The Dreaming and The Dreamt: A Lexicon of Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves
by James Rose
Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies
Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984) is a film immersed in the symbolism of fairy tale narratives and imagery. Based upon three short stories from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, the film functions as a revisionist text which blends Gothic motifs with Carter’s own interpretations of classic fairy tales. For Carter, the original version(s) of Little Red Riding Hood operated as a structured agenda to warn young girls of the dangers of sexual maturity and implicates for them a passive family and societal role. By rewriting this and other traditional tales from a feminist perspective, both subtle and blatant inversions took place within Carter’s stories: her versions of Little Red Riding Hood positively attack the wolf with a combination of hunting knife and sexual awareness, slaking his desire to eat her with sex. Jordan wrote the script for The Company of Wolves in collaboration with Carter, and as such, the film creates a symbolic world where the transition from child to adult - from girl to woman - is both a beautiful and dangerous moment, one to be both celebrated and feared. So layered and intertwined are these symbols that the most productive way to critically analyse them is to format them into a lexicon, giving definition to the representations and allowing for meaning to build up and repeat, as they do in the film, in between the layers of narrative and the viewer’s mind.
Because there are two representations of the same character within the film, the text defines each persona through the terms the Dreaming Rosaleen and the Dreamt Rosaleen: the Dreaming Rosaleen is the protagonist who exists in the film’s representation of the real world, whilst the Dreamt Rosaleen is her fictional, dreamt alter ego.
To Read the Lexicon