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  • Susan Stoderl

Children’s and Middle-Grade Stories | Frances Browne (1816–1879)

Frances Browne was an Irish poet and novelist who was blind from the age of eighteen months. She is best known for her collection of children’s short stories, particularly for the collection, Granny’s Wonderful Chair. I read most of it, and it is a genuine work of art. Her poetry is equally beautiful. Following is an excerpt from the Introductory section of Granny’s Wonderful Chair:

In an old time, long ago, when the fairies were in the world, there lived a little girl so very fair and pleasant of look, that they called her Snowflower. This girl was good as well as pretty. No one had ever seen her frown or heard her say a cross word, and young and old were glad when they saw her coming.
Snowflower had no relation in the world but a very old grandmother, called Dame Frostyface….
But there were none in all that country poorer than Snowflower and her grandmother. A cat and two hens were all their live stock. Their bed was dry grass, and the only good piece of furniture in the cottage was a great armchair with wheels on its feet, a black velvet cushion, and many strange carvings of flowers and fairies on its dark oaken back….
Every evening, when the fire was heaped with the sticks she had gathered till it blazed and crackled up the cottage chimney, Dame Frostyface set aside her wheel and told her a new story. Often did the little girl wonder where her grandmother had gathered so many stories, but she soon learned that.
One sunny morning, at the time of the coming of the swallows, the dame rose up, put on the grey hood and cloak in which she carried her yarn to the fairs, and said: “My child, I am going a long journey to visit an aunt of mine, who lives far in the north country. I cannot take you with me, because my aunt is the crossest woman alive, and never liked young people. But the hens will lay eggs for you, and there is barley meal in the barrel. And, as you have been a good girl, I’ll tell you what to do when you feel lonely. Lay your head gently down on the cushion of the armchair and say, ‘Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story’.


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