Nannies and Grannies

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Gratitude List:
1. Crows in fields, in trees, in sky, and snow
2. The Children’s Program at church this morning–baby angels tossing their halos into the air, kings wearing their crowns at jaunty angles over their ears, little drummers and shepherds and all
3. Taking a nap at my parents’ house this afternoon–having someone just take care of me
4. Hot chocolate
5. That family of four deer that came down the hill in the bosque, crossed the stream and the road, and went up the bluff and over the ridge.

May we walk in Beauty!

*****
Even kings have grandmothers, and nannies. It might be the grannies and nannies who hold the world together, or who bring it back around to rights when it’s gone off the deep end. Slow and steady, one story at a time.

The Eighth Wolf King, Astra Djin, had three children, the youngest born the same month of the same year as Bilhah the Baker. The two boys, Mussa and Ahmbra, were educated in the traditional military academy where there father and grandfathers had also learned to read and write, to rule, to fight, and to venerate the Djin-Wolf, fiercest of all gods. The middle child, Behna, was a girl, and she was instructed in palace graces and etiquette by her mother and her many governesses. In the late afternoons, when the boys’ schooling was finished, and Behna had completed her palace duties, their nanny would take up her spinning and the children would settle around her like kittens and wait for her to begin spinning a tale.

“Once upon a time,” she would begin, for all good stories begin thus, “the city was ruled by a Wolf-Queen.”

The children would laugh and protest: “Nanny! There’s no such thing as a ruler queen!”

“This is a fairy tale, my darlings. Only a fairy tale,” she would tell them, her eyes glowing in her crinkly smiling face.  “Once upon a time, there was a Wolf-Queen named Rama-Shala-Mehbaz. But the people just called her Queen Rama, or Your Majesty. She was a great ruler and loved by her people. When she was Queen, all the girls in the city went to school, too, just like the boys. And no one in the city ever starved for lack of food, and there were no soldiers in the streets, and there was a great temple in the center of the city to honor the Wolf Mother.”

“Nanny, that’s just wrong,” protested Mussa. “There is only the Djin-Wolf. You must not say Wolf Mother, as though it were another god as great as Djin-Wolf. Even for a story. And even you know that we must have soldiers in the streets to keep the peace. Otherwise the people might fight and kill each other. The people are like children, and they must be treated with harshness and a firm hand.”

“Perhaps,” said Nanny to the boy, whose face was a mass of grey confusion. “Don’t worry, my princeling. This is only a story, and I am a silly old woman. Would you like to hear more? Well, it was said that the Queen would often disappear on nights when the moon was dark. She would walk out of the city, not returning until the first rays of dawn rose over the river, leaving a trail of bare footprints in the dew.

“The legends say that when she reached the riverbank, she would transform into a great wolf, and stand in the darkness, singing the wolf songs until all the wolves in all the hills around the city would meet her there on the riverbank.  One morning, she returned from the river carrying a tiny squirming wolf cub in her arms. She carried it to the palace, and before the day was out, the cub had transformed into a human child, and Queen Rama raised her as a daughter, and she became queen in her turn.  It is said that all the ancient queens were shape-shifters, gift-cubs from the wolves, and that is why the city was so peaceful–they lived as wolves do, caring for the sick and the young and the elderly, looking out for the good of all.”

Mussa’s face was still cloudy. “But it’s only a story, isn’t it, Nanny?”

“Hmmm? A story? Yes, it’s a story, certainly. Now off to bed with you.”

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