The Real Hubba Hubba

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The nest in this tree is the very raven nest in this story.

 

Several years ago, when we were teaching on the Navajo Nation and living in a trailer on the Twin Lakes (Ext - Back BEST)campus of Twin Lakes ElementaryTwin Lakes (Int - Hallway2-5) School, a violent thunderstorm blew down a nest of baby ravens from the top of a hackberry tree. Carol grabbed up two of them, walking home from school. The neighbor’s dog killed the other two.

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Carol put them in an open box on the davenport and named the big one Hubba-Hubba, after our character in The Collector Witch, and named the little one Quoth. They were young enough that they were only about three fourths feathered out and Carol had to feed them baby parrot porridge with a teaspoon. And as it was when we raised our Amazon parrot, Carol’s background in psychology and mine in ethology made us careful not to read human motivation into their behavior. However we were interested in their inclination toward language, so we began at once treating them as though they harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

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We made no attempt to teach them to talk. That is, we did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to them nor drill them in any sort of way. What Carol has done every single evening since, before switching off the lights for the night, is spend some time scratching their heads and talking to them.

ravenL0405_468x312It was soon impossible to keep them in the box, so we transferred them to a large plastic P12307407pet carrier with a welded wire door. We kept them on the kitchen table. We handled them frequently and talked to them, but outside of squawks and groans, we heard nothing out of them for better than two months. Soon they began picking out large pieces of their cedar bedding, trimming them and using them as wedges and levers to force open the door of their carrier. Just as we were recovering from the shock of their doing this, one of them declared, “Fuck you!” as they scratched about in their new bed of cedar chips. The other one replied, “Ass hole! Ass hole!”

This certainly stunned us. We had not once heard a single word nor any single attempted word out of either of them prior to this. And neither one of us had ever used language like ravens1this around them. What they could have heard on an isolated occasion or two was one of us telling the other about our day at school, including (we assume) the foul speech of our students. In a few days we were astounded once more when we heard Hubba Hubba say, “Help me get this door open.”

This was not at all like parrots. Not only was there no endless practice leading up to the utterance of this sentence, it was as perfectly enunciated as if it were spoken by some human. We began keeping them in a chicken wire pen outside in the daytime. The next time I heard “Help me get this door open,” I rushed to the window to find Quoth watching  Hubba Hubba as he pecked in the dirt under the wire gate.

One day I was very upset, tramping about the trailer, raving. As I was calming down, Quothe said, “Tom! What’s wrong?”

196570606_fd127bc7eaOver the next very few months, they developed nearly all of the words and sentences given below. However, during the last couple of years we were out west, we seldom heard anything new out of them. During our first year in Kentucky, we discovered Hubba Hubba 15327478giving deliveries where he not only spoke in his own voice, but also talked in Quoth’s voice to make replies. Had Quoth quit talking? We were trying to find out when she vanished for good from their pen outside.

Since then, Hubba Hubba takes spells in the late afternoon saying over and over, “Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello…” or, “What’s your problem? What’s your problem? What’s your problem…?” which he articulates as well as ever. He has begun using our names, but they are very difficult to understand, with “Carol” coming out as “Coah” or “Hoh,” and “Tom” sounding like “Hom,” though “Quoth,” which he has said from the beginning, comes out quite well. He asks for food by saying, “Want some,” and when we ask him what he wants, he may occasionally reply, “Want some food,” or “Want some water.”

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Perhaps ravens are best at learning to articulate during some period of readiness, late in their development and any later verbal learning is not something that they’re genetically programmed to do as easily. Who’s to say? We only have the one bird, and there is very little written on the subject, since any hint that some non-human could possibly have any degree of natural use of true language is still largely regarded as heretical.

Brush Fire, Navajo Estates, Twin Lakes

Here are the words Hub uses. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website: a, all, am, are, ass, awk (spoken), boy, Carol (very poorly pronounced), door, food, fuck, get, go, going, good, hello, help, here, hmmm, hole, how, Hub, I, is, matter, me, open, out, problem, Quoth, right, some, that, the, this, to, Tom (very poorly pronounced), want, water, what, you, your.

Here are his phrases: All right.   Awk! Awk! (spoken, as humans would 24OBOX1-articleLargepronounce it)   Carol! (very poorly pronounced)   Hello.   Hello how are you? Hello Quoth.   Help me get this door open.   Here’s one.  Where are you?  Hey Quoth.   Hmmm?   How are you?   How’r’you how are you? (run together)   Hub.   I’m a good boy. Hmmm?   I’m going to go out the door.   That’s a good boy. Hmmm?   Tom. (very poorly pronounced)   Want some.   Want some?   Want some food!   Want some water.   What’s the matter?   What’s your problem?

Our character Hubba Hubba in Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart and The Burgeoning is no raven at all, but a double yellow head Amazon parrot with enchanted interludes as a crow, not a raven.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to keep a raven or a crow, we’d love to hear about it.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ocker the Raven

“Now look!” cried Demonica. “You knocked my flowers into the syrup, fowl!”

“So? Stop waving your swyving arms, then. Besides, I want you to do something for me…”

“What, then?”

“I want you to make hit so that I can travel anywhere I want by spell, instead of just to here and back,” he said as he wiped off his beak and gave himself a thorough shake.

“For what? What’s your news?”

“I already gave hit to you when you said you gave me the powers of a swyving hedge wizard…”

“So you suddenly think I should pay you twice, aye?”

“Listen, queinte!” he squawked, thrusting himself up to bristle like a pine cone. “I’ve learnt from a right true source that magic powers can’t be given. You’re either born with them, or you’re not. And I was, so you knew hit when you tricked me.”

“I’ll pay you well for the name of who told you.”

Ocker is the only raven known who is able to use magic. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, he lives with his wife Urr-Urr at their nest atop the great bluff overlooking the keep of the evil wizard Razzorbauch. Based on the behavioral studies of ravens by ethologist Bernd Heinrich and the folklore of Native Americans and Celts, Ocker is a profane, amoral huckster, who is forever wheedling things he wants from powerful people in exchange for tidbits of choice information. He does routine business with Demonica the sorceress as well as Razzorbauch, but he also has occasional dealings with Meri Greenwood the Fairy and the Jutland Elves. When Ocker sells the whereabouts of Greenwood’s lover to Razzorbauch as well as to Greenwood, the lover and her sisters are doomed to live in Mount Bed forever. Even so, it is Ocker who ends up saving the day.

We seldom use profanities in our writing, but Ocker is a most profane character, so we have him swearing exclusively with obsolete English words. The above passage is as foul and graphic as any swearing you’ll ever hear on the street.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps  

Languages in The Heart of the Staff

Modern English is the language spoken throughout Elf Killers and the epic series, Heart of the Staff.  Fairies speak Middle English without most of its obsolete words in The Burgeoning, Reaper Witch (February, 2013) and Doom (Summer, 2013). The rest of the languages used appear as isolated words and sentences chosen to give realism and color to various characters. Most of these are explained by context and all can be found translated in the respective glossaries in the books where they appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Language:                              What it is:                               Who speaks it:

 

Niarg Standard                       current Modern English          Kingdom of Niarg

                                                                                                Kingdom of Loxmere

                                                                                                Kingdom of Goll

                                                                                                Kingdom of Bratin Brute

                                                                                                Jutish Elves

                                                                                                naked dragons

                                                                                                Cyclopsia

 

Archaic Modern Niarg            Middle English                       all Fairies

                                                                                            all profanities uttered by

                                                                                                  Ocker the raven

                                                                                            Niarg (600 yrs prior)

 

Old Niarg Standard                Welsh                                     Kingdom of Niarg

                                                                                             Kingdom of Loxmere

                                                                                             Kingdom of Goll

                                                                                             Kingdom of Bratin Brute

                                                                                             Cyclopsia

 

Jutish Elven                             Irish                                        Jutish Elves

 

Old Gwaelic Elven                 Irish                                         Gwaelic Elves (1M yrs prior)

 

Gwaelic Elven                         Manx                                      Gwaelic Elves

 

Gwaelic                                   Cornish                                   Gwael

 

Headlandish                            Breton                                     Penvro (Head)

                                                                                              Dark Empire

                                                                                              Mammvro

 

Goblish-Beakish                      Pictish                                     Kingdom of Marr (Beaks)

                                                Doric

                                                Scots

 

Ngop                                       Wagiman                                 the Ngop

 

Wagiman is almost extinct. The last I knew, only ten Australian Aboriginals still speak it.

 

Trollish                                    transposition of an                    trolls

                                               aboriginal language


 

 

Trollish is a very nasal sounding language, the transposition of an aboriginal New World language, where each letter in the original tongue is replaced with a different letter. In particular, the sounds most frequently used by the aboriginal speakers are replaced with the sounds which are the very most difficult for them to pronounce. Trollish uses such non European peculiarities as noun-verbs, which we originally tried to represent in English by running nouns and verbs together (as they are in the aboriginal) in words such as, headsmash, juicychamp, cantgoback, rollybottomhohoslap and grabupsqueakers, which we soon changed to head-smash, juicy-champ, can’t-go-back, rolly-bottom-ho-ho-slap and grab-up-squeakers in order to be easy to read.

And as always, please let us know what you think,

 

Meri Greenwood gives Ocker a Powerful Stick

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As the shadows were growing long, Ocker buried his marble before flying to the whispering branches of a tall spruce to study a green haired man picking up sticks on the ground below. Titmice and chickadees called nearby, hidden by the boughs. Ocker shook himself and sorted through the feathers of each wing while he kept an eye on the man. “That’s Greenwood, all right,” he thought.

Without warning, Meri Greenwood stood up and looked straight at him. “Hoy, Ocker!” he hollered. “Ain’t eighteen rod a pretty far piece for to visit?”

Ocker was so startled by this that he had to flap his way into the air to hide his having lost his grip on his perch. “Damn him!” he rattled as he swooped down to a tree much closer.

“Do you not trust me?” said Meri.

“Not much,” said Ocker. “Do you trust me?”

“I trust you to be the shrewdest thing I know of with feathers, but if you want to do business, you are going to have to come down here with me,” said Meri as he squatted at once and patted the ground.

“Business hit is,” said Ocker, landing on the carpet of needles before him, “but your flattery won’t lessen my price. I have information dear to you.”

“Celeste!” cried Meri. “Where is she? She my whole life do be.”

“Then she’s worth my price…”

“Well what is hit?”

“I’ve had some especially valuable tidings to sell, lately,” said Ocker as he ran his beak down a flight feather with a silky zip. “And one of my customers came to consider my services so indispensable that she gave me the powers of a hedge wizard and taught me a traveling spell to get me quickly to her castle to keep her up on matters of keen interest to her…”

“Demonica?”

Ocker stopped short, quite wide eyed at this. “How could you possibly figure that out?”

“Two and two make Demonica. But now, I interrupted your tale.”

Ocker felt very exposed. “Well, the traveling spell only takes me to her keep and back,” he said, bristling up like a pine cone and sleeking down. “And hit took me all day to fly here…”

“I can not never her spell for to change, nor can I change the magic of any Elf or Human,” said Meri, falling silent to eye him with his keen emerald eyes for so long that Ocker nearly sprang into the air in a panic. Suddenly Greenwood rose and went to his knapsack, pulling out a small polished stick. “But I this here do have…”

“A stick?” cried Ocker. “You must not think me as shrewd as you were saying.”

“Some of my trees the magic fire from any one can to store,” said Meri, holding out the stick. “This be one of Longbark’s twigs. She be the eldest being in the Forest Ancient and has magic and she very wise do be. This here twig a good deal of fire does store. Maybe you can yourself a way to change Demonica’s spell to divine, if you first a quantity of your magic fire in the twig to store. So will you take the twig?”

This was not nearly certain enough to suit Ocker, but there was an unmistakable desperation in Meri’s tone that made him snatch away the twig at once and stand on it.
“Celeste and her sisters and that swyving rat brother of theirs are seeking sanctuary with the Elves in the Jutwoods,” he said with a snap of first one wing and then the other. “They were camped about ten league south-east of my nest two days ago.”

“Rat brother? They a brother do have, but he’s not no rat.”zack__s_face_on_a_rat__s_body_by_gginstereo-d3gu6tu_edited-1

“Yea? Well he is now. Somebody got him good. He’s all rat except for his face, and he’s counting on the Elves undoing his curse, though the three quientes… I mean three ladies, hope they don’t manage.”

“How could you possibly know something like unto that?”

“I listen from the treetops,” said Ocker as he took a couple of careful pecks at his new stick. “I heard them say hit, that’s how. Say. How about the hindquarters off one of those squirrels you have draped across that log?”

igp1965_1“They are both yours,” said Meri, grabbing up his bag. He set off at once into the timber and ran through the deepening shadows until he reached a mossy glade. Across the glade he came to a large ring of mushrooms. As a whip-poor-will gave its first call of the evening, he stepped into the ring and disappeared up to his knees in the moss before
jogging down out of sight, vanishing altogether.

Country Diary archive : A large fairy ring of toadstools in the woodland floor

 

Ch. 9, Good Sister, Bad Sister

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Ocker Teaches Blodwen

 

The moment Blodwen leant aside for more apples for her pan of water, Ocker and Urr-Urr rushed at her other pan and snapped up several apple slices apiece.”Hey fowl!” she cried, hoplessly too late as they buoyed themselves above the reach of her swat with a couple of flaps and settled at the far end of the board.

bn_raven“Yea?” said Ocker as he gobbled down his slices. “Ravens is the kind we happen to be, if ye want to sound like you know things, dear. And by the way, nice apples.”

“Thieving vermin is what,” she growled. “Ye’re damned well told, nice apples! I sliced ’em.”

“Good for you, sweetheart,” he said as he lunged into the air to hover over her shoulder. “You owe us.”

“Just how in all the chiming bells of Golltowre is that?” she said, turning square
about on her seat in time for Urr-Urr to grab out more slices from her pan and lungeimages
into the air.

“Damn you varmints!” she cried, wheeling back to her pan.

“Listen quiente,” he said, hovering at her ear, “you owe us because Meri Greenwood would never have got here without us. And if you had any sense you’d see hit. And while you’re a-wising up, shouldn’t someone be looking after Meri?”

“What?” she said.

“What’s going to keep him from going all crazy and beating up the old hag,anyway?” he said, settling onto the table by Urr-Urr to take one of her slices. “If she’s as
confounded ugly as these two, he might.”

Closeup_North_Amer_Crow_t700“Look ‘ee here!” cried Hubba Hubba. “These old ladies are nice!”

“Yea?” rattled Ocker. “What do you know about it, fraud? You ain’t even a bird.”

“I’ll have you know I’m a double yellow-head Amazon…”

“Popinjays never made it all the way to birddom, hole!”

“And nobody owes you the time o’ day…”

“Well Hubba Hubba,” said Minuet, “I do owe him my life…”

“He’s that very Ocker?”

Minuet and Razzmorten both nodded with twinkling eyes.

“Well maybe if he just watched his mouth…”

“Hey, I’m just distracted, Yellow Crow,” said Ocker with wide-eyed smacks of his beak, gobbling down another slice of apple. “I mean, we brought Meri all the way here,and now his whole world just caved in on him, don’t ye know…”

il_570xN.408687206_rfku“Whosoes woreld hath juste kaaved in?” said Meri as everyone in the room stopped short at the sight of the radiantly gorgeous Celeste on his arm.

“You fixed her,” awked Ocker. “You going to pretty up the other Fairies, too?”

“Ich didde nat,” he said as he and Celeste knelt before a speechless Minuet. “My gracious Queene. Wolt thou us to marye this verray howre? In dede, wolt thou plesebeauty-blue-hair-emo-green-hair-Favim.com-1014236
marye us byforn weo risen fro oure knees?”

“Why, there’s nothing I’d enjoy more!”

“Thanne byforn weo to risen, plese do,” said Meri.

“But you need a bouquet,” said Nacea.

“And shulden nat weo for this to reherse?” said Alvita.long-blue-green-hair

“Swyven off, you two!” said Ocker. “They want to nest.”

“Plese,” said Celeste. “Byforn my lokes dekay. Everych oon plese stant with us. Ocker, perchestow on Meri, if thou woldest. Every brid on a shulder. Ceidwad and Lladdwr, my derre children, plese yeve me awey.”

The room hushed at once to hear the joyous vows.

Ch. 15, The Reaper Witch

***

They heard wings in time for Ocker to land on the board in front of Blodwen. “Hello, Apple-Slice,” he said, running his beak down a flight feather.

162767579_a-basket-of-apples-giclee-print-by-august-laux“No!” snapped Blodwen, covering her pan with her arms. “Beat it!”

“Hey Apple-Slice,” he croaked, walking right up to her pan with a cock of his head. “Better look out for Urr-Urr.”

At the sound of wings behind her, she threw her chin to her shoulder to see.Quarter-the-Apples

Ocker grabbed up a huge beakful of slices and flew to the mantle.

“Look out Blodwen!” cawed Hubba Hubba, right before Urr-Urr grabbed a slice from the other side of the pan.

“Shut up Two-Head,” said Ocker, setting his mouthful at his feet.

“You’re in on it too, Hubba-Hubba?” said Blodwen as she watched Urr-Urr fly away with her prize.

“No!” cawed Hubba-Hubba. “I was only trying…”

“Thanks Two-Head,” said Ocker. “Urr-Urr would never ‘ave got hers without yourhelp.”

“Hey! I was not trying to help Urr-Urr.”

“Don’t you birds ever learn?” said Blodwen as she covered her pan with a bread board.

“You’re the one who won’t learn, quiente,” said Ocker. “We had you figured out the The Reaper Witch 01 copymoment we saw you. That’s why we’re still having to give you lessons.”

Ch. 17, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

The Great Stone Tree

The Great Stone Tree Glossopteris titanodendrum-dactylophyllum W. was discovered as a 52 foot diameter fossilized tree stump by the First Wizard, who chiseled out zthe Heart of the Staff from its center. In search of what he believed to be Meri Greenwood the Fairy’s source of commanding renewal power, the Heart of the Forests or Calon Fforydd, he found it standing upright, exactly where it had grown, surrounded by sections of its trunk and a layer of its own fossilized fallen leaves, in the middle of the exposed Permian deposit, known as the Koad Karreg or Stone Forest on the south edge of the Mammvro on the Dark Continent. It differs from other glossopterids by virtue of its immense size and by its deeply lobed leaves. Sections of its trunk add up to a tree which could not have been any less than 530 feet tall, and with the size of its stump, it remains the largest individual tree ever discovered. The Koad Karreg is the Permian location of the South Pole, which shifted to its present position with the multiple impacts of asteroids which closed the Age of Fishes. Compasses do not work reliably in the forest, and under its perpetual cloud cover, many a traveler has vanished.  

 

Since the Great Stone Tree is where the Heart of the Staff came from, there are indirect references to it in each book of The Heart of the Staff, but particularly so in

The Burgeoning.

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

DOOM: The Heart of the Staff, book 6 Now Available

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The Final Book of The Heart of the Staff series

With the murder of her husband, King Artamus of Gwael, Queen Spitemorta at last rules the known world. She declares herself Omnipotent Empress and moves into her monstrous new castle in Niarg. And with her tools of power, the Great Staff and Crystal Heart, she believes she is invincible.

But then, General Coel, commander of all of her armies, brings tidings that four Elves have appeared in Niarg. These Elves should have been killed and eaten by her trolls, twenty years ago. And with these Elves returns the threat that the ancient Elven Prophecy predicting her downfall and death could still come to pass.

And somewhere far away, Ariel and Daniel, the very twins foretold in the Prophecy have become more powerful than any sorceress or wizard ever known. Together they could be invincible.

But can they destroy Spitemorta and her great tools of power? The time has come and one thing is certain. Either the twins and the rebellion will meet their doom, or Spitemorta and her minions will.

Purchase on Amazon

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Meri Doesn’t Mind if Celeste Looks Old: Part Five

Celeste

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I can bear you the rest of the way,” said Lladdwr. “But first…”

zoom“Yes,” said Ceidwad, giving herself a thorough shake. “We’ve been putting off telling you something…”

“Koude hit to wayten?” he said as he motioned for Lladdwr to let him mount.

“No,” said Ceidwad. “This may be nothing at all. And then again…” She paused under the rattling aspen leaves to sort through some feathers. ”

“Wel thanne what?”

“Mother Celeste and her sisters are now quite aged,” she said with a deep bob of her head.

“So? Thou dost knowe that weo on erthe sithence the byginnynge of al memory hanimages (21) ben, righte? No thyng a-lyve beth eldre than Ich am.”

“I’m sorry,” said Ceidwad with a snap of each wing before fixing her gaze upon him. “My attempt to be gentle has simply undone things. I have no choice but to be direct and I apologize for having delayed telling you. Razzorbauch turned our mothers into old hags when he made them prisoners of Mount Bed. They still have endless lives, but not endless youth.”

Old-Women-2_edited-2“They lok olde?”

“That’s what we’re saying,” she said. “And we had no idea how someone who has always had eternal youth would alvitaface having his lover be gnarled and aged, so we didn’t speak up when we probably should have. Have we made you upset with us?”

“Up-sette with thou? Fithel-stikkes!” he said, tramping about in distraction. “Alacke! The oonly way to chaungen hem bakke is with the Grete Staf of Power and the Cristal Herte. And evene thanne, weo myghte neede the Ffirst Wysardes grimoire.”

“Our mothers have accepted their fate Meri, and they hold out hope that the Elven Prophesy is true. If that be, then perhaps they will indeed be turned back, and eventually will only have been old for a mere moment in your time. The question is, how are you
managing right now?”

“What?”

“Mother Celeste has longed for you these live-long years. Will your shock at the sight of her upset her?”

“O!” he said, stopping short at the sight of how it all was. “Ich see. Wel my derre Celeste wol alwey the moost bryhte sterre in the hevenes ybe. That beth al she by the lok in myn eyn wol gete.”

“Well then,” said Ceidwad, rising to her feet with a shake of her feathers. “Are we ready?”raven-cut-753011

Meri gave her a sudden hug and a pat, did a handspring and hopped astride Lladdwr as he rose to his feet.

“Finally off his swyving toute!” croaked Ocker from somewhere overhead.

Ch. 15, The Reaper Witch

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER, book one of the HEART of the STAFF

Available Now to Download on Amazon for Just $0.99!

Minuet Dewin, eldest daughter of the wizard Razzmorten, practically raised her half sister Leeuh, who was abandoned by her mother. For many years, Minuet is Leeuh’s passionate champion. As time passes, Leeuh becomes increasingly hard to defend as she grows determined to be awful at every turn. Whilst undoing her dangerous pranks, Minuet finds herself the target of her hatred and jealousy. And when they fall for the same prince, it looks like war.

Suddenly Leeuh vanishes. She returns years later, compliant and sweet as she always should have been. Minuet is stunned. Should she trust her, or will it be the very death of her?