This Iconic Book Has Changed More Women's Lives Than Anything Else. Can It Change Yours?

September 8, 2023

There must be a moment of every book lovers life, when they come across a book and at just look up from the pages asking: “Where has this book been all my life?”

I experienced this moment while reading Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes. A magical book that has been praised and quoted countless times here on PD as well. It became a New York Times bestseller and appeared on the bestseller lists of USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal. Many women I met during my travels had heard of this book, but only a few of them actually read it. But all of who read it, agreed in one thing—the book has been life-changing for them.

I wanted to read this book for years but never found a copy of it until about 5 years ago. I believe this is that type of book that enters your life at the moment you need it the most, and if you force-read it before your time arrives (I saw this happening to quite a few women), you will not understand it.

a book open on a table with a mug of coffee next to it

When I finally found this book in my favorite book store back when I used to live in Budapest, I was in a very hard, traumatic and horrible place, alternating between periods of blind rage and near suicidal depression. I spare you from the boring details but in a nutshell—I felt lost, abandoned, lonely and not myself. I wish I could say all that I went through made me stronger—but that’s not true. It messed me up in many different ways. This book led me through that time. My level of self-awareness has reached a new peak, and I have since made one of the most difficult and empowering decisions of my life.

“The wild woman archetype is associated with passion, creativity, and a sense of freedom. Many women may have been taught to suppress their wildness in order to fit into societal norms, but this book encourages us to embrace our authentic selves and express our creativity and passion in a way that feels true to us.”

At this phase of my life I totally suppressed my wildness and my true essence in order to fit in, to be accepted and to feel loved and “normal.” This book opened my eyes (and heart) and set me out on a quest to re-discover who I really and what stood in my way. This book was my Bible of feminine empowerment. Women Who Run with the Wolves is a book that has the power to change your life, as it changed mine and countless other women’s around the globe. It is a book that every teenage girl and adult woman should read at some point in their lives. This is a book for anyone who has ever asked why, and then shushed themselves. This book is a ‘prayer for the wild at heart still kept in cages’ (thank you Tennessee Williams)—and therefore not for everyone.

Clarissa Pinkola-Estes offers guidance and inspiration (through the lens of a Jungian psychologist) for women who are looking to connect with their inner strength, intuition, and creativity (the Wild Woman Archetype), the forces that stand in the way of female self-awareness, and the cycles of life, death and rebirth, by exploring myths and stories from different cultures and religions. In the book, Clarrissa shares specific stories for women to help them understand more about their nature, relationships, and life. She takes a traditional tale, then goes into it in depth, explaining the symbolisms and meaning. And while doing all this Clarissa outlines a natural connection between women and wolves.

Whether you are seeking personal transformation, healing from trauma, or simply looking to embrace your sense of freedom and creativity, this is a book has what it needs to inspire and empower you. This book might be your initiation into a very special club, the Pack of the Wild Women.

Reading this book is like remembering: of a time long ago before the written word. The way to pass down key information on how to live was to encode it stories, and then through an oral tradition of tale-telling, keep that information alive across generations.

While reading this book, bit by bit, I saw an alternate reality of what my life could turn out like if I’d read this book when I was young and impressionable. I wondered if I’d be further along not only in my life, but in my healing journey as well. How different would I be by now?

For a while I felt anger and displaced that uncomfortable feeling by immediately blaming others for my lack of success in life. But I have to be accountable for my life, and I’ve learned resentment gets me nowhere and solves nothing. Blaming gives others control over my choices, and only I have that power. How the stories unfold in the book was perfectly in harmony with the unfolding of my own life story. How Clarissa weaves the stories together makes perfect sense with life unfolding and how healing happens until we finally are ready to take our power back, to sing our songs over the bones.

How to read this book?

This is a book that should be given time and space to really take in and consider. It requires your undivided attention and a lot of commitment. But take the effort and time to read it properly and I promise, you’ll be rewarded with the greatest gift — your true, authentic Self.

For me, the first step to really own myself and set my wild side free was by making this book really mine. By that I mean I ruined this book—by highlighting parts with different colors, leaving marks and taking notes on the margins and also in a notebook I dedicated for this very book. I noted down everything that felt important at the time and I still keep re-reading these.

There might be parts that feel repetitive or like “not yours” at all. There were sections where I didn’t resonate with the stories at all, because I didn’t go through any similar event in my life, but that shouldn’t make you feel left our or like there’s something wrong with you. The cycles of femininity can circle around any time of our lives and some never arrive, and it is okay that way. You could try skipping around, trying on different chapters and stories, seeing what speaks to to you.

There is lots of gender essentialism in the book. For some reason Estes gets away with saying reductive and even heteronormative things that we would never accept from writers in 2023. But personally, I wasn’t extremely bother by this. 

This book is a master-key to the pictorial language that our right brain “speaks,” (via dreams, myths, stories & films), particularly when we are in trouble. If you are a writer, artist, poet or even just someone who has gone through or is going through a hard time in life, expectations and how to be yourself, you can work this book a guidebook.

When to read this book?

In my view, this book is a “self-help” book. Three times in my life this book found its way into my hands at a time when I needed it most and I am sure it will also find its way to you at the perfect time. But this isn’t a book to be deliberately read. It is a book that you stumble across, a book that a friend lends to you in a time of need. It’s a book that catches my eyes when I’m reaching for another. I pull it out, flick through the pages and just stop where I feel called to and read a few pages from there. Always with a message that resonates the best at the time. It’s the sort of book that suits haphazard reading.

This book may make you want to strip naked and dance under the moonlight. It may make you want to sell everything you own and journey out into the wild world with nothing but the clothes on your back. It may make you want to quit your job, bathe naked in wild waters, practice witchcraft, or howl at the moon. It may awaken your soul in unexpected ways.

It may also have you scratching your head wondering what the heck is going on. If that’s the case, put it down. Give yourself time to grow. Pick it up again when you feel a little more open to new ideas.


Photo: Julia Kicova via Unsplash

Imola is a Hatha and Ashtanga yoga teacher, tree planter and writer and editor of Raised by the Wolf, an online magazine for Wild Women, with a passion for exploring and life outdoors. Originally from Hungary but currently planting trees and rewilding the enchanting forests of France. Hop over to RBTW magazine, and blog and follow her on Instagram @yogiraisedbythewolf


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