“Iron Jane” is the new project I am working on.
I am unsure if this will be a novella or a full novel; the concept revolves around the fairy tale of Iron John, but with a twist: the protagonist will feature a main character who transitions from female to male, and the character commonly known as Iron John will be female, a woman called Iron Jane. While in many ways a retelling of the familiar tale, I hope to reinvent it and make it my own.
While delving into the brainstorm process, I explored the book by Robert Bly called Iron John, in which he speculates the nature of the Grimm fairy tale is actually a story meant to detail important phases in a man’s life. I thought his premise was fascinating and went on to read it, and was quite struck by his thesis. While in some ways it is dated — published in 1990 — and is narrow in as much as there’s no exploration of queer viewpoint present — I felt keenly Bly was onto something.
The original Grimm had always been a favorite of mine. As a girl growing up and thence into womanhood, male figures were mostly absent, and when they weren’t absent, they were usually involved in abuse relationships with my mother. As a result, I always felt keenly the absence of that benevolent archetypal father figure, and finding Iron John, I knew I had struck upon something important, for many of the same reasons Bly brings it to light in his brilliant, if sometimes flawed, examination of the myth. There is a particular and marked absence of fathers and mentors in the culture, a lack of men in their role, not as militant, aggressive, martial types but as caring, artistic, strong, guiding, and in particular, wise roles that set help set examples for communities around them. Instead, it would seem our modern day is littered with examples of men who have lost their way and in their confusion, exert too much authority and control over other women and their sexuality and creative spirit, or simply fail to do the work of kindness or strength, and discard responsibilities (i.e. fatherhood, service, wisdom). We have lost that wild man who stewards the earth, and the earth by extension representing the holy feminine and the soul itself. Look by contrast at the environmental destruction, the hyper-masculine gun culture, and the rape culture, showcasing masculinity in its worst states. We are starved of nurturing mothers, and of caring fathers.
I don’t think there’s a whole lot of women who would say “yes, Iron John speaks to me” but as someone who spent many years searching for that father figure to fill the emptiness in her life, I think it’s worth exploring. It is a connection to my male-self, as well; and touches on a topic I often don’t see discussed, the trans viewpoint. While the world is moving to greater inclusion on that subject, I often feel transmen are persistently left behind, and I wanted to delve deeper into what a bildungsroman modeled off of Iron John might look like — and this shall be a gender-swapped Iron Jane, with the central character of the prince showcasing a heroic trans-character.
Special thanks to Mairin-Taj Caya for giving me permission to share these images. Visit her website, sourced with the images as well, at www.mairintajcaya.com. Copyright belongs to her. If you’re interested in using them, respect the artist and contact her for permission, as I am not the owner.