Freaky Fairytales: Red Riding Hood

A deep dive into the freaky past of Red Riding Hood and the variations it went through to become the fairytale as we know it.

Book Culture Classics


Hello hello! Hope you’ve been enjoying the series so far. Welcome to part 4 of Freaky Fairytales… Red Riding Hood *dun dun dun*

What We Grew Up With

A sweet story about a little girl who wants to collect flowers so she can present them to her grandma goes awry when her late arrival gives a wolf time to lock the grandma in the closet and wear her clothes. The little girl arrives and upon seeing her grandmother, curiously asks her why she has such big hands(“to hug you with my dear”), such a big nose(“to smell your beautiful flowers my dear”), and finally, such big teeth. The wolf, knowing his ruse is up, tries to jump at her to eat her but is knocked unconscious by the escaped grandma wielding a kitchen utensil. They get rid of the wolf and the little girl learns her lesson to stay on the path instead of wandering around alone in the forest. | Red Riding Hood | Movies
Image Via WarnerBros.

What We Missed

Red Riding Hood has a particularly gruesome history. While the character of a little girl determined to visit her ailing grandma remains the same, her red cloak is a metaphorical target on her back each time. In some eras, “wolf” referred to people (ahem, men) with voracious appetites who would loiter around looking for naive young women to seduce or coerce into their beds, and that’s as far as the euphemisms go. The wolf/man is usually seen hanging about until he overhears the little girl’s destination, and her unhurried arrival gives him plenty of time to beat her there. This fairytale is not shy about the wolf killing multiple versions of the poor grandmother and sometimes storing her blood and/or intestines to feed her granddaughter as soup and sausages. 

The Little Red Riding Hood: Summary and Symbols Explained - Owlcation
Image Via Owlcation

The story then proceeds to have Red Riding Hood (also called Little Red Cap, Red Hood, Red Cloak, you get the image) strip and get into bed with the disguised wolf to help her ‘grandma’ feel better. I don’t think cuddles were the only thing on the wolf’s mind. One particularly optimistic writer wrote in a nearby woodcutter who cut the wolf in half, letting the grandmother and our protagonist jump out of the wolf’s stomach miraculously in one piece so they could learn their lesson and do better next time. Most versions favoured death over didacticism though. Some of them had Red Riding Hood escape while the wolf was asleep after taking advantage of her, having him wake up to find the Grandma gone and her dress filled with rocks to hide her escape. I think I personally enjoy that ending. Another version has her claim that she needs to use the washroom

Red Riding Hood (2011 film) - Wikipedia
Image Via Wikipedia

In slightly more recent news, a live-action movie starring the gorgeous Amanda Seyfried came out in 2011. Marked as a horror/romance, it’s made by the same producers as Twilight and involves werewolves, a murder mystery, and the childhood friends-to-lovers trope. The movie also deals with class differences and familial expectations with surprising twists throughout! You can watch it on Netflix, Amazon, or Youtube, or if you’re a fan of the written word, check out some of my references gathered from different countries here!

Featured Image Via Bookstr