“Women who Run with Wolves” is a book about women and for women. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of the book and Jungian analyst, through twenty years of research, has drawn on the fairy tales and myths found in the most diverse cultural traditions, to free us from the shackles of an existence that does not conform to our most authentic needs and to “run” with our Self; to put us in touch with the Wild Woman, conceived as a powerful psychic force, instinctual and creative, a feral she-wolf and at the same time maternal, but stifled by fears, insecurities and stereotypes.
The leitmotif of the work is the Jungian idea that there is an archetype of the female psychic structure. This is borne out by the stories belonging to completely different cultural traditions, which, when deconstructed and probed, reveal many points in common. Specifically, Estès makes much use of the concepts of intuition and instinctual nature to clarify the precise reference to the part of the self that is untouched by social and cultural conditioning, but clear precisely because it is innate.
In the book, there is no proud and self-serving celebration of female intuition, but rather a lucid treatment of the effort involved in discovering it and becoming aware of it. From this point of view, the introductory part of the book is very interesting, in which the author explains what happens when we fail to get in touch with the wild force of the psyche: by separating from it, the woman’s personality becomes thinner, goes into stasis and becomes pale and ghostly. The woman who cannot reunite with her instinctual nature gets carried away by life and pays the consequences:
“Feeling powerless, chronically in doubt, vacillating, blocked, incapable of determination, of giving one’s creative life to others, of taking risks in the choice of companions, work or friendships; suffering from that living outside one’s own cycles, overprotective of oneself, inert, uncertain, hesitant, unable to pace oneself or set limits for oneself.” (p. 21).
Adherence to the intuitive, wild nature requires commitment and courage. The stories analysed in the book serve to show the rough paths of the female psyche in its attempt to reconcile with its own deep nature. These paths, the difficulties they entail, the fear and instinct to flee in the face of the unknown and the unsafe, but also the beauty of a woman who manages to complete the task and walk in the world with her head held high illuminated by the light of awareness, are reflections that emerge in all the analyses of the stories collected in the book. In each story, the author shows the parallelism between the events narrated and the phases of the psyche that the events themselves represent.
Through the best-known fairy tales such as Bluebeard, The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling, Golden Hair and other lesser-known ones such as Vasilissa or Manawee, the author reminds us of who we are, of our wild nature, always on the move.
This book is a work of encouragement. The author urges us to be aware that we have everything within us to face any challenge, to cultivate our relationship with the self with daily love, to investigate our subterranean desires. In short: take charge of your life.