The Female Hero’s Journey

Furthering the discussion of what the female hero’s journey looks like, Julie K. Rose interviews Catherynne M. Valente on her blog.  There’s a great question and answer within the interview that I’ve posted below.

Do you find that you look at your own life in terms of motifs or archetypes?
Completely. I think to some extent most thinking people do. Hero’s journey and all–but for a woman what does the hero’s journey really mean? Ought she to stand still and wait to be someone’s Lady Fair or someone’s Temptation? Are we to, alternatively, be content with the maiden, mother, crone schtick that neopaganism presents us, that defines us only in terms of sexual access: virgin, pregnancy, menopause? Or can we see into the cracks of these stories, and see women trying to integrate the lessons of their mothers, survive violence, find power in old age, escape the horrors of their childhoods, grow up, fight good and necessary fights, die well?

I grew up a very lonely child, under extreme circumstances, and if it sounds silly to say that it helped me to think of myself as Gretel, as Snow White, as Gerta, as the armless maiden, then it is silly. But all those stories say the same thing. Little girl, you will come out on the other side of this, and you will come out alive.

Of course, as I grew older there were less stories for me–the child is always the hero of the fairy tale. As I went through my divorce, I scrambled for something to tell me that same thing, that I could survive it, that it was not greater than my strength to withstand it. There is not a whole lot out there for divorced women–Medea? Hippolyta? I’m still looking, to some extent, but I think the answer is that the wood is always deep, and the world is always a wicked and frightening place, and parents and lovers will betray you to the wolves, but there are always breadcrumbs, too, and lamps to light the way, and brothers in the forest, and sisters in the dark.

I love the concept of having heroes help you through your own journey.  It’s one the core ideas in the Hero Workshop.  Seeking out a hero to help you in your current story is a great piece of advice for anyone.  So can anyone think of a hero for the divorced woman?

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2 Responses to The Female Hero’s Journey

  1. Julie K. Rose November 14, 2007 at 11:08 am #

    Hi Matt – thanks for the link! I’m glad someone pointed it out; I’m enjoying your blog!

  2. Versades November 6, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    Take a look at Rapunzel. Try to see divorce not as an identifier (this is how men categorize you) but as an obstacle and a set of challenges. You are not a divorcee. You are a woman who happened to endure one of the most horrendous social-economic challenges of our time–divorce. Yes you will survive but you will be different, for like any trial by fire, divorce will not leave you unchanged. Afterwards, you search for something precious, something beloved, that you once had and now is gone. Nevertheless, you will survive–you will return.

    Rapunzel is the European fairy tale whose essence is the woman’s story of trial, search and wandering, and finally return. The archtype is Demeter, Isis, and other mature goddesses who go on long journeys which humble them and then return. Give it a try.