I’ve spent rather a lot of the last week slowly reading and thinking about Sharon Blackie’s book, If Women Rose Rooted. It’s a fascinating mix of autobiography, Celtic mythology, the stories of modern women, and the idea of the heroine’s journey.
I’ve read some Joseph Campbell, and he’s certainly very interesting, but the reduction of all story down to this idea of a hero’s journey has never agreed with me. Story should mean more than this, surely? I’ve never been able to see myself in the hero’s journey, not even when Martin Shaw reworked it so beautifully in his book ‘Snowy Tower’.
Before this starts to sound like a gender issue, I should flag up that the point at which I really started thinking about multiple narratives, was when, in 2013, I interviewed Ronald Hutton for the Moon Books blog (http://moon-books.net/blogs/ronald-hutton/) Hearing him talk about story and interpretation at the PF Wessex conference recently means this has been on my mind.
Stories shape who we are, and where we are going. What we say and how we say it can define a culture. The stories of the hero’s journey – as Sharon Blackie illustrates – are stories of adventure and conquest, triumph and dominance. These are the stories that celebrate ‘power over’, competition and winning. These stories underpin capitalism and the destructive exploitation of the planet.
I found Sharon Blackie’s book to be a fascinating and rewarding read, full of ideas that resonated with me and lessons I needed to learn. Even so, I’m not going to rush out and restyle my life along the lines of the heroine’s journey either. It’s just too gendered for me. Too defined.
What I am going to do is keep thinking about those other story shapes. There have to be other ways of writing and other kinds of stories to tell. We’ve got used to certain forms and habits in stories, certain shapes and underlying ideas about what a story should be. Not least, we favour stories that are tidy, with clear endings, clear meanings, with winners and losers. I guess people have been telling these kinds of stories for a long time, but perhaps not forever.
More about the book here – https://ifwomenroserooted.com/