Author: Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Paperback, 608 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: 1992
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Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes Ph.D. is a collection of teaching tales from many cultures, not limited to the United States, Russia, Mexico, Siberia and Iceland. The stories are multi cultural, and many are familiar favorites told with a new spin. "Bluebeard", "Vassilissa The Wise", "The Red Shoes", "The Handless Maiden" and "The Little Match Girl", will be recognized and are expanded upon with a few lesser known stories such as "The Crescent Moon Bear" and "Sealskin Soulskin". Each story is broken down into its symbolisms and lessons and how they relate to the evolving psyche of women.
In "Bluebeard", the youngest of three sisters in her youth and naivety dismisses her visceral impression of Bluebeard and says to herself after he has come a courting with bells on, But his beard is not so very blue? How could someone so charming be bad? Little does she realize that the outwardly charming nature is bait for the trap. In spite of her better judgement, she marries him- and nearly becomes his victim as many women before her.
In the breakdown of the story Estes explores the development and maturation processes that women progress through. Learning to spot the predator, learning to trust instinct, understanding that the seemingly pleasant facade is simply that, a facade and steering clear of the not always so obvious dangers. In some stories she addresses external predators, such as Bluebeard. In others she addresses the predatory internal aspects of the psyche and socialization; the woman who gives too much at cost to herself, or the trades the future for the now; as in "The Little Match Girl", who burns each of her matches to sell in an effort to keep warm, and consequentially freezes to death.
There are stories of hope, humor and inspiration as well, in "Baubo, the belly Goddess", and the slightly racy, yet oddly endearing "Coyote Dick". Her analysis and breakdowns are insightful, although often a bit wordy. She has a tendency to run off on tangents. She eventually comes back to track, and gives a good table of contents to allow quick reference to the story you need when you need it. It has become a staple, and I have read and reread it multiple times over the years. Upon getting married, having children, or even simply as an affirmation of the indomitable archetypal spirit of woman, this book is a great read.
Reviewed by Seichi