The Company of Wolves

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"Don't stray from the path."

A 1984 horror/fantasy film directed by Neil Jordan and written by Angela Carter. Loosely based on a short-story of the same name from the anthology The Bloody Chamber.

Rosaleen, a young girl ("I'm twelve and three-quarters old!"), falls asleep in her parents' mansion and dreams of living in a medieval village. After her sister is killed in the forest by a pack of wolves, her grandmother comforts Rosaleen, telling her several stories of the dangers of deceptive wolves who roam the forest at night, looking for young girls. She is informed to never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle and that the most dangerous wolves are the ones with fur on the inside.

Think of it as "Little Red Riding Hood", written by Sigmund Freud and directed by David Lynch.

Tropes used in The Company of Wolves include:

Granny: "Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet."

  • Bitch Alert: Rosaleen's sister Alice. It's no wonder she gets eaten by wolves at the very start off the dream.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The same as most coming of age stories--Rosaleen learns about being an adult at the cost of childhood innocence.
  • Broken Bird: Gran's rants against men, love, and sexuality hint at this.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The moment the wolf/huntsman knocks off Granny's head seems to be out of left field, unless you remember that while other major characters were featured in the real world sequences--Rosaleen's parents and sister--Granny was never a person at all. She was one of the dolls in Rosaleen's room.
  • Color Motif: White objects turning red happens more than once, usually through bloodshed.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire movie is this.
  • Domestic Abuse: "The Story of the Bride and Groom" ends with the woman being slapped by her second husband. Granny's assessment of men hints that this will be the woman's fate after the end.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole
  • Framing Device: The real world scenes where we firmly establish that the majority of the movie is a dream.
  • Fully-Embraced Fiend: In the end, Rosaleen runs off with the huntsman/wolf.
  • Gainax Ending: Quite simply, where did all those "wolves" come from?
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Rosaleen and Alice are implied to be locked in one of these.
  • Good Parents: Rosaleen's parents are very supportive and loving, even if they have trouble understanding her sometimes.
  • Grimmification
  • Lady in Red: Rosaleen herself, which is disturbing considering she's not even thirteen yet. However, once she receives the red cloak from her grandmother, her sexuality begins to bud.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: This is set up all through the movie, particularly towards the last trip to Granny's house when Rosaleen finds blood by the gate.
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: Rather than be threatened, Rosaleen grabs the huntsman's gun and shoots him.
  • The Lost Woods: The entire setting oozes this.
  • Magic Pants: Averted. The traveler husband in the first story strips off to transform and the Huntsman's clothes rip off as he transforms.
  • A Man Is Always Eager/All Men Are Perverts: Granny's opinion about male sexuality. The mother challenges this. Turns out the mother is right, ultimately subverting this.
  • Mood Whiplash: A man goes through the Transformation Trauma mentioned below, the music is suitably grim, the visuals horrifying...then he's a perfectly friendly wolf that's just happy to sit next to the girl.
  • Nested Story: Gran, and later Rosaleen, tell stories about wolves, what they do, and what they want. This being a World of Symbolism is working out how adult sexuality actually works.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Averted. Not just with the dogs, but filming went fairly smoothly with the actual wolves, as well. (Neil Jordan commended Sarah Patterson on her bravery during the scene where she had to sit right next to and pet one of the wolves.)
  • No Name Given: Any of the cast other than Rosaleen, in particular The Huntsman, Granny, and her parents. Alice's name is only revealed in the credits.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Outside the dream, Rosaleen is implied to be suffering from menstrual cramps. Later she finds an object that more than likely indicates her fertility.
  • Only One Name: Rosaleen and Alice.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Stephen Rea as the traveler husband in the first story and the actress who played the pregnant witch in the third.
  • Opposed Mentors: Granny and Rosaleen's mother.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: They're metaphors for sexuality for one thing.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Rosaleen. Sarah Patterson went on to play Snow White two years later.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The priest, who doesn't take as harsh a view towards wolves or sexuality as Granny.
  • Satan: The man in the car is implied to be Satan since Granny prefaces the story with, "One day he'll meet the devil in the wood."
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Rosaleen didn't turn into a wolf by herself, y'know.
  • Shirtless Scene: A very creepy example with The Huntsman. Whether it's Fan Service or Fan Disservice depends on how hairy you like your men.
  • Show Within a Show: The bulk of the story is a dream, in which Rosaleen hears stories from the people around her about the wolves. And when she wakes up....
  • Something About a Rose/The Tragic Rose: The white rose that turns red in the Wolfgirl story could be either, or both, depending on your interpretation.
  • Stay on the Path: Played Straight, Subverted Granny instructs Rosaleen never to stray from the path when walking through the woods. This is ultimately challenged because whenever Rosaleen strays from the path, she learns important lessons.
  • Title Drop: Done by the Huntsman, who "loves the company of wolves."
  • Transformation Trauma
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Squickily between Rosaleen and the Huntsman, in particular the scene where he takes off her red cape and throws it in the fire. Rosaleen turning into a wolf implies they ultimately resolved it.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Rosaleen becomes a wolf at the end and runs off with the Huntsman.
  • Was Once a Man: Rosaleen's father takes a paw from a wolf for a trophy. It turns into a human hand.
  • Woman in White: Alice at her funeral looks interestingly more like a young bride than someone who was savaged by wolves.
  • World of Symbolism: There's very little in this film that isn't either overtly or covertly about puberty, sexuality, or impending adulthood.