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Iron John: A Book About Men
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Iron John: A Book About Men

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,143 ratings  ·  203 reviews
In this deeply learned book, poet and translator Robert Bly offers nothing less than a new vision of what it is to be a man.Bly's vision is based on his ongoing work with men and reflections on his own life. He addresses the devastating effects of remote fathers and mourns the disappearance of male initiation rites in our culture. Finding rich meaning in ancient stories an ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 28th 2004 by Da Capo Press (first published 1984)
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King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert L. MooreThe Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellIron John by Robert BlyA Circle of Men by Bill KauthA Little Book on the Human Shadow by Robert Bly
A Circle of Men
3rd out of 9 books — 8 voters
The Way of Men by Jack DonovanNo More Mr. Nice Guy! by Robert A. GloverThe Way Of The Superior Man by David DeidaThe Manipulated Man by Esther VilarThe War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers
The Red Pill
6th out of 16 books — 9 voters


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Community Reviews

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Ruzz
Having just pushed through the deep lakes of thought Bly makes us dwell in, and having exhausted a lot of energy traveling miles and miles of metaphor I feel short of power to describe this book.

I can say that I am, and few would disagree, the least among you to be found in a drum circle, or even drinking starbuck's. Which is not to say that I am better, only more stubborn about these things. And now further admitting my manhood is not at all comfortable with the idea of needing a "men's moveme
...more
Carrie
Oh, man. We all know how it's said that we can't judge books by their covers, or at least that we shouldn't...but this book can be judged easily with a quick glance at the back cover. Here is the author.

Note the "ethnic" vest over the button-up shirt and velvet ascot. This sums up, metaphorically, my experience of the contents of the book. A little bit hippie, a little bit new-age fetishist, a little bit ladies-man-of-the-1970's...and a little bit straightlaced and conservative underneath it al
...more
Jack Donovan
Iron John is peppered with meaningful insights, but it is also insufferably fruity.

Bly frames Iron John as a book primarily for men ready to do this kind of “inner work;” men around the age of 35. If you’re going to really change manhood, you have to reach out to young men, too. A movement for 35 year old men has no future. Group therapy culture can’t replace authentic, organic masculine experience. That’s a problem I still see with the men’s movement, though I think this is changing. A transfo
...more
Aric
A cross between Jungian psychology, Poetry, and Fairy Tales, this book neatly intersects many of my primary interests. Written by the poet Robert Bly, it's an odd journey through the archetypal psychic development of men in western culture, focusing on the uses of and need for initiation rites and spiritual life, and a Jungian interpretation of the fairy tale "Iron John". There are some remarkable insights here, though also some pretty specious claims.
Donn
This book is why I love Robert Bly. The modern man is lost, disheveled, and more broken everyday because there is no guidance to lead him into maturity, and through self-discovery. Utilizing the myth of Iron John, Robert Bly offers some answer to the wounds we receive in life, and how those too are means for us to grow well.
Bart Breen
One of the Best Books I have ever Read ....

Truly one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read many.

Robert Bly is a Poet and the founder of a Man's Movement. In Iron John he brings both elements to bear in a way that will only truly be understood by men.

That's right. I said it. This book requires a man to truly understand it. Women are welcome. I suppose a man can read Cosmo and come away with something too. You may find that sexist. You may find that unfair. Tough. That's the way it i
...more
Ben De Bono
Iron John is commonly regarded as one of the major men's books written over the past few decades. In many ways it functions as a secular Wild at Heart. It's an easy read that covers a lot of deep issues relating to masculinity.

There's a lot to like about this book, as well as a few problems. I'll start with the good stuff. First, I love the mythological approach Bly takes to masculinity. He's considered one of the foremost figures in the Mythopoetic Men's Movement, and for good reason. He not o
...more
Matt
A book about perspectives on the "wildness" of men throughout history, with emphasis on the need for a return to the rites of passage laid out metaphorically in the "Iron John" tale as told by the Brothers Grimm, which likely dates back to ancient times. Sounds interesting, right? Except that it turns into a disconnected ramble that assumes anything "ancient" is automatically better than anything contemporary. This is a logical fallacy that makes me more angry every time I come across it. The re ...more
Laurie
I really don't like to give a book only three stars, especially when it's obvious the author worked so hard researching and writing. But, this book really only deserves three stars, in my opinion.

Robert Bly really did his homework when he researced the myth of Iron John. He has an historical illustration for almost every word of the story. It's very impressive.

But, for some reason I can't explain, Bly's writing is difficult for me to understand. I read most of his paragraphs over and over again
...more
Kevin Fuller
Bly is sly. He talks about men without isolating women, without excluding the Divine Feminine from the male experience.
In a day and age where the alpha male has been replaced by the only rational option, the beta male, Bly offers a third way, the nurturing Father.
I really like the way Bly brings in fairy tale, mysticism, some gnosticism, and paganism, and um, even mythicism and also um the kitchen sink to describe the male ego in all of it's complexity.
The most telling, for me, is the chapter on
...more
Amelia
My boyfriend gave this to me and said "Please read this, I think it will help you understand me." So, with grim determination, and a not all too pleasant mindset, I began to read Iron John. Robert Bly is a respected poet and a "leader of men" or, a man who thinks he knows how to make men better men by teaching them to find the wild man inside of them and showing them when and how to make use of his characteristics. I'm not really a fan of the book. I couldn't finish it. This could be because I'm ...more
joel
This is the first book I have read in what I think will be a shift to non-fiction for a little while. It was recommended to me by a person that I think my be considered a "mentor" in the book itself. I am not exactly sure on what scale I will rate this book and the ones that I anticipate reading after it. However, I am going to attempt to write about each of them in some way. Here goes.

This was the most frightening book I think I have ever read - it hit close to home. It discusses the process b
...more
Friedrich Haas
There was a literal moment when my thinking shifted from hating my father to understanding how his life had broken him. In understanding and forgiving him, I also can do so for myself, and some others. I see how people get broken like bones, and heal with limps, and restrictions, and anger that they can not be who they wanted to be, and they might not realize it within themselves. My father never would have. People never thought that way then. I miss my father now, knowing we could have finally ...more
Shane Woolf
Modern feminist thinking has placed significant emphasis on "the inadequacy of men, and on the evils of the patriarchal system, [and] encourages mothers to discount grown men." The preface articulates that the images of adult manhood given by popular culture are tired and worn out; they are unreliable. Bly taps into older, more ancient imagery to uncover how boys can mature into strong, confident men. This book is deep, mentally exhausting, and at times difficult to follow.

Worth reading. I reco
...more
Sharon
"Iron John" is one of the 236 Grimm Brothers fairy tales published in 1812 and Robert Bly uses the 'metaphorical information' in it to help the reader understand 'what it is to live on a deeper level'. I wish I could say I did understand, but most of the time I didn't, even though some understanding came through almost by some osmosis effect. Iron John was a parable about a boy maturing into adulthood with the help of a Wild Man. Bly's book uses "Jungian psychology, various myths, legends, folkl ...more
Miloš Vukotić
I'm not a book critic nor do I feel that my opinion matters, but I do feel obliged to say something about this book (mainly because I read the comments below). This book covers one of those subjects which give a lot of space for 'selective perception' - depending on your previous convictions (and prejudices) you may find "Iron John" either disgusting or wonderful, foolish or wise. A true example of a cognitive bias of which one may read at websites like YouAreNotSoSmart dot com.
Anyway, try to un
...more
Gina Briganti
This book was recommended to me ten years ago by a Feng shui consultant we hired to help us improve the energy flow in our home. I didn’t have any resistance to reading the book, or buying the book, yet it took nine years before I owned a copy and another year before I read it.

Robert Bly has taken a story I never heard of, “Iron John”, and turned it into an education about the way men have been raised in different times and places. Not only have I now read the story of Iron John, but I understa
...more
Петър Стойков
През 70-те тази книга предизвиква малка революция, говорейки за мъжественост, корени, мъжки архетипи и мъжки традиции, които ние в съвремието сме загубили, забравили и забранили. На нейна база се създават "мъжки клубове" които са практически мъжки групи за психическа взаимопомощ.

Базира се на приказката за Железния Ханс (от братя Грим), която пък се базира на няколко легенди и приказки на различни народи със сходен сюжет - за Железния човек, целия покрис с козина с ръждив цвят, който прави от мом
...more
Andrew Marshall
Lots of people have opinions about this book but few have read it. Like many controversial books, it says most about the people criticising it. So for the record, it's not suggesting a man's movement to combat the woman's movement and it's not 'let's go back to the forest and hug a tree.' Perhaps the best way to read Iron John is as a review, printed on the back of my edition, from the Guardian suggests 'not as a dry work of scholarship to be judged coolly by the mind but as the work of a poet s ...more
Jason
This book is very insightful. It deals with the loss of initiation rites and the absence of male identity figures in modern young men's lives. Bly displays a boy's journey to manhood as being analogous with the hero's journey in the German fairy tale 'Iron John'. He also draws from Greek myth, tribal culture, and Jungian and Freudian theory to illuminate his view. Very Joseph Cambellesque.

I greatly enjoyed most of this book, with some lulls towards the end. Overall it's a stimulating read that g
...more
Yasser Hassan
A review of the audio book edition:

Robert Bly recycles an ancient story and uses it as a host to introduce what he believes to be the characteristics of masculinity and what it means to be a man. He cuts through the many layers of civilization that have covered the modern man and the many layers of city life that have isolated him from being in touch with man's world and attitude. He introduces provoking thoughts that makes one see previous and coming life events and actions of the elderly in a
...more
Paul
This book was written under the premise that fairy tales and mythology act like a genetic code carrying certain truths about mankind through the centuries. With their roots in ancient oral traditions, these stories have been used to teach for generations. Much of the writing in this book is a scholarly treatise on metaphor and symbolism. The metaphoric fairy tale used in this book is Iron John written by The Brothers Grimm. Bly uses it to explain two important aspects of manhood; the archetypes ...more
Chris
I read this after hearing about it at a weekend self-probing intensive put on by The Mankind Project. It was a very enlightening, moving weekend for me and much of the principals of the tools I learned there were rooted in this book.

Having read it now, a few months later, after having processed much of what I came to learn about myself then I feel I have new sources to go to gain greater depth and self perception. It has also made me incredibly curious to go back and reread the old classic myths
...more
Brett
I think I came into this book with expectations at a high and an idea of what this book should be. Unfortunately, by the end, neither were still standing. I've read almost all of Robert Bly's poetry and his other non-fiction book about leaping poetry, and I have to say, he always comes off a bit smug and pretentious to me. This book was not an exception. It spent so much time in the clouds and more metaphors and allusions than you can shake a stick at that I had a hard time grounding it to real ...more
André


Was bedeutet es denn, ein Mann zu sein ? Fühlen wir uns noch überhaupt wie
Männer ? Was ist es, dass einen Mann ausmacht ?

Diese Fragen und noch einige mehr thematisiert Robert Bly in diesem Buch.
Ich danke dem Autor, dass er dem Mannsbild einer wesentlich differenzierteren
und ganzheitlicheren Analyse unterzieht.


Niemals zuvor in unserer Weltgeschichte können so viele Menschen
so frei von sozialen Repressionen ihre ganz eigene Identität leben, wie jetzt.
In der Tat ist es der Fall, dass in den Kultu
...more
Potro
So deep and metaphoric this book is - study material. Full of wisdom and straight talk. No "how tos," rather how to bes; if that makes sense.
I am going to discuss this book with some fellow male friends of mine to digest it's content further. I must admit that this book was a little hard to comprehend at times because of my level of reading, so I look forward to return to it in time. It will definitely stick with me; one of those books you keep thinking about.
I would compare this book to John
...more
Ganesh Rao
Bly's observations and conslusions are the same time incisive and insightful. It was almost as if he were painting a picture of my life. Profound and at the same time earthy, men can easily relate to this seminal work and prompt them relook and reexamine their own masculinity and what it means to be a man. It does not in any way promote a masculinity 'movement' that is in opposition to feminism and the feminist movement ( which by now is almost dead;"women's rights" being more in vogue). Indeed ...more
Jasonlylescampbell
A wild and all over the place look at the soul of man in America. Iron John is a powerful myth/legend/story about the journey of male birth ... women give birth to boys, but men must give birth to men. Our society is so messed up in this regard ... just when we need grandfathers, they are shipped off to Phoenix and old folks homes, so the boys just hang out with more boys who know nothing. My grandfathers are both dead and have been for years. This is a book about necessary fierceness and decisi ...more
Simone Giacometti
A must read for all men. Great insight on how the modern man came about. Fascinating to learn about the history of the "wild man" and how each generation of men is affected by their fathers' upbringing. For example after WWII fathers were working in factories and no longer on farms, which brought less father-son bonding and affected the baby boomers. Then came the women's rights movement of the 60's, followed by the vietnam war in the 70's, things that affected each generation of fathers.
James Forbes
Bly recites poetry and makes references without really nailing down his points. When Bly does explain his meaning, it is gold. Someone needs to rewrite this book so that everyone can understand it.

Iron John tells a vital story that preserves the western initiation rites of Becoming a Man. Developing boundaries, purpose in life and and other manly shit. Reading this book made me realize how these characteristics are neglected today. A poet would tear through this book. I struggled, but I got the
...more
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Iron John by Robert Bly 1 29 Apr 12, 2008 07:39PM  
  • Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man
  • King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine
  • He: Understanding Masculine Psychology
  • Gods In Everyman
  • The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling
  • The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By
  • The Way Of The Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire
  • The Goddess Within: A Guide to the Eternal Myths that Shape Women's Lives
  • No More Mr Nice Guy
  • I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression
  • Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature (New Consciousness Reader)
  • Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes
  • Japan: A Reinterpretation
  • Bradshaw on the Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem
  • The Science of Enlightenment
  • The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts, 32)
  • Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession
  • The Essential Jung: Selected Writings
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Robert Bly (born December 23, 1926) is an American poet, author, activist and leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement.
More about Robert Bly...
A Little Book on the Human Shadow The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir Morning Poems Silence in the Snowy Fields: Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Program)

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“In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building and emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.” 11 likes
“What does it mean when a man falls in love with a radiant face across the room? It may mean that he has some soul work to do. His soul is the issue. Instead of pursuing the woman and trying to get her alone, away from her husband, he needs to go alone himself, perhaps to a mountain cabin, for three months, write poetry, canoe down a river, and dream. That would save some women a lot of trouble.” 9 likes
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