Book Review: “Women Who Run with The Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype.”
Estes’ feminist staple as viewed through the lens of Women’s Ways of Knowing.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a Jungian analyst and storyteller who uses myths and fairy tales from across the world to explore various aspects of women’s psyches. In Women Who Run with the Wolves she proclaims the need for women to identify their wild wolf-natures and to aspire to embody the Wild Woman archetype. In the introduction, Estes likens women’s instinctual natures to those of the wolf; when women are in touch with the psychic Wild Woman, they are strong, intuitive, fecund, sensual and loyal. Society has traditionally oppressed women’s “wildish” nature, as Estes repeatedly calls it, resulting in timidity or ennui in the majority of the gender. Women cannot be wholly themselves in such states. Each chapter of the book contains a fairy tale through which the author analyzes the dimensions of the female psyche and then describes how the strengths or neuroses can be translated into Wild Woman.
It is easy to see how this book became such a staple of Feminist ideology. The Wild Woman is the ultimate woman. She is the life-giver and nurturer, the playful but fierce she-wolf with a keen nose for danger, the passionate lover, the healer, the wise, and also the death-bringer. There is an aspect of the Wild Woman that relates to every facet of the natural world, and she is in tune with the spirit world as well. And what Estes does in this book is tell every single woman that the Wild Woman resides in each of them. She dares women to reach out and embrace their wildish nature, to reclaim their dreams and their creativity, and to live according to their intuitions rather than society’s constraints. For women feeling put upon, unappreciated, worthless, or misunderstood, this is a fantastic message. It is a message of trusting one’s inner strength; it is a message of empowerment.
As an expert in the archetypes of the collective unconscious, Estes is particularly well suited to use allegorical device. Everyone is familiar with myths and fairy tales; they serve as lessons as well as entertainment, and most people can find at least one to which they can relate. The author selected tales from which she could draw effective examples of personality traits common to most women, traits that are both positive and negative. She then laid out a plan for encouraging the positive traits and overcoming the negative ones. The method she uses in this book makes psychoanalysis and deep reflection accessible to almost any woman. The story of “Bluebeard” encourages instinctual curiosity and warns against naiveté. “The Ugly Duckling” teaches about belonging and perseverance. Other stories address issues of finding mates, sensing danger, and embracing death. Throughout, Estes manages to keep her lessons in the context of women’s wolf-nature, the key to knowing the Wild Woman.