We have grown up listening to fairytales and they been transmitted to later generations that they are still alive today. However, they have been made upside down in meaning, moral values, and form. They do not look like the tales we were told before, as they are deconstructed and re-written in the contemporary age. Upon the rise of postmodernist art in the second half of the 20th century, everything has been re-told and re-made in art, literature, and above all, in life. Therefore, the old values and moral messages in the tales are teased by postmodernist writers. Therefore, Angela Carter’s short story collection named “The Bloody Chamber” (1979) gives us a chance to enjoy the rewritten versions of the fairytales and help us re-think of the childhood tales. For example, the tale in the collection called “The Company of the Wolves” is based on the “Little Red Riding Hood” and, it particularly teases the stereotypical representations of women by society. So the story goes unfamiliar to us:
The narrator starts to tell about how dangerous a wolf can be. It is hungry all the time and it looks out for meat because it is a carnivore. In the following lines, the story begins to tell about the little girl with her red shawl (originally Little Red Riding Hood), who is on the way to her granny who lives two hours away. It is also mentioned that the little girl has become an adolescent, not a child anymore. She is fearless and roams into the forest freely which is odd because in the original version of the story we are told just the opposite. In addition to these, the wolf is represented not as an enemy but as a company in the rewritten version. Therefore, unlike the traditional story, the girl bumps into a man in the forest, who is charmingly smiling at her and they easily become friends while they accompany each other on the way to her grandmother. We are told that he is attracted to her. Since she has become adolescent, her sexual instinct comes out. Later on, they make a deal, which makes the girl want him to win. Because if he gets into grandmother’s house before her, she will kiss him. Then, we learn that the man, who is, in fact, the werewolf, wins the deal and she kisses him After he eats the grandmother as it is in the original story, the werewolf and the girl make love and sleep together because she cannot run away from the house as it has already been surrounded by wolves. We are not told whether the girl is content sleeping with a werewolf or not. But we are told that the story ends “in the paws of the tender wolf”.
Throughout the story, there is an emphasis on destroying the gender roles of patriarchal perception. There are hidden meanings in the tale to find out that the story has been reversed into a story to be read by adults, not by kids. In this regard, if we look at it from a feminist point of view, the author turns the familiar perspective of the story into an unfamiliar one that the little girl makes love with the wolf after he swallows the grandmother.
To conclude my words, as we do not expect the little girl to sleep with the hideous werewolf, the readers are perplexed by this unconventional, reverse, and unexpected ending of the story. It also cannot be denied that Carter not only mocks the conventional values but also criticizes them with her ironic tone throughout the story. Such rewritings of the universal tales help us gain critical perception while reading and make us explore their secret meanings. Better read them one more time as adults!
For more, let’s check our other articles!