Little Red Riding Hood is another one from the list of the most popular fairy tales. Today it is widely known by the dark cinema version, directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Less known is a fact this fairy tale has many equally dark versions from its very own astonishing tradition.
When we are talking about The Red Riding Hood, we should always start with the version of brothers Grimm which can be better translated as Red Cap, not Red Riding Hood. As you already know, I will present three interesting facts about this fairy tale below…
Illustration by Walter Crane
1. Although this fairy tale is known more than seven hundred years, it was only from the 17th century when the girl got the red color of her cap. This ‘invention’ is Perrault’s and it is a signature color. Red was the color of sin in his times and there was no chance a true lady would wear a cap of this color. Color red offers numerous interpretations and adds a lot of depth to already well-known story, thus making it one of the most popular ones in the world. Before Charles Perrault, the color was not specified or it was gold (as the color of maturity).
There are other important aspects about the relation between the girl, the wolf and the red color (especially considering the fact how Perrault's version ends):
- Red is a universal color of danger. When the girl decides to wear red, she is definitely teasing and probably challenging danger. We all know how dangerous can the forest be and wearing red in this environment can be understood as looking for trouble.
- Red can be understood as the color of life, as the color of blood (and menstrual blood - a clear sign the girl became a woman). The fact the red hood became from the granny, who is losing her vital power (and is probably in menopause already) is a symbolic presentation of transfer of life forces from elder women to younger ones.
- The encounter of the wolf and the girl can be seen in a direct sexual connotation. Frenchmen actually have a phrase Elle Avoit vu le Loup, literary translated as She had seen the wolf and really meaning She is not a virgin anymore. Such interpretation is obvious at several illustrations like the one by Gustave Dore:
Illustration by Gustave Dore
2. The version of brothers Grimm (where the hunter saves the girl and her granny) is considered too cruel for many parents in the 21st century, but Perrault’s is even worse: there is no hunter in there. When wolf eats his two-course meal, the story ends with a moral in verse saying: don’t trust strangers, no matter how sweet are their words.
3. The story of Little Red Riding Hood offers many interpretations. Psychologists see it as an example of growing up, taking responsibilities and suffer the consequences, feminists as the story of rape, mythologists interpret it as the sun (Red Cap), becoming the prey of night (wolf) and being born again (by cutting his stomach)…
Well, a lot of possible interpretations is one of the main reasons the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood can be considered as a piece of art, right?