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“The Company of Wolves” is setup in the dead of winter in some very dark and deep woods. This very cold period is characterized by severe lack of food and supplies. Therefore, vicious creatures such as the wolf become ruthless in the mountainous terrains. This piece “The Company of the Wolves” is a feminist and gothic retelling of the ancient tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” The story depicts the werewolf as a sexual predator which symbolizes desire and danger. It also displays acquisition of new sexual powers by a young girl. This symbolizes canal desire. The story is a little bit different from the original tale in which the girl and her grandmother are saved from the jaws of a wolf by a passerby. However, in this newer version, the girl who is able to employ sexual powers survives but the grandmother dies. Female sexuality is highly endorsed in this tale as the only savior to cruelties of life faced by women.
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Numerous warnings have been issued to the sweet little girl concerning the forest and its inhabitants, particularly the wolves. She is well aware of the danger involved if anyone tries to pass through the forest unaccompanied. It is no wonder she packs a well sharpened knife together with other gifts she plans on taking to her grandmother in her basket. There is vast use of symbolism. This act represents caution. The author’s strategy comprises of suggesting supernatural atmosphere while incorporating a natural setting. This tactic deforms the reality but also maintains familiar surroundings to the reader. Events and characters are easily recognizable and reasonable. However, the explanations are not clear or logical. Some characters ‘fade’ out leaving the reader hanging and in suspense. For example, the girl’s mother who is quite instrumental in her growth fades away and never gets to experience the changed girl. So does the father. There also exists no proper and detailed analysis of some of the characters; in fact, the author has only managed to bring the character traits of the little girl who is the main protagonist. She is shown to be brave, innocent and charismatic. Angela Carter says “She is the prettiest and youngest of her family”. Other authors like Perrault describe her as the prettiest girl that was ever seen. Grimm also describes her as the little girl who everyone loved.
The girl has strayed despite stern warnings from her mother. It is quite an irony how despite being the issuer of the warnings, the mother lets her go alone. “Her father might forbid her, if he was at home, but he is away”. Therefore this action of the mother symbolizes preparedness. She is preparing her for the transformation ahead. “Don’t stray from the path”, her mother had said. The author describes how she takes the longer route in the hope of losing the bet and getting kissed by the handsome werewolf whom she thinks to be handsome and a good company. The girl is sexually attracted to him. She thereby strays in her path and also in the moral values instilled by her parents and the society. In this piece “The Company of Wolves” straying is symbolic of corruption of morals. According to the stories she had heard, the girl is well aware of the consequences befalling those who stray. They are supposedly met by a dark ugly fate. At first the girl is portrayed as naïve and innocent. She trusts everybody and believes none can harm her. The mask of innocence and naivety however starts to change gradually as the author begins to describe her as a woman. “Her breasts have just begun to swell; her hair is like lint... She is an unbroken egg; she is a sealed vessel; she has inside her a magic space the entrance to which is shut tight with a plug of membrane; she is a closed system; she does not know how to shiver. She has her knife and she is afraid of nothing.” It’s therefore clear that she knows what awaits her and is ready to kiss a handsome boy she just met on her way to her ailing grandmother. Lust is evident in this scene. It is so strong that she lets the boy carry her basket and her weapon in it. In this case innocence is questionable. Nothing is what it seems anymore. Bade fate to the reader may mean werewolves in the woods or rapists but these connote many things like death, sexual torture or growth in knowledge. Towards the end she is seen to having known the difference between lust and sex.
Another dominant theme is feminism. The author portrays the woman as a superior being who can fight all odds of life with the use of sexual power and prowess. Angela Carter in her personal experience learnt what it is like to be a woman in the society. Running away from her husband in Britain to work in a bar in Tokyo and writing in her free time taught her how to choose the right place to direct her desire. She displays a woman who can combine reason with feeling to equal degrees. This is the case of the girl in the short story who uses her desire for sex and urge to rescue herself and also tame the vicious werewolf. She does not display signs of emotion, affection, pity or sympathy towards herself or the dead grandmother but acts maturely and with prowess to get out of the dangerous situation. The girl had foolishly trusted the lonely hunter and enjoyed his company in the dark woods. She later finds out that the handsome hunter was indeed a werewolf. This therefore means that she cannot depend on any person for help or rescue. However, she does not care. She is determined, ready and brave enough to face the wolf. She seduces the wolf and undergoes some kind of ritual or ceremony (with other wolves howling outside as witnesses) to mark change. She had been deflowered. The ferocious, dangerous beast had fallen fool of her cleverness, “See! Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.” She emerges victorious. The author implies that triumph should be achieved by all women no matter how slim the chance of survival might be.
In conclusion, the once pretty, naïve, and innocent girl has changed. She strayed from the path and encountered dark fate. This action might have taken her to her death but she risked it anyway to get what she wanted and needed; sex, knowledge and most of all power. But she knew what to do as she is changed. She was transforming into a young woman from a naïve virgin. Preparations from her dear grandmother and mother made her ready for the world. She desired change and when it finally came, she embraced it. She conquered all odds.