Aunt Granny Lith

by Chris Offutt

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What is the theme of "Aunt Granny Lith"?

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"Aunt Granny Lith" by Chris Offutt is a short story about life in the Appalachian mountains fused with folkloric elements. In an autobiographical article published in Ace Weekly, Offutt states that the name "Lith" is intended as an abbreviation of "Lilith" the name of Adam's first wife in certain mystical traditions. Thus the first theme is that of a powerful, magical presence of a first wife or a first love that haunts subsequent relationships.

Offutt also states that he attempted to incorporate other folkloric traditions into the story, including those of Eastern Europe and the Eleusinian Mysteries. This leads to a theme of the cycle of female life symbolized by the figures of crone, mother, and maiden, with Granny Lith being the crone figure, both threatening and benevolent, Beth the mother, and the couple's daughters representing the maiden or future.

Another theme of the story is about taking promises and karma seriously, with Casey only being freed from as series of misfortunes when he finally pays his debt to Granny Lith. 

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