The Sound of a Silver Horn

[openbook booknumber=”0449905888″]


In popular mythology there are stories and legends aplenty about great heroes who go on quests and, after facing overwhelming odds, return home victorious. These heroes continue their stories throughout the ages, of men who face dragons, fight for what they believe in, and change the times they live in whether for the better or the worse. In The Sound of a Silver Horn a question is posed, why are there no such heroes for women? Why isn’t there a “female hero” to journey alone, to face great odds, to change things? Why, when asked to name such a woman, can we only name a few, and only a very small number of them real?

Women can be heroes as well, but their type of heroism is different from a man’s. Men’s quests are of the lone wolf variety, working in a vacuum, taking all the risk, and getting all the credit, accepting occasional outside help, but never working in tandem with anyone else, or willing to share the limelight for long. Women work in a collective, risk is taken but account for that risk is tempered with thoughts of the impact on others than herself, credit is shared, help accepted, and working in tandem with others is considered a strength, not a weakness. This book goes into those details of just what makes a female hero. She is not less then a male hero, merely differently empowered and goes about her quest in a different, but no less powerful or profound way.

As I researched the history of the heroine it became painfully clear to me that women have had little hand in creating our own heroic myths. Indeed, as Sarah Pomeroy has shown, “[t]he mythology about women is created by men and, in a culture dominated by men, it may have little to do with flesh-and-blood women.” And it became equally clear that we will be enclosed by the boundaries of this mythology’s limited vision until we begin to create our own.

So much feminist literature is hateful towards the male gender or harps about what keeps women from being fully human, fully real, fully heroic. This book is more empowering about what women can do to change themselves, to become a “female hero” in their own lives. It gives examples of modern day, contemporary female heroes dealing with struggles, quests, and transformations in that special way that only women can.

I especially enjoyed the linear fashion the book took, piecing apart the standard arc of a hero’s journey and showing how women have done it in their own way and in their own circumstances. It covers how the journey begins, the call to awaken, facing the dragons of initiation, gaining allies, and of course the transformation and victorious return.

The book does not sugarcoat the very real dragons that female heroes face when attempting to affect a transformation in their lives. The first dragon is herself, her own limitations that she places on herself and her own longing to not change the status quo. The second dragon is depression, something more women deal with than men and all must face when the inevitable upheaval tries their commitment to change. The third dragon is society’s branding of women to stay home and keep quiet, that they are not wanted or welcome anywhere else. The fourth dragon is prejudice, the belief that a woman cannot be a hero because she can never be expected to be something great. The fifth dragon is the dreaded superwoman title, the belief that a woman must do it all, that she can be homemaker, and have a full time career, and be a full time mother, and be a sexy wife, and, and, and until there is nothing of the woman left. The final dragon is hardship and loss.

If you read no other sentence in the review, read this one: the fifth dragon is not a female hero, it is a misogynistic ethos that is both damaging and unrealistic. That is not what being a female hero is all about. It is about creating positive change in your own life and the lives of those around you.

The only reason this book lost a star is because there was one section that, had it been closer to the front of the book, might have prevented me from being able to finish it. The section goes into the belief of spirituality, of having visions and dreams that foretell your own future, and of listening to them when making major life decisions. I am not a spiritualist and so found this advice, located towards the end and in one small section, to not gel at all with my world view. In fact, I found it so far fetched that I nearly stopped reading right there, even being so close to the end. If you are a spiritualist, more power to you, I am not denigrating the belief in such things in and of itself. My problem is that one should not use such beliefs to make major, irreversible, life choices. Which, I guess, does prove that I am denigrating them after all.

Throughout the rest of the book, the examples of heroism, positive messages, and encouragement on the quest to transform into better women was empowering and thought provoking to read about. I enjoyed the book a lot and would recommend it to women looking for examples of “female heroes” who succeeded where they now tread as a light of hope to help them, and empower them, to complete their own quests, wherever they might lead.

2 Responses to The Sound of a Silver Horn

  1. Aarti
    12:27 pm on December 1st, 2009

    The spiritualism and dreaming part would have turned me off, too. Good thing it was at the end! This sounds like a wonderfully empowering book!

  2. Akilah
    6:54 pm on December 4th, 2009

    Awesome review. Adding the book to my to-read pile.

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