I have been reading a few pages now and again from Women Who Run With the Wolves. It reads almost like a literary analysis in some respects, as the author (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD.) presents a topic, embeds an abridged fairy tale, then analyzes the story in relation to the topic. The thesis is that women can rediscover their connection to the wild woman within, symbolized by the wolf, and gain some deeper life satisfaction. Estes, a psychotherapist with clear Jungian leanings, wrote the book in response to themes she observed in her daily practice.
This is not exactly the type of book I usually read. I have a slight fear of viewing myself as a victim of my biology, and a true aversion of being viewed by my coworkers as the woman director. I like being a woman very much, and I would rather bury my head in the sand than accept that I have been victimized for centuries and should now collect my due on the backs of oppressive men. To me it would be trading on something that is an accident of nature, random acts of chromosomes. And it is pointless.
Plus, I am not overly fond of wolves. I actually prefer coyotes.
However, an acquaintance had shared one of the fables from the book, and I found it rather bewitching so bought myself a copy.
While there are the expected passages in which the oppression of women is blah blah blah, there is also a good deal of real wisdom in the pages. I surprise myself in saying, there is a good deal of female wisdom in the pages. And that is something very interesting indeed, because I like being a woman. Women and men are different from one another, in all sorts of good ways. Reading about and appreciating my own sex is enjoyable because it’s not done so at the expense of men.
Estes executes this beautifully, for example, with the story of the ugly duckling. First, the duckling in the tale is male, and those who shame this creature as he wanders in search of his own kind run the gamut: male, female, young and old, hen and pig and human. This is, I would argue, a sort of universal tale of a soul’s search for home. It is a phenomenon that Estes has humourously characterized as the mistaken zygote, an accident of the stork having dropped the baby into the wrong womb and burdening the child with a life that is foreign to its soul’s nature. The child seeks its true home, trudging along on a lonely journey to find its place in the universe. There is hardly anything particularly gender-specific in this undertaking.
Still, it speaks to the female archetypes of which Estes writes. Though we may not have the benefit of mothers who share their experiences and mentor us as we advance through the life phases that are, for women, quite distinct physical phenomena, we as women have a tendency to seek that community we find lacking. We look for those who will provide us with the wealth of their life experiences, and we look forward to being a wise one to whom another may turn in need.
I still prefer my coyotes over wolves. Where Estes writes very poetically of being comforted at night by the howls of wolves in the distance, I find myself curiously elated by the lone cry of a coyote. The wisdom of wolves is something I don’t fathom; I see the beauty instead in the red-tailed hawk, the sea lion, a Nutall’s Woodpecker feeding at my neighbor’s tree. The point is that these are connections to the wild world outside of our own bodies and minds, and an appreciation for the mystery, danger and poetry of the world in which we have been dropped.