December 28, 2014

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkhola Estes

Admittedly I thought this was going to be a book about women who were raised in the wild (or raised by wolves, that sort of folklore) as that is what the title and subtitle seemed to indicate. I was wrong. This is more of a psychoanalysis book and self-help than a book on myths.

Estes has taken a collection of myths and stories from folklore and dissected them one by one into telling the story of the female subconscious. The motives and actions, the restrictions society has placed on the "wild woman" and the way that women can rediscover their wildness. She gives little lessons and advice for those who have been brought down by society and describes the process of suppressing a woman's instincts. The myths themselves are told regularly and then she adds her interpretation to the mix, showing how it relates to female psychology.

This book is all about women. Men are mentioned but only in relation to women. And more often than not they are the oppressors. Although there are a few mentions of men who encourage the wildness in women. The books total theme was one of oppression though, and I was a bit surprised that even when she was encouraging wildness and restoring women back to themselves, she kept referring to arts, and childbirth, and barely a mention of science. It almost seemed like her vision of taking the female self back was still pretty traditional. She wanted a stronger woman, but one that could paint or write and take back her creativity. This might not be very empowering for those women who rather than have strong skills in the arts, are good in the sciences or math. It just didn't seem to be all encompassing.

I liked the myths in the book but did not enjoy how she dissected one story over and over and over. Once would have been sufficient as I found myself growing bored with the tedium of her repetitiveness. I think at some points it was just an effort to make the book longer. And all of the writing was at that level of descriptiveness. So many words to say the same thing over and over. It made the book a bit of a slog. But, returning back to the myths I think she chose some interesting ones, and there were some that I had never heard before, such as the tale of Baba Yaga and the armless girl. She had a nice variety.

I think this book would have been immensely better if it had been edited down. It had interesting concepts but they were lost in the sheer amount of words and the explanations were repetitive. I just can't recommend it based on that.

Women Who Run With the Wolves
Copyright 1992
520 pages

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