While Pocahontas is busy painting with all the colors of the wind, Grandmother Willow is busy being a knowledge-dropping, wisdom-having oxygen producer. She has more than 200 years worth of insight into the ways of the world, and she is none-too-shy about sharing it when she thinks Pocahontas needs a little help. Pocahontas and John Smith seem to get a lot of the credit for this story ending up the way it does. But let’s not lie to ourselves: Grandmother Willow is the clutch character in this story. In fact, she’s the one who literally points Pocahontas in the right direction.
Early in the story, we learn that Grandmother Willow is so spectacular at life advice, that she used to help Pocahontas’ mom. So, there are generations of wisdom involved, which automatically gives her credibility. When Pocahontas is unsure of what her dreams mean about her path in life, she’s able to draw parallels to the two ladies, saying “your mother asked me the very same question.”
She has a way of phrasing her advice so that it seems almost greeting card-worthy. “If you listen, they will guide you,” for example, is the stuff dreams are made of.
And then, let’s not forget the song. The one and only. The song that includes the words, “let it break upon you like a wave upon the sand,” which just puts all past, present, and future similes to shame.
(Sidebar: are we the only ones mesmerized by the way she chants? We could watch it on loop all day.)
In addition to her chanting abilities, Grandmother Willow also possesses an enviable level of sass. She says the following thing to John Smith, thereby winning all the things: “Don’t be frightened, young man. My bark is worse than my bite.” Then she says this about him, thereby winning even more: “He has a good soul. And he’s handsome too.”
Her real value comes, if we may be so bold, in articulating the following thought: “Young man, sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.” This quote has had us thinking for years. Years. It’s succinct, true, and always forces everyone to consider whether you’re trying to take the easy way out or whether you’re doing what needs to be done.
But, this cunning creature is more than just wisdom and sass. She’s the catalyst for Pocahontas realizing that her dream (spoiler alert) was pointing at John Smith. When it seems like everything is going wrong and there’s no hope, Pocahontas turns to Grandmother Willow to help her find her way. The advice? “You know your path, child. Now FOLLOW IT.” (We added the all caps.) Essentially, she reminds Pocahontas and John Smith that until the fighting stops they can’t really be together. And it’s up to them to bring peace.
That advice would leave anyone reeling from genius. Honestly, way to drop that knowledge bomb (and all the other ones), Grandmother Willow.
Also, way to appear and reappear like something out of a dream.