Women who run with the wolves : myths and stories of the wild woman archetype

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Book, 1992



Call number


Call number



New York : Ballantine Books, 1992.

Original publication date


Physical description

xiii, 520 p.; 25 cm

Local notes

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Book club pick for Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf • “A deeply spiritual book [that] honors what is tough, smart and untamed in women.”—The Washington Post Book World

Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. For though the gifts of wildish nature belong to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls.

In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.

Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.

Praise for Women Who Run with the Wolves

“Women Who Run with the Wolves isn’t just another book. It is a gift of profound insight, wisdom, and love. An oracle from one who knows.”—Alice Walker

“I am grateful to Women Who Run with the Wolves and to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The work shows the reader how glorious it is to be daring, to be caring, and to be women. Everyone who can read should read this book.”—Maya Angelou

“An inspiring book, the ‘vitamins for the soul’ [for] women who are cut off from their intuitive nature.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Stands out from the pack . . . a joy and sparkle in [the] prose . . . This book will become a bible for women interested in doing deep work. . . . It is a road map of all the pitfalls, those familiar and those horrifically unexpected, that a woman encounters on the way back to her instinctual self. Wolves . . . is a gift.”—Los Angeles Times

“A mesmerizing voice . . . dramatic storytelling she learned at the knees of her [immigrant] aunts.”—Newsweek

“The work of Clarissa Pinkola Estés, rooted in old and deep family rites and in archetypal psychology, recognizes that the soul is not lost, but has been put to sleep. This volume reminds us that we are nature for all our sophistication, that we are still wild, and the recovery of that vitality will itself set us right in the world.”—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

User reviews

LibraryThing member pru_mitchell
A very special book for our bookclub 'The Wolves' named after this our first book. It took us a year to read it - sometimes we only got through one story a month. Thanks to the amazing expertise and life experience of women in the group, especially leader of the pack and Wolf mother, Shirley
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Trippe, we extracted so much inspiration and discussion from the Jungian themes and rich stories. Wolves, both book and book club made a major contribution to my literary and spiritual growth.

The Wolf Rules for Life
1 Eat
2 Rest
3 Rove in between
4 Render loyalty
5 Love the children
6 Cavil in moonlight
7 Tune your ears
8 Attend to the bones
9 Make love
10 Howl often
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LibraryThing member tcoulter
A book that I have returned to many times over the last decade or more, Estes analyses of women in folklore and mythology resonate with me deeply. Women Who Run with the Wolves is a book that can be read over and over, and some new insight - about oneself or our relationship with our environment -
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will be gained. A beautiful marriage of psychology and feminist spirituality, this is one of my most cherished reads.
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
Not an easy book to explain or review but I'll try. I've heard of this book before (it was first published in 1992 and I know back then I would not have been interested), and recently found it at a local used bookstore. The cashier said, "Oh, this is a wonderful book! I loved it!" I can't remember
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the last time a bookseller raved about a book that I had up for purchasing.

The author is a Jungian analyst and also a storyteller. What this means for this book and its readers is that she tells the story of many myths -- just a few that I was familiar with, such as "Bluebeard" and "The Ugly Duckling" -- and re-interprets these stories in how it applies to the inner lives of women. The Wild Woman is her way of describing the soul of a woman.

While I question whether these old stories were actually meant as Pinkola Estes interprets them, I found them fascinating analogies of how women, from birth, are constantly told by others in words and/or actions that they should be "this way" or "not that way". This is a never-ending message to women that they cannot simply be themselves. It is not just men, but also other women, who can negatively influence the female soul. The author often uses the behavior of wolves to show how we can learn from them.

There's a lot to think about here and process, so much so that I feel that it deserves a re-read by me. It is not a quick read and it is the type of book that would need to be read at the right time. I would recommend it to others only if I thought they were ready for it -- if not, it would just be something that would be set aside because this book is far more than just re-telling of ancient myths from all over the world.

I have many folded-over pages in this book -- I am averse to folding pages as book-marking, but don't mind doing it (tiny corners!!) when I want to be able to refer back to something. Here are a few excerpts from those folded-over pages.

(note: for the first quote below, the [...] is the author's, and not an indication that I left out part of the quote. The "work" she refers to is helping with psychic development).

"The 'craft of making' is an important part of the work, I work to empower my clients by teaching them the age-old crafts of the hands...among them fetish and talisman making, these being anything from simple ribbon sticks to elaborate sculpture. Art is important for it commemorates the seasons of the soul, or a special or tragic event in the soul's journey. Art is not just for oneself, not just a marker of one's own understanding. It is also a map for those who follow after us". (p. 15)

"At a very mundane level, it is important for a woman having dark man and Bluebeardian sorts of dreams to cleanse her life of as much negativity as she can. Sometimes it is necessary to limit or thin out certain relationships, for if a woman is outwardly surrounded by persons who are antagonistic to or careless about her deep life, her interior predator is fed by this and develops extra muscle within her psyche, and more aggression toward her." (p.71)

"Friends who love you and have warmth for your creative life are the very best suns in the world. When a woman, like the Little Match Girl, has no friends she also becomes frozen by anguish, and sometimes by anger as well. Even if one has friends, those friends may not be suns. They may give comfort instead of informing the woman about her increasingly frozen circumstances. They comfort her -- but that is far different from nurture. Nurture moves you from one place to another. Nurture is like psychic Wheaties.

The difference between comfort and nurture is this: if you have a plant that is sick because you keep it in a dark closet, and you say soothing words to it, that is comfort. If you take the plant out of the closet and put it in the sun, give it something to drink, and then talk to it, that is nurture." (p. 323)
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LibraryThing member LBM007
I read this book as part of a psychology of women class I took and thought the book was complete crap. (It's books like this that make people think psychology is not a real science.) If it were possible to rate as negative stars, I would.
LibraryThing member engpunk77
My neighbor is in a "Women Who Run With the Wolves" book group, and has been highly inspired by it. I didn't think I was too interested, but he let me borrow the companion audio recording, and I did enjoy it, mostly because of Estes's intensely pleasing voice and style of speaking and storytelling.
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Honestly, I'd love to hire her to talk to me all the time; I've never heard anyone more gifted in the art. Her soothing voice would have been a perfect casting for Meggie's voice in Inkheart (the girl who had the talent to bring characters to life with her impressive read-aloud skills).

About the content, I don't know. It's way too stereotypical feminist b-s for me, but it does resonate a little on a human level rather than a woman's. I'm not oppressed by a patriarchal society right now, really. But I do feel that all humans can relate to some of her ideas as "civilized" society certainly pressures us to contain our wild side, not just women. While most of it seems a bit dramatic, some ideas did strike a chord. However, I think the book has the ability to make people feel depressed, captive, oppressed, when they may have otherwise been happy.... I don't know.
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LibraryThing member John5918
An excellent book. A bit long and slow at times, but very interesting and informative. I read it when I was studying spirituality in the USA. It has an important place in understanding the jigsaw which makes up human spirituality.
LibraryThing member SusaninParis
At the time the book was published, it was probably considered groundbreaking. These ideas have been floating around the public consciousness since then so it doesn't seem as novel. At this stage, I would have preferred a little condensing. I think I'll need to read it again.
LibraryThing member RedH
Wow wow wow! This is an Excellent read! Delving deep into the world of women through stories . If you love stories that deliver " good messages " and empower the soul- you will love this!!!!
LibraryThing member Maretak
Deze 20e herdruk verraadt een klassieker - this 20th reprint betrays a true classic
LibraryThing member oke
Changed My Life. Deep reading and well worth it.
LibraryThing member moonstormer
Very enjoyable use of myth and legend to explore elements of the female psyche. Some aspects were a bit overdone and I found the explanations to be a bit lengthy for my taste, but overall it was an interesting and very well written book. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes the use of
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myths, stories or fairy tales in gaining greater understanding.
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LibraryThing member sarahinfla
This is not your average self-help book. Estes relys on old stories from her heritege as well as practical advice from her practice as a Jungian analyst to provide women with a self-help book like no other. The legends she disperses throughout the chapters tie in neatly with the topic of each
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chapter. And chapters can be read as single units.
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LibraryThing member maiadeb
Extraordinary collection of stories designed to resonate with all women. Each story has its lessons, its triggers, its awe. Trying to make a decision? Stuck in a destructive pattern? Look to the stories of old for assistance...trust the wild woman that resides inside.
LibraryThing member thairishgrl
This book was recommended to me by a fellow therapist after a discussion about the positive impact of stories on the psyche. Estes uses mythology from around the world to explore the universal struggles experienced by women. A great self help book without being preachy. Not light reading.
LibraryThing member thewatch
An amazingly insightful and inspiring book, making you look at both fairy tales and women across society in a new and uplifting manner. It's a great book for discussion and to understand things about your life and relationship with the natural and wild world. Worth many rereadings!
LibraryThing member capnk8
Finding this book was the purest accident. I started reading the introduction while in the bookstore and started crying, right there in public. This is officially my favorite book. I simply had to have it in hardcover - I half-destroyed my paperback before I even finished it.
LibraryThing member MiaAndPatrick
This is really fascinating. It ties in women's psychology with story telling traditions in a really effective way.
LibraryThing member ablueidol
Shows the richness of stories to develop self but also a source of stories in building up a set
LibraryThing member Ravenari
I find it difficult to review such a seminal book in terms of interpretation of folklore, fairytale, and goddess and god mythology. My favourite 'tale' is the retelling of Bluebeard, and the featuring of Baba Yaga - who is as wily in this dark retelling as she is in many other myths and tales.

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this book. :)
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LibraryThing member SheilahVance
This book is fabulous! It has helped me understand and gotten me through many a life change at different stages of my life. This time, another failed romance. This time, deeper understanding. I highly recommend it to all women who are trying to understand themselves.
LibraryThing member lynnwords
An all-time favorite.
LibraryThing member Czrbr
Book Description: New York: Ballantine Books, 1992. Cloth. Near Fine/Good. 51th Printing. 6.5x9.5. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on front free endpaper, "C P Estes". Clean and unmarked throughout. Very small shelf smudge bottom front edge of leaves. DJ is price clipped Small water mark on top outside edge of
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pages. Nice copy .
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LibraryThing member YogaNerd
DNF will come back to this one, finding it difficult to get into but I think will be worth the ongoing effort. I have so many amazing books by my bedside that I have put aside for now ...
LibraryThing member BurrowK
I read this book whenever I'm feeling feminist/political burnout. I recommend it to all women.
LibraryThing member willszal
I no longer recall where I first heard of this book. As the cover proclaims, it has been well-read since it was first published in 1992.

It is a book written by a women for other women. I am apprenticing to the feminine, and to myth, and thought it worth exploring. Also, many of the capacities
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spoken to in the book are important to all people.

The book is full of so many surprises. Each chapter illustrates an element of healthy feminine development, illustrated by at least one myth. The book starts out by focusing on the attribute of wiliness, canniness, or as Mad Eye Moody might put it, "constant vigilance." This theme continues throughout; although Estés loves magic and mastery, she is very much against naïveté.

The second theme is about intuition. I was doing some writing last year about somatics, so this resonates with me. I've come around to the epistemology that we ultimately must rely on our intuition to determine what cosmologies to trust.

There are many other themes in the book: partnering, mothering, creativity, sexuality, agency.

The final myth in the book, and the longest, focuses on the myth of the Handless Maiden. I happen to have recently read Martin Shaw's "Smokehole," and he also focuses on this myth. I've also been reading other versions of it (the South African, the Italian, the Russian—both Shaw and Estés focus on the German).

This is a long book. At times, Estés' interpretations of the myths she shares can feel a little too exhaustive. She also rarely shares information about the provenance of the myths she tells (other than a few words on where she heard it, if that). That said, it is still a wonderful and lovely read—but out of the three people I've spoken with that have read some of it, none of them have read it all.

We need more books like this (feminine and mythic)!
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