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The “Little Red Ridding Hood” is a short story adapted from the ancient European fairy tales which was first printed by Charles Perrault. This printed version originated from the French folktales and was part of his work entitled “tales and stories of the past with Morals” published in the year 1697. Other authors have also published variations of the same story in their collections like the brothers Grimm from Germany and Andrew Lang who explicitly said that, this story had been mistold by those before him and his version was the true representation of this story. There are however different variations and adaptations of this story (Tatar 149).
This short story talks about an unnamed peasant girl who walks through the woods taking some food to her sick grandmother. This girl is known as Little Red Ridding Hood according to Charles, the name being derived from the red cloak she wears. She was lovely and adored by her mother and grandmother. One day her mother sent her to see her grandmother who she had heard was very ill and made some cakes and a bottle of butter. On her way, a certain wolf wanted to eat this girl but hesitates because it did not want to do this in public. Instead it approaches the girl and asks her where she is going. The girl naively tells the wolf about her sick grandmother and even volunteers the direction of her grandmother’s house. The wolf seizes this opportunity to get its meal and advices the girl to pick some flowers from the forest. Without much hesitation, the girl does so and the wolf utilizes this opportunity to reach the grandmothers house before the girl (Tatar 150). The wolf then pretends to be the girl to gain entry into the house where he shallows her grandmother as whole and disguises himself as the grand mother to await the girl.
This is the point with the most number of variations as some authors suggest that when the girl entered the hut, she asked a number of questions while other variation suggest that the girl only asked about the big hands her grandmother had. Other authors say that the wolf hide in the closet while others say that the girl was not armed and was rescued by a hunter. In some retellings, the girl asks the wolf now disguised as the grandmother about the big teeth he possessed, which he answers are for chewing the girl and goes ahead to do so.
According to the first printed version by Charles, the girl was swallowed whole by the wolf. A certain hunter however rescues them by cutting open the wolf’s stomach where they emerge as whole. They then fill the wolf’s stomach with stones. When the wolf awakes, he decides to go to drink some water as he is thirsty. He drowns in this well after he falls in.
Although Perrault’s version is regarded as the first print of this story, it is known to have existed for extended periods of time prior this printing where it was told and passed orally in a number of European countries even before seventeenth century. French peasants are known to have told the story even before the 14th century and Italians have a number of variations of the same story (Orenstein 166). These variation ranges from the wolf where some tellers replace it with an ogre or werewolf to the activities leading to the girls escape. Some even suggest that the girl was not rescued by the hunter but used her own cunning while other versions say that, the girl cannibalized her own grandmother unwittingly when she found the meat the wolf had left her.
Charles Perrault version however has a moral lesson explained at the end of the story. He writes that his intended meaning was to warn young, pretty well fed, courteous girls of their habit of talking to strangers. He points out that the wolf was chosen because of its disposing characters which makes it look harmless, neither angry, nor hateful, nor noisy but gentle and obliging allowing it to be unsuspected when it follows the young maids in the streets even to their houses (Ashliman ¶9). It is a little different from the previous intended audiences and approaches morality with a stern warning to women against the advances of men.
Many distinguished people have however tried to interpret this story in different ways rather than Charles Perrault’s interpretation. For example Ethnologist from University of Calgary, Dr. Valerius Geist said that this tale was only meant to warn people of wolfs in the forest. Due to the dangerous nature of wolfs, he says that this story was genuinely meant to warn people of this existing danger and warn then not to enter into forests were wolfs are know to exist (Tieck et al 361). Naturalists on the other hand saw this tale as a kind of representation of some natural phenomena. Led by cultural anthropologist Edward T. Burnett, they hinted that this girl only represents the day and the wolf represents the night. When the girl is swallowed, it symbolizes the end of the day when the sun sets only to reappear in the morning just as the girl was rescued by the hunter. Other individual have however interpreted this tale as depicting puberty ritual. As the girl enters the forest, all the activities occurring at the forest and at the grandmothers home are forms of ritual and passages which culminate with the girl emerging as a grown up woman.
The choice of clothing by this girl is a symbolic in that it represents violence and sexuality. This color not only represents how this girl was beautiful, but also tells us more about what was about to happen to this girl. Colors are generally symbolic to various events and traits. The red color symbolizes strong attraction to people and it has many times been used to symbolize love (Bellingham ¶3). This color can also symbolize anger, blood, danger and guilty. This enables it to be used as warning in many situations. It also represents sacrifice and courage. This make the reader think that, the red cloak was not a mere choice of clothing as it was closely associated to this girl that it became her name. Just like this red cloak, it can be suggested that, danger surrounds this young lady regardless of the fact that she is lovely, loved, and an object of passion and lust.
Ashliman, D. L. “Little Red Riding Hood and other tales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 333 translated and edited”. © 1999-2009
Bellingham, Heather. “Literary analysis: The significance of clothing in Little Red Riding Hood”. Retrieved on June 16, 2010 from http://www.helium.com/items/1697244-little-red-riding-hood ¶
Orenstein, Catherine “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale”, p 165-7,
Tatar, Maria. “The Annotated Brothers Grimm”. Norton & company, New York, p 149 W. W. 2004
Tieck, Ludwig, Leben, Tod and Rothkäppchens, kleinen. large pdf file containing reproduction of three plays by Tieck’s Schriften Ludwig. His version of “Little Red Riding Hood”. pg 327-362
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