Notes on Iron John by Robert Bly
A couple good friends recommended Iron John by Robert Bly to me, and I recently finished it. It was a dense, interesting book examining modern masculinity and what men and women can learn about "manhood" from myths and stories of cultures around the world.
The idea is that "men" in modern society have a lot less of a foundation and context in which to grow and find strength than they did in prior generations, and there are lessons to be learned from the way more "primitive" cultures do male initiation through stories and physical acts.
Overall, I found the book enjoyable, and the literary interpretations of multiple texts reminded me of high school English (the good parts). I found the anthropological details and the studies of initiation rites around the world the most compelling as lessons to learn from. I found the heavy and "between the lines" interpretations of the stories and texts to be a bit over the top at times; I'm still skeptical that fairy tales and myths have that many secrets hidden in the diction and language/style to learn from.
My notes are below. I find myself now thinking about how I can grow and improve as a man based on the big lessons in the book and what institutions and activities can help with that growth for me and other men.
Ch 1: the pillow and the key
Finding Iron John
Going off with wild man
Ch 2: when one hair turns gold
Wild man brings son to forest
Water is sacred spring
The second day
The third day
Going out into world
Ch. 3: road of ashes, descent, and grief
Taking the road of ashes
Ashes and cinders work
Learning to shudder
Going from mother's house to father's house
Ch 4: hunger for the king in the time of no father
Distrust of older men
Temperament without teaching
Disappearance of positive kings
Double stream inside sacred king
Double stream inside father
Longing to live with the king
The male as a set apart being
Ch 5: the meeting with the goblin in the garden
Boy expelled from kitchen to garden work
The woman with golden hair
Saturn is g-d of ashes
Hermes allows quick messages between parts of body
Ch 6: to bring the interior warriors out to dance
The warriors inside
The outer or disciplined warrior
Eternal or sacred warrior
The story, the battle scene
Gaining four-legged horse
Warriorhood in education
Warriorhood in marriage and relationships
Iron vs copper
Living between the opposites
When Paris chooses
Moving from copper to iron
Ch 7: Riding the red, black, and white horses
Overview of classic initiation
The story chest full of golden apples
Red white and black horses on 3 days
Ch 8: the wound by the kings men
Wild man and his qualities
Community of beings in grown man
Story: wedding feast
9/5/2013 07:17:13 pm
Thanks for this interesting book review of the book ‘Iron John’ by Robert Bly. I am greatly impressed by the topic the book deals with. I hope this book would be much enjoyable. I will definitely grab one from the book store as I was quite impressed with the Big lessons the book covers.
7/25/2017 07:02:43 am
Great, great book... Thanks for ur notes... It helps me a lot
11/1/2017 09:46:58 pm
Thanks! I haven't read that book but will check it out. You make some interesting points.
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