of Wolves
 Last modified: May 1, 2009

The Company of Wolves
The movie: "The Company of Wolves" (1984) takes you into the disturbing world of a young girl's "imagination" where wolves run wild and witches cast spells.  The ethereal setting develops into a Freudian nightmare, explaining adolescence through a twisted reenactment of "Little Red Riding Hood."  Definitely one of the strangest movies made - a strangeness that alienates itself from high ratings but guaranteeing it a top place as a "cult" classic.  It successfully combines the complexity of written literature with the visual symbolism of film.  But, the depth of abstract ideas it delivers come at the cost of fluent comprehension.  Many of the ideas in the film require the complete understanding of the smallest detail.  This movie requires viewers to actively connect ideas from each scene and is not suitable for those only prepared to watch a superficial horror flick. This page: answers questions you will ask by the end of the movie.

Warning: Watch the movie before reading! The movie prompts you to think; here, I give answers away.

Note: Feel free to use any part of the page for papers, research, you're own twisted purposes, etc.  Feel free to quote any part of the page.

What happens at the end?:  We see Rosaleen's dream world collide into the real dreaming-Rosaleen's world.  The last series of events catch us off guard; her fate appears open and uncertain even to the very end.
1.  One possibility is that it follows one of Angela Carter's themes - that the corruption of adulthood is absolute.  With adulthood, it is no longer possible to maintain the innocence of youth.  And, so, the younger Rosaleen must be destroyed to make room for her as an adult wolf.  Like the apple in Eden, there is no turning back.
2.  Notice the innocence of the dreaming-Rosaleen's entire room.  Filled with childhood toys and dolls, it was clearly the room of a stereotypical little girl.  The wolf that invades is clearly destroying the room.  Notice that the wolf crashing through the window knocks down Rosaleen's toys first - her childhood toys.  But, whether it wants to actually harm Rosaleen is uncertain.  Only the intent for the destruction of her childhood is undeniable.  Her scream may be for the realization of what she must loose to gain maturity.  We never actually see what the wolf will do.  Perhaps, the child in all of us is immortal and the wolf can't actually do anything to Rosaleen herself.  When people grow up, they put their toys away in the attic as if they were "gone for good."  But, when it comes time for moving day and we see our old toys again, the old childhood love for the toy is revived - even if it is just a passing feeling.
Last Act: Wolf crashes through Rosaleen's room wall
 The Shawl
Gran, with the red shawl on her lap, talks to Rosaleen just outside the church This is Gran's gift to Rosaleen - childhood innocence.  The shawl was designed to keep her safe as well as hide her feminine body from the world.  While Rosaleen admits that the shawl is comforting, "...soft as a kitten," it becomes evident that it must be destroyed in order for her to grow up.  The Hunter tells her "...into the fire with it, you won't need it again," trying to bring out the woman in her.  The death of her grandmother and the shawl leaves Rosaleen free to mature.  The act of removing the shawl is somewhat like the child growing up and leaving the parent, a woman's realization and acceptance of the power of her body, and even the liberation from regrets.
The red shawl is not always comforting. Rosaleen once says her shawl is as " as blood."  This realization (determined by Angela Carter's writing style) is most likely related to menstruation.  This is likely Rosaleen's first.  Carter's books suggest that unlike men, who traditionally rely on passage of a ritual before recognition into manhood (an unnatural event), women first recognize the coming of adulthood at menstruation (a natural event).  If this is the correct interpretation, then the overwhelmed reaction of Rosaleen to this is quite accurate, as the acceptance of adulthood is both a progressive achievement and a profound loss.  Some say this feeling will only happen once more in your lifetime - at 50, when you accept the final chapter: old age and mortality.
Rosaleen kisses six times.  Once for her dead sister Alice when Gran instructs "say goodbye to your sister now."  Once for her grandmother "Don't I deserve a kiss for my story?"  Once for the boy who challenged if she was afraid.  Once for the bet that the hunter won.  Once for her mother, who she was closest to.  Kissing her mother was the only kiss she gave readily and the only one that expressed love.  The rest were given reluctantly.  The kiss for granny was out of duty - a kiss expected by politeness and proper etiquette.  The kiss for the boy was to prove that she wasn't afraid to kiss romantically.  But it was not romantic (kissing a child.)  However, this kiss was special in that by kissing him, we instantly know that she is more than able to stray from the path - the kiss itself was straying, accepting a potential wolf into her life.  Her only romantic kiss was with the Hunter in the woods.  It wasn't so much that she liked the hunter as that it was her first erotic kiss - from a man (not a boy).  And only from a man would she have the kiss of lust.  But, later, in grandma's house, the kiss from the hunter regressed back to the likeness of her kiss for grandma - the kiss of duty, for the bet.  Again, it was a kiss devoid of involvement and interest or of true affection for the kiss.  Like grandma, the hunter was mostly passive through it.  It is important to note that it is the hunter that approaches her for this kiss... much like the village boy approaching her for the kiss in the woods.  Compare the boy to the man.  Both of them fail to win her active involvement but get the basic kiss.  Why is this second kiss with the hunter lacking of lust?  Because, of course, the point is that a man is not enough - it requires a bond...a bond that was severed with the realization of his dark side (but as we quickly see, broken bonds can be mended).  It is important to note that the gentle kiss that was really intended in the name of love - the kiss for mom - was the briefest.  Do we always take the time to appreciate those closest to us? Rosaleen, with her red shawl, out in the woods.
 The Boy
Rosaleen has no one even remotely close to her own age to relate to.  The closest one may have been her sister but she died.  In fact, in Rosaleen's dream world, there are no other girls at all.
All the men in the town are already established men.  Their sons are so young that Rosaleen calls them "clowns...the village boys."  So basically, there was never a chance for romance between her and any of the boys there.  That one boy who was infatuated with her didn't have a chance.  In fact, the boy (purposely nameless in the movie) represents the "typical" generic male pre-adolescent.  Both he and Rosaleen are equally playful but it is evident that Rosaleen is maturing much faster.  Many viewers don't like the character of the boy much (though I think he was well and accurately portrayed).  We must recognize where our disgust comes from.  The boy represents the "foolishness" of children - our own follies and ineptitudes when we were young.
Through the movie, the boy never grows up.  When he offers to protect Rosaleen in the forest with his knife, Rosaleen shows she already has a larger knife.  When he tries to follow her he is blocked by grown men pushing coal carts.  The scene shows that the boy is totally unprepared for the adult world.  Although he will become a man someday, for the time being, he is limited by being the child that he is.
 The Devil
The Hunter in wolf form staring at the intruding humans, just before running off with Rosaleen.
Glowing eyes of the car?
The car that brings the devil to the boy in the woods is driven by Rosaleen.  Don't recognize her?  She's wearing a blonde wig.  It's important to notice it is her.  Her grandmother was trying to point out that the evil in women is most unnatural.  Evil in women comes from corruption by the devil.  Thus, according to grandmother, evil is not innately in Rosaleen.
In contrast, the evil in men comes from the nature of man - it's natural.  The devil does not have to take the trouble to involve himself.  The hunter tells grandma with an innocent look, "I don't come from Hell, I came from the forest."  It relates to men's natural urge for destruction, power, and possession.  (I don't entirely agree with this idea - yet, I enjoy Starcraft and Command & Conquer - you PC gaming freaks out there know what I mean :)  Anyway, it's the idea the story presents.
Also, notice that the wolves are perfectly comfortable in the forest.  However, the devil travels in his own bubble of unnatural metal construction...the car.  An invader in the forest, out of place and out of time.  Actually, the devil has no interest in doing anything to the boy at all.  It is only Rosaleen that wants to hurt him - it is only Rosaleen that smiles and enjoys the moment.  The devil almost seems to be led by her (she is the driver).  He's more interested in the shrunken skull - more interested in the dead than the living world.  Or perhaps more interested in the whole fate of humanity rather than the two petty humans.
There is another explanation of the car scene.  The car itself is the wolf.  The idea relates to the male lust.  What drives men's lust?  Women.  And the source of lust?  The devil.
The scene enacts parts of an old legend.  One of the ways to turn into a werewolf is to drink such a potion.  For more information, read The Lycanthropic Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture, a compilation of ancient werewolf legends edited by Charlotte F. Otten.
Everything in the movie is done at least twice, everything.  Didn't notice it?  The idea is that the first instance is the innocent version (youth).  Later the same event is repeated, but in a different, twisted setting (in adulthood).  Watch it again.  Here are some examples:
1. There are two cars in the entire movie.  The first arrives with Rosaleen's parents.  The second comes thrashing through the forest with the devil.
2. During the burial rites for Alice, Gran gives Rosaleen a gingerbread man to chew on to "keep your mind off things" - a fake man.  Spotting the boy, they playfully stick their tongues at each other as she removes her gingerbread man (like removing her shawl for the hunter.)  Much later, unsupervised in the woods, the two don't bother teasing each other with tongues.  They kiss.
3. Remember Alice running to the house in the very beginning of the movie?  She was trying to get there before her parents so that she can, then, run out to greet them - she would appear as if she hadn't left the house at all.  That way, her parents will not know that she was out in the forest... "straying from the path."  Here, Alice is still a child as she exhibits immature "sibling rivalry," taunting Rosaleen with "...pest pest pest!"  Her apparent age over Rosaleen makes little difference.  Anyway, the camera shots with her running, and her dog's running, will be later matched by the scene from Rosaleen's nightmare, where Alice runs from the wolves.  In Rosaleen's nightmare, Alice exhibits traits of an adult, rejecting the toys of childhood (the cute, giant teddy and the stuffed sailor).  By being an adult, she enters the world of the wolves.  And still later, and even more profound, we find one more reference in the mature Rosaleen who runs with a wolf.

An oversized stuffed bear with black beedy eyes hugging (smothering?) Alice. aww... how cute!

 Eyebrows Meet
Watching this movie without knowing much of the lore surrounding werewolf mythology left me confused with this recurring symbol.  Referring to The Lycanthropic Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture, a compilation of werewolf legends edited by Charlotte F. Otten, the meeting of the eyebrows is the mark of a werewolf.  Probably nothing more than that.
Throughout the story, various characters hit on the "...seeing is believing, but I'd never swear to it..." theme.  The general idea is that observation is superficial and will not always warrant trust.  Kinda like the antithesis to X-Files' Scully who has to see things to believe.
 Hunting the Wolf/Man
Before the villagers go off into the woods, when Mother offers a crucifix, Father pushes it aside with his shotgun declaring, "No.  This is all these beasts understand.  Kill them before they kill you."
But his words extend beyond the beast in the woods and suggest that the gun is actually what Father understands.

 Unsettled (Things to think about) 
 Old Well
The public well, the center, life-support, and hell spawn of the town is shown again and again and again.  The very first camera shot in the movie is the same well.  Yet, what does it represent?
 1st Bride
The wedding party after the mysterious woman turns them into wolves. How does Gran know about the wolves?  At first, I thought she was the pregnant woman who crashed the wedding.  But the Gran does not have the heavy Irish/Gaelic accent that the pregnant woman had.
There are many references to blood, but I never found out what they meant.  Rosaleen describes her shawl as " as blood."  Perhaps it has some relation to the wolf transformation as it is then that we see the man in the body of blood without his skin.  We also see blood after Rosaleen's story of the wounded wolf - we see a rose that unfolds and fills with blood.  Also, before the hunter enters Grandma's house, he puts some blood on his lips on purpose - why?  If all these references are indeed the blood of menstruation, then the rose would be Rosaleen's first experience of a period and the hunter's action would represent a form of lust.
The passage the priest recites was odd at best.  Was it chosen because it lightly relates to hidden dangers?  Or does it have another meaning?  What does the Priest represent?  Was he yet one more face of the characteristics of man - someone holy and above sin to contrast the wolf in man?  But that is not completely true as he is evidently playful on the trees and not above a little "sin." ;)
Out of nowhere, spiders fall on Rosaleen's prayer book in church.  It's too eccentric to be a simple film technique to shock the audience.  Someone pointed out that it could be the force of nature overtaking Rosaleen.  Consider it nature's biological clock verses the sometimes cold stoic attitude of the church - the undeniable call of nature's wild sexuality is the victor.
What, exactly, do the wolves represent?  They're clearly not evil.  Yet, they bring chaos and destruction to those they meet.  And then, there are moments when they are tender.  Whether in pretense or not, the wolves are very capable of gentleness.  Do they represent the "beast" in man, the dual nature of a man, or just simply all adulthood?
 Egg and Mirror
One of the most curious items in the movie is the egg with the figurine in it.  Rosaleen finds an odd figurine in an egg on the tree branch while she was playing hide and seek in the forest with the village boy.  She shows the figurine to her mother, revealing that the inanimate figurine is cryingAngela Carter's original short story hints that the egg actually represents a woman's womb.  Women, unlike men, have a set number of eggs and those are Rosaleen's own potential progeny.
The lipstick and mirror from the same nest represent vanity as much as self recognition.  Through the mirror, she pictures herself as a woman while applying makeup.  Much later she sees herself in it wearing the hat the huntsman gave her...then abandons the mirror!  No longer a girl, she finds no need to keep looking into it as she is the woman in the mirror.  She has already crossed to the other side.  To reinforce this contrast, we find the mirror one last time in the hands of sleeping Rosaleen the moment before the wolves crash into her room in the final scene.
Indeed this is just one theme mirrors play throughout the movie.

Another interpretation:
"What is the imagery inherent in Rosaleen showing the "broken egg with the baby" to her mother? It's possible that either Rosaleen had sex with the boy off screen (unlikely) or that Rosaleen was molested/seduced by an unseen wolf (man of course as wolves inherently represent men) in the forest and the symbolism in the broken egg is that Rosaleen had lost her virginity and is now possibly pregnant. This interpretation was heightened for me by the scene where Rosaleen's mother gives her a bath and puts her to bed. Those scenes suggest that Rosaleen's mother was comforting her in an almost "knowing" way. This is continued by Rosaleen's comment that gradma had been telling her about "wolves" and men. Rosaleen's mother responds with something like "Don't listen to everything your gradma tells you. If there's a beast [strength/power/malevolence] in men, it meets its match in women too." Then there's the whole point of going after the unseen wolf. Is this in fact the idea that Rosaleen's father is going to "have it out with the man who seduced her?" The cutting off of the wolf's paw/boy's hand then represent's that whatever punishment Roselan's father exacted was too severe, possibly that he went looking for a fierce wolf/grown man and discovered it was just an adolescent boy possibly only slightly older than Rosaleen - which lends credence to the idea that Rosaleen was "willingly" seduced." - Gerald Gryschuk
 Into the Fire
We see two items cast into flame.
Rosaleen's father returns from the hunt with the paw/hand as a trophy.  When Rosaleen asks what he intends to do with it, he fearfully tosses the "evil" item into the fireplace.
Much later, we find the hunter urging Rosaleen to shed her shawl into the fire.  Unlike the first incident, here Rosaleen's role reverses and she does the execution of the task rather than the prompting.
Perhaps the entire theme "into the fire" posesses a hidden meaning other than a simple destructive force?

 Movie Origin
 Where do these crazy ideas come from?
The movie came from a compilation of several short stories from Angela Carter, a well known short story writer who writes about women and adulthood.  Niel Jordan, the director of the movie, is a less known writer of horror novels, but a very well known director.  Both took an active part in the adapting and expanding the story for the movie.  Still, in Carter's tradition, the movie itself is really a bunch of short stories mixed into one.  Because the movie is directly made from its own two writers, the movie was able to more accurately reflect their ideas.
The movie is mostly based on Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves" and "Wolf-Alice."  Both stories come from her book "The Bloody Chamber," included in the compilation "Burning Your Boats."  She is a literary genius and her stories are all symbolic, enlightening, sensual, and full of meaning.  If you get a hold of some of her works you will not be disappointed.
The theme from "Little Red Riding Hood" itself is nothing new.  Many writers have made interpretations of the classic fairy tale.  In fact, during the beginning of the 20th century, the "modernizing" of such fairytales was very popular.

 Movie Media
 Movie vs. Book
Rosaleen For those of you who read Angela Carter's book first, you'll still enjoy the film.  One of the greatest things about the movies is that the medium introduces a new dimension to present ideas.
The choice of music and sound becomes part of the idea that the movie will convey.  The classical / Irish music played with classical instruments is aptly chosen for "The Company of Wolves," creating the eerie ethereal scene for the movie.  One scene that really impressed me was the wedding scene, in which the mix of classical and carnival (yes, circus) music is very well mixed, enforcing the paradox amidst the chaos of the ensuing horror brewing in the swarm of wolves.
The acting in the movie definitely added to the power of the story (unlike the movies that slaughtered Stephan King's stories).  While I read the story by Angela Carter I began to realize how challenging it must've been to figure out how to act from the script.  Sarah Patterson and Angela Lansbury do an excellent job.  The entire cast impressed me, even the priest in the trees.  Remember the face he makes as he cuts that tree branch down? :)
The special effects used in the movie are a little outdated by today's digital-age standards (seen "Matrix" yet?).  I now see the old effects with the same fascination I have for old black&white movies.  However, the incredible setting, scenery shots, and props successfully maintain the eerie enchanting atmosphere required by the story.  By the way, almost everything in the movie was done on purpose.  Ex: Grandma's head is supposed to shatter.  It isn't because they don't know a more realistic way to show it.  It was intended to be symbolic. First werewolf transformation we see - in splendid gore.
Most people find that they either strongly like or dislike the movie.  The disappointed only wanted a simple horror flick or got completely lost by it.  People that like the movie probably managed to grasp some of the abstract ideas that the movie tries to bring across and now hunger to understand more.  Still, few people get everything the first time.  I watched it again.  Even, then, I still don't understand everything.  You must watch the movie with the analytical, creative mind you use when reading a book.  Don't blank out and "watch TV."
If the movie catches you in at the right time, it's sure to be a memorable film.

 In case the Irish/Gaelic accents were too hard for you: Transcript
That link takes you to an unauthorized copy of a transcript from the movie.  Hope I'm not violating any copyrights.  The original unauthorized transcript was from check it out for transcripts of other movies as well.

Part Actor/Person Description
Rosaleen Sarah Patterson

Main character.  The dreamer driving the dreams.  Her exact age is literarily unimportant - just that she's on the border between a child and womanhood (perhaps 16, but at times, older).  She's definitely beyond the interest of childhood games.  The one game she does play, "Oley Oxenfrey," was only an opportunity for her to exercise the very adult skill of flirting.
In sharp contrast, the "dreaming" Rosaleen's conduct and appearance place her years under 13 as a child.

Gran Angela Lansbury

Old and very knowledgeable.  Her ideas at times seem outdated, but her warnings hold true.  A storyteller and a sage on social issues; she is, in effect, Angela Carter.

Father David Warner

Rosaleen's father is an enlightened father figure.  He is a supporter of independence and allows Rosaleen to run off.  He is also protective, quick to the gun to save Rosaleen from the woods.  He has strong views on the world, but is not insistent on them, as he easily discusses matters with his wife.

Mother Tusse Silberg

Rosaleen's loving mother figure.  They are very close and typical alienation during adolescence is not exhibited.  For most of the movie, Rosaleen unchangingly plays the part of a daughter.  Mother even still bathes Rosaleen.  Separation surfaces only when Rosaleen runs off with her wolf.

Huntsman Micha Bergese

A gentleman who easily captures Rosaleen's affection.  A wolf in man's clothing.  Ultimately, runs off into the woods with Rosaleen.

Priest Graham Crowden

Like Rosaleen's father, he represents a father figure.  But, as a member of the church, he perhaps even transcends that and represents the kindness and forgiving spirit of all humanity - all the redeeming characteristics in the human race.  Although his sermon captivates the attention of the town on Sunday, Rosaleen is easily distracted away.  He is very possibly the same priest, in his younger days, in Rosaleen's story, "The Wounded Wolf" because it's the same church.  The church night setting itself is quite symbolic, with the only sources of light emitting from the church and the stars above.

Alice Georgia Slowe

Rosaleen's sister.  Beyond jeering at Rosaleen, running off in the woods, and being laid to rest, little is known about her.

Boy Shane Johnstone

Young boy (my guess: 15) who is smitten with Rosaleen.  He still plays with the other kids (almost like a wolf pack or like how young pups play with each other).  But, he has feelings for Rosaleen that are not childish at all.  Though his feelings are real, his experience is limited.  Consequently, his acts of affection comes across as acts of a child and fails to win Rosaleen's heart.  With the age difference, it's almost like the boy who's in love with a young teacher of the opposite sex - it won't work.   But he doesn't stop trying.

Witch Dawn Archibald Turns the wedding guests into wolves.  Little is known about who she was, but her grievance is clear.
Devil Terence Stamp Rides through the forest in a car to deliver a curious potion to the boy in the woods.
Author Angela Olive Carter Writer of collections of sensuous short stories about women and the rites of adulthood.
Director/Writer Niel Jordan Director.  Also a writer of horror novels.

Don't just take my word for it.
Cavalcade Of Schlock A review from the Freudian approach.  A huge site dedicated to horror movie ranks and reviews.
Kinky Afro's

A review from the site is dedicated to "Cult, Rare, and Underrated Films."


The depository of almost every movie in the world.  It has an excellent rank and review system to help you decide if you would want to see a particular movie.

eOpinions A review from the largest web site of online opinions.

An in-depth review from "Close-Up" by David Dalgleish.

Garden of Live Flowers

Highlights from an essay categorizing the film's allegories and social influence.

David Warner's

The actor's fansite with a comment about the film in brief.

Angela Olive Carter A page dedicated to the author of the book this movie was based on.
Little Red Riding Hood

Information about original story by Angela Carter.  He analyzes this fairy tale from the perspective of different sources of literature.

Children's Literature

University of Guelph notes about Angela Carter's short story "The Company of Wolves" and other revisionist fairy tales.

Others like Labyrinth

Interested in the ethereal genre of "Company of Wolves?"  Here is a listing of other movies like it.

Sarah Patterson

Images, audio clips, and filmography from a fan of the actress.