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The Company of Wolves

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Company of Wolves” (1979) by Angela Carter. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it. 

Angela Carter (1940-1992) was an English writer and journalist. She is known for her magical realism and feminist approach, and for the book The Bloody Chamber. Many of Carter’s stories are reinventions of classic folk tales. The short story “The Company of Wolves” has been adapted for film in 1984.

Extract

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Social setting

The short story’s social setting explores concepts such as feminism and patriarchy

The story presents a feminist angle to the traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood because of its ending. Instead of submitting to the werewolf and becoming his next victim, the girl takes matters into her own hands and calculates her moves so as to stay alive. One interpretation of the story is that she uses her sexuality to seduce and manipulate the werewolf, therefore challenging gender roles and becoming the dominant one in their relationship. The scene where the werewolf “will lay his fearful head on her lap” (p. 6, l. 25) suggests that she is in charge and that she does not let the werewolf choose for her. 

Another interpretation of the story suggests that the girl’s decision is influenced by the patriarchal and male-dominated society she lives in. This interpretation suggests that the girl’s choice to offer herself to the werewolf is not a free choice: “since the fear did her no good, she ceased to be afraid” (p. 5, ll. 44-45). After she realizes she is “in danger of death” (p. 5, l. 26), her next moves can be interpreted as a sacrifice of her innocent self. The word “must” in “the blood she must spill” (p. 5, l. 32) hints that losing her virginity to the werewolf is not a free choice, but a sacrifice for self-preservation. Therefore, the girl can be seen as a victim of the werewolf’s male power. 

 

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The Company of Wolves

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