Whoo-hoo! Three-day weekend here in Japan courtesy of “Respect for the Aged Day” on Monday. It got me to thinking about the old, wise characters in fiction. Currently, my favorite senior citizen is Nana Strong from Jeanne Oates Estridge’s new book, The Demon Always Wins.
Nana is feisty without being senile, is frail of body but strong in her beliefs, and offers a very real sort of “best friend” – not an all-knowing one, but one who knows a lot, and gives it to Dara Strong straight.
Other than that, though? Who are my favorite old folks in literature? It took me a little bit of thinking.
Werewolves? Nah, not a long-lived race, the werewolves. Vampires? Not what you’d call role-models, particularly. I am fond of MaryJanice Davidson’s young Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, but she’s not old.
So, I did what any 21st century philosopher would do, and googled. Hmmm. Gandalf and Dumbledore came up, and I’m not impressed. It seems to me that they present as perfectly capable wizards who suddenly ask people not especially equipped for the task (hobbits and children) to save the world. And then they bugger off (well, die) without being anything other than guides. Nana Strong avoided this trap by being a weak old lady in a nursing home. Of course she wasn’t going to pick up her herbs and holy water and go slaying demons! What excuses do Gandalf and Dumbledore have? (Well, OK, maybe their best efforts took place off the page. But still . . . I’m not going to put them on my favorite list.)
And then, finally, it came to me! Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. Best elders ever! Granny Weatherwax has always charted her own destiny without a man, and she is the definition of a kick-ass granny. A wonderful character who is smart and no-nonsense. Nanny Ogg could be technically termed a sidekick, but . . . she’s got her own life. She’s had an adventurous youth that tempers her judgement with kindness and understanding, she is the matriarch of a large family who would do anything for her (from fear and/or love – mostly love, I think), and she provides a super foil for Granny’s hard truths. And, let’s not forget, she sings dirty drinking songs. For that alone, I would put her on my favorites list.
How about you? Who are your favorite elderly characters? LOL, and are they older or younger than you at this point? I think I’m coming up pretty hard on Nanny Ogg’s heels, agewise, which would make me pretty close to Granny Weatherwax, as well. They were different times, when fifty really meant something in terms of age. I’ll just add, it was a sobering day when I realized I was probably older than Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Pride and Prejudice.
Respect for the Aged: Let’s hear it for the old folks!