Writers Choices Others Journal Prompt
Little Red Riding Hood
The story of Little Red Riding Hood has evolved radically from the time of the paper to the digitally controlled world of today. Although the essence of the story has not been altered, the characters themselves have undergone radical changes in terms of mental and emotional attributes, as well as undercurrents and situations presented in the stories. This paper presents a comparison between four versions of Little Red Riding Hood, with respect to six elements found in fairy tales.
The earlier, more disturbing versions of the tale date back to fourteenth century Italy CITATION Zip p 744 l 16393 (Zipes 744), where the story, as told by the contemporary farmers, and in parallel to the most common elements of a fairy tale, that is magic and magical creatures, depicts the antagonist as not only a wolf, but sometimes also as an ogre, or a werewolf CITATION Ore p 92-106 l 16393 (Orenstein 92-106). The wolf kills the grandmother, and feeds her remains to Red, who unknowingly consumes them. In some versions, he also asks her to remove her clothing and get into bed with him, after which he eats her CITATION Zip93 p 4 t l 16393 (Zipes 4). This also breaks away from the common nature of fairy tales, which almost always depict the victory of good over evil.
However, other versions depict a better ending, where Red discovers the Wolf’s secret and formulates an excuse about wanting to defecate outside, thus securing her escape. In some other versions, the Wolf ties a string around her ankle, but she slips it off and makes her escape.
The French author, Charles Perrault, also presented a grim version of the story, similar to the one where the Wolf eats Red after asking her to climb into bed with him CITATION Per83 l 16393 (Perrault). There are, however, a few differences between the early renditions of the tale and this one. Firstly, Red is aged older than she is in the traditional story. Secondly, there is no resolution of a conflict in this version. The moral seems to be largely associated with pedophilia, and warns girls not to listen to strangers. The early versions were more reflective of the werewolf trials CITATION Sta13 p “, pars. 9.12” l 16393 (Starling, pars. 9.12).
The story as written by the Brothers Grimm goes almost the same way, except the Wolf eats both Red and her grandmother, and is resting when he is cut open by a Huntsman, thus saving both Red and her grandmother from the big bad Wolf CITATION Gri81 p 32 l 16393 (Grimm and Grimm 32). What is notable is how dark these stories are as compared to the usual nature of fairy tales, which are devoid of truly grisly elements. Undertones of sexual awakening, rape, pedophilia, and molestation are found in both these stories. In The Trials and Tribulations of the Little Red Riding Hood, and his works thereafter, Jack Zipes calls the story a rape story—in which the protagonist survives or dies after her rape CITATION Zip93 p 28 n y t l 16393 (28).
Jack Zipes also addressed the omnipresent nature of the elements in the story—according to him, the story’s motifs—the girl, the red cloak, the murder of the grandmother, the wolf, the rape, the rescue—are all universal, and were found long before the times of Perrault and Grimm, even dating back to myths and legends CITATION Zip06 p 29-30 t l 16393 (Zipes 29-30).
Not all renditions of the story, however, are so grim. One by Andrew Lang, in particular, is in tune with all the ‘right’ elements of a fairy tale. Although the wolf tries to eat Red, he burns his mouth on the magical golden hood she is donning. This version provides probably the biggest break from all other renditions of the story: Red’s hood is not its arbitrary red, but gold in color CITATION Lan90 l 16393 (Lang).
There is no one particular term to describe the evolution of Red Riding Hood through the pages of time, but the story has changed to accommodate the times it was presented in. Though it may not take upon the form of a conventional fairy tale every time, it does provide scholars and readers with the chance to explore deeper, and sometimes more scandalous aspects of it. It is in fact one of the most endearing aspects of the story—the transition of Red from a naive girl in a red cloak to a sexually aware woman no longer reliant on men for her safety CITATION Rei12 p iii l 16393 (Reid iii).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Little Red Riding Hood . Troll Associates , 1981. Print.
Lang, Andrew. “The True History of Little GoldenHood:.” Lang, Andrew. The Red Fairy Book. Longmans, Green and Company , 1895. 367. Print.
Orenstein, Catherine. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. n.d. Print.
Perrault, Charles. The Little Red Riding Hood . Creative Education, 1983. Print .
Reid, Tina Louise. From Cap to Cloak: The Evolution of “Little Red Riding Hood” from Oral Tale to Film . Thesis . Kansas City : University of Kansas, 2012. Print.
Starling, Maya. “Little Red Riding Hood: Moral Warnings and Sexual Implications .” MayaStarling.com. 6 July 2013. Web.
Zipes, Jack. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm. n.d. Print.
—. The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood . New York: Routledge, 1993. Print.
—. Why Fairy Tales Stick . Abingdon: Routledge, 2006. Print.