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Little Red Riding Hood is a traditional fairy tale. Although it's origins can be traced to the oral tradition in both France and Italy, it first appeared in it's literary form in 1697 France. The most recognisable form of the tale describes a young girl's forest encounter with a predatory wolf. The wolf devours the child's grandmother and then eats the child herself. In the most famous version, although not in Perrault's original, Little Red Riding Hood is rescued from the wolf's stomach. There are numerous re-tellings and adaptations of the tale, both contemporary to the original and modern. Some critics see the pervasiveness of these retellings as a testament to its enduring popularity as 'it raises issues about gender identity, sexuality, violence and the civilising process in a unique and succinct symbolic form that children and adults can understand on different levels'. However, the tale has also courted controversy and feminist re-tellings in particular set out to reject what they see as the inherent patriarchal ideologies of the original.

This story is number 333 in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales.

The tale[edit]

The version most widely known today is based on the Brothers Grimm version.[1] It is about a girl called Little Red Riding Hood, after the red hood (which is attached to a cape or cloak in some versions of the story) she always wears. The girl walks through the woods to deliver food to her sick grandmother. A wolf wants to eat the girl but is afraid to do so in public. He approaches the girl, and she naïvely tells him where she is going. He suggests the girl pick some flowers, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother's house and gains entry by pretending to be the girl. He swallows the grandmother whole, and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandmother. When the girl arrives, he swallows her whole too. A hunter, however, comes to the rescue and cuts the wolf open. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerge unharmed. They fill the wolf's body with heavy stones, which kill him. Other versions of the story have had the grandmother shut in the closet instead of eaten, and some have Little Red Riding Hood saved by the hunter as the wolf advances on her rather than after she is eaten.

The tale makes the clearest contrast between the safe world of the village and the dangers of the forest, conventional antitheses that are essentially medieval, though no versions are as old as that. It also seems to be a strong morality tale, teaching children not to "wander off the path".

Relationship to other tales[edit]

The theme of the ravening wolf and of the creature released unharmed from its belly is reflected in the Russian tale Peter and the Wolf, and the other Grimm tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, but its general theme of restoration is at least as old as Jonah and the whale. The Theme also appears in the story of the life of Saint Margaret, where the saint emerges unharmed from the belly of a dragon.

The dialog between the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood has its analogies to the Norse Þrymskviða from the Elder Edda; the giant Þrymr had stolen Mjölner, Thor's hammer, and demanded Freyja as his bride for its return. Instead, the gods dressed Thor as a bride and sent him. When the giants note Thor's unladylike eyes, eating, and drinking, Loki explains them as Freyja not having slept, or eaten, or drunk, out of longing for the wedding.[2]

The tale's history[edit]


Although no written forms of the tale predate Perrault,[3] the origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to oral versions from various European countries and more than likely preceding the 17th century, of which several exist, some significantly different from the currently-known, Grimms-inspired version. It was told by French peasants in the 14th century as well as in Italy, where a number of versions exist, including La finta nonna (The False Grandmother).[4] It is also possible that this early tale has roots in very similar Oriental tales (e.g. "Grandaunt Tiger").[5]

These early variations of the tale differ from the currently known version in several ways. The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes an ogre or a ‘bzou’ (werewolf), making these tales relevant to the werewolf-trials (similar to witch trials) of the time (e.g. the trial of Peter Stumpp).[6] The wolf usually leaves the grandmother’s blood and meat for the girl to eat, who then unwittingly cannibalises her own grandmother. Furthermore, the wolf was also known to ask her to remove her clothing and toss it into the fire.[7]Also, once the girl is in bed with the wolf she sees through his disguise and tries to escape, complaining to her ‘grandmother’ that she needs to defecate and would not wish to do so in the bed. The wolf reluctantly lets her go, tied to a piece of string so she does not get away. However, the girl slips the string over something else and gets away.

In these stories she escapes with no help from any male or older female figure, but instead utilises her own cunning.

Charles Perrault[edit]

The earliest known printed version was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge and had its origins in 17th century French folklore. It was included in the collection Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l'Oye), in 1697, by Charles Perrault. As the title implies, this version[8] is both more sinister and more overtly moralized than the later ones. The redness of the hood, which has been given symbolic significance in many interpretations of the tale, was a detail introduced by Perrault.[9]

The story had as its subject an "attractive, well-bred young lady", a village girl of the country being deceived into giving a wolf she encountered the information he needed to find her grandmother's house successfully and eat the old woman while at the same time avoiding being noticed by woodcutters working in the nearby forest. Then he proceeded to lay a trap for the Red Riding Hood. The latter ends up eaten by the wolf and there the story ends. The wolf emerges the victor of the encounter and there is no happy ending.

Charles Perrault explained the 'moral' at the end so that no doubt is left to his intended meaning:

From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, 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 — neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!

In this version the tale has been adapted for late 17th century French salon culture, an entirely different audience from what it had before, and has become a harsh morality tale warning women of the advances of men.

The brothers Grimm[edit]

In the 19th century two separate German versions were retold to Jacob Grimm and his younger brother Wilhelm Grimm, known as the Brothers Grimm, the first by Jeanette Hassenpflug (17911860) and the second by Marie Hassenpflug (17881856). The brothers turned the first version to the main body of the story and the second into a sequel of it. The story as Rotkäppchen was included in the first edition of their collection Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales (1812)).[10]

The earlier parts of the tale agree so closely with Perrault's variant that it is almost certainly the source of the tale.[11] However, they modified the ending; this version had the little girl and her grandmother saved by a huntsman who was after the wolf's skin; this ending is identical to that in the tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, which appears to be the source.[12]

The second part featured the girl and her grandmother trapping and killing another wolf, this time anticipating his moves based on their experience with the previous one. The girl did not leave the path when the wolf spoke to her, her grandmother locked the door to keep it out, and when the wolf lurked, the grandmother had Little Red Riding Hood put a trough under the chimney and fill it with water that sausages had been cooked in; the smell lured the wolf down, and it drowned.[13]

The Brothers further revised the story in later editions and it reached the above mentioned final and better known version in the 1857 edition of their work.[14] It is notably tamer than the older ones which contained darker themes. It appears to be a mere watered-down version of the older story.

After the Grimms[edit]

Numerous authors have rewritten or adapted this tale.

Andrew Lang included a variant as "The True History of Little Goldenhood"[15] in The Red Fairy Book; he derived it from the works of Charles Marelles, in Contes of Charles Marelles. This variant explicitly said that the story had been mistold. The girl was saved, but not by the huntsman; when the wolf tried to eat her, its mouth was burned by the golden hood she wore, which was enchanted.

James N. Barker wrote a variation of Little Red Riding Hood in 1827 as an approximately 1000-word story. It was later reprinted in 1858 in a book of collected stories edited by William E Burton, called the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor. The reprint also features a wood engraving of a clothed wolf on bended knee holding Little Red Riding Hood's hand.

In the twentieth century, the popularity of the tale appeared to snowball, with many new versions being written and produced, especially in the wake of Freudian analysis, deconstruction and feminist critical theory. See "Modern uses and adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood" for a number of modern adaptations. This trend has also led to a number of academic texts being written that focus on Little Red Riding Hood, including works by Alan Dundes and Jack Zipes.


Besides the overt warning about talking to strangers, there are many interpretations of the classic fairy tale, many of them sexual.[16] Some are listed below.

Natural cycles
Folklorists and cultural anthropologists such as P. Saintyves and Edward Burnett Tylor saw Little Red Riding Hood in terms of solar myths and other naturally-occurring cycles (though not the cycle of menstruation, mentioned above). Her red hood could represent the bright sun which is ultimately swallowed by the terrible night (the wolf), and the variations in which she is cut out of the wolf's belly represent by it the dawn.[17] In this interpretation, there is a connection between the wolf of this tale and Skoll, the wolf in Norse myth that will swallow the sun at Ragnarök, or Fenris.[18] Alternatively, the tale could be about the season of spring, or the month of May, escaping the winter.[19] This may be as detailed as describing it as the May Queen ritual that represents the coming of Spring, with the crown of flowers replaced by the red hood.[20]
The tale has been interpreted as a puberty ritual, stemming from a prehistorical origin (sometimes an origin stemming from a previous matriarchal era.)[21] The girl, leaving home, enters a liminal state and by going through the acts of the tale, is transformed into an adult woman by the act of coming out of the wolf's belly.[22]
Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, recast the Little Red Riding Hood motif in terms of classic Freudian analysis, that shows how fairy tales educate, support, and liberate the emotions of children. The motif of the huntsman cutting open the wolf, he interpreted as a "rebirth"; the girl who foolishly listened to the wolf has been reborn as a new person.[23]
One of the more common interpretations refers to a classic warning against becoming a "working girl".[citation needed] This builds off the fundamental "young girl in the woods" stereotype. The red cloak was also a classic signal of a prostitute in 17th century France.[24][citation needed] A Colombian charity recently used this theme in a poster campaign that showed various fairy tale characters reduced to child labour, including Red Riding Hood as a child prostitute.[25]
Sexual awakening
Red Riding Hood has also been seen[who?] as a parable of sexual maturity. In this interpretation, the red cloak symbolizes the blood of the menstrual cycle, braving the "dark forest" of womanhood. Or the cloak could symbolize the hymen (earlier versions of the tale generally do not state that the cloak is red—the word "red" in the title may refer to the girl's hair color or a nickname). In this case, the wolf threatens the girl's virginity. The anthropomorphic wolf symbolizes a man, who could be a lover, seducer or sexual predator. This differs from the ritual explanation in that the entry into adulthood is biologically, not socially, determined.[26][citation needed]
Spectral Black dog
The tale could be a cultural reference to the Black dog (ghost) phenomenon and be a genuine warning to the children (and adults) of the time. The cloak would be an allusion to the wrapping of the thin wings around the creature's small body.[citation needed]
Norse myth
The story Þrymskviða from the Poetic Edda mirrors some elements of Red Riding Hood. Loki's explanations for "Freya's" (actually Thor's) strange behavior mirror the wolf's explanations for his strange appearance.

The red hood has often been given great importance in many interpretations, with a significance from the dawn to blood. However, the oral version prior to Perrault did not include such a red hood; Perrault introduced it.[27]

Modern uses and adaptations[edit]

There have been many modern uses and adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood, generally with a mock-serious reversal of Red Riding Hood's naïveté or some twist of social satire; they range across a number of different media and styles. Multiple variations have been written in the past century, in which authors adapt the Grimms' tale to their own interests.

The tale can be told in terms of Little Red Riding Hood's sexual attractiveness. The 1966 hit song "Lil' Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs takes the Wolf's point of view, implying that he wants love rather than blood. In the short animated cartoon Red Hot Riding Hood by Tex Avery, the story is recast in an adult-oriented urban setting, with the suave, sharp-dressed Wolf howling after the stripper Red. Avery used the same cast and themes in a subsequent series of cartoons.[28] Allusions to the tale can be more or less overtly sexual, as when the color of a lipstick is advertised as "Riding Hood Red".[29]

This sexual analysis may take the form of rape. In Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller described the fairy tale as a description of rape.[30] Many revisionist retellings depict Little Red Riding Hood or the grandmother successfully defending herself against the wolf.[31]

It may also take the form of a sexual awakening, as in Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves" from her collection The Bloody Chamber (1979). (This was also adapted into a film by Neil Jordan.) In the story, the wolf is in fact a werewolf, and comes to newly-menstruating Red Riding Hood in the forest in the form of a charming hunter. He turns into a wolf and eats her grandmother, and is about to devour her as well, when she is equally seductive and ends up laying with the wolf man, her sexual awakening. [32] Such tellings bear some similarity to the "animal bridegroom" tales, such as Beauty and the Beast or The Frog Prince, but where the heroines of those tales transform the hero into a prince, these tellings of Little Red Riding Hood reveal to the heroine that she has a wild nature like the hero's.[33]

Thetford Grammar School[edit]

Thetford Grammar School
Motto Loyaute Me Oblige
Established 631
School type Independent co-educational day school
Affiliations SHMIS, non-denominational
Founder Sigbert
Headmaster Mr Gareth James Price
Location Thetford, Norfolk
Country England
Number of pupils 318
School Colours Black and Yellow
School web site [1]

Thetford Grammar School is an independent, co-educational day school located in Thetford, Norfolk, England. There is no official record of the founding of the school but its origins have been traced to Saxon times. The school was first mentioned in writing by Herbert Losinga in 1114 although he implied in this text that the school already existed before this date. It is one of the oldest schools in the UK. It was refounded in 1610 by Richard Fulmerston and a Girl's Grammar School was built across the road in 1888. The two schools merged to become a single co-educational establisment in 1975. The school's most famous alumni is the 18th Century radical Thomas Paine.

Currently the school provides education for children aged 3-18, from pre-school to A-levels. It is divided into three schools; the Junior School, Main School and Sixth Form. Entry to the Main School and Sixth Form is via examination and interview and entry to the Junior School is only by interview. In 2007, 318 pupils were being taught at the school.


It is thought that there may have been a school on the site since 631 AD when it is likely that Sigbert, King of the Angles

  1. ^ Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
  2. ^ Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Talesp 93-4 ISBN 0-19-211550-6 Parameter error in {{isbn}}: Invalid ISBN.
  3. ^ Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales p 93 ISBN 0-19-211550-6 Parameter error in {{isbn}}: Invalid ISBN.
  4. ^ Jack Zipes, The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p 744, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  5. ^ Alan Dundes, Little Red Riding Hood; A Casebook, pp 21-22 ISBN 0-299-12034-1
  6. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, pp 92-106, ISBN 0-465-04126-4
  7. ^ Jack Zipes, "The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood"
  8. ^ Charles Perrault, "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge"
  9. ^ Maria Tatar, p 17, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  10. ^ Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
  11. ^ Harry Velten, "The Influences of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma Mère L'oie on German Folklore", p 966, Jack Zipes, ed. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  12. ^ Harry Velten, "The Influences of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma Mère L'oie on German Folklore", p 967, Jack Zipes, ed. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  13. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 149 W. W. Norton & company, London, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  14. ^ Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, "Little Red Cap"
  15. ^ Andrew Lang, "The True History of Little Goldenhood", The Red Fairy Book
  16. ^ Jane Yolen, Touch Magic p 25, ISBN ISBN 0-87483-591-7
  17. ^ Maria Tatar, p 25, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  18. ^ Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 26-7, James M. McGlathery, ed. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  19. ^ Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 27, James M. McGlathery, ed. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  20. ^ Little Red Riding Hood
  21. ^ Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 27-9, James M. McGlathery, ed, The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  22. ^ Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 27-8, James M. McGlathery, ed, The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  23. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 148 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  24. ^
  25. ^ Which are the stories our children are growing with? - Osocio, Social Advertising and Non-profit Campaigns
  26. ^ Jack Zipes, "The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood
  27. ^ Alan Dundes, "Intrepreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically", p 32, James M. McGlathery, ed. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
  28. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 112-3, ISBN 0-465-04125-6
  29. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 126, ISBN 0-465-04125-6
  30. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 145, ISBN 0-465-04125-6
  31. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 160-1, ISBN 0-465-04125-6
  32. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 166-7, ISBN 0-465-04125-6
  33. ^ Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, p 172-3, ISBN 0-465-04125-6