Sunday, March 27, 2011
Book of the Month
IRON JOHN: A BOOK ABOUT MEN
By Robert Bly
This book is a must read for all men who want to learn a bit more about why they are the way they are. Written by poet Robert Bly, the book analyzes the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale, Iron John, to find and explore lessons and ideas that relate specifically to the lives of men. Bly's deep knowledge of literature, and the Iron John story in particular, really fleshes out some topics that might go otherwise unnoticed in a cursory reading of the story.
The story is of a powerful, hairy wildman who is captured and then set free by the young prince of the king who imprisoned him. Once free, he mentors the young prince and helps him to discover himself. It isn't hard to see why this story would lend itself to the discussion of the nature of man, but Bly goes so far in depth, and relates everything he discusses to even the most mundane and modern parts of a man's life. The use of mythology to explain psychology and human nature has been done many times, (the work of Joseph Campbell springs to mind) but Bly makes the old story relevant in today's world, and creates out of the Iron John myth a lens to view the world of modern men.
Having never really explored what it meant to be a man, I was completely engrossed by this book and saw in it explanations and insights as to who I am. Not everything will apply to all men who read it, but there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom that will be beneficial. Those who read it will have to be honest with themselves and willing to look deep inside, or it will be a waste of time. The book came out in 1990 and helped to give rise to what was known as the men's movement, but even twenty years later it still has large implications for all 21st Century men.