The other day I read a short story as part of my Literary Theory module for Uni. The module itself is a bit strenuous, but anyway I digress. The piece was “The Company of Wolves,” written by Angela Carter and published in her collection, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979). I loved it instantly. In the story itself, she discusses myths and legends about wolves in the forest and men turning into werewolves.
Her description of the shadows and sounds of the night are evocative and provides us with an instant, eerie atmosphere. What lurks in the shadows is more terrifying than witches or goblins or ogres. She warns that if you see those luminous eyes in the darkness then you better run for your life! The first part of the story is a sort of survival guide. Some rules to live by are as follows:
- Children must carry knives while they tend to sheep.
- Hunters must be learn’ed in the art of setting traps.
- One mustn’t stray from the path in forests.
She provides us with mini-stories in order to warn us about the tell-tale signs of lycanthropy. An example of this is a naked man in the forest. The man, of course, must strip naked before becoming a wolf.
A werewolf can be discerned from a common wolf by it’s eyes. The transformation from a man to werewolf does not change his eyes. In this way we can tell if a werewolf is walking among us by day.
A werewolf in human form will also have the legs and genitals of a wolf while having the torso of a man. His heart will also be that of a wolf’s.
In the second part of the story, she puts a twist on the classic tale of “Little Red Riding Hood.” In the fairytale, the girl is portrayed as a little girl who eventually gets saved by the hunters. In this story however, the events unfold differently. So in the story, Red walks through the forest to Granny’s house. She meets a handsome young fellow during her travels. At first, she is weary about giving him the basket with her knife, but with his rifle he assures her he will protect her. So on they go until they are about half an hour away. He knows of a short cut that will get them there in 15 minutes, but she knows she musn’t stray from the path. He tells her if he arrives before her she owes him a kiss.
From here it’s obvious what happens. Our strapping young lad arrives first, gobbles up Granny and disguises himself as her. In comes Little Red all innocent and such (or so it seems). She notices the big claws, arms and teeth. The werewolf then reveals himself. Funnily enough, Red isn’t afraid. Instead she starts stripping. The little minx!! She throws her clothes into the fire and tears open the wolf’s shirt, burning it too. He is now be stuck in wolf form forever( burning his clothes makes it permanent). Then she climbs into bed with the wolf and sleeps with it, fair play Red. I knew you had it in you! Sounds like my kind of gal. She submits to it’s power as she sleeps “between the paws of the tender wolf.”
I loved the story. I don’t know what it has to do with what I’m studying, which is Plato and Aristotle’s discussion of art and it’s representation of the truth…ehh yeah whatever. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it was how beauty doesn’t necessarily mean goodness. In society people have a tendency to associate beauty with other virtues like companionship, intelligence, etc.
In the story, the handsome young devil was in fact evil. He killed people but Red still fell for him. Now there is the question of whether she just slept with him to save her life. That would reiterate the point that she’s quite the dark horse. Maybe she slit the wolf’s throat as soon as he fell asleep, who knows? But I don’t know, I like the idea of her falling for an evil being. She is so blinded by lust that she falls into bed with him, consumed by his beauty.
This idea is really interesting. If someone was so beautiful, would you fall for them. Would you lose yourself to your lust? Just surrender to your sensations? I mean of course, the devil is beautiful. He doesn’t appear as an unattractive, raggedy, old man. Why would he? He wouldn’t be able to trick you. No, he’s handsome, intoxicating and dangerously charming.
Now the picture to the left is some random guy. He’s pretty hot and he could be dangerous. But I wouldn’t say no to that! We all have better judgement but sometimes our knees buckle, our heart skips a beat, we forget to breathe. And that’s when the sneaky devil has you. He’s got you in his grasp, and why struggle you ask yourself? Just go with it. It can be dangerous, a man like that can do damage. It can leave you brokenhearted, or in Red’s case; in the paws of the wolf.
While I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a poem I once wrote. In the poem I fall for the Devil, sleep with him and he turns me into a wolf. I become his eternal servant. Here it is:
Dancing With The Devil
The Devil tempted me and nonetheless tricked me.
I threw caution to the wind.
I paid homage to him; his body, his soul.
A man if such power and beauty.
Arms like vice grips; so thick and full.
His hot breath set me on fire.
The aroma of his skin radiated from him.
Bluest of eyes could destroy the universe with a blink.
He whispered his sweet profanities in my ear.
I relinquished my secrets.
I let myself go; becoming his beast.
Hands gripped necks.
He took me and destroyed my defenses.
My disposition shattered; my being was torn away.
Civilisation crumbled, convention died, as I became anew.
The beast had awakened.
I howled in his favour; growing fangs, claws and fur.
I was his servant, his protector, and I submitted to his almighty glory.
Of course there is something so amazing about pure sensuality, and if I was in the situation in the poem, I don’t know if I’d have the strength not to submit. We just have to try and use our better judgments and not be tricked.
“The Company of Wolves” is available to read here: http://www.litgothic.com/PDFOther/carter_company_wolves.pdf