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|Introduction : spinning straw into gold|
|Pt. 1||Maiden : the age of attraction||1|
|Ch. 1||Snow White : breaking away from mother||5|
|Ch. 2||Snow White : tempted by the witch's wares||21|
|Ch. 3||Cinderella : surviving adolescence||39|
|Ch. 4||Cinderella : stepping into the dance||59|
|Ch. 5||Sleeping Beauty : going to sleep a girl ...||86|
|Ch. 6||Sleeping Beauty : ... waking as a woman||107|
|Ch. 7||Sleeping Beauty, American style||127|
|Ch. 8||Beauties and beasts : borne on the back of desire||133|
|Ch. 9||Beauties and beasts : descending into the body||152|
|Ch. 10||Beauties and beasts : looking love in the face||169|
|Pt. 2||Matron : the age of attachment||187|
|Ch. 11||The white bride and the black bride : the discovery of two selves||193|
|Ch. 12||Rapunzel and Jane Eyre : confronting the madwoman in the attic||215|
|Ch. 13||The seal wife : hungry for intimacy, thirsty for silence||232|
|Ch. 14||Blubeard's wife and the Fitcher's bird : taking her life in her hands||255|
|Pt. 3||Crone : the age of the spirit||283|
|Ch. 15||Hansel and Gretel : life in the light of death||289|
|Ch. 16||Demeter and Persephone : the beautiful mysteries||312|
Whether your answer is "Cinderella" (most women's choice), "Hansel and Gretel," or another tale, your favorite conveys something significant about you, your experiences, and your soul-- something perhaps not obvious to outsiders and possibly not entirely clear to you.
Throughout this illuminating book, Gould delves into the deeper meanings behind fairy tales and myths--helping you to understand not only what your choice of fairy tale may mean for you, but also what you need to be doing during the three main stages of development: maiden, matron, and crone.
"This is a book about women," Gould writes, "specifically about fairy tales and the way they illuminate the metamorphoses at each stage of a woman's life: those shifts in consciousness as well as biology that propel women from one level of being to another." As Gould expertly addresses the transformations many women experience--marriage, childbirth, and widowhood--her keen observations may surprise you, and it is through these revelations, that Gould truly works her magic.
The story of Sleeping Beauty allegorizes the role that waiting plays in the attainment of womanhood; "Rapunzel" illuminates a bride's ambivalence toward her impending nuptials; "The Seal Wife" acknowledges a mother's sense of loss of self to the demands of her family. Most poignantly, through the myth of Demeter and Persephone, Gould grapples with the final stage of a woman's life, the unexpected expansion of a woman's spirit in old age.
Full ofarchetypal figures known to us all, this wonderfully perceptive work is also populated with narratives from the lives of ordinary women. These personal stories-- of Sleeping Beauties who fell asleep in puberty and awoke ten years later to find themselves married to the wrong man, or the right one--illustrate the rich insights that are to be gained from familiar story figures. Replete with a wealth of wisdom about the private battles and public roles each woman must face in her life, Spinning Straw into Gold explores the choices, demands, and changes a woman must face every day.
1. Let's start with the opening line of the book: What's your favorite fairy tale? The first story that comes to mind is apt to be the one that reveals the most about your inner self and the family history that shaped your life. Bear in mind that ten women who name "Cinderella" may have in mind ten different aspects of the story.
2. The book's subtitle refers to "the transformations in a woman's life." Do you think that a man goes through transformations as marked as a woman does when she bleeds with her first period, like Sleeping Beauty pricked by a spindle; when she loses her virginity; when she marries, becomes pregnant, bears a child; when she reaches menopause and realizes that her fertility is at an end? How many male transformations can you think of?
3. Which transformation do you remember most vividly in your own life? At the time, were you aware of what Joan Gould calls "the shift in consciousness as well as biology that propels women from one level of being to another"?
4. Would you call falling in love a transformation?
5. "Snow White"
Have you ever had a moment when you saw yourself -- or your daughter -- transformed into a young woman? What were your reactions?
6. At what stage do you suppose you broke off with your mother -- no matter how close the two of you may have been, and may be now -- in order to become yourself? Was it in high school, the first week of college, after your first sexual experience or first paycheck? Or some other time?
7. In the Grimms' story, written in the 19th century, the dwarfs play the role of fathers, insisting that the girl must learn to cook, bake and sew, if she's to stay with them. In the Disney movie, Snow White is instantly transformed into the perfect little mother, in charge of a troupe of messy, adorable little dwarfs. (They're her own size in the old story.)
What does this say about the changing image of fathers, or men in general?
Have you heard women complain that their husband is one more child in the house?
What does it say about our picture of motherhood?
When you were a teenager, did you think you were as attractive or sexy looking, as your classmates? What feature bothered you most -- breasts, hair, hips, complexion? Clothes?
9. Were there any "wicked stepsisters" in your life -- biological sisters, classmates or friends? Looking back, can you think of any ways in which they influenced your life in a positive direction?
10. Has anyone played the fairy godmother role in your life, or have you played the role for someone else?
11. In modern "Cinderella" stories, the fairy godmother is turned into a superior human being who teaches the bedraggled heroine the social graces she needs -- like Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady. Have you ever been attracted by a teacher, doctor, psychiatrist or sports coach, because you thought this person could transform you into someone finer?
12. Pretty Woman and The Color Purple are two modern versions of the "Cinderella" story, with the glamorous singer Shug Avery playing the roles of both fairy godmother and Prince in The Color Purple. What other versions can you think of? Does Extreme Makeover fit the bill?
13. "Sleeping Beauty"
Joan Gould considers depression, anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction, and alcoholism as modern forms of sleep. Have you gone to sleep at any point in your life? What form did your sleep take? What was different in your life when you woke up?
14. Great artists and scientists often report that they came to their most inspired solutions or creations in their sleep. Was something ever clear to you in the morning that wasn't clear when you went to bed?
15. The parents of Sleeping Beauty are told that she will sleep for a hundred years, and then a Prince will awaken her. Do you think that she woke up because the hundred years had ended, and then she saw the Prince? Or did the Prince awaken her, at which point she decided that she had slept long enough? Which matters -- the right man or right time? Or both?
16. Can you imagine meeting the right man at the wrong time in your life -- when you're too young to settle down, or already married with children? Can you imagine the reverse, when you feel you're more than ready for marriage, but no Prince appears?
17. "Beauty and the Beast"
4. The story of "Beauty and the Beast" begins with the Beast and the heroine's father fighting over the rose that symbolizes Beauty. She risks her life, in order to save her father, by entering the Beast's castle in his place.
Consider your relationship with your father. Were you ever his princess, and how did that affect your future relationships with men and your image of yourself?
How did your father react to your boyfriends? Did you feel that you had to find a young man who could match your father? What role did your mother play?
18. The Beast is opposed by the Hero, or Prince, who is society's champion. Did you lose your virginity to a Hero or Beast? Have you ever fantasized about a Beast in the form of a male associated with the physical aspects of life: a doctor, physical therapist, karate or kick-boxing instructor, cyclist or amateur sailor?
19. If you were the heroine in Casablanca, would you stay with your heroic husband, who is the gallant leader of the French Resistance forces against the Nazis, but hasn't much time for you, or would you decamp with isolated, alcoholic Rick (Humphrey Bogart), still wounded by his frustrated love for you?
20. The Matron stage of Life, with "The White Bride and the Black Bride" and Jane Eyre
Can you explain why two young women would be attracted to a King they had never met? Is power really the great aphrodisiac, as Henry Kissinger said?
21. Why is it always the White Bride who bears a child?
22. In Gone With the Wind, the White Bride, Melanie Wilkes, goes into labor for the first time while the Yankees are bombarding Atlanta. Neither she nor her baby would survive without the efforts of the Black Bride, Scarlett O'Hara, who doesn't like Melanie and doesn't much like babies, either. Gould says that it takes both White and Black Brides to mother a child, one for tenderness and the other for strength. Do you agree?
Have you seen these two natures in yourself as a mother? Have you ever become ferocious while defending your child?
23. Houses are often said to represent the woman's body, especially in stories and dreams. When a girl is of marriageable age, she moves from a humble home (her adolescent body) into the mansion of womanly power -- like Jane Eyre -- or she discovers that the house she has lived in all her life has hidden chambers, like Sleeping Beauty's palace. Have you ever dreamed about your house? Did it surprise you with space or windows you never knew you had?
24. Witches and Death
After the witch is defeated, Hansel and Gretel find jewels scattered on the floor of her house, which must have been there before, but weren't noticed. What are some of the joys of life that you tend to ignore until you find yourself threatened by death?
25. How do we explain the myth that says Persephone is Queen of the Dead, but she's also the daughter who returns to her bereft mother each year, bringing the flowers in her wake? Can death and springtime be connected?
26. Joan Gould calls the challenging last section of this book, devoted to the Crone, the Age of the Spirit. How can this be true? Can you imagine yourself as an old woman, seeing more clearly by the light of death than you did in youth?
Posted May 10, 2005
This book has changed my whole out look on life. I have never understood my world as a woman, until now. Joans book should be given to every woman. I plan on giving this book as a gift to every woman I know. I cannot think of a better gift than the gift of knowledge and understanding. That is what this book is all all about.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2005
Like THE SECOND SEX and THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE, Joan Gould's new book, SPINNING STRAW INTO GOLD, is less a book than an awakening. Half scholarly work, half exquisite prose, this work is profoundly moving, one of those books that illuminates a woman's life. Most girls love fairy tales, whether they are from mythology ('Demeter and Persephone') or Hollywood ('Pretty Woman'). In a fascinating work destined to become a classic, Ms. Gould tells us why we are drawn to one fairy tale over another. Insightful, warm, beautifully written, this is a marvelous book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2005
With SPINNING STRAW INTO GOLD, Joan Gould has written a brilliant, instant-classic. There are so many truths in this book that it is impossible not to be amazed at its depth and scope. The fairy tales that all women think they know so well are explained in one 'aha!' moment after another. Joan Gould's book is an amazing work, and I can't recommend it enough.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 27, 2005
Spinning Straw Into Gold is a wake-up call to becoming alive! It is a powerful, inspiring and hopeful read ¿ driven to stimulate and, most of all, to awaken the reader to life¿s joys and potential. This is an important book for every woman and all ages. It is beautifully written ¿ every word is meaningful and precise. Spinning Straw Into Gold, is a guidebook to realizing your potential for ¿happily ever after.¿ I wish I had read this when I was 18! I loved it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.