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

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  3,258 Ratings  ·  304 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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Jun 10, 2008 Ruzz rated it really liked it
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
Sep 19, 2008 Carrie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jack Donovan
Nov 13, 2010 Jack Donovan rated it it was ok
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
Bart Breen
May 24, 2012 Bart Breen rated it it was amazing
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
Sohaib Malkawi
A big "poem" on masculinity, every man should read this book. I don't think I can emphasize this enough. And I guess conjoining the word "masculine" and the word "poem" here is "pregnant" with meaning; that is, so much can be induced here. I'm not saying that poetry is exclusively feminine. It's just that being masculine but lacking the ability to "shudder," as Robert Bly puts it, isn't the real thing—it's the masculine shadow, ungrounded, holding the sword, and swinging it sideways, aimlessly. ...more
Nov 07, 2015 Corey rated it liked it
Nuggets of wisdom scattered amid the psychobabble.
Feb 11, 2015 Liam rated it did not like it
Shelves: gender, masculine
The promising start:

1. 'Modern men' are losing their identity
"...the images of adult manhood given by popular culture are worn out; a man can no longer depend on them". p.1/237

2. 'Feminised men' are unhappy
"[the soft male has] a gentle attitude toward life...but many of these men are not happy...women begand to desire softer isn't working out". p.3/237

3. 'Feminised men' arose from recent historical changes in parenting
"The Industrial Revolution...pulled fathers away from their sons a
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
May 18, 2012 Matt rated it it was ok
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
Jul 30, 2015 Athiban rated it it was amazing
This book was surprisingly refreshful. Couldn't put it down until the story ended. Completed within two days. Bly's narrative after each part of story was enlightening and thought-provoking. Though the mythological story is based on monarchical times, it still is relevant to modern patriarchical society.

Having grown with an absent father, the concept of masculinity was more convincing and traceable. The locations of lake, kitchen, garden and battlefield highlights various stages of growth in my
Kevin Fuller
Sep 26, 2011 Kevin Fuller rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 24, 2011 Aric rated it really liked it
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.
May 18, 2008 Donn rated it it was amazing
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.
Ben De Bono
Dec 04, 2010 Ben De Bono rated it really liked it
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
Dylan Grant
This book is absolutely loaded with psychological insight. Reading this book felt almost surreal at times because of how it brought together so many different things that I have read into a cohesive whole. Robert Bly discusses the importance of male initiation rituals on a male's psychological in theself-development in ancient societies. I had first become aware of the existence of these male initiation rituals through reading Joseph Campbell's Primitive Mythology. When I first read that book I ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Laurie rated it liked it
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
Friedrich Haas
Jun 30, 2012 Friedrich Haas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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
Mar 11, 2017 Sahar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
داستان محوری کتاب، داستان ساده ای بود اما تحلیل و توضیحی که نویسنده از اتفاقات بیان کرده بود بسیار زیبا و روشن کننده بود. میتوان گفت این کتاب به نوعی سفر خودشناسی برای مردان است و دانستن اطلاعات ارائه شده در آن برای خانمها هم مفید فایده است. اتفاق جالبی که در حین خواندن کتاب برایم افتاد این بود که با توجه به اینکه نویسنده آن یک آقا بود و طبعا دید حاکم بر کتاب دید مردانه بود، به دنبال کتابی مشابه با دیدگاهی زنانه میگشتم و به جای کتاب با انیمیشن موآنا که یک سفر خودشناسی زنانه ست روبه رو شدم. توصیه ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my ongoing attempt at self-improvement -- or self-understanding, or whatever -- I finally picked up "Iron John," Robert Bly's 1990 bestseller that gave rise to a thousand drum-beating retreats.

I've been a male for all of my 51 years, but I'm not sure I've ever been a man, or what "being a man" means. I'm hopeless with tools and my last experience with playing football was in junior high school. I'm not a huge fan of action films or explosions. I used to not cry -- "boys don't cry," right? --
Steve Rider
Feb 23, 2017 Steve Rider rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Iron John is the first book I've read that's specifically aimed at for fathers of boys. This was recommended to me by Elliot Hulse and I enjoyed the majority of it. Occasionally poems and some of the analogies became a little confusing or too artsy, but overall the messages were powerful tools for the dedicated father looking to guide their sons to be the strongest version of themselves.

The biggest takeaway for me was the missing "initiation" of men in our society. Most indigenous cultures had t
Feb 19, 2017 Knut rated it it was amazing
One can be cynical about Iron John, indeed. Yes, it’s a bit like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan accounts. But wasn’t that a cool dude? Yes, its fuzzy. But who expects a poet to write like a scientist? Yes, Bly wrote Iron John after his 24-year marriage to award winning essayist Carol Bly ended 1979 in divorce. But isn’t this book a constructive way to digest those years and man’s identity in general? If a piece of literature, which is written in a novel style like Iron John, stays for 62 weeks on t ...more
Arjun Ravichandran
Feb 28, 2016 Arjun Ravichandran rated it really liked it
This is quite a profound book, that sits uneasily at the interjections of mythology, psychology, and literary criticism. The author, through the beautiful use of a framing device (an ancient Germanic fairy tale collected by the Grimm brothers), investigates the morass of contemporary masculinity.

Fundamentally, the problem with today's men has nothing to do with the men themselves ; rather, it is the destruction of a healthy masculine tradition, and the consequent destruction of appropriate init
Zubin Mehta-Rao
Jul 16, 2016 Zubin Mehta-Rao rated it it was amazing
First off, I want to point out that this book is not for everyone. One of the obvious groups being women. Of course, some women will enjoy this book, but after reading Robert Bly's "Iron John" I can completely understand if this book fails to connect with the female reader. Another group this will not connect with are people expecting something like: "Ok, men, you need to do this because you are a big strong man and need to take back what is yours by nature. Also, f**k feminism." If you are expe ...more
Sep 23, 2010 joel rated it it was amazing
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
Miloš Vukotić
Jan 30, 2014 Miloš Vukotić rated it really liked it
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
David Bookbinder
Jan 05, 2017 David Bookbinder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Men, and women who want to understand men.
Recommended to David by: Friend of Bly's editor at the time.
I first encountered this book shortly after it was published in 1990 and found it to be a lens on men, and what was difficult about being one, unlike anything I had previously encountered. And he also outlines a solution, which he taught in large gatherings of men (I attended a weekend workshop he held at Brandeis University), and which greatly enlarged, for a time, a nascent Men's Movement that roughly paralleled the Women's Movement of the 60s and early 70s. The book interprets and expands a l ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Rob rated it it was amazing
This "book about men" is so insightful, a revelation for the confused man in a post industrial world. Bly, the author, dissects the struggles men face breaking away from motherly bonds while being inhibited by underdeveloped relationships with their fathers and other influential men in their lives. Bly's assertions made perfect sense to me.
This book, however, isn't only confined to a male audience, but could be read by females to help promote a sense of empathy and understanding. Also, the boo
Claire Doran
Dec 16, 2014 Claire Doran rated it really liked it
It's hard to believe that this was first published in 1984 (30 years ago! What?!), because the problems it attempts to address are just as relevant today, if not more so. Debates about gender politics are so inflammatory and so complex that it's refreshing to read something thoughtful, emotional, and occasionally silly about what it means to be a man.

Like many other Goodreads reviewers, I agreed with many of Bly's key points, but found his writing to be a slog. Many of his references were incred
Sep 01, 2015 Clare rated it it was amazing
Filled with wisdom, myth, and poetic beauty on every page, this book is about the complex dynamics of growing up and coming into your own as a fully actualized human being. Yes, of course its focus is on masculinity and men but this book is equally relevant to women and useful for women trying to understand men. Myth with its resistance to simple answers or endings and its embrace of opposites and complexity, is wonderful to "think with" as Bly shows again and again. Myth by definition is a tool ...more
How did this book become a bestseller? I was undecided as to whether it should be a one star rating or not. Iron John is a book about the mythopoetic movement where men are told to embrace their inner masculinity. Bly used an analogy of a fable to discuss the psychology and history of masculinity across cultures. Fairytales, mythology, poetries and classical literatures were explored to accompany his analysis.

I found the story to be straneous, the analogies were far fetched and the analysis were
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Iron John by Robert Bly 1 35 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 Goddess Within: A Guide to the Eternal Myths that Shape Women's Lives
  • The Cry for Myth
  • Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness
  • The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling
  • Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship
  • Spontaneous Awakening
  • Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature (New Consciousness Reader)
  • States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity
  • Japan: A Reinterpretation
  • The Science of Enlightenment: Teachings and Meditations for Awakening Through Self-Investigation
  • Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent
  • How Can I Help? Stories and Reflection on Service
  • An Introduction to Japanese Society
  • Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts, 6)
Robert Bly is an American poet, author, activist and leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement.
Robert Bly was born in western Minnesota in 1926 to parents of Norwegian stock. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and spent two years there. After one year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he transferred to Harvard and thereby joined the famous group of writers who were undergraduates at that time, which i
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“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.” 19 likes
“The inner boy in a messed-up family may keep on being shamed, invaded, disappointed, and paralyzed for years and years. "I am a victim," he says, over and over; and he is. But that very identification with victimhood keeps the soul house open and available for still more invasions. Most American men today do not have enough awakened or living warriors inside to defend their soul houses. And most people, men or women, do not know what genuine outward or inward warriors would look like, or feel like.” 18 likes
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