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."
"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.
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.