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She-wolfA cultural history of female werewolves$
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Hannah Priest

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719089343

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719089343.001.0001

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The case of the cut-off hand

The case of the cut-off hand

Angela Carter’s werewolves in historical perspective

Chapter:
(p.148) 9 The case of the cut-off hand
Source:
She-wolf
Author(s):

Willem de Blécourt

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719089343.003.0009

The motif of the werewolf’s severed paw occurs in a variety of texts of different periods. In contemporary popular culture, it is probably most familiar from Angela Carter’s fiction and Neil Jordan’s 1984 film The Company of Wolves (based on Carter’s short stories). That this motif specifically concerns the paw/hand transformation, as well as a female werewolf, is suggestive. In medieval European literary traditions, women’s cut-off hands symbolized their role as victims of incest. Moreover, in medieval religious and literary texts, incest was seen as something nonhuman and, in some cases, specifically pertaining to wolves. This chapter will argue that the metamorphosis associated with the severed paw motif thus contains a double incest metaphor, which was later obscured in popular culture and, eventually, lost through the switch in gender of the amputee (as seen in The Company of Wolves).

Keywords:   Metamorphosis, Angela Carter, Amputation, Incest, Werewolves

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