Little Red Riding Hood

European fairy tale
A picture by French illustrator Gustave Doré

"Little Red Riding Hood" (or "Little Red Cap") is a French fairy tale for young children about a young girl and a wolf. The story comes from a folktale which means that it was a spoken story for a long time before it was a written story. It was first written down in the late 1600s, by Charles Perrault.[1] The best-known version (the way the story is told) is Rotkäppchen by the Brothers Grimm and dates from the 19th century (1800s).

StoryEdit

The most famous version of the story is the one written by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century.[2] The Brothers Grimm listened to many traditional stories from old people and wrote them into a book.[3] They did not originally mean for their book to be read as children's stories; they were writing down German folklore for scholars to read. But their book became famous as a book of children's stories anyway.[3] The title of the story is properly translated as "Little Red Cap" even though it is usually known in English as "Little Red Riding Hood".[4]

 
In this German picture-book, Red Riding Hood has poured a glass of beer for her Grandmother.

A girl has been given red cap (or cloak and hood) to wear. Her mother sends her to take food to her sick grandmother. The mother tells her she must not stop on the way. A wolf sees the girl walking through the woods and makes a plan to eat her. The wolf politely asks the girl where she is going. The girl answers him, because he seems friendly. The wolf tells the girl to pick some flowers for her grandmother. While she is picking flowers, the wolf goes to grandmother's house and eats her. He puts on the grandmother's night-cap and gets into her bed. When the girl arrives at her grandmother's house, she gets into bed with the wolf.

In the Perrault version, the girl is surprised to see what her "grandmother" looks like without her clothes. "What big arms you have!" she cries. "The better to hug you with!" the wolf responds. The dialogue continues, with the child remarking upon other body parts until she notes the wolf's big teeth. "What big teeth you have!" she cries. "The better to eat you with!" the wolf responds. "I will gobble you up."

The wolf leaps upon the child and eats the girl. In the Grimms' version, a woodcutter (lumberjack) comes and cuts opens the wolf's body. He saves the grandmother and the girl who are still alive in the wolf's stomach. Then, stones are put in the wolf's body to kill the wolf.

History of the storyEdit

The story of Little Red Riding Hood seems to have been told for centuries in different countries, under different names. Anthropoligist Dr. Jamie Tehrani said some versions of Little Red Riding Hood are 3000 years old. One of Aesop's Fables is a version of Little Red Riding Hood, according to Tehrani.[5] In France, the story has probably been told for at least 700 years. In Italy, there are several versions. One is called The False Grandmother.[6] There is also a story from China which is like this, called The Grandmother Tiger.[7] There are also versions of the story from the Middle East and Africa.[2]

In the old versions of the story the wolf is sometimes a terrible monster or a werewolf. In one version of the story, the wolf gives the girl some food to eat. It is part of the body of her grandmother. The wolf tells the girl to throw all her clothes in the fire, and get into bed. She says that she needs to use the toilet first. The wolf ties her with a long string so that she cannot run away without him knowing. But the girl puts the rope around something else, and escapes.

In these early versions of the story, Red Riding Hood escapes on her own. She uses her own intelligence and her own courage. The Brothers Grimm and other later authors added male heroes who save Red Riding Hood.[8][5]

Charles PerraultEdit

The story was first written and published in a book from 1697 by the French writer Charles Perrault. The name of the book, in English, is Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose. The story is called The Little Red Cap (Le Petit Chaperon Rouge).[9] Perrault's version of the tale is the original printed version, but it is likely based on an older oral tradition. It is uncertain if Perrault knew a folk tale from the south of France about a girl who cleverly escapes a werewolf occupying her grandmother's bed.[10]

Perrault wanted to make a strong point about wise and foolish behaviour. He wanted to show that a beautiful young woman was in danger of having men with bad morals try to trick her into wrong behaviour.[5] In Perrault's story the girl is eaten and there is no happy ending.[11]

Other versionsEdit

The story has been changed many times in the centuries following its publication. It is a little different from the way that the Brother's Grimm tell it.[12] In their version, a huntsman slays the child-devouring wolf. He then frees the heroine from the animal's stomach.

 
An English illustration from the 1920s

In some modern versions of the story, especially versions for very young children, the grandmother does not die. She hides in the closet or cupboard in stead. [8]

Telling the story for young childrenEdit

Little Red Riding Hood often appears as a picture book or in collections of stories for very young children.

An important part of the story is the questions and answers. In the story, the wolf knocks at the grandmother's door. The story goes:

"Knock, knock!"
"Who's there?"
"Little Red Riding Hood!"
"Lift up the latch and walk in!"

The second section of repeating parts of the story happens when Red Riding Hood sees the wolf in her grandmother's bed.

Red Riding Hood says "What big eyes you have!" and the wolf replies "The better to see you with!"
Red Riding Hood says "What big ears you have!" and the wolf replies "The better to hear you with!"
Red Riding Hood says "What big teeth you have!" and the wolf replies "The better to eat you with!"

These questions and answers also appear in older versions, for example Perrault's.[11]

Stories with some of the same ideasEdit

There are many stories in which a hungry wolf threatens a young person or animal.[13] In most of these stories, the young one escapes by cunning (cleverness). One story is the Russian folktale Peter and the Wolf. The Brothers Grimm told the story of the Little Kids and the Wolf. Another story like this is The Three Little Pigs, first published by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps.

MeaningsEdit

As with many fairy tales, hidden messages can be found in Little Red Riding Hood.[14] People have very different interpretations (ways of understanding the hidden meanings). There are two well-known ways that the story of Little Red Riding Hood can be interpreted.

The first type of interpretation is about morality. It is about what is right and what is wrong.

 
In this picture the wolf is having very bad thoughts about the little girl.
  • The easiest message for children to understand is that it can be dangerous to trust strangers.
  • A more adult interpretation is about sexuality.[15] Some people think that the story of the girl being "eaten" is really a symbol for rape. Susan Brownmiller wrote a book about it, called Against Our Will. Some of the other versions of the story seem to be more about rape than the way that the Brothers Grimm wrote it, which was for children.[16]
  • Charles Perrault makes his meaning quite clear. At the end of the story he writes:
"From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers.... all wolves are not of the same sort.... there is one kind [that is not] noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! .... these gentle wolves are ... the most dangerous!"
Some scholars say Perrault was not talking about rape but about sexual morality. At the time, there was an expression in French that is "seen the wolf" in English. If a girl had sex and was no longer a virgin, people would say she had "seen the wolf."[8]
  • Erich Fromm based his ideas only on the story the Brothers Grimm wrote. He sees the red cap of Little Red Riding Hood as a symbol for menstruation.
  • In old French and Italian versions of the story, the girl is independent and clever. She tricks the wolf and escapes without any help.

The second way of seeing the stories has nothing to do with peoples' behaviour or feelings. These interpretations have to do with the cycle of the sun and the seasons, and with the cycle of life, with people dying and being born.

  • One interpretation is about night and day. In this interpretation, Red Riding Hood's bright red cap is be a symbol for the sun. The sun is swallowed by the terrible night (the wolf). When she is cut out again, it represent the dawn.[17] This bears a resemblance to the Norse Legend of the wolf Skoll (or Fenrir) who swallows the sun at Ragnarök.[18]
  • Another interpretation is that the tale is about the season of spring, or the month of May, escaping the winter.[19] The story could be seen as a description of the May Queen ritual that represents the coming of Spring, with the crown of flowers replaced by the red hood.[20]

AdaptationsEdit

Other re-tellingsEdit

 
In this French painting by François Richard Fleury, the girl will perhaps escape.

François Adrien Boieldieu (1775 - 1834) made an opera from the story. The opera is called Le petit chaperon rouge. Its first performance was in Paris, in the year 1818.

In 1927, Sir Compton MacKenzie used Little Red Riding Hood as the central character of a novel for children "Santa Claus in Summer". Red Riding Hood, in this re-telling, is the daughter of a highway man called Riding Hood.

The story has been adapted to various media. Tex Avery made a cartoon out of it, Red Hot Riding Hood. He adapted the story to be more appealing to adults. Little Red Riding Hood works at a striptease club. The wolf, dressed in a suit, goes after the stripper (a stripper is a person who is paid to take off his or her clothes in public).

Roald Dahl re-told the story in a funny poem about Little Red Riding Hood. It is in his collection Revolting Rhymes.

Lon Po Po is an ancient Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood which won the 1990 Randolph Caldecott Medal for its watercolour and pastel illustrations by Young.

ArtEdit

Many paintings have been done of Little Red Riding Hood. Artists who have painted pictures of this story are George Frederick Watts, Samuel Albrecht Anker, and François Richard Fleury.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Bottigheimer, Ruth. (2008). "Before Contes du temps passe (1697): Charles Perrault's Griselidis, Souhaits and Peau". The Romantic Review, Volume 99, Number 3. pp. 175-189
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rachel Nuwer (November 15, 2013). "There Are 58 Versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Some 1,000 Years Older Than the Brothers Grimm's". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Isabel Hernández (September 24, 2019). "Brothers Grimm fairy tales were never meant for kids". National Geographic. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  4. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Brad Smithfield (June 10, 2017). "The Early, folk versions of Little Red Riding Hood are horrifying, violent & grotesque". Vintage News. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  6. 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
  7. Alan Dundes, ed. (1989) Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-029-912-0344, p. 21.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Angela J. Reynolds (2018). "The Better to See You With: Peering into the Story of Little Red Riding Hood, 1695–1939". Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  9. Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales. p. 93. ISBN 0-19-211559-6
  10. Jacques Barchilon and Henry Pettit (1960) The Authentic Mother Goose Fairy Tales and Mursery Rhymes. Denver: Alan Swallow, p. 13.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Charles Perrault. "Little Red Riding Hood". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  12. 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
  13. Alison Davies (October 15, 2015). "Understanding Fairy Tales: A Look Into the Big Bad Wolf Archetype". Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  14. Lauren Suval (July 8, 2017). "Hidden Meanings in Children's Fairy Tales". Psych Central. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  15. Jane Yolen, Touch Magic p 25, ISBN 0-87483-591-7
  16. Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 145, ISBN 0-465-04125-6
  17. Maria Tatar, p 25, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  18. Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 26-7, James M. McGlathery, ed. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  19. Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 27, James M. McGlathery, ed. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  20. Waller Hastings. "Little Red Riding Hood". Northern State University. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008.
  • Jack Zipes, ed. (2000) The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales. Oxford University Press, pp. 302–3.

Other websitesEdit