In Charles Perrault's "Little Red Riding Hood", the reader is introduced to a naive, innocent young girl who is preyed upon by an older, cunning werewolf. A theme within all tellings of Little Red Riding hood is that of a loss of innocence. Little Red is described as a "little country girl" (Perrault 6). The fact that this character is so naive into discussing her outings with strangers and that she has no knowledge of the woods only add onto this image that is portrayed of an attractive young woman. Little Red is then asked to strip of her clothes, removing her cape and she is to get in bed with the wolf. The removal of the cape is a large symbol for the loss of virginity. Perrault writes at the end of the story with a moral that states, "There are all types of wolves who pursue young women at home and in the streets" (Perrault 2). This is a direct correlation to that of pedophiles and the wolf within the story is an allegory for one. The werewolf in this tale is a predator whom preys on the young and exploit them for their own personal gain. Even in the earliest versions of the tale it is shown that this young girl has been sexualized by an older creature. In the short story, "Little Red Hat" the character of Little Red is seen picking flowers while the Ogre goes to her Grandmother's house. Picking flowers is symbolic of losing one's virginity. A flower represents a young girl's innocence and Red, unknowingly, is plucking away her wholesomeness. Once arrived, the Ogre (as does the Wolf in multiple versions) asks Little Red to strip and get into bed with him. The Ogre is forcefully pushing himself onto Red and thus furthering this predatory agenda.
This loss of innocence is strongly seen within Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods." Little Red within the production is a young, rambunctious girl who is characterized as spoiled and a brat. Throughout the course of the play she grows into a young adult whom has dealt with the loss of her grandmother, her friends and the loss of her innocence. In the song, "I Know Things Now", Little Red is directly singing about being raped by the wolf. For example:
"And he showed me things Many beautiful things, That I hadn't thought to explore. They were off my path, So I never had dared. I had been so careful, I never had cared And he made me feel excited- Well, excited and scared."
- Little Red, Into the Woods
This little girl was sexually exploited and this is not unusual for the tone that this play provides. Despite the adaptations of this musical, the original piece is intended to be a dark take on "growing up" and the dangers that face all of us. The song "Hello Little Girl" is one that has the wolf sexually sizing up Little Red for his own desires.
In multiple tellings of "Little Red Riding Hood", Little Red can always be seen as a young girl whom was sexually preyed upon by an older, wolf-ish stranger. Modern adaptations continue to explore this dynamic, some even having Red as the wolf herself. Overall, the sexualization of the cape and the hood is something that can not be ignored and it is a theme that has prevailed in multiple retellings.
Little Red Hat. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Perrault, Charles. "Little Red Riding Hood." University of Pittsburgh, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Sondheim, Stephen. Into the Woods: A New Musical. Place of Publication Not Identified: Warner, 1999. Print.
1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsOv8OK2rE0 (I Know Things Now lyrics)
2) http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/woods-johnny-depp-sings-hello-760348 (Referring to "Hello Little Girl" a song within the production that sexualizes Little Red for the Wolf's pleasure)