First written in the 1440s by Richard Holland, a Scottish cleric who was chaplain to Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, The Book of the Howlat is one of the great poetic gems of fifteenth-century Scots.
Believing himself to be ugly, a young owl (howlat) decides to speak to the most handsome bird of all, the peacock, and ask his help so that Nature can change him. But the peacock isn’t sure this should be done – after all, Nature doesn’t usually make mistakes – and summons a council of birds to make a decision. A large feast takes place, and Nature herself appears and orders all the birds present to give the owl one of their feathers. But the result is not what they expect. The howlat’s initial joy turns to unbearable arrogance at his new-found beauty, and drastic action must be taken.