MenWeb logoMenWeb

Robert Bly and Marion Woodman

Over a Decade of Magic in Working Together

Copyright © 1998 by Bert H. Hoff

Their new book The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine is now out!
Read our review.     Order on MenWeb     Book Tour Schedule


Help us help men
Every $20 helps!

Robert and Marion: Over a Decade of Magic in Working Together

Robert Bly and Marion Woodman

The Maiden King
The Maiden King
Order on-line

Audio book, too

Other books and tapes featuring Robert Bly

Other books and tapes featuring Marion Woodman

Robert Bly and Marion Woodman, who have worked together for many years, have just come out with a new book,The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine.(Read our review). As they mention in the book, it culminates seven years of working with this story.

Robert and Marion began working together in 1986, when Robert invited her to one of his Great Mother conferences. As Marion recalls, "He had heard that I had a similar kind of energy. We had a wonderful time with the group at that conference. His thinking, and the thinking of the other men at the conference, opened my mind to men's position in the society. I think I helped open up his mind to women and their plight."

When I asked her what it was like to work with Robert, she said, "I find it very adventurous. He's extremely creative. He is, first of all, a poet. He brings in poetry, music and story every time a situation gets tense, where I would tend to hold the tension and just keep going with the anxiety of the moment. His poetry and stories tend to break the tension. Or move it to a new level. I really value that. Now I find I do it myself. It acts as a transformer of the energy of the group. When we tell the stories, we know the plot and the details very well, but we never know how the dialogue is going to go or what the other is going to say next. So we are totally spontaneous."

One of the first events they did together was a conference on the shadow in men and women.

Facing the Shadow in Men and Women
Facing the Shadow in Men and Women
Order direct from MenWeb

Listen to an MP3 WebCastHear an MP3 Webcast from that conference

Facing the Shadow in Men and Women, with Robert Bly and Marion Woodman.
Oral Traditions' best-seller
There is a mystery around the word "shadow." We throw out part of ourselves in childhood, or put them in a bag; it is those abandoned parts that become the Shadow, which can then act destructively and independently of our will. If we can reclaim these parts much of our vitality and passion returns. Therefore Bly and Woodman challenge us to face the shadow in all areas of our lives. With live music, poems, and a moving Norwegian tale of love, The White Bear King Valamon.
4½ hours, 4 tapes. $29.95.
     Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Shortly after that, they did an amazing video, Robert Bly and Marion Woodman On Men and Women, for Applewood Productions. It was featured on Canadian public broadcasting.

Read our review of that video
Read an interview with Marion Woodman centering on that video

In November, 1995 Robert and Marion came to Seattle to do a workshop based on that video, sponsored by Seattle M.E.N.

Robert and Marion use a fairy tale to make their points in The Maiden King. Here's what Marion had to say about fairy tales when I interviewed her before the Seattle event: "...fairy tales are soul stories. They are just as relevant now as when they were told centuries ago. In that way, they're like Bible stories. The story of the maiden czar and the young man who goes to sleep [the story used in the videotape series, On Men and Women] is even more relevant to the culture, as it moves deeper into technology, than it was five years ago. People may say the story is old-fashioned now. Our situation in terms of people putting pins into themselves to put themselves to sleep and refusing to wake up is one of the biggest issues in trying to save our civilization."

Read an interview with Marion about the Seattle event

Read an interview with Robert about the Seattle event

Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear an MP3 Webcast of "The Third Body" and "The Voice Unseen."

There were 160 people at the Seattle event. Many had seen the Applewood videotape series, since Seattle M.E.N. had sponsored a number of highly-successful study groups around the series. The group I facilitated involved couples, and we focused on relationship issues and the metaphor of Robert Bly's poem "A Third Body."

Marion says in The Maiden King that we can appreciate the wisdom of the Crone and find the consciousness necessary for reunion of masculine and feminine only after we reach the still point of the soul. She continues:

Anyone who has seen the workshop in "The Maiden Tsar" that we filmed in Belleville, Canada in 1991 will realize that the group was not able to reach the 'still point' at the time. Perhaps Robert and I had not reached it in our own lives; perhaps many of the participants were still caught in the polarization that could not hold the tension of the opposites; perhaps the pressure of clock time made soul time impossible.

When I interviewed her prior to the Seattle appearance she said she hoped that this group, including so many who had worked with the story in their study groups, might be able to reach that still point.

My own impression is that we did not. But it was still a deep experience for many of us. This is reflected, I think, in a couple of stories we ran in M.E.N. Magazine after the event.

Marion's point about finding that still point while you hold the tension of the opposites brought up a lot for me. I tend to be high-energy, which calmer people, like my wife Bernetta, sometimes finds disturbing. When Marion met alone with the men, I asked about that. When the conscious feminine finally emerges after being suppressed for so long, it tends to erupt like a volcano. I asked, what if this energy emerges as a volcano, and you are hurt by the eruption? Marion's advice was to stand firm and say clearly where you are. The worst thing that I could do would be to be patronizing, or attempt to protect my partner from her feelings. "It's OK, I understand." Through a process I can't quite explain, this led me to ponder the ways in which we give blessing to others.

Marion's imagery completed a cycle of learning for me about what blessing involves. She described the power of the feminine energy to build the sacred container and provide the energy of full attention, full support, and full love, to allow the voice of creativity, of full expression, to emerge. Giving blessing does not involve jumping in to give advice and expressions of support. It involves absorbing the energy of the elder, specifically the energy of the Crone, in order to be the pin on the wall-to sit in silence and stillness, in order to hear the voice of the person being blessed and encourage that voice to reveal the secret of the treasures that person has to offer to the world.

Read The Pin on the Wall: Learning from Marion Woodman and Robert Bly

Another man at the event had just had 3 root canals, and had taken on a part-time job in order to pay off his dentist. He was struck by something Marion said at the workshop about rotten teeth, and what that meant about how we chew and absorb our experiences in the world. In The Maiden King Marion says:

I remember my own dream at this point. I drempt my analyst was a dentist. He was extracting a rotten tooth ... from the back of my mouth. He had been pulling with all his might until we were both exhausted. Them one more pull and out came my tooth, and hanging from it, my entire spine.

I awakened shaking from head to foot, feeling like a powerless jellyfish. I tottered to my analyst's office and told him I thought perhaps he was not right for me. He smiled, and said, "Your parents probably said you needed lots of backbone. The oak laughed at the bamboo because it couldn't stand up straight. But when the lightning struck, the oak split down the middle and the bamboo continued swaying."

Here's this man's story:

Read Rotten Teeth by Jim Watson.

One of the themes that Robert and Marion bring out in The Maiden King is the idea that the things that keep us unconscioius--like materialism and addictions--keep us from being fully adult. Our society, as a result, is more childish. This is a theme that Robert develeped well in his book The Sibling Society.

Read our review of The Sibling Society

As I said in my review of The Maiden King, this book culminates seven years of working on this story.

This book will be especially fascinating to people who have viewed and studied the Applewood video series On Men and Women. This book culminates over a decade of Robert and Marion working together, and over seven years of work in exploring the depths and intricacies of this story. ... My first reaction was that I would be reviewing old material, but this book affirms Robert and Marion's point that the magic of these tales is that they are fresh and new with each retelling. There is much here that will be new and refreshing to people who have seen the videotape series and attended Robert and Marion's workshops based on the story.

Read our review.
Order The Maiden King on-line

Related stories:

Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear an MP3 Webcast of Robert and Marion

MenWeb's book review of The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine.

Facing the Shadow in Men and Women. An MP3 WebCast of a portion of a workshop Robert and Marion did in 1991. Read our review of the audiotape of this conference, and order the audio tape directly from MenWeb.

Robert Bly and Marion Woodman On Men and Women. Review of the Applewood videotape series of a workshop where Robert and Marion worked with "The Maiden Tsar," the fairy tale at the center of The Maiden King.

Inner Man, Inner Woman: An Interview with Marion Woodman. A MenWeb exclusive interview with Marion Woodman, centering on the Applewood videotape series.

An Interview with Robert Bly. An interview with Robert prior to his coming to Seattle with Marion to do a workshop based on the Applewood videotape series.

An Interview with Marion Woodman. An interview with Marion, again prior to their coming to Seattle to do a workshop based on the Applewood videotape series. These two interviews ran side by side on the front cover of M.E.N. Magazine the month of the event.

The Pin on the Wall: Learning from Marion Woodman and Robert Bly, by Bert H. Hoff. A story following up on the Seattle workshop.

The Sibling Society, by Bert H. Hoff. A book review of Robert's last non-fiction book.


Articles | Men's Stories | Poetry | What's here? | Home Page | Search MenWeb

Press the "Back" button on your browser to return