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How the Book “Women Who Run With The Wolves” Continues to Inspire Me Three Decades Later

Inspiration to read (or re-read!) Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ groundbreaking classic.
Women Who Run With The Wolves

It’s spring 2022 and I find myself opening a worn copy of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés groundbreaking classic, Women Who Run with the Wolves. With remarkable accuracy, the pages recount the contours of my life with all its jagged edges and unpredictable terrain. The triumphs and surfacing to knowledge. The crush and curse of dreams. Love. Death. Fear. Birth. Marriage. Storytelling. Nature. Divorce. Wisdom. Expression. 

Estés details the power of the archetypal Wild Woman and beckons us to consider how our embrace of the wolf that runs with the rhythms of nature—in sync with instinct and purpose—leads to healing ourselves and society. Through stories, folktales, and histories that span the globe, she interprets women’s truths and movements, urging readers to heed the call of the Wild Woman. To inhabit the body as an animal, a wolf self, is to bravely claim the matriarchal directive crucial to our dignity and knowledge. Story after story, Estés shows us how to free ourselves.

I recommend the book to every woman I know. To my younger friends, I say, “It’s a classic!” To those who’ve read it before, I say, “It’s better the second time.”

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When I first read the book, my life was an abstract expressionist performance piece. I threw everything at the canvas and had no idea what would stick. Passion. Longing. Duty. Drama. Friends. Poetry.  Lovers. Fear. The book gave me a skin. I am the wolf! 

When it showed up on the desk of my boss, a film producer, I borrowed and devoured it over a weekend. The book conjures my memory of her, a woman who taught me life skills with much grace, humor, and spirit. I am older now than she was then. My tenure as her assistant ended with her firing me, which set off a domino slide to the bottom: I lost my second job as a script analyst, got fired from the lead role in a play, and was left by a boyfriend—all which led to a collapse and gathering of a new self. Sort of. Who knew then that so many more selves would unfold as the years passed? 

Reading the book now reminds me of all the women I knew back then, including the many versions of my own self. What was I hungering for? I think it was the person I finally became—or yes, the person I am becoming. Hindsight is easier, but for sure, I would tell the younger me what I say to all of my students: Believe in your voice. Do not be afraid. Back then I could not imagine the versions of being that I have since worn or rejected as I sought, hid, and faced my own truth.

Inspired by Estés work, I wrote ‘The Wolf,’ which appeared in my poetry chapbook. 

My hair is long

My teeth are white

I move and shake in the dirt.

Barefoot, pads crushing twigs and leaves.

Screaming and singing unto the darkness.


The Wolf. 

I sent a copy to Estés, who in turn mailed me a signed postcard of thanks I still cherish. Her words cracked open the door to my wild self, though it would take the full ride through the seasons of womanhood to finally run with the Wolf.

I am a different writer, reader, and woman now in all of the significant ways anyone might define these terms. When I first tore through this book, I agonized over what to write and who to please, and I was thoroughly frustrated by my inability to express what I felt. I stubbornly insisted on spelunking my way through the craft of writing, rebelling against anything and everything. I wanted to be seen as someone who carved and curved words and actions into meaning and light. 

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Now, I see that my gestures pointed to my need for exterior markers of approval because I could not approve of myself. Such are the perils of conformity—the bite of denying the self. Then, it becomes a very long road to home. 

A woman is always changing, and so Estés’ revolutionary wisdom continues to hold me in thrall as I confront the words that have built and set fire to the places we all inhabit. Only now, I have more faith in my own freedom. In my body I feel the words I wrote decades ago: 

I thirst no more.

Complete unto myself.

I am the Wolf. 


The Wolf

By Stephanie Han

From L.A. (Lovers Anonymous)


I am the daughter of Haefestus

Gold and silver soldered.

I am the weaver

my burlap strands flap wildly

(bold patterned)

I am the dancer of the dusk

undulating my body—

the writhe and twist.

Let me strip before the fire

and beating of drums

changing, throbbing.

My hair is long.

My teeth are white.

I move and shake in the dirt.

Barefoot, pads crushing twigs and leaves.

Screaming and singing unto the darkness.

Howling. The Wolf.

I am the phoenix of the night.

I am the dove of the day.

Flying before you higher

above promised clouds

leaving earth bound Man—

behind he waits my return.

I sojourn in the night

Running, skimming woods and plains

beneath tunnels and fields.

Below to Persephone’s world

where I will feast on dark wine and rich food.

Above to the world of the Goddess’

Where I will laugh

my voice peeling from felicity

sheer joy and wonder of life

alive with my light.


I thirst no more.

Complete unto myself.

I am the Wolf. 

Stephanie Han teaches women’s creative writing workshops at Her fiction collection Swimming in Hong Kong won the Paterson Fiction Prize, and finalist for AWP’s Grace Paley Prize, the Spokane Prize, and the Asian Books Blog Award. A PEN and VONA fellow, she received grants from the LA Department of Cultural Affairs, and was the inaugural English Literature PhD of City Univ. of Hong Kong. Her work-in-progress ‘Break’ details how to write a divorce story. Han lives in Hawai‘i, home of her family since 1904. 
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