Once upon a time, a young Girl set out through the woods to bring her Grandmother a basket of goodies. Along the way, she met a Stranger who, upon learning where the Girl was headed, told her of a short cut. But the Stranger had tricked the Girl and, when she arrived at Grandmother’s house, the Girl found that the Stranger had eaten her dear Grandmother and intended the same for the Girl.
This is the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s an old, perhaps ancient, tale. Many different versions have existed throughout the ages, shifting sometimes subtly and sometimes dramatically to suit both Storyteller and Audience. In 1697, Charles Perrault published the earliest known print version of the tale. Later on, Jacob and Wilheml Grimm would publish a slightly different version. Since then, many other storytellers have been inspired by Little Red Riding Hood.
The moral seems clear: “Never Talk to Strangers.” Charles Perrault included this explanation with his version of the story:
From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses…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…Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!
Author Kait Nolan also this moral was the common theme of the many versions of the tale she researched for her novel Red.
If you talk to strangers, there will be consequences. The consequences may be deadly, for you or for somebody else.
On the other hand, the Stranger, the Big Bad Wolf, can represent the appearance of new knowledge. He brings information that can set Little Red on a new path, one that can lead to enlightenment or death or both.
Perhaps the moral can also be read as: “Never Stray From the Path.” The path may be the one that society or the family imposes. It may be our true life path. Straying from either path could mean being lost forever in the wilderness. But it could also mean finding a new path. Perhaps even finding a new, stronger self through the death of the old. Perhaps the path itself is what stifles us and the Stranger offers the opportunity to find our authentic selves.
Little Red Riding Hood may be one of the most inspiring fairy tales. There are so many possibilities for reimagining and retelling it.
Maybe Little Red is not so innocent. Perhaps she’s a hunter. Or even a killer who looks innocent to lure her victims.
Perhaps the Wolf is misunderstood. He appears dangerous because of his horrific transformation. He is the darkness in us we’d rather ignore.
Perhaps the journey through the wood is a rite of passage. Little Red must survive on her wits and courage to be reborn as a whole, strong person.
What does the story of Little Red Riding Hood mean to you?
There’s just 2 more days to enter my 100 Posts Celebration drawing. I’m giving away an Amazon.com gift card.
The Life List Club will be having a Milestone Party September 23. There’ll be fun, frolic, and giveaways. Stay tuned for more details.
Little Red Riding Hood by Krystn Palmer Photography, on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0