Red Riding Hood Analytical Essay
Classic literature and fairy tales have been retold and changed throughout the history of literature. The changes made in the individual stories reflect what the culture is at that moment. Red Riding Hood is a good example of this. There are so many versions of Red Riding Hood, such as the Little Red Riding Hood by James Garner, which is a politically correct version that reflects on how our culture now is extremely polite, to the point of almost ridiculousness.
The earliest known version of Little Red Riding Hood is by Charles Perrault in 1697. This story is about a “little country girl (who was) the prettiest creature who was ever seen.” Her grandmother who loved her granddaughter so much decided to make her a little red riding hood, since the hood fit the girl fit the girl so perfectly everyone called her Little Red Riding hood. Her grandmother becomes sick, so her mother tells her to bring her grandmother some cakes and butter to make her feel better. While walking to her grandmother’s house she happens upon a wolf. This wolf is very hungry, but cannot eat the little girl right away because there were woodcutters not far off. He instead asks the little girl where she is going and why, the little girl who “did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf” explains everything. The wolf then in turn tells her he will go too and then they will see who gets to the grandmothers first. The wolf gets there first and eats the grandmother in one bite because he has not eaten in so long. Little Red Riding hood goes to her grandmother’s house and the Wolf tells the girl to come in, put the food down and get into bed with him. Little Red Riding Hood takes off her clothes and gets into the bed. She then proceeds to mention that her “grandmother” has bigger arms, bigger legs, bigger ears, bigger eyes, and bigger teeth. The last thing that Little Red Riding Hood hears is “all the better to eat you up with” and gets eaten. Perrault puts a moral at the end of the story also.
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 woman at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.
This story is quite interesting. To not trust any men because they are all wolves and wolves will “eat you up” and in the very least hurt you. The moral also alludes to the only woman important enough to remain healthy and safe are the “attractive, well bred” ladies. All other ladies can do whatever they want because they do not matter. Another interpretation of this version was Red Riding Hood was a prostitute. In the late 1700's a red cloak was a symbol of prostitution (interpretations). Also when The Wolf “throw himself on the good woman” and then again “threw himself on Little Red Riding Hood” after he invites her into the bed, and then takes her clothes off.” (Interpretations) Some would say that the story is explaining if you live a life of prostitution, you will end up being hurt. This version also explains why he has the moral being directed to “attractive, well bred” ladies.
The story that comes right after Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood is Little Red Cap by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. This story was written in 1812. The beginning is very similar to Perrault’s version, instead of butter Little Red Cap brings cake and wine, which is less healthy for you. There are no obvious sexual innuendos in this version, such as Red Riding Hood is not taking off her clothes. The wolf still ends up eating Red Riding Hood, and starts to snore loudly. A woodcutter who was passing by thought it was strange that the grandmother was snoring so loudly. When he went to check it out he finds out that the wolf had eaten the grandmother. He takes a pair of scissors out and cuts open his belly, and out pops out Little Red Cap and her grandmother. Little Red Caps goes to fetch some heavy stones, fills the wolf’s belly with them, so he dies. The last line of the story is Little Red Cap saying to herself “As long as I live, I will never leave the path and run off into the woods by myself if mother tells me not to.” They also wrote a sequel to the story in which Little Red Cap and her mother encounter another wolf, but they both outsmart the wolf by locking the door and putting boiling water under the chimney that smelled of sausage. The Wolf climbs onto the roof looks down the chimney, and falls to his death into the boiling water. This story is quite different than the original at the end. Instead of the girl just dying, a woodcutter saves her instead. The moral of this story is to always listen to authority when told, to not question or else bad things will happen. This interpretation explains how woman should follow their gender roles. If one strays from the path then they will end up being hurt.
Another interpretation of Red Riding Hood is that the main theme is growing up. That the Red Cloak symbolizes a girls Hyman, and when the red cloak is discarded she is discarding her virginity. Another symbol it could be is the red cloak symbolizes a girl's menstrual blood. That she strays from the path because she is becoming a woman, and straying off the path of childhood. Also when the wolf eats her it is symbolizing the wolf forcibly raping the little girl. (Dances) Another cultural reference is how the society is very patriarchal. The Wood chipper has to come and save the damsels in distress. Although the sequel was very as interesting, it shows two women outsmarting a male wolf and not needing to be saved. The two had learned from their past mistakes and succeed in outsmarting and killing the wolf. This is very interesting for this time period. It seems that there are undercurrents of women being able to do things on their own without the men to save them.
The third version worth mentioning is Little Red Riding Hood from Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner. He published his version of Little Red Riding Hood with Macmillan Publishing USA in 1994. This one is extremely polite and objective. Instead of saying young girl, the story says young person. Instead of bringing her grandmother, “who was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult” cake and butter/wine, she brings her a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water. She does not do this however because it is a woman’s job to do the errand, but because it is important for a young person to “engender a feeling of community.” She was not afraid of the forest, like in the brothers Grimm version, but rather felt that she was “confident enough in her own budding sexuality that such obvious Freudian imagery did not intimidate her.” The whole story continues on like this. The ending is also very much different than the others. When the “log-fuel technician” hears Red Riding Hood’s screams of her personal space being attacked and goes running to help, both the wolf and Red Riding Hood stop what they are doing. Red Riding Hood then proceeds to call the “woodchopper-person” a sexist and a speciesist. The Grandmother upon hearing this jumps out of the wolf’s belly, grabs the woodchopper-person’s axe and cuts off his head. And finally Red Riding Hood, Grandma, and the wolf decide to “set up an alternative household based on mutual respect and cooperation, and they lived together in the woods happily ever after. This story reflects how current society is so scared of offending someone that a political correctness has been enforced. That in recent state of our society, one can no longer look at a fairy tale, and see what the moral or what the story is trying to convey, but instead see what is no longer acceptable in society and critique it. James Finn Garner does a good job of writing a allegorical spoof on how society today is too politically correct, it is enjoyable and reflects on whether or not we are too socially aware in our culture.
In any literary piece the story reflects the society that it was made in. Fairy Tales to a larger extent though. Fairy Tales are society’s way of telling kids the morals and lessons they should learn at an early age. Each culture and generation has their own and new morals for children to learn. These basic lessons are always changing, by either being added to, or being pruned away. Red Riding Hood has undergone so many changes to fit the culture that is being addressed, that when any retelling of it is compared to the original there are some heavily changed parts which changes the morals that the children learn.