If only Angela Carter had written a werewolf novel. She intended to – until cancer took her from us on February 16th 1992. Salmon Rushdie, a personal friend of Angela Carter’s wrote: ‘To watch The Company of Wolves, the film Angela Carter made with Neil Jordan, weaving together several of her wolf-narratives, is to long for the full-scale wolf-novel she never wrote.’
Angela Carter worked with director Neil Jordan on the script for the film. The Company of Wolves. Whilst based upon the short story of the same name from The Bloody Chamber, the plot of the film bears a resemblance to Angela Carter’s 1980 adaptation of The Company of Wolves radio play, which introduced such elements as the additional stories being told within the narrative by the characters themselves, such as Granny.
In an L.A. Weekly interview, Neil Jordan said: “In a normal film you have a story with different movements that program, develop, go a little bit off the trunk, come back, and end. In this film, the different movements of the plot are actually separate stories. You start with an introduction and then move into different stories that relate to the main theme, all building to the fairy tale that everybody knows. The opening element of the dreamer gave us the freedom to move from story to story.”
The original screenplay (as presented in The Curious Room) also featured an additional story being told by the huntsman, a very different final tale by Rosaleen (reminiscent of Carter’s Peter and the Wolf from her collection Black Venus) and a scene set in a church with an animal congregation.
Circuses, fairgrounds, freaks, mannequins, wolves, shape-shifters, Erl-kings, murderers, ghost trains, toyshops, castles, fairy tales, myths, legends, enchanted woods and mysterious forests – these are Angela Carter’s literary currency. In many ways she’s an English female version of Ray Bradbury; her writing is infused with a sense of wonder; a bitter-sweet nostalgia for what never was, and an ability to recast the modern as the mythological.
Carter’s book, The Bloody Chamber is packed with twisted, post-modern fairy tales, and contains enough howling wolves, spooky forests, haunted castles, mountain paths, psychopaths, woodcutters and shape-shifters to fill a book of Transylvanian folk tales. And every story has a powerful message that is delivered in an entertaining way. Serious stuff then, but also funny, tragic, comic, insightful, profound, hilarious, unsettling and powerful.
Angela Carter’s other books, particularly Nights at the Circus, Wise Children, Black Venus, Fireworks, and The Magic Toyshop are exceptional works. Her radio plays, collected as Come Unto These Yellow Sands are worth reading too.
Here’s a list of Angela Carter’s books:
Shadow Dance (1965) – a novel
The Magic Toyshop (1967) – a novel
Several Perceptions (1968) – a novel
Heroes and Villains (1969) – a novel
Love (1971) – a novel
The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman (1972) – a novel
Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974) – short stories
The Passion of New Eve (1977) – a novel
Comic and Curious Cats (1979) – children’s story
The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (1979)
The Bloody Chamber (1979) – short stories
Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings (1982) – essays
Come Unto These Yellow Sands: Four Radio Plays (1985)
Black Venus (1985) – short stories
Nights at the Circus (1985) – a novel
Wise Children (1991) – a novel
Expletives Deleted (1992) – essays
The Virago Book of Fairy tales (Editor) (1992)
The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (Editor) (1992)
Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (Editor) 1993)
American Ghosts and Old World Wonders (1993) – short stories
Burning Your Boats: Collected Short Stories (1995)
Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings (1996)
The Curious Room: Collected Dramatic Works (1997)
Sea-Cat and King Dragon (2000) – children’s story
The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (Translator) (2008)
Unicorn: The Poetry of Angela Carter (2015)
Here is a short film (by R J Dent) about the works of Angela Carter:
Angela Carter’s writing, like Anna Kavan’s, does not fit into an easy category. Hers is a unique voice, one that should be heard/read by more people. Start with The Company of Wolves and go on from there. Angela Carter’s books are worth reading: she’ll take you on a long, strange, and wonderful trip.
Angela Carter’s books are available at:
Angela Carter’s Lycanthropy
Copyright © R J Dent (2013)