The Truth Behind Fairy Tales - Little Red Riding Hood
Fairy tales as we know them are derivation of folk tales that are transmuted through generations. The origins of some folktales date back to the prehistoric beginning of man. They are originally not meant to be bedtime stories for children, but to be tales that entertained adults once the children are tucked in bed.
Every country has its own set of fairy tales through which one can understand various aspects of society, politics, and religion in relation to the geographical origins of the tale. Even though, it is not pragmatic and naïve to understand the history of mankind through fairy tales, they are a rich source of understanding idiosyncrasies of man—his inherent psychological behavioral patterns.
Little Red Riding Hood
Versions Of the story
Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most complicated stories with a bare minimum of 58 variations of plotlines found across the globe.
Little Red Riding Hood (without the red riding hood)
As told in France during the 17th/18th centuries.
[From Robert Darnton, Great Cat Massacre]
Once a little girl was told by her mother to bring some bread and milk to her grandmother. As the girl was walking through the forest, a wolf came up to her and asked where she was going.
“To grandmother’s house,” she replied.
“Which path are you taking, the path of the pins or the path of the needles?”
“The path of the needles.”
So the wolf took the path of the pins and arrived first at the house. He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, and sliced her flesh onto a platter. Then he got into her nightclothes and waited in bed.
“Come in, my dear.”
“Hello, grandmother. I’ve brought you some bread and milk.”
“Have something yourself, my dear. There is meat and wine in the pantry.”
So the little girl ate what was offered and as she did, a little cat said, “Slut! To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!”
Then the wolf said, “Undress and get into bed with me.”
“Where shall I put my apron?”
“Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”
For each garment–bodice, skirt, petticoat, and stockings–the girl asked the same question; and each time the wolf answered, “Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”
When the girl got in bed, she said, “Oh grandmother! How hairy you are!”
“It’s to keep me warmer, my dear.”
“Oh, grandmother! What big shoulders you have!”
“I’ts for better carrying firewood, my dear.”
“Oh, grandmother! What long nails you have!”
“It’s for scratching myself better, my dear.”
“Oh, grandmother! What big teeth you have!”
“It’s for eating you better, my dear.”
“And he ate her.”
Little Red Riding Hood
Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, “Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter.”
Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.
As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, “I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother.”
“Does she live far off?” said the wolf
“Oh I say,” answered Little Red Riding Hood; “it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village.”
“Well,” said the wolf, “and I’ll go and see her too. I’ll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first.”
The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman’s house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.
“Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood,” replied the wolf, counterfeiting her voice; “who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter sent you by mother.”
The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill, cried out, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”
The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and got into the grandmother’s bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.
Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered, “It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you.”
The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”
Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.
The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, “Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me.”
Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, “Grandmother, what big arms you have!”
“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”
“Grandmother, what big legs you have!”
“All the better to run with, my child.”
“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear with, my child.”
“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see with, my child.”
“Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!”
“All the better to eat you up with.”
And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up.
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.
~Jakob and Willhelm Grimm
Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved
by every one who looked at her, but most of all by her
grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have
given to the child. Once she gave her a little cap of red
velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear
anything else. So she was always called little red-cap.
One day her mother said to her, come, little red-cap, here
is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your
grandmother, she is ill and weak, and they will do her good.
Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk
nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may
fall and break the bottle, and then your grandmother will
get nothing. And when you go into her room, don’t forget
to say, good-morning, and don’t peep into every corner before
you do it.
I will take great care, said little red-cap to her mother, and
gave her hand on it.
The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the
village, and just as little red-cap entered the wood, a wolf
met her. Red-cap did not know what a wicked creature he was,
and was not at all afraid of him.
“Good-day, little red-cap,” said he.
“Thank you kindly, wolf.”
“Whither away so early, little red-cap?”
“To my grandmother’s.”
“What have you got in your apron?”
“Cake and wine. Yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick
grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger.”
“Where does your grandmother live, little red-cap?”
“A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood. Her house
stands under the three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just
below. You surely must know it,” replied little red-cap.
The wolf thought to himself, what a tender young creature. What a
nice plump mouthful, she will be better to eat than the old
woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both. So he walked
for a short time by the side of little red-cap, and then he
said, “see little red-cap, how pretty the flowers are about here.
Why do you not look round. I believe, too, that you do not
hear how sweetly the little birds are singing. You walk gravely
along as if you were going to school, while everything else out
here in the wood is merry.”
Little red-cap raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams
dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers
growing everywhere, she thought, suppose I take grandmother a
fresh nosegay. That would please her too. It is so early in the
day that I shall still get there in good time. And so she ran
from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever
she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one
farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into
Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother’s house and
knocked at the door.
“Who is there?”
“Little red-cap,” replied the wolf. “She is bringing cake and
wine. Open the door.”
“Lift the latch,” called out the grandmother, “I am too weak, and
cannot get up.”
The wolf lifted the latch, the door sprang open, and without
saying a word he went straight to the grandmother’s bed, and
devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, dressed himself in
her cap, laid himself in bed and drew the curtains.
Little red-cap, however, had been running about picking flowers,
and when she had gathered so many that she could carry
no more, she remembered her grandmother, and set out on the
way to her.
She was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open, and
when she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that
she said to herself, oh dear, how uneasy I feel to-day, and at
other times I like being with grandmother so much. She called
out, “good morning,” but received no answer. So she went to the
bed and drew back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with
her cap pulled far over her face, and looking very strange.
“Oh, grandmother,” she said, “what big ears you have.”
“The better to hear you with, my child,” was the reply.
“But, grandmother, what big eyes you have,” she said.
“The better to see you with,” my dear.
“But, grandmother, what large hands you have.”
“The better to hug you with.”
“Oh, but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have.”
“The better to eat you with.”
And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound he was
out of bed and swallowed up red-cap.
When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in
the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The
huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself, how
the old woman is snoring. I must just see if she wants anything.
So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw
that the wolf was lying in it. Do I find you here, you old
sinner, said he. I have long sought you. Then just as he was going
to fire at him, it occurred to him that the wolf might have
devoured the grandmother, and that she might still be saved, so
he did not fire, but took a pair of scissors, and began to cut
open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When he had made two
snips, he saw the little red-cap shining, and then he made two
snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying, ah, how
frightened I have been. How dark it was inside the wolf. And
after that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely
able to breathe. Red-cap, however, quickly
fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and
when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so
heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead.
Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf’s
skin and went home with it. The grandmother ate the cake and
drank the wine which red-cap had brought, and revived, but
red-cap thought to herself, as long as I live, I will never by
myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has
forbidden me to do so.
It is also related that once when red-cap was again taking cakes
to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to
entice her from the path. Red-cap, however, was on her guard,
and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother
that she had met the wolf, and that he had said good-morning to
her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had
not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten
her up. Well, said the grandmother, we will shut the door, that
he may not come in. Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried,
open the door, grandmother, I am little red-cap, and am bringing
you some cakes. But they did not speak, or open the door, so
the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last
jumped on the roof, intending to wait until red-cap went home in
the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the
darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts. In
front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the
child, take the pail, red-cap. I made some sausages yesterday,
so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough. Red-cap
carried until the great trough was quite full. Then the smell
of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped
down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could
no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down
from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned.
But red-cap went joyously home, and no one ever did anything
to harm her again.