On this “Southern Saturday,” we move to the Midwest. Sadly, there are not nearly as many amazingly talented authors from the Midwest region as there are from the south but both have an agrarian feel to their writing at their roots. So, in my world, they are combined.
Throughout history mankind has used to myths, stories – if you will – to explain the inexplicable, to retell events that are monumental or to drive home lessons that desperately need to be learned. Some of these were in the form of pictures (cave drawings,) some set to music, still others were passed down orally and told and retold through each generation, across lands and waters and continents and generations. It is how mankind has learned. It is how we have adapted.
In “More Than True,” poet Robert Bly surmises that fairy tales have been a way for man to learn very valuable tools of civilization. Using the ideas of philosophers as varied as Kierkegaard to Carl Jung, as well as interspersing his own poetry throughout the book, Bly closely examines six well known tales, such as The Frog Prince, and looks deeper at their hidden meaning.
At this juncture, if the reader is not familiar with Bly and his work, it might be good to note that he is the leader – the Leader – of the mythopoetic men’s movement. This is the movement that suggested that “men” had lost their masculinity due to the industrial revolution, the five day work week and <gasp> the feminist movement. In order for these wayward, lost men to regain their masculinity they had to go to sweat lodges, retreats (male only of course) and drum circles. Yes. That’s correct.
This movement is important to this review for two reasons: First, his primary supposition is correct. There is wisdom in fairy tales. Anyone who has studied the “flood narrative” that most have read in the Bible, knows that it is found in every civilization, in every culture, throughout time, although few include Noah or an ark. If you’ve ever said the children’s poem, “Ring Around the Roses,” then you have told the story of the Bubonic Plague which was told and retold through stories, myths and even in rhyme. So the premise is correct. However, the poems that Bly has chosen has been carefully done so in order to further his errant beliefs regarding this men’s movement. He uses the hierarchy of needs by Carl Jung to prop up his own ideas of masculinity when Jung was an existentialist who couldn’t have cared less about gender issues.
All of that to say and explain why this book was fascinating and frustrating and a complete failure for me as a psychology major and as an historian. I absolutely do not recommend this book. The very last thing this world needs is more men sitting around a circle getting hyped up on testosterone and beating drums!