Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not-So-Obscure Fairy Tale: Little Red Riding Hood

Today's fairy tale is Little Red Riding Hood. Tough to get much less obscure than that! While I usually babble about the obscure fairy tales that I came across while doing research for Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, I figured I'd mix things up today and do a famous tale instead...

Little Red Riding Hood (retold in lots of places)

Once upon a time... Mom says to Little Red Riding Hood, "Your grandma is sick. Bring her cookies. Don't leave the path. Don't talk to strangers."

I can't help but think that Mommy-Red could have explained the reason behind her rules. Perhaps something like: "Don't talk to strangers or they'll EAT you."

Little Red says, "Yes, mother," and skips merrily into the forest.

Is this good parenting? Sending one's daughter to skip merrily through a wolf-infested forest? Seems to me a bit like the medieval equivalent of "go play in traffic."

In the forest, a wolf sees Little Red and says, "Yummy." He isn't referring to the cookies. "Little girl," he says. "Where are you going?"

Yes, yes, lots of innuendo here. Move along.

Little Red says, "Grandma's house. Here, I'll show you a map."

Okay, maybe she doesn't have a map, but in some variants, the kid describes all the landmarks en route to Granny's house. Clearly, McGruff the Crime Dog didn't visit her preschool. (Anyone but me remember McGruff? Am I dating myself?)

Wolf thinks, Grannies make nice appetizers. I'll eat her first and then Little Red. Out loud, he says, "Don't you want to pick flowers?"

Why not eat Little Red now and Grandma after and skip all the PJ-wearing? Why does the wolf care so much about the order of his meals? Is he one of those fussy eaters who won't eat his peas if the mashed potatoes are touching them?

"Sure," Little Red says. She leaves the path to pick flowers.

Little Red is weak in the Force.

Wolf runs to Grandma's house, eats Grandma, and then dresses in her clothes.

This is such an odd plan. I mean, he's a wolf, right? Couldn't he just, you know, hide behind the door and pounce? I think he secretly envies Cinderella's mice who get to wear cute little outfits all the time.

Eventually, Little Red arrives at Grandma's house. She sees the wolf in Grandma's clothes and says, "Ah-ha, imposter! Have at thee!" And she draws her sword and...

Fine, fine, that totally doesn't happen in, like, any version of this story. But wouldn't it be awesome if it did?

Little Red says, "My Grandma, your arms are huge."

Isn't this kind of a personal remark? Perhaps in addition to "don't talk to strangers", Mommy-Red should have said, "Don't insult your grandmother's physique."

"All the better to hug you with, my dear."

Really, this is a very polite response to a bratty remark.

"Grandma, your ears are huge."

And hairy.

"All the better to hear you with, my dear."

Sesame Street has the best explanation for Little Red that I've ever seen. Their Little Red Riding Hood simply thinks everyone is Grandma. She greets Elmo with a hug and a cry of "Grandma!"

"Grandma, your eyes are huge."

I suppose you could say that Little Red isn't unobservant -- she just doesn't like to leap to conclusions.

"All the better to see you with, my dear."

Maybe she is trying to be polite and is simply dancing around saying, "Granny, I think you're a wolf."

"Grandma, your teeth are huge."

Or maybe she's just an idiot.

"All the better to eat you with, my dear!"

Does it say bad things about me that I always want to cheer at this line?

And the wolf eats her.

Yummy.

A huntsman conveniently wanders by, hears the wolf smacking his lips, bursts in, and slices open the wolf's belly.

In earlier versions, there's of course no huntsman. We're all supposed to learn to obey our mothers and/or run away very fast when a wolf tries to eat us.

Out pops Grandma and Little Red.

He didn't chew?

Grandma and Little Red sew rocks into the wolf's belly and then drop him into the river where he sinks out of sight.

In most versions, the huntsman just does him in. But I kind of like versions where Grandma and Little Red get even (or at least DO something besides hang out inside the wolf's smelly intestines).

And everyone lives happily ever after.

Except the wolf, of course.

For more fairy tales (with commentary), check out the Obscure Fairy Tales page of my website, where I've gathered links to all my prior fairy tale posts.

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20 Comments:

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Q said...

What's wrong with not wanting your potatoes and peas to touch?

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Q: I had a relative who used to mix all his food together on his plate on the theory that it all mixed together in his stomach anyway. This REALLY doesn't work with all foods.

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Janni Lee said...

Eventually, Little Red arrives at Grandma's house. She sees the wolf in Grandma's clothes and says, "Ah-ha, imposter! Have at thee!" And she draws her sword and...

Hee! We so need that story ...

 
At 12:18 AM, Blogger Meagan said...

I think the mother was suffering from the same problem that Hansel and Grettle's parents were dealing with: After the third week of sending Grandma food she realized this was getting to be a bit much for a peasant, so she found a wolf and killed two birds with one stone. Then, "distraught", she hired a huntsman to take care of the witness.

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Janni: I do hope that after her experience with the wolf, Little Red invests in some self-defense courses.

Meagan: Ooh, I like your theory! Very Brothers Grimm-esque.

 
At 9:01 PM, Blogger AnnaDee said...

i agree, it would so rock if red pulled out a sword.
i think my fave explanation is the one that micheal buckley gives in his 'sisters grimm' books.
i can't wait to read you latest book!

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

AnnaDee: I recently found a Roald Dahl poem about Little Red in which she pulls out a gun...

 
At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Raecchi said...

Your takes on all these fairy tales are fantastic, and hilarious. I've been laughing myself silly all morning!

Now, the really disturbing versions of Red Riding Hood are the ones where she ends up eating bits of her dead grandmother.

Such as:
http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrPathNeedles.html
or
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html#italy

 
At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Lucas B. said...

The kids series "Faerie Tale Theatre" has the best explanation for why Lil' Red didn't notice Grandma was a wolf. When the wolf dressed up, he pulled the bed spread over his entire body and blew out the lights.

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Lucas B. said...

[Little Red says, "My Grandma, your arms are huge."

Isn't this kind of a personal remark? Perhaps in addition to "don't talk to strangers", Mommy-Red should have said, "Don't insult your grandmother's physique."]

You should have put after the word physique: "Or she'll twist into something good for her, and reveal she's actually a bloodthirsty wolf in disguise."

 
At 10:02 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Raecchi: Yikes, you're right -- very disturbing. Thanks for sharing those links!

Lucas: I liked that Faerie Tale Theatre series. My favorite was "The Princess Who Never Laughed."

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger Alessia said...

Aww, hoping you'd do the ORIGINAL earlier version other than a small remark about it.
I must be simply sinister.. since I'm more intrigued in the earlier version.
Well, hoping to see more fairy tales 'o yours! :)

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Alessia: The earlier version is quite fascinating. And disturbing.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Jakob Dailes said...

My favorite variation of this tale is "Red-Cap" by the brothers Grimm, in which the girl does not actually wear a full out coat, but actually just a little red hat that ties at the neck. In some variations of this story, people try to fuse this variant with Charles Perrault's (Perrault actually wrote the first variation of this story, the one you used) by saying the cap had a cape attached. To people who not only thing that but also go to lengths as to call "Red-Cap" Little Red Riding Hood, I say:
"I despise you with great intensity!"

 
At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Lauren said...

I GOT it!

She was near-sighted, and the wolf stole her glasses! Consequently, she couldn't tell the difference between Wolf's gray fur and Grandma's gray hair.

Oh...she also had ADD. That's why she couldn't tell that Grandma had a strangely scratchy throat. All she heard was, "blah blah blah!"

....Don't look at me like that! I'm slightly near-sighted, and I have ADD too. So TAKE THAT!!!!

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Jakob: I haven't read Red Cap in a while. I should reread...

Lauren: I like it!!

 
At 8:18 PM, Blogger Jakob Dailes said...

Been rereading "Red-Cap". I love it. It makes you wonder if those wolves are afraid of running into Little Red and Granny on a dark night. As for me, I hate it every time a little girl and her granny boil-me-alive/drown in broth.

 
At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! I've been staying up reading these, you, missy, are hilarious! I love the "She is weak in the Force." Bit. I am cracking up right now and already on my way to reading the next one. It's 2 in the morning. Keep doing these! And then I shall never sleep.....

 
At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Randomwolf17 said...

I'm thinking of compiling a book of fairy tales re-written as if the characters carried around crossbows...

 
At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Randomwolf17 said...

I'm thinking of compiling a book of fairy tales re-written as if the characters carried around crossbows...

 

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