Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves Analysis
The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter is a short story from her collection The Bloody Chamber published in 1979 that was made into the 1984 film called, surprisingly, The Company of Wolves, by Neil Jordan and starring, amongst others, Angela Lansbury.
In summary, the story is a version of the Little Red Riding Hood folk story or fairy tale but with a modern, possibly feminist, certainly gothic twist. It’s no secret that it involves werewolves, the threatening kind, not the Kindle book kind, of which no more shall be mentioned. There is also a grandmother who gets eaten. A simmering of a young girl’s sexual awakening underlies Angela Carter’s story, but it’s all done in the best possible taste (unlike the Kindle werewolf books of which I promised I would say nothing)
The story begins by setting up the milieu: a peasant community in a northern European forest that struggles to survive in the winter and has to guard itself against the common predators. Not only are there common predators, but there are werewolves too, which are the worst combination of the savage wolf and the savage man . The worst wolves are hairy on the inside.
The Little Red Riding Hood avatar, a cocky, spoiled young girl, goes walking through the dangerous wood. She is savvy enough to carry a knife and keep to the path. Unlike in the myth of Little Red Riding Hood, where the Huntsman and the Wolf are separate figures, in this story they are one.
The girl is on the cusp of womanhood but still intact. Even so she has an interest in such things as kissing. She has a bet with the Huntsman about who will arrive first at Granny’s cottage. If she loses, she has to give him a kiss so she dawdles so that she will deliberately lose.
He is a hungry wolf and already can not resist snacking on his pheasant. The old granny is no match for him. An old woman at the edge of death, she cannot seduce him so he eats her.
It is clear that his initial interest in all these women is culinary, not sexual: he wants to eat them only.
Red Riding Hood arrives next. She soon guesses that this is the wolf and that he has eaten her granny and that she is in real danger of him doing the same to her.
Summary of The Ending Of The Company of Wolves
I think Carter had three options here:
- 1. Little Red Riding Hood as weak woman victim who has to be saved by a man. As someone writing feminist literature, it’s not surprising Carter didn’t choose this.
- 2. An all men are evil feminist version where the woman kills the wolf herself
- 3. Orr the far better ending she did choose. Our Little Red Riding Hood is brave and competent and she knows the power she has over werewolves, which is the power she has over the male part of the beast. She knew she was no one’s meat and with her seduction, she charms the violence of the male through the realisation and use of her power as a woman. And so the beast is tamed through the Savage Wedding
In this vision, the best relationship between man and woman is one of partnership, and that violence has no place within their loving and physical relationship.
However, violence might be needed outside the home, where it is proper to protect the people and the community.
#AngelaLansbury #NeilJordan #LittleRedRidingHood