Tag Archives: Granny

Going to Granny’s House

It’s a theme that crops up in my writing, in poetry and fiction and here on the blog. Granny’s house in the woods, place of magic and transformation. It is both the house of Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and also Baba Yaga’s house, because I’ve seen them as the same for many years now.

I also go to my grandmother’s house when I dream. My maternal grandmother died more than a decade ago, and I haven’t been into that house since then. Five generations of my family have slept under that roof, so it feels a bit odd that now the house is home to people I don’t know.  As a teenager, I slept there. It was complicated for me – there was a lot I loved about both the house and my grandmother. But I was mostly considered a nuisance and living between two houses where I wasn’t much wanted.

When I dream about the house I lived in as a child, I only ever dream about trying to leave. For many years, this was one of a handful of anxiety dreams I had, and I dreamed of little outside those few recurring nightmares.

Dreams of my grandmother’s house are a bit more complicated. Often she is there, and I think this is part of my still working through the grief of not being wanted. We had quite a few rows in my last year or so there, because she didn’t really want me there – or at least gave that impression. With hindsight, I was an easy person to vent pain and frustration on, and maybe she didn’t believe I was serious about going. I don’t know. There are questions I never asked, and I remain a bit haunted by not knowing if she maybe cared for me more than I thought at the time. In recent years, a number of her friends have made a point of telling me how well my grandmother thought of me and how pleased she’d be with what I’m doing. I hope so.

I note that I only take the people I am closest to into dreams of my grandmother’s house. Without exception, these are people who have no knowledge of or, in my son’s case no real memory of the place. These are people I can only ever tell about that part of my life. I think there’s something in me that would dearly like to take them back and show them. I don’t know what any of that would look like to someone else.

Last night I took someone I love to my grandmother’s house, and I kissed them. In the dream, my grandmother was not there, and I knew she wasn’t there in a way that is different from other dreams. I don’t know if that means she won’t be coming back, or that I won’t be going back to the house. Something has changed. Perhaps it is simply that at this point in my life, the people who love me are larger and more significant presences than the people who did not love me in the way I needed when I was growing up.


Family traditions

How you present something has considerable impact on how people understand it. If you want something to sound like tradition, and like authentic folklore, it pays to mention Granny when framing it. I’ve noticed in Twitter’s Folklore Thursday that anything framed by the idea that it came from Granny is seldom questioned. I’ve experimented with this as well – when we talk about Yule Badger traditions and reference what Granny said, no one queries it. You are allowed to make folklore up so long as you aren’t honest about that. Talk about working with folklore and you can get into all kinds of trouble…

(Some of the things in that piece, my grandmother did say. Some she didn’t. There is no way anyone else can tell what’s what.)

 

This video was originally created for Patreon – I do one a month there, alongside a poem, a book excerpt and a newsletter. There’s also a level where I post things to people… https://www.patreon.com/NimueB if you’d like to support me.


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.