The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine
Email this review


A drum-beater for masculinity and an icon of feminist psychoanalysis here deconstruct a Russian fairy tale, reducing an enchanting story to psycho-mush. Bly, the poet, anthologist, and translator, is also (of course) the author of best-selling Iron John, the book that helped send men back to the woods in search of metaphorical manliness. Woodman is a Jungian analyst whose Leaving My Father’s House serves as a reference for would-be architects of feminine consciousness. Apparently, these two have developed a dog-and-pony show centered on the story of the Maiden King (or Maiden Tsar, as they call it). This unusually complex fairy tale features Ivan, son of a merchant, and his lengthy journeys, challenging tasks, and encounters with many aspects of the female, including a stepmother, three witchlike “Baba Yagas,” a more amenable —Crone,— plus, of course, the beautiful and powerful Maiden Tsar—and her 30 “foster sisters.” The authors set out to probe the metaphorical and mythological meaning of the story, first in individual commentaries, then in dialogue. Bly goes first, taking the story section by section and relating each section to other mythologies—Native American, Hindu—as well as to current cultural, psychological, and spiritual themes, frequently via poetry. In her section, Woodman dives deeper, calling up archetypes, the divisions of the psyche, and the necessity of making them whole again. Particularly interesting is a reflection on the grief caused by the death of Princess Diana (was she a Maiden Tsar?), interpreted as a “yearning for the feminine.” Both authors celebrate what they seem to agree is a trend favoring the rebalancing of male and female “energies”; they deplore a numbing of the connection between conscious and subconscious, since that connection permits spiritual fulfillment. Only groupies will think this is anything but intellectual and psychic quicksand. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8050-5777-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


NonfictionMORE THAN TRUE by Robert Bly
by Robert Bly
NonfictionAIRMAIL by Robert Bly
by Robert Bly
NonfictionTHE SIBLING SOCIETY by Robert Bly
by Robert Bly