Dancing Out of Line

Women Who Run with Wolves: Dancing Out of Line –

Do you know a woman who already opposed as a girl the misogynist educational measures and disciplining of adults?

Maybe you were even one of these non-conformist girls.

  • How did you feel?
  • Looking back, how do you see this time in your life?
  • Did you have to pay for your independence or for your break with social structures?

The fairy tale ‘The Girl with the Red Shoes,’ which Clarissa Pinkola-Estés analysed in her world bestseller ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves,’ focuses on the topic of the non-conformist woman. The girl in her story breaks out of her cage but channels her basic female instincts in the wrong way. She painfully has to pay for her new freedom.

The Story:

A poor orphan girl sewed her own shoes with red rags. She is invited by a rich lady to go and live with her. Her red shoes are burnt, the girl is bathed, combed and beautifully dressed. However, from now on she has to sit still all day, she is not allowed to scamper around, and she may only speak when spoken to.

As she starts to long desperately for her red shoes, she goes out and buys a new pair secretly, and against the will of the old woman. But as soon as she puts the shoes on, they start to dance with the girl and carry her through woods and fields, over mountains and through valleys. As she dances into the churchyard, she is cursed by a spirit, “You shall dance in these red shoes until your skin hangs down your tired bones, and nothing is left of you.”

And this is what happens. The shoes keep dancing, and there is nothing she can do about it. The girl asks an executioner to cut off her shoes with her legs so that she can finally stop dancing. The man does as he is told, but the poor girl has to spend the rest of her life as a regrettable servant.

The Deeper Meaning:

With her red shoes the woman lost something precious, as they stand for her freedom and impetuosity. She thinks she can regain these by buying new shoes secretly, but forgets that the purchase is no real liberation, but only compensation for her dependency. With the new shoes and the urge to dance, she does not become happy at all. Only through the tortures of self-mutilation can the girl release herself from these compensations, but the price she has to pay is a high one.

The Moral of the Story:

Many women feel similar to a girl in a golden cage who has everything she needs, except her freedom.

These are women:

  • In unhappy relationships.
  • Going through life with acquired inferiority complexes.
  • Being scared of punishment and humiliation.
  • Full of shame.

But one day the wild feminine soul inside them might say, “I’ve had enough of oppression!” Then they should really make sure their act of deliverance does not cause permanent damage (like the girl with the red shoes).


  • Do not escape from difficult circumstances in life in a mad rush, jumping into a new life where you feel lost and overloaded.
  • Learn to be careful, watch, think and distinguish at the beginning of a new life.
  • Deepen your practical knowledge of human nature.
  • Develop sensible skepticism toward other people.
  • Do not feel too proud to accept other women’s advice and help at the beginning of a new period in life.
  • Surround yourself with people who support a return to the basic female instincts.

It is worth dancing out of line every now and then but be aware whether you are driven by plans to escape or are acting with a clear mind!

When we suffer, we are often cut off from our basic female instincts, and do not feel the threatening dangers of ‘wild’ anymore.

Every radical change in a woman’s life should not happen in the heat of passion, but it should be carefully thought out and done at the right time.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series next week!

– Ingrid

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