The Owl Husband

The story of “The Owl Husband” originates from the Passamaquoddy. It’s a tale of how a father—in a desire to marry off his snooty daughter—said he’d give her to any man who could make the embers of a fire blaze by spitting on it.


Doing such a thing is, of course, impossible. Unless you are an owl, with an owl-auntie that has a knack for making potions. Such was the case for the Great Horned Owl in this story. He took on the disguise of a handsome young man and, having drunk a potion from his aunt, spit on the embers and made the fire blaze. As agreed upon, he took the haughty girl for his wife.


Unfortunately, she soon saw his horned owl-ears poking through his hair, got scared, and ran away. Not wanting to lose his wife, the Great Horned Owl took on the disguise of a different handsome young man and again approached the girl and her village with promises of a feast. While they are dining, the girl tells him to lift up his hair and show his ears so that she can whisper a secret. The owl refuses, but eventually his owlish ears are shown and everyone runs away in fear.


Refusing to give up, the Great Horned Owl returns to his auntie and gets from her a magical flute that will make any girl run into the arms of the man who plays it. The owl husband waits quite a while for his bride to come close enough. But when she does, he plays the flute and bewitches her. He then swoops her up and takes her to his owl village. In time, the girl becomes used to being married to an owl. The moral given with this story is that all women must “get used to their husbands, no matter who they are.”


Call me weird, but I think the story is a cute one. The owl seems to be a good sort who treats his wife well. And the moral speaks of a time when marriage came first, and getting to know one another came second. Considering the circumstances, it’s good advice.



Source: Erdoes, Richard, Ortiz, Alfonso, “The Owl Husband”, American Indian Myths and Legends, Pantheon Books, 1985.


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  1. It is a sweet story from how you describe it, his persistence overcomes her fear 🙂
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    • Sara C. Snider

      I think it’s his persistence that makes me like this story. He wouldn’t give up. 🙂

  2. Seems like an odd moral for a story in modern times, but I can see the historical context. I just feel sorry that everyone was so scared of the poor owl because of his ears.
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    • Sara C. Snider

      It seems kind of silly to me to get so upset over something like ears. So the guy has strange ears, big deal! 😉

  3. Loooove this story! Owls are my favourite animal, so sign me up for an owl husband, please 🙂

  4. It’s an interesting mix – persistent male, haughty girl, fussy girl with an ear complex, male dominance once married…. but even if it’s love at first sight, there is still much to be learnt about each other after marriage!

    Blogging from Alpha to Zulu in April

  5. i sorta sounds like a different version of king thrushbeard. the chick doesn’t want to marry anyone because none of them are good enough and the king forces her to marry the beggar. only he ends being the king that she insulted.

  6. I love the story. It is so charming.

    My kid-like brain wants answers though…how would an owl blow a flute with no lips? Must have still been in human form.

    Leanne Ross ( & @LeanneRossRF )

    • Sara C. Snider

      Haha, yeah. Plus, no thumbs. You might be right about him still being in human form.

  7. It is good advice for the time it was written – not so much for now, though! Still, it’s a nice story 🙂

  8. Ooo. This is neat and gives me a good idea!

    Thanks for this post.

    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

  9. I admire the owl’s determination to keep his bride. “Owl’s well that ends well,” as the story had a happy ending. That was a good moral too. Nice story. Michelle

  10. I kept expecting him to come up with a potion that would turn her into an owl so they could have flown off together. 🙂

    • Sara C. Snider

      That would have been cool. I wonder if she would have kept her human ears, though, if she did. And then all the owls can run/fly away scared. 😉

  11. cute story – I had never heard this one. It’s almost a kid story but some Native myths can seem like that.

  12. I love owls stories. Thanks for sharing this one!

    Good advice: Women must “get used to their husbands, no matter who they are. ” 🙂

    • Sara C. Snider

      You’re welcome, Barbara! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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