Most young girls growing up can recall their mothers and fathers telling them cautionary tales about how they should never talk to strangers and always get to their destination straight away. There's one story that seems to come up quite often when parents are cautioning their children against the dangers of the outside world: Little Red Riding Hood.

The story we think of most often is the one where Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to her grandmother's house to bring her food and visit with her, when she meets a wolf who is friendly enough to her, when she realizes she needs to hurry along because her granny is waiting for her. She finds her way to her grandmother's house, but not before the wolf she met earlier gets there first. He "gobbles" up the grandmother and attempts to impersonate her so that he can devour Little Red Riding Hood as well. When Red arrives, she is taken aback by how different her grandmother looks ("what big eyes you have grandmother"). After realizing that she's talking to a wolf and not her grandmother, she runs away and calls for help. A hero comes and forces the wolf to cough up the granny and to leave and never harm anyone again. Thus Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother have learned valuable lessons and live happily ever after.[1]



That is undoubtedly the innocent version of the story. The version that parents tell their daughters before they can even understand the true dangers of "talking to strangers".

Charles Perrault tells a slightly more sinister version of the story. We have Little Red Riding Hood, and we have the wolf as well as the grandmother, but there is no happy ending. This story describes Red Riding Hood as a beautiful young girl, which is a direct acknowledgement that this story has at least something to do with sexuality. The innocent versions of Red Riding Hood only paint the picture of a close call from a monster that wanted to "gobble up" a little girl for a snack. The more "realistic" versions portray a story that is more centralized around the themes of pedophilia and sexual assault. The wolf is obviously the sexual predator, and Little Red Riding Hood is the victim. At the end of his story, Charles Perrault even explains precisely what he intended his moral to be; "Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all"[3]

The versions of the story of Red Riding Hood are numerous. Some are cautionary tales for young woman to gain wisdom from, while some are poking fun at the age old tales that have been used time and time again to warn naive children of the dangers in the world. One such example is the song, 'Lil' Red Ridin' Hood' by Sam the Sham and Pharaohs. "Hey there Little Red Ridin' Hood. You sure are looking good. You're everything a big bad wolf could want."[4] This isn't a cautionary tale anymore. This is directed not toward young girls, but toward women that fall "prey" to "the big bad wolf", in this case the man. This is starting to be a story about how the man is the deviant who chases women and "devours" them if they're not careful. Devour in this case would mean the man takes advantage of the woman. And careful in this instance would mean that the woman doesn't see through the "wolf's" charming exterior.

A story that has been stretched even further could be the 2011 film 'Red Riding Hood'. (SPOILERS) The wolf in this case being Red Riding Hood's father. All throughout the film the identity of the wolf remains a mystery until the end, and Red Riding Hood like everyone else is terrified, but she's not as helpless as her previous incarnations. She wants to find out who the wolf is, and when she does, her lover has already been infected. The villain is vanquished, and yet another remains in his place, but is he truly a villain anymore? The man that Red Riding Hood's father bites is still a good man, but he's been taken over by a "disease" he never wanted. In the end of the film, Red Riding Hood lives, the wolf is killed, her village is saved, her lover lives, and she's not afraid of the 'big bad wolf' anymore[5].



As time progresses and the woman's role as a victim to the wolf becomes less tolerated, we can expect the story of Little Red Riding Hood to evolve as well.


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