Book Wordy podcast 10 Granny Starseed Transcript

Transcript for the Book Wordy podcast, episode 10.

INTRODUCTION: Welcome to Book Wordy, a podcast about fantasy and science fiction, authors and the art of writing. I’m your host, Byrd Nash, former journalist and author of The Wicked Wolves of Windsor and other fairytales.

Byrd Nash
Welcome to this episode of Book Wordy where we’re going to discuss the short story Granny Starseed, which is found in my book the Wicked Wolves of Windsor and other fairytales. Season one of Book Wordy concentrates and focuses upon the short stories in my collection. I wanted to give more background about each story, what they were about, maybe some view points of the author.

But I also wanted to show you a wider scope of the stories and how their themes are interwoven with other current fantasy or with the writing techniques that you might want to use. So keeping that in mind today’s podcast is about Granny Starseed, the last story in Wicked Wolves, and we’re going to be discussing family dynamics, how families in stories actually lead the story.

This is a Goldilocks retelling so I will be discussing some aspects of that: why did I choose that fairy tale, how it relates to the Granny Starseed story, what aspects of the story fits into a fairy tale. I’m here today with my partner,

Miles
Miles

Byrd Nash
Why did I write a story that is inspired by that fairy tale. It is an inspiration and is not a line by line story. I actually don’t really like fairy tales that are reimaginings that are too similar to be original content.

I prefer fairy tales that do their own spin. I like it when they take the heart of the story, but then they reimagine it because without that reimagining the story becomes too predictable.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears is classified as a fairy tale. We’re going to get into that and ask ourselves is a really a fairy tale. And it’s always intrigued me because to me, it doesn’t really seem to fit fairy tales,

Miles
It does seem to have a kind of odd shape. It doesn’t seem to match the pattern of a lot of the older fairy tales.

Byrd Nash
Now older fairy tales. Usually there’s some sort of horrible event the children are left in the forest Hansel and Gretel by their father. And then they find a witch and they’re almost killed.

Cinderella has an evil stepmother who’s trying to prevent her from living her life and she has evil stepsisters who will actually cut off their feet to fit them into glass slippers.

There’s a lot of violence, I guess, in the earlier fairy tales. The older the fairy tale the more primal maybe the fairy tale is.

But in Goldilocks we have these three bears; in the version that most people know there’s a dad, mom, and a baby bear, and Goldilocks the fair golden hair child shows up and then abuses their household by being and breaks things and just basically acts like a really very bad houseguest. Before at the end, she wakes up sees the bear and she runs away.

I want to explain first of all that Granny Starseed is based upon the first printed version of Goldilocks, that was back in 1837. And it was done by Robert Southee, and he was a contemporary of Byron and Shelley. He’s not as well known as Byron and Shelley. He actually got into a lot of literary battles with Byron and and Shelley.

We’re talking the early 1800s when the Goldilocks story was first written and first read by the public in a written form.

There probably was some earlier versions of story, but they were only told verbally. In his version of Goldilocks, Goldilocks is not a darling golden haired young girl. Goldilocks, the character of that person is actually an old woman, cantankerous old woman who bust into the house owned by three bachelor bears. That’s not a family unit. It’s three bachelor bears.

And then does a lot of destructive things to their possessions. At the end of the story, the elderly woman is hauled off by the constable. And so this is the original Goldilocks story and that was what inspired me to write Granny Starseed.

It was not the Goldilocks and the mama bear story. However, is the Goldilocks story even a fairy tale?

Miles
Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien, in 1939 published an essay, it was actually originally a speech that he expanded into an essay, called On Fairy Stories, which is really enjoyed and I kind of go back to when I think about the structure of fairy tales and how they relate to other stories.

One thing is “fairy stories” is apparently the English term for what in America we call “fairy tales.”

Byrd Nash
Okay, so we have fairy tales or fairy stories but there’s so many different types of them. And it can get very confusing very quickly. So for example, in Goldilocks, we have these bears who actually are acting like human beings.

Again, it’s it’s one of the reasons why Goldilocks always struck me as more of an odd quote “fairy tale.” To me it fits more into like fables, the stories of the three little pigs, the story of the little red hen who’s making bread, because we have animals who are behaving like humans.

Miles
Tolkien addressed this. Part of this essay was trying to identify what is a fairy tale, and he identified several types of stories that are commonly called fairy tales, or are included in fairy tales collections, that he doesn’t really consider fairy tales at all.

Byrd Nash
But again, let us explain that’s just Tolkien.

Miles
This is Tolkien. He had his own reasons for this. He was trying to deal with what he considered a society that was crushed under the weight of Victorian fairy tales that he really didn’t like. He was trying to rescue them as really a fantasy

Byrd Nash
I really feel sorry for the Victorians they get they got so much crap about no one liking their, their furniture, their dress, what they thought, you know, but

Miles
So Tolkien had an axe to grind here. He identified beast fables as something that are often considered fairy tales, but he didn’t consider them fairy tales.

Byrd Nash
A beast fable is what?

Miles
A beast fable is a story in which animals are the main characters, they’re acting, talking, doing things. But really, when you look at them, they’re not animals. They’re really people acting like people. Just put in animal forms generally to teach a lesson.

Byrd Nash
Well, this is Aesop’s Fables. I mean, that’s Aesop’s Fables, right? So but…

Miles
But even other things like the Wind in the Willows is not really about a toad. Even though the character is a toad. He doesn’t act like a toad, he acts like a human, he gets drunk and goes driving and crashes his car.

Byrd Nash
How many toads drive cars?

Miles
Exactly.

Byrd Nash
So but there’s also a lot of anthropo… I can never pronounce that word.

Miles
Anthropomorphic

Byrd Nash
You know, there’s a lot of: I’m in is make this animal be a human and have human feelings and human characteristics. So it kind of crosses over. But I really do see that as Aesop’s Fables.

So a lot of things that, other fairy tales that we might consider not, that aren’t really fairytales but are fables would be Goldilocks, don’t you think?

Miles
Goldilocks would fall into that category, according to Tolkien, and things like the Three Little Pigs, they’re not really pigs. They’re just…

Byrd Nash
They’re three foolish humans, or two foolish and one smart that built houses and…

Miles
Right

Byrd Nash
You know, but then of course, the mechanism in three little pigs is the wolf wants to eat the pigs, which if they were all humans, one human wouldn’t want to eat other humans, so they use the pig and the wolf to teach the tale.

Miles
Right

Byrd Nash
Make it a teaching tale. He had some other ideas about common stories, that one was the dream framework, which of course was done in Alice in Wonderland.

Of course, Alice in Wonderland had come out by the time Tolkien was doing this speech. So did he use that one as one of the examples?

Miles
That was one of his examples. He actually really liked the Alice stories, but he didn’t consider them fairy tales.

Byrd Nash
I don’t consider them fairy tales

Miles
Because they are framed as dreams.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, I don’t consider those fairy tales either. But I could see where people would just looking on the surface, maybe a lump them all together.

Miles
These stories or portions of these stories are often collected in fairy tale collections for children.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
But he said that’s he doesn’t consider that appropriate. They’re not fairy tales.

Byrd Nash
Well, Alice in Wonderland, if you study it and you were a contemporary of the time that it was taking place, you know that it’s not really for children, because the whole thing is based about British politics at the time, all the characters are representations of someone in politics that Carol was basically lampooning. So it really was more something that would be in…

Miles
Satire

Byrd Nash
It’s a satire. Of course, now, those politics have have flown off into the realm of misty time. So now only people see the characters without the symbols behind them.

They don’t understand them as symbols they see, or representations. They see them only as Alice and a caterpillar and the Queen of Hearts instead of understanding who those people really were supposed to represent.

Miles
And another story that comes to my mind talking about dream stories versus fairy tales is the Wizard of Oz.

Byrd Nash
Oh, yeah,

Miles
It’s irritated me because the original books were fairy tales, according to Tolkien’s classifications. Dorothy is physically transported to the land of Fairie, one portion of which is the kingdom of Oz and has her adventures.

And is physically transported back and dropped back in Kansas. And actually later, goes back and forth several times. And eventually she relocates her whole family there.

Byrd Nash
And in the movie, though,

Miles
In the movie, in an act of what I consider creative cowardice, at the very end, they said, “Oh, no, all this stuff is just a dream. None of it really happened. You don’t have to be worried about seeing magic things because it’s just a dream.”

Byrd Nash
So does that mean in the movie, in the television show Dallas, when they had the whole dream season? That was an act of cowardice?

Miles
Yes. That was an act of writing themselves into a corner and not being able to get out.

Byrd Nash
Right. There you go. Definitely Alice in Wonderland, though that is a dreamscape that she’s actually inhabiting. One of the favorites in fantasyland, I just thought about this, is Labyrinth. Is what happens in Labyrinth the movie a dream that she has? Or is it in fact really happening?

Of course, there’s a dream sequence within a dream when she dreams, when she dances with the character that David Bowie plays, but… I know in the Labyrinth the movie that we don’t see her going to sleep, we don’t see an actual, and we never come back later and say, oh, this was a dreamscape. But Labyrinth does have a lot of dream, kind of dream feelings.

Miles
It does have dream like elements at times.

Byrd Nash
It’s like, is she seeing the truth or not the truth. And then of course, there’s a couple of dreams within a dream when some things happen. Like the old woman shows up, she opens a door in the old woman’s there with everything on her back, that’s everything that she refuses to let go of.

And then the dream sequence of when she’s with David Bowie dancing, and he’s trying to get her to forget about her brother being missing.

Miles
Yeah, but I think that’s left kind of ambiguous. As to whether, whether it’s a dream or whether this actually happened.

Byrd Nash
This is where all this classification system starts getting so complicated because genres crossover. And you know, let’s talk Alice in Wonderland. There is animals that are behaving like humans. So is this a beast fable?

You have to look at what is the overarching, what is the main thrust of the story? And what is the explanation by the end of the story as to what happened. But there’s yet another version that Tolkien was talking about.

Miles
Tolkien was particularly irritated that Gulliver’s Adventures in Lilliput always end up in children’s fairytale collections. That Swift’s stories of the adventure, of Gulliver’s Travels, are fascinating and rich and interesting stories. But they’re not fairy tales. They’re travelers tales.

Byrd Nash
But again, probably why this really irritates the hell out of Tolkien, just guessing because I don’t know the guy obviously, Gulliver’s Travels is another actual political statement. Gulliver’s Travels was not a cute little “Oh, look at him and look at where he’s going and look at what he’s doing.”

Like Alice in Wonderland, it was a profile of the times and those that were contemporary knew that it was a morality lesson discussing politics and political systems that Swift was trying to show as being corrupt or, you know, not serving the public. The travelers tales…

Miles
These are stories you said where the, the sort of mystery of distance, that is given as a kind of an explanation. The traveler goes somewhere and sees these amazing incredible things. They travel to India and see unicorns. And this is not presented as I have magically

Byrd Nash
– made unicorns –

Miles
– I have magically entered Fairie and encountered true magical unicorns. No, there are real unicorns, you just haven’t seen them because they’re a long way away.

Byrd Nash
Okay, I gotcha. So the travelers tales, which another example I know of is the Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which those were actually a whole written short stories that the movie was based upon, and then evolved from the short stories and I don’t know…

Miles
A whole collection of folk tales told all, and wide varieties.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, I don’t know how many people are actually familiar with that movie. It’s kind of a cult classic. I love that movie. But the movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen the Baron is a braggart. He’s actually an unreliable narrator,

Miles
Yes, definitely an unreliable narrator.

Byrd Nash
Goes off and tells people about his grandiose adventures on the moon,

Miles
– inside a volcano –

Byrd Nash
– inside a volcano, right. And then also when he is swallowed by huge fish in the ocean. Again, those are traveler tales, because people in who he’s telling these tales can believe it, because he’s talking about some place that to them seems, to them seems mystical, just because they’ve never traveled there.

And of course, those tales probably worked at the time because people did not have airplanes to travel with. These are stories that are being written before it was economical for the average person to travel very far from their own country.

If you’re in France, and you’re talking about China, and a time that there’s no internet and there’s no television and there’s no way to learn about China other than by people who visited it.

These traveler tales were, had a, could have come up with these fantastic ideas. “Oh, yes, there’s unicorns there. Oh, yes, there’s dragons.”

One thing we had forgotten was another one of the beast fables which we had talked about on the way over here. And that is Animal Farm. Animal Farm, of course, by George Orwell, uses animals to again make a political statement about government and what works and what doesn’t, and what’s going to happen.

But are those animals on the farm acting like animals on a farm? No, No, they’re not. So…

Miles
There was a person talking about Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories classifications. He was saying, talking about a critic he had seen writing an essay, complaining about fantasy and how worthless it was and how it’s just silly little morality stories of animals walking around.

And he said, Well, really, that’s not what fantasy is. If you want a morality story about animals walking around it’s Animal Farm, which is loved by critical, by literary critics.

Byrd Nash
Well, we won’t go into the podcast today about literary critics because right now I’m about ready to punch one in the face. So let’s try to keep Byrd’s anger level, like more “nice” today.

Going back to Granny Starseed, I wanted to discuss the family systems that you find in the story. Because that story is really about family. It is one reason why I ended the collection with that story is I wanted to discuss family.

So the family consists of the grandmother, who is a person in disguise, which is a typical fairy tale theme. I’m not going to tell you who she is; if you read the book, the story, and there will be two lines that will tell you exactly who she is. Some of that is missed by people.

I’ve actually had one person send me an email that said, Oh, I spelled her name wrong. And I emailed back, I said no, that is the reveal that this is who she really is. So look for that in the story, it happens near the end in the last adventure in Granny Starseed, it will tell you that she’s a person that’s in disguise as something else, or rather she’s disguised, not revealing her true nature.

The story deals with three brothers, which in this situation are my three bears, and the oldest brother’s Arthur, and then there’s Osborne, and then there’s Bernard. And these three brothers, the oldest being Arthur, middle child being Osborne, and the youngest being Bernard, each have a different relationship with their mother.

I come from a large family, I’m a sibling, well I’m in a family of five siblings, and I’ve seen a lot of how we each have our own story about how we grew up, and how our parents were.

And of course, all of us hold a kernel of the truth. We don’t hold all the truth. And we don’t even have all the truth because we’re not even seeing the story from our parents’ perspective.

So when you have an oldest child like Arthur is, he’s one that’s the oldest and he’s actually had to behave like a parent to his middle and youngest brothers, because his mother when they were growing up was so irresponsible. That’s his opinion.

And then we bring the story to Osborne, who is very easygoing, as most, a lot of middle children can be. Middle children are often in family systems, the one that is ignored. They received the least pressure from parents to be the one, the golden child, which the oldest often is asked to be.

And then the youngest is the most indulged, usually the one that’s most forgiven their errors because they’re the baby in the family.

Those are things in broad terms that I’m talking about in family systems. You may say, Well, Byrd that doesn’t happen in my family, blah, blah, blah. I’m talking about generalities.

You know, if you study psychology and family dynamics and how families operate, generally the oldest in the family is going to be seen, I’m not saying that they usually are, but they’re usually seen as the one that must be the most responsible.

They’re usually the ones that are more type A, they like to succeed quickly and suddenly in their business or with their schooling, to show the others, to lead by example. They’re often the ones that the parents asked to babysit the younger ones.

They are asked to be more responsible as the family grows because they want the oldest to help out around the house.

The middle one becomes the one that often is the jokester. That’s what happened my family but I think you see that in other families. I don’t know.

Now, Miles family actually is a family of three. So there’s an oldest, the middle and a youngest. So what do you think?

Miles
Yes and I was the baby.

Byrd Nash
You’re such a cute baby!

Miles
And I was, probably looking back, I was spoiled and indulged a bit more than the others.

Byrd Nash
But I thought you had a story about you getting in trouble, or that everyone always knew that you’d be, that you could whine and get what you wanted.

Miles
I was always considered the whiner. And I think I was because it worked.

Byrd Nash
Well, the thing is so funny about Miles’ family is that, and I think that’s what kind of turned everything on is upside down head when you and I got together, is you were the first one to buy a home. And you were the first one to get married. And the first one to have a child, So, so things like this don’t always work out according to plan.

Sometimes families don’t operate like all the Psychology Today article say they’re supposed to operate about.

Miles
But I will agree that my eldest sister,

Byrd Nash
– well, your only sister –

Miles
– my only sister, who’s the eldest sibling, was always more responsible, considered yourself more responsible, and probably was for quite a while.

Byrd Nash
I definitely think that family dynamics play a big role in how we grow up and it does play a big role in this family story Granny Starseed.

Another thing about the family is that we have the next generation. We have the grandchildren. And the grandchildren can look upon granny in a different way than her children can.

The grandchildren, as we know for if anyone that has seen this happen in your family, the grandchildren can suddenly be indulged by your parent, the grandparent, in a way that the middle part of the family, the one that’s actually the parent of the grandchild, is like “You never gave us cookies before dinner, mom, you never gave us, let us stay up and watch television until 10 o’clock at night,” and then the grandchild are sent home on a sugar high.

And again, “you never let us do this, mom.” And of course that’s because mom is now older. And mom knows that these kids aren’t going to live with her and she can be the indulgent grandma.

I mean, it’s like the whole thing about the, I mean there’s such a meme about that, about you know, “Grandma, grandma I’m out of food”, “I’m coming,” you know, and she’s coming over on her little electronic wheelchair so, to take care of grandchild.

So there’s a difference between grandparents and you know being with their grandchildren, versus parents being with their grown children, and that comes out in this story.

Another thing that you’ll see in Granny Starseed is the relationship of in-laws because we have the Sarah character who’s the daughter-in-law of the grandmother Granny Starseed. The main thrust of the in-laws situation and the tension is between Bab her daughter in law, Sarah.

Sarah, who is a much more conservative and who is much more… probably a contemporary character that many people have known, who’s interested in facades and how her family situation will appear to others.

She wants to have a place in society, she wants to be respected, admired, because of her clothes, and her child, and her husband, and her home, and her cars, and then you have this mother-in-law character who’s the exact opposite.

So Bab is not at all interested in having a facade that other people will admire. She is a rabble rouser and she is a “break the rules and I live outside of what society considers normal.”

But what I wanted readers to take away from Granny Starseed really when it came to the family, was I wanted them to see that no one was in the wrong.

Is Arthur wrong to feel the way that he does about his mom? Is Bernard wrong? Is, is Logan, the character of Logan, wrong to actually like his grandmother? And is Sarah wrong to be upset with her mother-in-law and what she’s done to turn this whole family upside down?

There is no right or wrong. That story has a lot of gray in it.

Miles
It does, like you say, that I think you come away with the feeling that Sarah is not wrong to be worried and unhappy about what, the way Granny Starseed is acting but at the same time, maybe Granny isn’t wrong to be out of patience and irritated at the way that Sarah acts and what she expects.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, I think this story, of all the stories that I wrote in Wicked Wolves, deals the most realistically with families and family relationships.

It actually puzzled somebody to the point that they had to write me and say that, well, this isn’t a fairy tale. This is magical realism. And we’re going to talk about magical realism in another podcast.

But the thing I wanted to address for someone reading this story is: that might be a good thing for you to ask yourself if you’re reviewing the story. Is it really a fairy tale? Is it a magical realism story? I personally don’t consider it magical realism and I will get into another podcast when we discuss what it is to be, you know, what it, what a story is to be something classified as magical realism.

But why do I consider this for a fairy tale? It’s a fairy tale because it has a, has a prime character who’s in disguise. That’s a very much a fairytale motif. It has three brothers who are, they resemble the Three Bears in their attitude and what they’re going to do.

And of course, if you know the ending, and in some other ways too.

And it deals with a woman coming into their home and just basically wrecking things. That’s how it’s been inspiring by the Three Bears and Goldilocks, but again, you’ve got to go back to the source material.

What is what is inspiration, and then what is a faithful rendition? I was thinking, you know, Lifetime stories. Have you not seen the beginning of Lifetime stories on Lifetime Television and they immediately say “inspired by.”

And then you know, oh, all this stuff didn’t happen. Maybe there was a person that was named this, and they got kidnapped, but all the rest of the stuff; meaning that she fell in love with their captor and then they went on the lam, and they were chased around by the police, and… All that didn’t happen, but she did get kidnapped.

That’s what it means to be inspired. So don’t take it literal. These are inspired by fairy tales, but they take them with a modern revamping, and reimagining and retelling.

ENDING….

You can find me at ByrdNash.com, Byrd spelled with a BYRD. On my website you can read the show notes to today’s podcast, as well as find the list of all the episodes. I also do book reviews and have resources for authors on the website. Frost Waltz is the music, and it’s by Kevin MacLeod at incompitech.com

Transcribed by Otter.ai
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