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The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology Paperback – April 15, 1995
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The only off-putting thing, which changed it from 5 to 4 stars, is a small thing but which strikes to the heart of the issue. The author apologised in the beginning for perhaps not being able to do justice to the feminine wounding myth as much as the male myth. It was honest and ethical of him to state such concerns, which makes me respect his integrity, but he is alas, correct. As wonderful as his assessment of the Handless Maiden is, he still put a great deal of emphasis on the male value and aspects of it, which he did very little in reverse for the male Fisher King myth. The section in The Handless Maiden where he abandons such careful integrating of the masculine is the section which resonated most for me. I'm not sure why he did this, but if one goes through both chapters and counts instances of other-gender applicability you'll see what I mean. In one paragraph I almost felt like this myth was being ripped from my "hands" and given to the male, a dynamic of the actual myth.
Nevertheless, the author put the myth into a powerful and broad matrix of understanding for contemporary women, something which 'Women Who Run With Wolves', as much as I love it, didn't allow me to see as clearly. What I would suggest is first reading Johnson's book, and saving Clarissa Pinkola Estes interpretation for last, when you can appreciate it more, in all its profound and subtle complexity.
Johnson references the poverty of the English language in terms for feeling and love: while Sanskrit for example has 96 words for love, English has only one. This is where he brings in the relevance of the two myths that are in the title of the book: The Fisher King and The Handless Maiden. They both tell of the wounded feeling function, and Johnson also suggests the reader search out Gertrude Nelson's book, Here All Dwell Free, which speaks from the feminine perspective on the discussion of the wound, admitting that he has some trepidation about how he covers the feminine dimension in his book. Both myths are relevant for both genders and the rest of the book explores the stories of the myths and their variations and later the diagnostic significance of the myth and the prescriptions given in the myth for healing.Read more ›
In my youth, I thought Robert Johnson understood the myth of the Fisher King exceptionally well, but did not really understand the handless maiden. I attributed this to his gender bias, which he mentions at the beginning. He understands men better than women, from personal experience. I re-read the book again recently. I have been researching sexism, and I now understand things I simply was not aware of before. This time when I read the handless maiden myth, I was astounded. One of the things Robert Johnson talks about are the silver hands the king has made for the maiden. This is a metaphor for technology! And I was previously so enamored of technology that I could not even see the metaphor.
The highlights of the book are Johnson's re-interpretation of foundational mythology.
In the Fisher King, he tells the story of a king who is wounded in his feeling function. In modern terms, we would say he is damaged in his ability to experience emotions -- to relate to other people. He has respite from his pain only when he is fishing, hence the name. He lives in the castle of the holy grail. Direction to the castle are critical: the fisherman tells Parsifal (the youthful hero of the myth) that he should go "just down the road a little way, turn left, cross the drawbridge, and you will be my guest tonight." Johnson interprets these directions for us.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love Robert A. Johnson's work. This is, as all his books tend to be, a great book. I bought it used for very cheap but it came in mint, new condition - not like new, but just as... Read morePublished 7 hours ago by LongtimeAmazonCustomer
This w as my introduction to Robert Johnson. I was unfamiliar with these stories. So powerful. He's brilliant, concise, deeply insightful and moving to read. Read morePublished 6 months ago by renee mckenna
"Coincidentally" I was re reading Jerry Mander (In The Absence of the Sacred) and picked up this little book by Johnson to re read. Read morePublished 11 months ago by antaeaventura
Terrific little book that explains much about masculine and feminine psychology, using myth. 103 pages of gems.Published 12 months ago by John Connor
Thank you for giving the answers to healing our wounded masculine and feminine! Just get grounded, quiet and still. AMAZING words of wisdom!Published 17 months ago by Golden Kathy
This isn't a book for everyone but for those who are interested in mythological analogy and also to understand the wounds that this world suffers and why, it is a great read.......Published 17 months ago by Sally S.
The theory and science behind this book are fascinating, but the writing is unbearable. I had to struggle to finish it.Published 18 months ago by Preggo Puzzler
Everything Mr Johnson writes is a trip around the block with new eyes! If you like looking deep into a clear pool, or listening to someone who speaks through reflections as if seen... Read morePublished 19 months ago by michelle babian
I found the story of The Fisher King very interesting, and helpful in literature analysis.Published 19 months ago by CGM