Saturday, January 9, 2016

Little Red Riding Hood Part 1

Little Red Riding Hood by Carl Larsson-1881

Most of us are familiar with the story of Little Red, and most of us that are familiar with the story are only familiar with the ending of Red and her grandmother being saved by the woodsman. Unfortunately, the original story did not have a such a wonderful outcome with a ghastly ending of the wolf eating both grandmother and Red in the end. It was first published by Charles Perrault in 1697. You can read an online version here: Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

When Perrault wrote his version he made Red seemed like a spoiled and naive girl. He also put an ending moral with it, making it into a warning fairy tale. Perrault translated the moral himself, leaving no doubt as to the meaning: "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!"

However, the original story that was passed around by the sewing society ladies in France and Italy had a werewolf in it, not a wolf. Red was a older, not a girl, and in some of the oral versions she manages to get away, but the grandmother is eaten. Common names for the oral version of the story was "The Story of the Grandmother" or "The False Grandmother."

When the Grimm Brothers published it, they put their own embellishments, adding the woodsman and opening the wolf to save Red and her grandmother, replacing them with the stones. The story we listen to now is a mixture of Grimm/Perault, with it being more directed towards children instead of older girls. It still has warning but it is more or less to not talk to strangers, listen to your parents, etc.

Andrew Lang's version in the Red Fairy book is called "The True Story of Little Golden Hood." In this version, Little Golden Hood actually has a name, Blanchette. The grandmother does not get eaten by the wolf in the beginning and Blanchette's hood is enchanted, for making oneself invisible or invulnerable. It makes the wolf's throat burn , he tries to run away just as the grandmother walks in and she catches him in her sack. Grandmother dresses Blanchette, who is naked in the bed, trembling with fear. The wolf ends up being made into a muff by the grandmother. 

You can read all of the different versions here: All the Hoods

Bruno Bettelheim, one of the great child psychologist of the 20th century, says this of Perrault's version: "Perrault's "Little Red Riding Hood" loses much of its appeal because it is so obvious that his wolf is not a rapacious beast but a metaphor, which leaves little to the imagination of the hearer. Such simplifications and a directly stated moral turn this potential fairy tale into a cautionary tale which spells out everything completely. Thus the hearer's imagination cannot become active in giving the story a personal meaning."

Most fairy tales have magic in them or some sort of supernatural quality. The wolf being the part of this story that is supernatural, by either being a werewolf, or just an enchanted talking wolf.....which would be a werewolf......right?

Next week I'll discuss werewolves a bit and their role in this tale of caution.

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