Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood
The version found in The Book of Fables and Folk Stories by Horace E. Scudder.
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"Little Red Riding Hood", or "Little Red Ridinghood", also known as "Little Red Cap" or simply "Red Riding Hood", is a European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. Its origins can be traced back to the 10th century by several European folk tales, including one from Italy called The False Grandmother (Italian: La finta nonna), later written among others by Italo Calvino in the Italian Folktales collection; the best known versions were written by Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm. The story has been changed considerably in various retellings and subjected to numerous modern adaptations and readings. It is number 333 in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales. Variations of the story have developed, incorporating various cultural beliefs and regional dialects into the story. An example of this is "Kawoni's Journey Across the Mountain: A Cherokee Little Red Riding Hood", which introduces Cherokee myths and language into the traditional story. Another such example is "Petite Rouge Riding Hood", which approaches the story from a Cajun perspective.
The story revolves around a girl called Little Red Riding Hood. In the Grimms' and Perrault's versions of the tale, she is named after the red hooded cape/cloak that she wears. The girl walks through the woods to deliver food to her sickly grandmother (wine and cake depending on the translation). In the Grimms' version, her mother had ordered her to stay strictly on the path.
A Big Bad Wolf wants to eat the girl and the food in the basket. He secretly stalks her behind trees, bushes, shrubs, and patches of little and tall grass. He approaches Little Red Riding Hood, and she naïvely tells him where she is going. He suggests that the girl pick some flowers, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother's house and gains entry by pretending to be the girl. He swallows the grandmother whole (in some stories, he locks her in the closet) and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandma.
When the girl arrives, she notices that her grandmother looks very strange. Little Red then says, "What a deep voice you have!" ("The better to greet you with", responds the wolf), "Goodness, what big eyes you have!" ("The better to see you with", responds the wolf), "And what big hands you have!" ("The better to hug/grab you with", responds the wolf), and lastly, "What a big mouth you have" ("The better to eat you with!", responds the wolf), at which point the wolf jumps out of bed and eats her up too. Then he falls asleep. In Charles Perrault's version of the story (the first version to be published), the tale ends here. However, in later versions the story continues generally as follows:
A woodcutter in the French version, but a hunter in the Brothers Grimm and traditional German versions, comes to the rescue and with his axe cuts open the sleeping wolf. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerge unharmed. They then fill the wolf's body with heavy stones. The wolf awakens and tries to flee, but the stones cause him to collapse and die. Sanitized versions of the story have the grandmother locked in the closet instead of eaten and some have Little Red Riding Hood saved by the lumberjack as the wolf advances on her rather than after she is eaten where the woodcutter kills the wolf with his axe.
The tale makes the clearest contrast between the safe world of the village and the dangers of the forest, conventional antitheses that are essentially medieval, though no written versions are as old as that. It also warns about the dangers of not obeying one's mother (at least in the Grimms' version).
Relationship to other tales
A very similar story also belongs to the North African tradition, namely in Kabylia, where a number of versions are attested. The theme of the little girl who visits her (grand-)dad in his cabin and is recognized by the sound of her bracelets constitutes the refrain of a well-known song by the modern singer Idir, A Vava Inouva:
The theme of the ravening wolf and of the creature released unharmed from its belly is also reflected in the Russian tale Peter and the Wolf and another Grimm tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, but its general theme of restoration is at least as old as the biblical story, Jonah and the Whale. The theme also appears in the story of the life of Saint Margaret, wherein the saint emerges unharmed from the belly of a dragon, and in the epic "The Red Path" by Jim C. Hines.
There is even a connection to Greek mythology: Cronus, the leader of the Titans, knew he was destined to be overcome by his own sons and, as a result, he devoured his children Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon as soon as they were born. They were eventually set free, unharmed, by Zeus, when he gave Cronus an emetic (or, in some versions, cut his stomach open).
The dialogue between the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood has its analogies to the Norse Þrymskviða from the Elder Edda; the giant Þrymr had stolen Mjölner, Thor's hammer, and demanded Freyja as his bride for its return. Instead, the gods dressed Thor as a bride and sent him. When the giants note Thor's unladylike eyes, eating, and drinking, Loki explains them as Freyja's not having slept, or eaten, or drunk, out of longing for the wedding.
The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to versions from various European countries and more than likely preceding the 17th century, of which several exist, some significantly different from the currently known, Grimms-inspired version. It was told by French peasants in the 10th century and recorded by the cathedral schoolmaster Egbert of Liege. In Italy, the Little Red Riding Hood was told by peasants in the fourteenth century, where a number of versions exist, including La finta nonna (The False Grandmother), written among others by Italo Calvino in the Italian Folktales collection. It has also been called "The Story of Grandmother". It is also possible that this early tale has roots in very similar Oriental tales (e.g. "Grandaunt Tiger").
These early variations of the tale differ from the currently known version in several ways. The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes an ogre or a 'bzou' (werewolf), making these tales relevant to the werewolf-trials (similar to witch trials) of the time (e.g. the trial of Peter Stumpp). The wolf usually leaves the grandmother's blood and meat for the girl to eat, who then unwittingly cannibalizes her own grandmother. Furthermore, the wolf was also known to ask her to remove her clothing and toss it into the fire. In some versions, the wolf eats the girl after she gets into bed with him, and the story ends there. In others, she sees through his disguise and tries to escape, complaining to her "grandmother" that she needs to defecate and would not wish to do so in the bed. The wolf reluctantly lets her go, tied to a piece of string so she does not get away. However, the girl slips the string over something else and runs off. In these stories she escapes with no help from any male or older female figure, instead using her own cunning. Sometimes, though more rarely, the red hood is even non-existent.
In other tellings of the story, the wolf chases after Little Red Riding Hood. She escapes with the help of some laundresses, who spread a sheet taut over a river so she may escape. When the wolf follows Red over the bridge of cloth, the sheet is released and the wolf drowns in the river.
In 2013, it was revealed from scientific research that the tale originated in the 1st century in the Middle East and not, as previously assumed, in China. The scientists analysed the storylines and characters from 58 versions of the tale from different areas. By means of a computer model they then determined how the different versions of Little Red Riding Hood are related.
The earliest known printed version was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge and may have had its origins in 17th-century French folklore. It was included in the collection Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l'Oye), in 1697, by Charles Perrault. As the title implies, this version is both more sinister and more overtly moralized than the later ones. The redness of the hood, which has been given symbolic significance in many interpretations of the tale, was a detail introduced by Perrault.
The story had as its subject an "attractive, well-bred young lady", a village girl of the country being deceived into giving a wolf she encountered the information he needed to find her grandmother's house successfully and eat the old woman while at the same time avoiding being noticed by woodcutters working in the nearby forest. Then he proceeded to lay a trap for the Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood ends up being asked to climb into the bed before being eaten by the wolf, where the story ends. The wolf emerges the victor of the encounter and there is no happy ending.
From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!
This, the presumed original, version of the tale was written for late seventeenth-century French court of King Louis XIV. This audience, whom the King entertained with extravagant parties, presumably would take from the story the intended meaning.
In the 19th century two separate German versions were retold to Jacob Grimm and his younger brother Wilhelm Grimm, known as the Brothers Grimm, the first by Jeanette Hassenpflug (1791–1860) and the second by Marie Hassenpflug (1788–1856). The brothers turned the first version to the main body of the story and the second into a sequel of it. The story as Rotkäppchen was included in the first edition of their collection Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales (1812)).
The earlier parts of the tale agree so closely with Perrault's variant that it is almost certainly the source of the tale. However, they modified the ending; this version had the little girl and her grandmother saved by a huntsman who was after the wolf's skin; this ending is identical to that in the tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, which appears to be the source. The second part featured the girl and her grandmother trapping and killing another wolf, this time anticipating his moves based on their experience with the previous one. The girl did not leave the path when the wolf spoke to her, her grandmother locked the door to keep it out, and when the wolf lurked, the grandmother had Little Red Riding Hood put a trough under the chimney and fill it with water that sausages had been cooked in; the smell lured the wolf down, and it drowned.
The Brothers further revised the story in later editions and it reached the above-mentioned final and better-known version in the 1857 edition of their work. It is notably tamer than the older stories which contained darker themes.
After the Grimms
Numerous authors have rewritten or adapted this tale.
Andrew Lang included a variant called "The True History of Little Goldenhood" in The Red Fairy Book (1890). He derived it from the works of Charles Marelles, in Contes of Charles Marelles. This version explicitly states that the story had been mistold earlier. The girl is saved, but not by the huntsman; when the wolf tries to eat her, its mouth is burned by the golden hood she wears, which is enchanted.
James N. Barker wrote a variation of Little Red Riding Hood in 1827 as an approximately 1000-word story. It was later reprinted in 1858 in a book of collected stories edited by William E Burton, called the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor. The reprint also features a wood engraving of a clothed wolf on bended knee holding Little Red Riding Hood's hand.
In the 20th century, the popularity of the tale appeared to snowball, with many new versions being written and produced, especially in the wake of Freudian analysis, deconstruction and feminist critical theory. (See "Modern uses and adaptations" below.) This trend has also led to a number of academic texts being written that focus on Little Red Riding Hood, including works by Alan Dundes and Jack Zipes.
Folklorists and cultural anthropologists, such as P. Saintyves and Edward Burnett Tylor, saw "Little Red Riding Hood" in terms of solar myths and other naturally occurring cycles. Her red hood could represent the bright sun which is ultimately swallowed by the terrible night (the wolf), and the variations in which she is cut out of the wolf's belly represent the dawn. In this interpretation, there is a connection between the wolf of this tale and Sköll, the wolf in Norse mythology that will swallow the personified Sun at Ragnarök, or Fenrir. Alternatively, the tale could be about the season of spring or the month of May, escaping the winter.
The tale has been interpreted as a puberty rite, stemming from a prehistoric origin (sometimes an origin stemming from a previous matriarchal era). The girl, leaving home, enters a liminal state and by going through the acts of the tale, is transformed into an adult woman by the act of coming out of the wolf's belly.
Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (1976), recast the Little Red Riding Hood motif in terms of classic Freudian analysis, that shows how fairy tales educate, support, and liberate children's emotions. The motif of the huntsman cutting open the wolf he interpreted as a "rebirth"; the girl who foolishly listened to the wolf has been reborn as a new person.
The poem "Þrymskviða" from the Poetic Edda mirrors some elements of Red Riding Hood. Loki's explanations for the strange behavior of "Freyja" (actually Thor disguised as Freya) mirror the wolf's explanations for his strange appearance. The red hood has often been given great importance in many interpretations, with a significance from the dawn to blood.
Modern uses and adaptations
Erotic, romantic, or rape connotations
A sexual analysis of the tale may also include negative connotations in terms of rape or abduction. In Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller describes the fairy tale as a description of rape. However, many revisionist retellings choose to focus on empowerment, and depict Little Red Riding Hood or the grandmother successfully defending herself against the wolf.
Such tellings bear some similarity to the "animal bridegroom" tales, such as Beauty and the Beast or The Frog Prince, but where the heroines of those tales transform the hero into a prince, these tellings of Little Red Riding Hood reveal to the heroine that she has a wild nature like the hero's. These interpretations refuse to characterize Little Red Riding Hood as a victim; these are tales of female empowerment.
Animations, films, and TV shows
- In Tex Avery's short animated cartoon, Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), the story is recast in an adult-oriented urban setting, with the suave, sharp-dressed Wolf howling after the nightclub singer Red. Avery used the same cast and themes in a subsequent series of cartoons.
- Neil Jordan's film version of The Company of Wolves (1984) is about the journey of a young girl into womanhood, which can be interpreted as her menstruating for the first time (at the start of the tale, she is in bed with a stomach ache, according to her sister), but also of sexual awakening (in it, she wears red lipstick in bed). The wolf in this version of the tale is in fact a werewolf, which comes to the newly menstruating Red Riding Hood in the forest, in the form of a charming hunter. He turns into a wolf and eats her grandmother, and is about to devour Red Riding Hood as well, but she is equally seductive and ends up lying with the wolf man.
- In Michelle Augello-Page's story "Wolf Moon", Little Red is an adult who has been irrevocably changed by the events in her childhood, and it is the hunter who saves her "once upon a time, and again" in this tale of sexual awakening, bdsm, relationships, female rites and rebirth.
- Allusions to the tale can be more or less overtly sexual, as when the color of a lipstick is advertised as "Riding Hood Red".
- Charles Perrault's "Le Petit Chaperon rouge" ("Little Red Riding Hood") is centered on an erotic metaphor.
- Little Red Riding Hood appears in Angela Carter's short story "The Company of Wolves", published in The Bloody Chamber (1979), her collection of "dark, feminist fables" filled with "bestial and ferocious" heroines. In her revision of the classic, Carter examines female lust, which according to author Catherine Orenstein is "healthy, but also challenging and sometimes disturbing, unbridled and feral lust that delivers up contradictions." As Orenstein points out, Carter does this by unravelling the original tale's "underlying sexual currents" and by impregnating the new Little Red Riding Hood (Rosaleen played by Sarah Patterson) with "animal instincts" that lead to her transformation.
- A.P. Randolph's "How Could Red Riding Hood (Have Been So Very Good)?" (1925) was the first song known to be banned from radio because of its sexual suggestiveness.
- Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs's hit song, "Lil' Red Riding Hood" (1966), takes the Wolf's point of view, implying that he wants love rather than blood.
Animations and films
- Soyuzmultfilm (1937) is a classic Soviet, black-and-white, animated film by the sisters Brumberg, "grandmothers of the Russian animation". Its plot differs slightly from the original fairy tale. It was issued on videotapes in various collections in the 1980s, via the SECAM system, and in the 1990s, via the PAL system, in collections of animated films of a videostudio "Soyuz" (since 1994).
- In the USSR-based animated film Petya and Little Red Riding Hood (1958), directed by Boris Stepantsev and Evgeny Raykovsky, the main character (a boy named Petya Ivanov) see the Grey Wolf deceived a trusting girl and risks his life to rescue her and her grandmother. Now, the animated movie is considered a cult film, many phrases have become part of popular culture, and in 1959 and 1960, the film received awards at festivals in Kiev, Ukraine and Ansi, Estonia. In Russia, it is repeatedly republished on DVD in collections of animated films.
- Hoodwinked! (2005) is a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" as a police investigation
- The film Red Riding Hood (2011) is loosely based upon this tale.
- The wolf appears in the Shrek franchise of films. He is wearing the grandmother's clothing as in the fairytale, though the films imply he merely prefers wearing the gown and is not dangerous.
- Red Riding Hood briefly appears in the film Shrek 2 (2004), wherein she is frightened by Shrek and Fiona and runs off.
- Ruby Rose, the main protagonist of Rooster Teeth's animated web series RWBY, alludes to Little Red Riding Hood.
- Red Riding Hood is one of the main characters in the film adaptation of the musical "Into the Woods" (2014) portrayed by Lilla Crawford.
- In the Shrek 2 (2004) video game, she is playable and appears as a friend of Shrek's. She joins him, Fiona, and Donkey on their journey to Far Far Away, despite not knowing Shrek or his friends in the film.
- Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation as a poem called "Red Riding Hood" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions 16 of the Grimm's Fairy tales.
- "Little Red Riding Hood" is a raw hardstyle song by Da Tweekaz
- Sunny's concept photo for Girls' Generation's third studio album The Boys was inspired by "Little Red Riding Hood".
- Little Red Riding Hood is one of the central characters in the Broadway musical Into the Woods (1987) by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. In the song, "I Know Things Now", she speaks of how the wolf made her feel "excited, well, excited and scared", in a reference to the sexual undertones of their relationship. Red Riding Hood's cape is also one of the musical's four quest items that are emblematic of fairy tales.
- The pilot episode of NBC's TV series Grimm reveals that the Red Riding Hood stories were inspired by fabled blutbaden attacks, werewolf-like beings who have a deeply ingrained bloodlust and a weakness for victims wearing red.
- Red Riding Hood is a character in ABC's Once Upon a Time (2011) TV series. In this version of the tale, Red (portrayed by Meghan Ory) is a werewolf, and her cape is the only thing that can prevent her from turning during a full moon. Her Storybrooke persona is Ruby.
- Freeway (1996 film)
- Hard Candy (film)
- Ladle Rat Rotten Hut
- "Little Red Cap" (poem)
- The Path (video game), a psychological horror art game
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- Jack Zipes, In Hungarian folklore, the story is known as "Piroska" (Little Red), is still told in mostly the original version described above. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p 744, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
- Alan Dundes, little ducking
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- Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales. p. 93. ISBN 0-19-211559-6
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And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up.
- Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
- Harry Velten, "The Influences of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma Mère L'oie on German Folklore", p 966, Jack Zipes, ed. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
- Harry Velten, "The Influences of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma Mère L'oie on German Folklore", p 967, Jack Zipes, ed. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
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- Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
- Andrew Lang, "The True History of Little Goldenhood", The Red Fairy Book (1890)
- The proper name of this French author is Charles Marelle (1827-19..), there is a typo in Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book. See BNF note online.
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- Sexton, Anne (1971). Transformations.
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- Free printable "Little Red Riding-hood" eBook and worksheets for grades K-3.
- Terri Windling's 'The Path of Needles or Pins: Little Red Riding Hood' – a thorough article on the history of Little Red Riding Hood.
- The Little Red Riding Hood Collection at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia contains hundreds of editions of the story, as well as ephemera, artifacts, and original artworks
- Read Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault (sad ending), or Little Red Cap by Brothers Grimm (happy ending)
- A Translation of Grimm's Fairy Tale Little Red Cap