The Crane Wife.

There was a poor weaver who finally had so little that he could not even afford to buy thread for the loom. In despair he goes out into the woods to look for food where he finds an injured crane. He takes it home and nurses it back to health with what little he has left.

After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. His new wife offers to weave silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her at the loom.

The cloth is wonderous.

So they sell the mysterious silk at a great price and live a comfortable life. But he soon makes her weave more and more. The house rattles and shakes with the shuttling of the loom. He fails to notice his wife’s declining health. His greed increases. His curiosity and wanting…

to know..

get the better of him.

Eventually he peeks in to see what she is doing to make the amazing silk. He is shocked to find the crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom.

The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.


Like the western version of this story, ‘the Elves and the Shoemaker’, where the cobbler is likewise down to his last, at the end of his teather, but receives magical help from elves who make the finest shoes…

but make off when the people involved want to know to much.

Curiosity does not kill the cat.

Greed and narcissistic entitlement do that.

The weaver is not simply satisfying a whim, he’s betrayed a trust…

but why should the rule apply to him?

Narcissism is not at all the popularly construed puffing up of the ego, like some grandiose bag of wind though it can look like that..

Nature abhors a vacuum and what takes residence is not always home grown. We naturally take in the psychic undercurrents of family life along which pathways through the under-brush can run forced traffic.

This is why the term ‘Symbiotic Omnipotence’ (M. Kahn) is so useful in understanding narcissistic entitlement. The narcissist is one end of an invisible double act with an intrusive parent who trades off rental space in the child for the greater challenge of living their own life.

This smudgy ‘bond’ creates..

”an imbalance in the articulation  of the total ego-capacities. Mother’s selective sponsoring leads to (ego) retardation.” M. Kahn.

I an’ me not talking.

Jung gives the example of a girl from his village who became a prostitute. He knew the family scenario and helped her to see that she was living out the unconscious life of her profoundly prudish parents. She was being used as a vessel for the sexual shame in the family.

The girl got a a more ordinary job.

The internalised collusive parent lets us off the hook in respect of ordinary standards of behaviour. So the narcissist is really a kind of Gollem. Originally the Gollem were fashioned out of clay and made to do their master’s secret bidding. For all the cold clay of Narcissism the life being lived is not their own.

And so the peeking weaver is both above the law and a slave to the unmediated passions and restless spirits of a destiny not quite his own and out to spoil his experience.

He gets off lightly.

When Acteon  intrudes on Diana’s bath in Greek mythology she turns him into a stag and has his hounds tear him apart.

When Hippomenes ‘knows’ Atalanta in the sacred crypt the furious goddess Cybele..

”considered plunging both as they copulated into Styx, the tar pit of bubbling hell.

But that seemed insufficient to her.

Instead she dropped maned hides over their sweating backs. Hardened and hooked their clutching fingers into talons…

..their loathsome fangs obedient only to the bridle-bits of Cybele.” T Hughes.

Psyche fares slightly better when she intrudes upon the secret of Eros’ face whom she’s been forbidden to see.

Eros wakes from a wounding drop of hot oil from Psyche’s lamp and immediately leaves foreover…

a lover’s tiff that leads to much questing….

strangely rooted in the mud of betrayal and fear.

M L von Franz makes the brilliant observation that there is something lurking in all this, ‘wanting to know’.

”The real motive in this rational depreciation is fear.” M L von Franz.

And given all the gods and giant snakes and tentacled nightmares lurking in the  swamplands of  Psyche its hardly surprising..

In fact what do you expect…?

”Civilised man reacts to new ideas by errecting psychological barriers to protect himself from the shock of facing something new.” CG Jung.

and the stab of fear is the challenge, not just to your pride but to your ontological security. The new thing does not just add to your house..

it can tear it down.

And so the weaver sabotages his own good fortune in order to be rid of the uncanny running through his life, the mysterious and unknowable Other.

Out of fear and inner poverty of spirit he resorts to action designed to depersonalise and diminish, rather than be humbled by gratitude. The peeking is a defensive means to an end.

”Enlightenment is a destructive process. It is a crumbling away of untruth, seeing through the facade of pretense, the eradication of everything we imagine to be true.” Adyashanti

To be attended by your creative muse is to be riddled with perplexity, chaos and unknowing.

It’ll be ok.

The house can be rebuilt.


Published by


Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

Leave a Reply