval book with pictures of animals, to tell the story of King Oswald and his legendary (and sassy) pet raven.

Who is St Oswald?

Oswald was a Christian king of Northumbria who died in battle in 642, slain by the Mercian king Penda, he was soon venerated as a saint. By the time of the Norman Conquest the most famous relic associated with this saint-king, his incorrupt right arm, was in the possession of the monks of Peterborough. The arm was kept in a shrine in the chapel dedicated to Oswald in the south transept of the abbey church and was of paramount importance to the religious life of the monastic community.

Soon after his death, Oswald’s fame had spread overseas and through the centuries links between England and German-speaking lands strengthened his cult on the Continent. He became a particularly popular saint in southern Germany where, at some point in the high Middle Ages, his legend underwent a surprising metamorphosis: Oswald was transformed from a pious and austere martyr king into a rather comic figure, overshadowed by his talking raven.

How can I get involved?

You can see the animation and videos on this webpage: King Oswald's Raven.

King Oswald's raven wearing a crownAmongst the accompanying videos are:

  • three explaining some of the research background to the project - Saint Oswald's connections with Peterborough in medieval times, the legend that grew up around him in German, and the Peterborough Bestiary held in the Parker Library in Cambridge. 

  • three showing family-friendly creative activities you can do at home in response to the animation. The creative activity videos are supported by downloadable activity sheets.

Children can win a toy raven

There are six soft toy ravens to give away to children who send in the best creations during the Festival. Details of how to share your poems, stories and pictures will be available online during the festival. Each of the activity videos includes and explanation of how to enter your creations.

Find out more

Press releases: Raven to the Rescue! (10-11-2020). King Oswald's Raven project announced (08-10-2020).

More details of the programme: or follow @Oswalds_Raven on Twitter.

This event was selected to be part of Being Human by the festival organisers, the School of Advanced Study, the University of London, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

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