So, for the past few nights, I’ve been reading a new book; one that David picked up fairly randomly (I think after he got the last Thor trailer). Originally published in the 1960s, it’s a primer on Norse/Norwegian Folktales.
There is a fairly long introduction that explained how these were actually collected. There apparently was little written account of all of the folktales and folkspeople of Norway until the late 1800s, and by that time, Christianity had rooted itself in the area, and things were fairly modern. People clung to the idea of trolls and faeries loosely, more as goofy old stories and less as a way to explain how things happened and when. Folk heroes, by this point, were largely Christian saints. And yes, every time I read “St. Olaf,” I think to myself, “Dammit, Rose!”
Not shockingly, that’s actually an excellent segue into my next point. One of the things that just slayed me in this book was a folktale simply titled, “Plague embodied as an old woman.” And I was just thinking, “Eff, me. That is just so damn typical.”
Turns out, the black plague was typically represented by an old woman, wearing a huge black cloak, named Pesta. If she showed up to your town with a broom, everyone in town was going to kick it. If she showed up with a rake, almost everyone in town was going to die. (That’s just about the end of the parable; things involving St. Olaf are a few pages long, but this one is boiled down to: hate widows.)
Which got me thinking about witches (old women) and all the other ways that societies throughout the years have vilified old women. All this got me thinking about a few horror movies I’ve seen recently– The Babadook and Stoker– and how both of those movies tackled the taboo subject of mothers who (maybe, rightfully) spent a lot of their time resenting their children. Most often, women who dislike their kids are presented as the true monsters OR if it is the kid who is wicked, there’s a lot of maternal sacrifice or “mother’s love as a cure” narrative. These movies went so far as to say, basically, that moms with evil kids… man, maybe they seriously bear the brunt of their evil kids and it’s kind of OK for moms to, well, question their love and commitment to their kids out of self preservation.
For realsies, guys, this was easily the best movie I saw last year. Watch it with the lights on.
In the end, I’m now doing some research into aging and the psychology of it, as well as the cultural vilification of aging women. I need a story. I think I have the vaguest sketches, but I’m really curious to see where this goes.