Myths and Stories for Midlife and Beyond

Coming in October, 2024


OCTOBER 3 – Hardback, e-book and audiobook: Virago Press (an imprint of Little, Brown)

OCTOBER 8 – North American trade paperback: New World Library

Translation rights enquiries to Virago Press: [email protected]

All other rights enquiries to my agent: [email protected]

Publicity queries (UK) to [email protected]

Publicity enquiries (US) to [email protected]

‘The primary purpose of this collection is to reenchant a time of life which can seem dreary, and which most of us approach with trepidation. In spite of the evident challenges of midlife, menopause and the decades which follow, more and more mature women today are looking for ways to reimagine and reclaim the power of the second half of life. We’re all looking to become Wise Women, each in our own unique way. This book re-members the beautiful, lost fragments of our rich European traditions, and offers ideas for reweaving them into the fabric of a more meaningful and exhilarating everyday.’

Over the last five or six years, I’ve undertaken a long and joyous research project to dig out and analyse stories about older women in European folklore. Much to my delight, I unearthed a surprising number of stories populated by a diverse range of older women who hold the protagonist’s fate in the palm of their gnarly old hands, who see the bigger picture (and probably were the ones who painted it in the first place) or who have the last laugh.

My last book, Hagitude, was focused on the distinctive archetypal characteristics of a few of these women, but I didn’t have room to tell their stories in full, or to write about the entire, lavish array of enchanting characters I’d discovered. I conceived of Wise Women so that, for this first time, this large body of elder-woman folklore might be brought together in a book. Drawing on many decades as a psychologist as well as a folklorist and mythologist, for each of the 32 stories collected in the book, there’s a commentary which offers ideas about how it might inform and inspire older women today.

If you’re hungry for even more wise women, come and join my community on Substack where in October, for paid subscribers, there will 4 or 5 additional stories I’ve unearthed which complement those I collected for Wise Women (but which don’t appear in it or anywhere else) along with my commentaries.


An inspiring and beautifully written collection of ancient stories retold to celebrate older women.

From early childhood, we learn about the world and its possibilities through myths and fairy tales. The heroines, though, tend to be young, golden-haired princesses, and the evil-doers often older women: either wicked witches or unforgiving matriarchs. But from midlife onwards, women today are searching for positive versions of themselves, and this dazzling array of not-to-be-messed-with older characters provides them. They outwit monsters, test and mentor younger heroines, embody the cycles and seasons of the earth, weave the world into being – and almost always have the last laugh.

Many years of research have gone into this new gathering of ungainly giantesses, sequin-strewn fairy godmothers, misunderstood witches, fierce grandmothers, hairy-chinned hags and craggy crones. These wise women manifest their wisdom in different ways, and so offer us inspiration for how we too can walk boldly and live authentically in the second half of life.

Praise for Wise Women

‘A collection of stories retold to celebrate the power of women in the second, golden half of their lives. Begone crones, witches and hags – here, the old ways of thinking are cast aside for inspiration, boldness and fierceness.’
The Bookseller (category highlight)

The glorious possibility that we might age and ripen, age and grow greater, age and be-come, while also accepting that we will age and die – this is what I have come to expect from Sharon Blackie’s expansive work’
– Stella Duffy, author of The Room of Lost Things

‘Nestled in insightful notes, this collection turns the spotlight on older women, celebrating their perspicacity and clout with the flair of a seasoned Broadway performance. This will be a smash-hit of a show starring mature and canny women in its second and third acts!  Read it, absorb it, treasure it!’
– Shahrukh Husain, author of The Virago Book of Witches

‘This rich curation re-iterates the truth that women in midlife – and beyond – are a vital source of wisdom. Reading them ignited a fire in my belly!’
– Julia Bueno, author of Everyone’s a Critic

‘The book I’ve been longing for. I immediately want to give it to all my woman friends. It is so important and Sharon Blackie is exactly the right inspirational person to bring this topic and these new stories of old women to the culture’
– Jill Dawson, author of The Bewitching

‘A fascinating collection of female myths and legends that read like both dreams and nightmares’
– Sara Sheridan, author of The Fair Botanists

‘I adored Wise Women – this is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle when it comes to reframing the narrative in our culture about the role of older females. Sharon Blackie has unearthed the tales we Queenagers need to see what we can be and become as we age. Essential reading.’
– Eleanor Mills, founder of Noon.org.uk

READ an extract from my introduction to wise women

‘The stories which are retold in this book, based on originals scattered throughout several European traditions, are stories in which older women positively dazzle. In bringing together these ungainly giantesses, glamorous fairy godmothers, misunderstood witches, fierce grandmothers and perspicacious wise women, my aim was both to challenge and change the current cultural discourse around ageing – to help older women to transform themselves, and live and tell their own stories in their own unique way.’

– from the Introduction


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