Since January, once a week 83-year-old Shirley Curry has been cracking open a book and reading it to her audience of some 600,000 Youtube subscribers. Not just any books—the books inside Skyrim, which she's been playing as the Skyrim Grandma since 2015. There's a warm Mister Rogers quality to her voice as she begins each video with a "Good morning, grandkids." Except unlike Mister Rogers' gentle life lessons, these books have titles like "Of Crossed Daggers" or "Pension of the Ancestor Moth."
Still, they're soothing with Shirley Curry reads them, and that's the whole point.
"I started this series because everyone likes to hear me read so I thought, well, I can just sit and read the Skyrim books to them and see how they like it," Curry tells me over email. "So all my 'grandkids' were my inspiration. But I didn't want it to be too boring for them or for me, so I made a Grandma and pretend the neighborhood kids come to listen to a story time. I sit or stand in different places to change up the view."
In the latest video, embedded above, Curry stands on a deck overlooking a lake and takes some time at the beginning to compliment the day's lovely weather (in Skyrim). She points out how pretty a small island with a lone tree is, in the distance. Later, she'll chastise herself for not having met all her neighbors yet, and ask her NPC companion Inigo why he's not wearing any shoes. It is probably the sweetest and most pure six minutes and 23 seconds of internet you can experience today.
It's almost overwhelming to watch something this utterly, guilelessly nice in 2019. It does things to my heart. Is this… inner peace?
After reading last week's book, Watcher of Stones, Curry pauses for a moment, asks Inigo for his opinion on the book (he doesn't have one), then offers her take. In the story, a man spends his life seeking glory in hopes of being granted special powers from the Guardians' stones, but it never happens.
"I think that that man really had the whole thing wrong," she says. "All along, he was already empowered by his own abilities and his own strength. Or we could think about it another way. Every time he touched these stones they really did give him this power. He just didn't realize it... But I prefer to believe that he really did all these things on his own abilities, and using his own strength, and didn't realize how much he had actually changed his own life and accomplished within his own self. Do you feel that way, grandkids?"
For more about Shirley Curry, her adventures in Skyrim, and what it's like to become a Youtube celebrity at 80 years old, read our profile from 2016 (opens in new tab).
Over email, Curry tells me that's part of the fun for her. "If I can sum up at the end with a moral to the story, or a question to make them consider and think about something in the story, then that's what I like."
Curry shot back a "lol" when I asked if she plans to read all 300-some books in Skyrim's world. That was never a goal, and she expects to get bored of the GrandmaShirl's Bookshelf series and move onto something new long before then. For each recording session she's traipsing all over the world, hunting down traders to buy new books or raiding caves or homes with Inigo to find ones she hasn't read.
"What makes this enjoyable for me is that it makes my viewers happy, and I enjoy the feedback I get from them," she says. "Especially when I hear 20 and 30 year olds tell me they saved it for bedtime and how nice it was to be read to at bedtime, and the memories it brought back to them and so on.
But, when I'm tired of it, they probably will be too, so I'll end it then. I'll dream up something new to take its place. :)"
Whatever that is, I'm sure it'll be lovely.