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"Little Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham and the Pharohs features some fantastic irony in the name of the performing group and the message of the song, to be discussed shortly!

The song was released in 1966, in a period where women were starting to gain some traction as independent entities, but still liable to be placed under men in the social hierarchy. The song is based off the original Perrault "Little Red Riding Hood" short story first written in 1697, variations of which story have been told as early as the 1st century. (1[1])

The short stories themselves tell of a monster, either a wolf, ogre, or werewolf, preying on a girl as she walks through the forest alone to her grandmothers house, racing her to the home and tricking her into crawling into bed with him and in most cases eating her! The original stated moral of the story is as simple and commonplace as "don't talk to strangers". (2http)

The song takes a slightly more sexually sinister angle, and tells the story of a wolf who caught sight of an attractive young woman in the forest and started following her. In the song, he compliments her beauteous features and tries to convince her to spend some time with him, or at least let him accompany her on her dangerous journey. He bears the facade of a gentle sheep, and says he'll keep it on to please her if she won't consent, until he's shown he can be trusted. He remarks how he hopes she will "see things his way" and how she's "everything a big bad wolf could want" (3[2]). The implication of this song is of a sexual predator, and the word wolf itself alludes to a man "with concealed sexual intentions" (4[3]).

The fascinating discussion is in terms of the message the story and the song convey to young women. In modern society, women are taught to learn self defense, protect themselves from predators, and learn to be safe from men who have no self control and want to hurt them for their physical attributes. This song and story promote that message in the sense that women are responsible for their own safety, and should not talk to strangers, even if and especially when they are all alone and could use company and protection in a scary place. I think the most disturbing thing about this message is not to control mens primal urges, but that it is a woman's responsibility to keep themselves safe rather than just teaching men that hunting women is not okay.

The song is from an older period where women could still sometimes be considered as something at the discretion of men, their actions up to mens choices, and the stories likely featured sexist trends similar to this.

The irony of the artist name, Sam the Sham, comes into play because the song deliberately speaks of the wolf wearing the sheep suit to convince her that he can be trusted, he himself is a sham to her.

Another interesting aspect of this discussion is the return song, sung by Sam's backup singers (6[4]), which responds to the wolfs attempts to seduce her. She succumbs to the wolfs facade of a gentle, trustworthy sheep who has "a big heart to love her with" and she returns that love, letting him in, her saying "we can be alone somehow, stay by me so I'll be safe" (5[5]).

This is a return that perpetuates the traditional gender roles for the 1960's, where women are naive and innocent and can't see through the guise of a wolf hunting them, and instead welcome what they don't see as inevitable betrayal. This can be sexual naiveté, emotional, or just spatial unawareness on behalf of the woman in the song.

Overall, the message of the original "Little Red Riding Hood" teaches a widely accepted social lesson, but perhaps one that is mildly outdated.

Sources

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Red_Riding_Hood#Earliest_versions

2) http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html#perrault

3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KteV6wsDNtU

4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li%27l_Red_Riding_Hood

5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48NthNJLsAA

6) http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=9315

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