Red Riding Hood

Ceridwen Hazelchild, Red Riding Hood, 2011I never held for sinister stories of grandmother-hungry wolves and woodcutters with a passion for dissecting animals. The Brothers Grimm are perhaps the most well-known for being sadistic or gory, but early versions varied in their nature. Sometimes Grandmother was hidden in the cupboard and Red was saved just in time, or Red removed her clothes, got into bed with the wolf and realised what he was. But in other versions Red was eaten once getting into bed and there was no happy ending, or Red unwittingly cooked and ate her own grandmothers flesh and blood, or both Red and Grandmother were eaten whole and once they were cut out by the Woodcutter, the wolfs empty stomach was filled with stones so that he fell into the river and drowned.

In some of the early stories, there is no Woodcutter who arrives in the nick of time and Red Riding Hood has to escape using her own cunning, drawing on the clear themes of the safety of the village and the dangers of the dark and unknown forest. Supposedly the original was a warning to young women about sexual advances from men – an obvious example being the version where a naked Red and gets into bed the Wolf only to be eaten and have no happy ending. In any case, I’ve always preferred to see Red Riding Hood and the wolf as a coming of age story, with the wolf becoming a guide of sorts through the forest, as Red Riding sets out into the unknown and has to rely upon her own choices. In those cases, the woodland never seemed that scary at all.

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