The Company of Wolves, Bloodmantle and other Retellings of The Little Red Riding Hood

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in Sociocultural Context

My first contribution to the Once Upon a Time Challenge V was the novel Red Riding Hood based on the movie. As you can read here I wasn’t too impressed with it.

Meanwhile I’ve seen the movie as well. It’s a visual treat, I enjoyed it but it isn’t as good as The Company of Wolves which is much more mysterious.

The Brother Grimm tale, The Little Red Riding Hood has fascinated people since forever. The dense forest, the wolf, the red cloak are such powerful images. It is certainly one o the  fairy tales with the most retellings.

There is a nice collection by Jack Zipes called The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood. It contains a huge range starting with the tale by Charles Perrault to more contemporary versions like the  Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves. Carters story can also be found in her collection of fairytale retellings The Bloody Chamber. There are actually two versions in it. A very short sketch and one that is a bit longer.

I read Zipes book a few years ago and was impressed by how many different versions there are but there was none that I really liked. The Company of Wolves as a story is less convincing than the movie based on it. And there are other retellings in The Bloody Chamber that I liked much more.

The one re-telling that really impressed me is Tanith Lee’s Bloodmantle from her collection Forests of the Night. It can also be found in Wild Women. Tanith Lee’s stories can serve as proof that there is more to fantasy than meets the eye. If there is one writer who is capable of writing literary fantasy it is certainly Tanith Lee. Her writing is poetical, imaginative and very original. Here is what she says about Bloodmantle.

The forests of the mind are benighted, dark and dazzling places. Things wander there that shine, and burn, and bite.

Much of my writing, long and short, begins with nothing more – or less – than a feeling. The nearest I can come to describing this is to relate it to those curious unremembered memories, triggered maybe by a scent, or a certain seasonal light. Bloodmantle started in just that way, a sensation. Then quickly followed the notion of Roman Lupercal as a werewolf-finding feast. Wolves are creatures that live most definitely in my mind forests. I meet them with the primitive and often irrational wolf-fear, but also in fascinated love.

The girl in th red cloak of course most of us know. Innocence can be cruel.

In Bloodmantle the woman or girl isn’t only a victim. The roles change and there is potential to do harm in both, the man and the woman. The story isn’t very long but rich and multilayered, with a story inside of the story, a tale transmitted from days long gone, and a part that takes place in our contemporary world. The wolf is as much perpetrator as prey, half man, half animal and also ghost.

A very artful picture book Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by Daniel Egnéus came out this year. I discovered it during the Once Upon a Time Challenge. Here is Chris’ review  that contains some of the truly wonderful pictures.

You can also find something about Daniel Egnéus here


16 thoughts on “The Company of Wolves, Bloodmantle and other Retellings of The Little Red Riding Hood

  1. Bloodmantle sounds fascinating. I’ve read some of Tanith Lee’s other books (The Claidi Journals series) and really enjoyed them; I think it would be neat to read a version of Red Riding Hood where the scales are more balanced. Now, to see if I can find it at the library… =D

    • I think the whole collection “Forests of the Night” should be good. I got a used copy but only re-read Bloodmantle so far. I like her writing style. Maybe it will be easier to find the collection “Wild Women”.

  2. The Bloody Chamber short story collection is a personal favorite and was my first exposure to the storytelling skills of Angela Carter. I’ve read several of the stories in the book several times over the last few years. Company of Wolves is not my favorite in the collection either, but it is still a very good story. I was sorry to hear, from many, that the Red Riding Hood film was so bad. Of course I sort of expected it to be given when it was released, but still, one always hopes that it would have been a sleeper gem.

    • It’s an incredible collection I agree. I have read it more than once as well I just prefer Lee’s story Bloodmantle to The Company of Wolves meanwhile and I like the movie so much that the impression of the story sort of faded. The book Red Riding Hood was really not good but the movie was visually nice but had not much to offer apart from that. Nothing of the magic of Company of Wolves.

  3. I read this anthology some years ago and Lee’s story also stood out for me. I can’t believe that I’ve yet to read any of her novels! Thank you for the reminder.

    • You are welcome and I’m curious to see which novel you will pick. I read Bloodmantle years ago for the first time and was really impressed but never got around to reading her novels. I ordered The Book of the Damned, it is said to be one of her best.

  4. I’ll have to check out Lee’s story. And actually see the Company of Wolves film at some point. I imagine I’ll see Red Riding Hood on DVD this fall when I’m in the mood for that kind of thing. Getting a film for a buck from Redbox might make it a little more enjoyable. 🙂

    • That is not a bad price…From a purely visual point of view it’s nice to watch. Just stay away from the book.
      The Company of Wolves movie is special to me also because Angela Carter stars in it. I think she died not too long after that. Yes, try to fnd the Lee, it’s worth reading.

  5. I didn’t put two and two together, and think of the film as deriving from Carter’s The Company of Wolves! This sounds an intriguing book, but then I like Jack Zipes and think what he does is very interesting. Reading your post, I was thinking to myself, yes I really like retellings of fairy tales, and then it occurred to me that I’d only ever read Angela Carters. So I should try to find some different authors who work with that sort of material.

    • It was interesting reading such a varied collection of one tale. Angela Carter’s collection will probably stay my favourite as a whole.
      I would be interested to know what you think of Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch. I haven’t finished yet but find it highly fascinating. Also the way she tells the tales. It’s a bit like Schnitzler’s play Der Reigen. In every fairy tale you see one person that was introduced in the one before as if they were passing on bits of the tale and forming one long chain… They are very feminist retellings.

  6. I had a class where we had to pick retellings of fairy tales and although I never read any Little Red Riding Hood books, my friend picked the film Freeway (1996) because she said it was like Little Red. I think its really edgy though. I’d like to try Tanith Lee’s books is she anything like Juliet Marillier?

    • I’ll have to look up that movie. I really like Juliet Marillier but you can’t compare them. Tanith Lee is much darker. I also think in many of her books sexuality in different forms is very important. Lee isn’t someone who writes fairy tales and if, like in this case, it has a really dark undertone.

  7. I failed miserably with this challenge I’m afraid. My book remains by my bedside only partially read–I do hope to finish it but won’t do so by next week I think. I have read The Bloody Chamber, however, for a previous challenge and agree it is very good. It’s been ages since I’ve read any proper fairy tales or retellings–Bloodmantle sounds very good.

    • I think there is not much you can do if you don’t particularly like a genre. But if you liked Angela Carter, then you should just try and read more literary fantasy. Tanith Lee is a good choice. Her writing is quite complex. And short stories is always a good choice. I read a lot of good reviews of the book you are reading but I have no idea whether I would like it.

  8. I like that excerpt/teaser…you are right…it is very poetic.

    Have I ever told you that I learned German once? Only the basic…and it stopped because I was too busy. I wish I can coontinue it again because I want to read a book given by my friend called 50 deutsche Kurzgeschichten der Gegenwart, she said the language is quite easy and it is about fairy tale

    • I didn’t know that. If you only want to read it and not speak it you might learn it. There are quite a few words that are similar in English and German. The bad part with German is the structure of the sentence. That can be very confusing at first and it is decidedly much more difficult than English. If you enjoyed it , why not. You would have to come to Europe to practice. 🙂

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