Angela Carter’s anthology of short stories based on fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber, was published in 1979 and caused great controversy around the topic of feminism. In this article, Carter stated that her intention ‘was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories and to use it as the beginnings of new stories.’ With this is mind, when reading her two stories inspired by Little Red Riding Hood it is clear that she took some very specific content from this tale. According to Carter, there is still much it can teach us. Instead of a tale of warning, she has made it into a tale of transformation. The content she took from Little Red Riding Hood is awareness; more specifically adolescent and sexual awareness.
Read it here.
The Red Riding Hood character is sent to her grandmother’s house with food as per, only when she encounters the wolf, who tries to kill her instantly, she attacks it with a knife and hacks off one of its paws. Clearly she is not the standard, innocent child of Perrault’s and the Grimm’s versions. The passive female image does not apply to her.
At the end when she discovers the wolf is actually grandmother in disguise, the grandmother is killed by the villagers. The previously mentioned superstitions foreshadow this, making the ending rather sinister. Is the grandmother actually a werewolf, or is she just a victim of superstition and paranoia? Her death is irrevocable; there is no woodcutter to rescue her. So despite Red Riding Hood surviving and happily moving into grandmother’s old house, the ending isn’t completely joyful.
The Company of Wolves
Read it here.
This story contains another active protagonist, although of a different kind to the one seen in ‘The Werewolf.’ This girl’s power comes from seduction. She is calm, confident, and in control. From the moment she meets the wolf, she is wise to his game and freely begins to play it. When he bets her a kiss that he will make it to grandmother’s house before her she purposely dawdles, wanting him to win. Of course he does, and when she enters the house she shows no fear or grief over her dead grandmother. Like in ‘The Werewolf,’ the grandmother’s death is symbolic of the girl moving out of childhood, where she is watched over by her elders, and becoming her own person.
Showing no grief for grandmother is also a defence mechanism for survival. Grief would be of no use to her, so she doesn’t indulge in it. Instead, she sedately removes her clothes, implying that she is thrilled by the danger she is in. This is furthered by her undressing the wolf-man. She embraces the sexual experience, conveying the message that you shouldn’t be afraid of sexuality. Her laughter is the twist, the moment of realisation. The wolf-man says he wants to eat her, but ‘she knew she was nobody’s meat.’ Is is then apparent that she has been playing with him all along, revealing her to be cunning.
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