I saw Red Riding Hood today. It was a bit disappointing. That red cloak against the white snow looked so pretty in the trailer. I judged a dvd by its cover and paid the penalty. I suppose I was expecting something more gothic, after all, the Grimm’s version is pretty, well, grim:
‘[The huntsman] took a pair of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When he had made two snips, he saw the little red riding hood shining, and then he made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying: ‘Ah, how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf.’ After that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely able to breathe. Red Riding Hood, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead. Then all three were delighted.’
Earlier versions can be even grislier. In some, the wolf tricks the girl into eating her own grandmother and makes her undress and throw her clothes into the fire.
Recent readings see the red cloak as a symbol of the girl’s sexual maturity – the wolf as a predatory suitor. But I suspect this understanding was there from the beginning. Perrault (who wrote a 17th century version) was pretty clear on the message to be taken from the tale: ‘From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers.’ Modern interpretations seem to be in agreement.
Despite the theme of a predatory male stalking a girl in a dark forest, one of the prevailing themes of the story remains the cunning of Red Riding Hood:
‘What big teeth you have! She saw how his jaw began to slaver and the room was full of the clamour of the forest’s Liebestod but the wise child never flinched, even when he answered: All the better to eat you with. The girl burst out laughing; she knew she was nobody’s meat.’ [Angela Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’]
Because sometimes little girls are scarier than the big, bad wolf …
Betty Boop meets ‘Li’l Red Riding Hood’. It’s a creepy song. It’s a creepy fairy tale:
‘TV Tropes’ warns about dressing girls in red:
A modern Red Riding Hood from Pewdie at Deviant Art. She looks like she could take care of herself: