Growing Strong : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 002

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.


I had to look up what a bantling was.

It’s “a very young child.”

Emerson wants us to throw this child on the rocks, have them be nourished by a wolf, and survive the most difficult time of the year with a hawk and a fox.

WTF Ralph Waldo… Dr. Spock would not have approved.

But I don’t think Emerson is giving parenting advice here. Self-Reliance is about us, and how we can live our best lives. I think that the “child” he’s talking about is that part of ourselves that needs to grow up.

It took me some time to digest this passage. It’s violent nature made me think of David Goggins’ autobiography/self-help bestseller, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, which is the epitome of “No Pain No Gain.”

Maybe a better way to put it is “Chase after pain in order to gain.” Don’t just allow it – chase it. Cast the bantling on purpose. Find a she wolf and grow with it – on purpose. Dive at your targets like a hawk, and use your wits like a fox.

Another idea that came to mind is – “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” That’s from G. Michael Hopf (according to Goodreads)

In my culture, it seems like the strong men of the past (like Emerson) created some really goods times for a lot of us (not all, but we’re working on that.) Ease, comfort, and prosperity were handed to so many of us (myself included) that we became weak… myself included.

Weak like little bantlings. Myself included.

I don’t want to be that anymore. I’m slowly learning to cast my inner bantling and get a little bit better every day. Well, not every day (it still needs work), but more days than not.

Learn with me.

Learn to Bring It On.


Learn to take the path of most resistance.


Maybe Emerson didn’t mean any of this – I’m not enough of a scholar to know.

But I do know that I want to become one of those strong people who create good times – and maybe even help in breaking the cycle of creating weak people.

I also hope that others will join me. But I can’t control that – it’s about Self-Reliance, and all I can do is live my own path.

Thoughts? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

Video credits: Brian Johnson and Joshua Fauske

The whole Self-Reliance series can be found here.


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