Little Red Riding Hood

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Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood - J. W. Smith.jpg
Illustration by J. W. Smith
Folk tale
NameLittle Red Riding Hood
Also known asLittle Red
Data
Aarne-Thompson grouping333
MythologyEuropean
Origin Date17th Century
Published inItalian Folktales
RelatedPeter and the Wolf

"Little Red Riding Hood" is a European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. [1] Its origins can be traced back to the 10th century to several European folk tales, including one from Italy called The False Grandmother. The best known version was written by Charles Perrault. [2]

Contents

The story has been changed considerably in various retellings and subjected to numerous modern adaptations and readings. Other names for the story are: "Little Red Ridinghood", "Little Red Cap" or simply "Red Riding Hood". It is number 333 in the Aarne–Thompson classification system for folktales. [3]

Tale

Little Red Riding Hood, illustrated in a 1927 story anthology Little Red Riding Hood - Project Gutenberg etext 19993.jpg
Little Red Riding Hood, illustrated in a 1927 story anthology

The story revolves around a girl called Little Red Riding Hood. In Perrault's versions of the tale, she is named after her 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 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, who naively tells him where she is going. He suggests that the girl pick some flowers as a present for her grandmother, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother's house and gains entry by pretending to be her. He swallows the grandmother whole (in some stories, he locks her in the closet) and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandma.

Gustave Dore's engraving of the scene: "She was astonished to see how her grandmother looked. GustaveDore She was astonished to see how her grandmother looked.jpg
Gustave Doré's engraving of the scene: "She was astonished to see how her grandmother looked.

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 embrace 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 the bed and eats her, 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 with an axe, and cuts open the sleeping wolf. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerge shaken, but unharmed. Then they fill the wolf's body with heavy stones. The wolf awakens and attempts to flee, but the stones cause him to collapse and die. In Grimm's version, the wolf leaves the house and tries to drink out of a well, but the stones in his stomach cause him to fall in and drown. Sanitized versions of the story have the grandmother locked in the closet instead of being eaten and some have Little Red Riding Hood saved by the lumberjack as the wolf advances on her rather than after she gets eaten, where the woodcutter kills the wolf with his axe. [4]

"Little Red Riding Hood" illustration by Arthur Rackham. Arthur Rackham Little Red Riding Hood+.jpg
"Little Red Riding Hood" illustration by Arthur Rackham.

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.[ citation needed ] [6] It also warns about the dangers of not obeying one's mother (at least in Grimms' version).[ citation needed ]

The most iconic scene from the story is included in the fairytale forest in the Dutch theme park 'Efteling'. The big bad wolf, dressed as a grandmother, is lying in bed. He has dressed up so that he can lure Little Red Riding Hood into the house. Red Riding Hood, in Dutch 'Roodkapje' is also a famous figure in the Dutch/Flemish cartoon 'Sprookjesboom'. An old Dutch children's song is also dedicated to Little Red Riding Hood, called 'Little Red Riding Hood where are you going?'

History

Relationship to other tales

The story displays many similarities to stories from classical Greece and Rome. Scholar Graham Anderson has compared the story to a local legend recounted by Pausanias in which, each year, a virgin girl was offered to a malevolent spirit dressed in the skin of a wolf, who raped the girl. Then, one year, the boxer Euthymos came along, slew the spirit, and married the girl who had been offered as a sacrifice. [7] There are also a number of different stories recounted by Greek authors involving a woman named Pyrrha (literally "Fire") and a man with some name meaning "wolf". [8] The Roman poet Horace alludes to a tale in which a male child is rescued alive from the belly of Lamia, an ogress in classical mythology. [9]

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 Mjölnir, 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, eaten, or drunk, out of longing for the wedding. [10] A parallel to another Norse myth, the chase and eventual murder of the sun goddess by the wolf Sköll, has also been drawn. [11]

A very similar story also belongs to the North African tradition, namely in Kabylia, where a number of versions are attested. [12] 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 :

‘I beseech you, open the door for me, father.
Jingle your bracelets, oh my daughter Ghriba.
I'm afraid of the monster in the forest, father.
I, too, am afraid, oh my daughter Ghriba.’ [13]

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.

A Taiwanese story from the 16th century, known as Grandaunt Tiger bears several striking similarities. When the girl's mother goes out, the tigress comes to the girl's house and pretends to be their aunt, asking to come in. The girl says that her voice does not sound right, so the tigress attempts to disguise her voice. Then, the girl says that her hands feel too coarse, so the tigress attempts to make them smoother. When finally, the tigress gains entry, she eats the girl's sister's hand. The girl comes up with a ruse to go outside and fetch some food for her aunt. Grandaunt Tiger, suspicious of the girl, ties a rope to her leg. The girl ties a bucket to the rope to fool her, but Grandaunt Tiger realises this and chases after her, whereupon she climbs into a tree. The girl tells the tigress that she will let her eat her, but first she would like to feed her some fruit from the tree. The tigress comes closer to eat the food, whereupon, the girl pours boiling hot oil down her throat, killing her. [14]

Earliest versions

"The better to see you with": woodcut by Walter Crane Walter Crane26.jpg
"The better to see you with": woodcut by Walter Crane

The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to several likely pre-17th century versions from various European countries. Some of these are significantly different from the currently known, Grimms-inspired version. It was told by French peasants in the 10th century [1] and recorded by the cathedral schoolmaster Egbert of Liège. [15] In Italy, 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. [16] It has also been called "The Story of Grandmother". It is also possible that this early tale has roots in very similar East Asian tales (e.g. "Grandaunt Tiger"). [17]

These early variations of the tale, do differ from the currently known version in several ways. The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes 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). [18] 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. [19] In some versions, the wolf eats the girl after she gets into bed with him, and the story ends there. [20] 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, or in some versions the help of a younger boy who she happens to run into. [21] Sometimes, though more rarely, the red hood is even non-existent. [20]

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. [22] And in another version the wolf is pushed into the fire, while he is preparing the meat of the grandmother to be eaten by the girl. [20]

Charles Perrault

The earliest known printed version [23] 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 [24] 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. [25]

French images, like this 19th-century painting, show the much shorter red chaperon being worn Little Red Riding Hood.jpg
French images, like this 19th-century painting, show the much shorter red chaperon being worn

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 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.

Charles Perrault explained the 'moral' at the end of the tale: [26] so that no doubt is left to his intended meaning:

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 the 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.

The Brothers Grimm

Wilhelm (left) and Jacob Grimm, from an 1855 painting by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann Grimm.jpg
Wilhelm (left) and Jacob Grimm, from an 1855 painting by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann

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)). [27]

The earlier parts of the tale agree so closely with Perrault's variant that it is almost certainly the source of the tale. [28] 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. [29] 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. [30]

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. [31] It is notably tamer than the older stories which contained darker themes.

Later versions

An engraving from the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf (1858).jpg
An engraving from the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor.

Numerous authors have rewritten or adapted this tale.

Andrew Lang included a variant called "The True History of Little Goldenhood" [32] in The Red Fairy Book (1890). He derived it from the works of Charles Marelles, [33] 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 a 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.

Interpretations

A depiction by Gustave Dore, 1883. Dore ridinghood.jpg
A depiction by Gustave Doré, 1883.

Apart from the overt warning about talking to strangers, there are many interpretations of the classic fairy tale, many of them sexual. [34] Some are listed below.

Natural cycles

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. [35] 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. [36] Alternatively, the tale could be about the season of spring or the month of May, escaping the winter. [37]

Red Riding Hood by George Frederic Watts George Frederic Watts - Red Riding Hood - Project Gutenberg eText 17395.jpg
Red Riding Hood by George Frederic Watts

Rite

The tale has been interpreted as a puberty rite, stemming from a prehistoric origin (sometimes an origin stemming from a previous matriarchal era). [38] 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 stomach. [39]

Rebirth

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. [40]

Norse myth

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 Freyja) 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. [41]

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. [42] However, many revisionist retellings choose to focus on empowerment, and depict Little Red Riding Hood or the grandmother successfully defending herself against the wolf. [43]

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 revert the hero to a prince, these tellings of Little Red Riding Hood reveal to the heroine that she has a wild nature like the hero's. [44] These interpretations refuse to characterize Little Red Riding Hood as a victim; these are tales of female empowerment.

Works Progress Administration poster by Kenneth Whitley, 1939 Little Red Riding Hood WPA poster.jpg
Works Progress Administration poster by Kenneth Whitley, 1939

Animation and film

Television

Literature

Music

Games

Musicals

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

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  17. Alan Dundes, little ducking
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  27. Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
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