Going to Granny’s House

Grandmother’s house in the woods – place of challenge and transformation, the place young women go to be turned into themselves. For me, Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and Baba Yaga are almost the same person. Neither of my biological grandmothers lived in cottages in the woods, but in my head, this is the place of grandmothers, and it has an archetypal force to it that I can’t resist.

This is why I’ve got two novels where Granny’s house in the woods features. When We Are Vanished (coming soon) has a grandmother house of transformation, and some uncertainty about whose grandmother actually owns the place! I’m currently chipping away at a novel where a deceased grandmother with a house in a valley plays a similar role – the house is a place of initiation and transformation.

My maternal grandmother’s house was a place of ghosts and cats, a place of hoarded things, where art was made, and cakes. It could be a refuge, or a place of argument and it featured heavily in my childhood. It is not the house I write about. My paternal grandmother lived in a small bungalow, and I don’t write about that space, either.

Grandmother’s house is a place of longing, and belonging. It has mythic and archetypal qualities. Perhaps we crave the fairytale granny who is all smiles and baking. Perhaps we need Mother Holle to teach us how to be women. Perhaps we need to go and ask Baba Yaga for fire.

And so when I write, I go into the woods inside my head in search of a grandmother figure. I’m writing significant absences – I don’t really know how to write this grandmother as a tangible presence, but perhaps that’s part of the point.

Grandmother’s house is somewhere around the next bend in the path. We can smell the woodsmoke. We’ve heard the chickens, although whether they will be cute, domestic chickens or something else, and whether grandmother is really a wolf, we’re still waiting to know. Perhaps we can only know when we become her.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Going to Granny’s House

  • Christopher Blackwell

    It would be unknown to me as well as I had very little contact with grandparents, and of course I never become one myself. It must have been quite different when several generations of a family lived together in the family compound. One advantage with grandmothers of story is that they never have to be ordinary and boring.

  • janeycolbourne

    Very interesting. Only this morning I was talking about my granny’s house, in this case the actual house itself, because it represents what she gave me in a bigger sense: stability and predictability. I can still mentally walk around the house and see every ornament, inside every drawer and cupboard. Her house never changed. She made it a safe, welcoming and nurturing space for me.

  • glarawelmagolben

    My Gran lived with us, so I didn’t have to leave home to reach her wisdom, and for that I am grateful every day. And yet when I think of grandmothers in general, I too picture the house in the woods where there is understanding, caring and magic.

  • janeycolbourne

    Some associations that come to mind when I think of grandmother’s house in the woods are that it represents wild nature, ‘grandmother nature’, and also that witches traditionally lived on the edge of society in the woods. This is paralleled in shamanic tradition where the shaman lives on the edge of society, being a ‘walker between worlds’ so that he or she is able to mediate and maintain the balance between the human community and wild nature.

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