Friday 26 June 2015

Fairytale Fridays: Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood is pretty iconic with her red cape and hood and getting eaten by the big bad wolf and everything. She's also been reincarnated several times, my current favourite probably being a tie between the character in Into the Woods and Ruby from Once Upon a Time.

I loved Little Red Riding Hood as a child, giggling through the 'what big ears you have' 'all the better to hear you with' bit and always a little squeak at the end when she is eaten up. Every time I heard it I was silently begging her to run away while all the while knowing that she wouldn't and getting some kind of gleeful delight out of knowing that she was about to be eaten up. Maybe kids are just mean but personally I loved all versions equally - those where she is saved and those where she isn't - I think the suspense of hoping that the Wolf won't beat her to her grandmothers and then hoping her grandmother will escape and then hoping that she will escape is enough. Once you reach the end of it it sort of doesn't matter whether she escapes or not, at least it didn't to me which is slightly odd because I always liked the reassurance of knowing that everything would be all right in the end, and I still tell my kids not to worry because the good guy will win when we're watching movies and they're concerned.

This week I read Andrew Lang's interpretation from The Blue Fairy Book, which is taken from the Perrault version, the earliest written form of the tale.  I've also read several other versions, particularly Angela Carters The Werewolf and The Company of Wolves where the emphasis is on the loss of innocence and the wolf marking a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.

I particularly like the moral from the end of Perrault's version:

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! 

I think it's pretty easy to take a lot of different meanings from the story, short as it is. Obviously you shouldn't talk to wolves, and I think we can all see the link between wolves and stranger and strangers and predatory people, but my absolute favourite interpretation of all time has got to be from the indomitable Mr. Dahl:

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ``Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.''

If you want to read the full poem (and you should because it's great) it can be found in Revolting Rhymes or here.

Fairytale Fridays is a two weekly link up for all things fairytale related. Feel free to link up your posts about fairytale, mythology, folklore, retellings, movies, art or anything at all fairytale related! Posts do not have to be written especially but they must be posts you haven't linked up before! The next Fairytale Fridays will be July 10th

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