by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This is a heavy book. Rich indeed. One you have to read slowly, take in pieces, ponder over. I\’m not sure I understood all the things Estes was getting at, and its definitely a book that requires a re-read, if not many. In a nutshell, Estes examines and analyzes fairytales, myths and folktales in the context of what they can teach about the inner lives of women. It reminded me a lot of Care of the Soul, a book I haven\’t read since high school. In each segment of the book, Estes examines a particular fairy tale (often several related tales or different versions as well) and goes into great depth about the wisdom and insight it can convey about such things as finding inner strength, recognizing things that take you away from your true self, enduring and continuing on in the face of difficulties, recognizing people you feel kinship with, finding and drawing upon your creative energy and so on. The ways and manners in which women expresses themselves and mine their inner strengths are myriad, and Estes recognizes that. She presents a lot of tales I was completely unfamiliar with, and explains others in ways I had never considered before. I was a bit surprised to find some other reviewers disagreed entirely with her viewpoint, said she forced and changed the stories to say what she wanted, diverted from their original meaning. But I just took it to be part of the power of storytelling, to use stories and word imagery to communicate something strong and lasting. Oh, and there are many comparisons to wolves and how they live. Estes calls the feminine soul your inner Wild Woman, who is keen and responsive and fierce in ways like the wolf…
So is it a bunch of interpretive hogwash, or something profoundly insightful? I guess it depends on the reader. For myself, I found quite a bit to take away and ponder at length, and I am keeping this book on my shelf to delve into again someday.
One of the reasons I love reading interpretations of folk and fairy tales is that you can bring so many different readings to those stories. So even if one interpreter is making the stories fit her own ideas, I tend to think that's true of most interpreters reading most stories (at least to some extent).