Parallel Tuesdays

Never Stray from the Path – Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

Little Red Riding HoodOnce 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.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll explore two Little Red Riding Hood inspired novels, Kait Nolan’s Red and Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red.

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 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.

Image Attribution:
Little Red Riding Hood by Krystn Palmer Photography, on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

10 thoughts on “Never Stray from the Path – Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

  1. Fairy Tales were teaching tools- IMHO- the woods are dangerous, always obey your elders and anyone who knows anything spiritual/mystical strangers are dangerous work hard etc.
    I think while the stories are fun we need different tales for our children new stories- like this book Fairy Tales for the New Age

    Have you seen the trailer for Grimm? It’s a whole new take on fairy tales- they are stories but profiles.

  2. The history behind fairy tales is rather grim. Their purpose was to issue warning to children in a way that made sense to them: literally by scaring them straight. It’s only been recently that fairytales have the happier endings.

    Lessons from Little Red: people are not always who they seem.

  3. Excellent post Sonia. As you say, Little Red-riding Hood is so enduring because there are so many ways to interpret it. I haven’t read Red or Sisters Red, but I’ve seen Neil Jordan’s film The Company of Wolves (which was based on a short story by Angela Carter). The movie is a dreamlike, over-the-top, and very Freudian interpretation of the fairy tale. But it’s worth a view.

    What does Red-Riding Hood mean to me? I guess it’s my love of horror stories that attracts me to the tale. I like walking in the woods, but being deep in the woods alone is pretty unsettling to me. So, for me, I guess it’s about being attracted and unsettled by something (the forest or the big-bad wolf) at the same time.

    I’m looking forward to part 2!

  4. @Marcia: It does have a lot of possibilities, doesn’t it? A wicked Red. 😀

    @Patricia: True. Sometimes there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must be aware.

    @Alica: True. Fairy tales have such dark origins. I haven’t heard of Fairy Tales for the New Age. Sounds interesting. I have seen the trailer for Grimm though. It does look pretty darn good. Right up my alley!

    @Cat: Agreed. I think they also speak to the child in all of us. Which is probably why we’re still so fascinated with them today.

    @Tim: Agreed on the woods being so unsettling and attractive at the same time. We always want to know, don’t we? Even if it’s dangerous. Sisters Red and Red are both so good. I haven’t read The Company of Wolves but it sounds very interesting. *ahem* my title for the next Red Riding Hood post is very similar. 😀

  5. GREAT post, Sonia! I always took the lesson to never talk to strangers from Little Red Riding Hood…also, appearances were never quite as they seem. I’m looking forward to the next post!

  6. Great review, Sonia! I like the version of Little Red Riding Hood they did in the Broadway play Into the Woods [g]
    Looking forward to reading Kait’s this weekend!

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