Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Honor of Grandparents

I’m very sad to say that last week, my beloved grandmother passed away. It wasn’t much of a surprise; she was 90 years old, and several factors had indicated that she was finally ready to move on. But still, I really miss her already. Love you, Grandmommy.

In fiction, grandparents seem to fall into three categories: crazy wacky senior citizens, old and wise wizards (Merlin, Gandalf), or automatic wisdom dispensers (put in a coin, get a life lesson!). But especially this week, I wish for more nuance.

Here are a few stories where characters of older years get better, more detailed treatment.

Terry Pratchett has Cohen the Barbarian and his team. All are well past the age of 80. Sounds like they’d be easily beat, right? Well, let’s put it this way: of all the fights and wars that mercenaries face, all the challenges from evil wizards and young upstart barbarians… these are the guys that lived to 90. Plus, Cohen has diamonds for teeth. Take that, dentures!
(Edit: Completely forgot to add Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, witches extraordinnare).

There is, of course, Howl’s Moving Castle. Sophie is a young woman transformed into an older woman, but I love the way she reacts to the change. Instead of getting upset, she takes the chance to speak her mind, and finally express her opinions.

There’s also John Scalzi’s series, which begins with Old Man’s War. I love the idea of the book, that the government specifically pulls those sixty-five and older into their military, because who better to be fighters than those with decades of life experience? (They get new bodies to better fight hand-to-hand).

I also loved the grandma in Roald Dahl’s book The Witches. I don’t remember her name, but she was wonderful.

At FFO, we have two stories that feature older characters in the main role:  Irma Spinklebottom’s Recipe for Cold Fusion, and Star Maven.

I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface here – I haven’t even gotten into TV or movie characters! (Shepherd Book, for instance (“::sigh:: I never married”)). 

Who are your favorite grandparent characters?


  1. So sorry for your loss, Sabrina.

    I love this post.

  2. My condolences, Sabrina. It is always hard to lose someone you love.

    I agree with your sentiments about grandparents and stories. They do seem to be neglected or marginalized or stereotypes. I liked the movie RED about retired spies. Loved Helen Mirren's character, but I'm not sure if she was a grandmother.

    Great post.

    1. Thanks, MaryAnn. I haven't seen Red yet, but I'll have to check it out.

  3. I'm so sorry, Sabrina. Sometimes, even though someone is ready to go, it doesn't mean that we are ready for them to go.

    This is a great post. I think maybe we (especially American's) shy away from older characters because we don't like the reality of aging. I remember reading The Bourne Ultimatum and being really disturbed by how old and broken down Jason was portrayed. A second reading helped me see how much he was able to accomplish because of his life experience - but still I missed the 'ideal' of the indestructible, young hero.

    1. Yeah, it's a tough thing to get past, especially in our culture. It's kind of a shame that we have to focus so much on the physical. Obviously, it's a reality of aging, but I was kind of disappointed in the Old Man's War series that they got younger bodies. I wanted to see them triumph as they were, physical flaws and all.

  4. I'm sorry about your grandmother, Sabrina, and so glad you have good memories of her. That makes all the difference.

    My daughter is rereading Howl's Moving Castle right now, and she keeps reading me funny parts. I love Sophie, even if she isn't really old.

    I've been sitting here for about 5 minutes now, trying to think of another example, and I've got nothing. I know there are some though, so I'll keep you posted.

    1. There aren't nearly enough, are there?

      You can always be like me and write your own grandma/grandpa hero/heroine. I've been working on getting that story out for a while now.


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