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Sunday, 23 August 2009

Profile: Little Red Riding Hood

Name: Little Red Riding Hood (but sometimes goes by Little Red Cap).

Age: Debatable, definitely older than she appears. First written about by Perrault in 1697 but she was being talked about for centuries before that (see Terry Windling's excellent article The Path of Needles or Pins).

Location: Likely to have come from France, possibly with ancestors from Asia (and yes I probably wouldn't get away with that kind of vagueness on Wikipedia).

Relationship status: Two unlikely love interests, the first is the wolf, as seen in "Little Red-Cap" (from The World's Wife) by Carol Ann Duffy:
'He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw, red wine staining his bearded jaw'

and of course in Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves" (from The Bloody Chamber):
'She will lay his fearful head on her lap and she will pick out the lice from his pelt and perhaps she will put the lice into her mouth and eat them, as he will bid her, as she would do in a savage marriage ceremony.'

The second is some bloke called Dickens who is known to have said:
'Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.'
Best lines written about her:
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, 'Hello and please do note
My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT.'

From the wonderful Roald Dahl book Revolting Rhymes. The full poem is available on The Poetry Archive here but it is best enjoyed from the book with a helping of Quentin Blake's illustrations on the side.

Places to look for her online:
One of the oldest recorded versions of the oral tale, where she eats her grandmother and escapes the wolf by asking to go to the loo outside.
Perrault's version, The Grimms' version and lots of information and illustrations on the fabulous SurLaLune.
Terry Windling's article The Path of Needles or Pins.
The Little Red Riding Hood Project which features a number of scanned versions of the story.
The story as seen from different points of view on the Fair e-Tales site.
The Little Red Riding Blog - a regularly updated blog dedicated to the lady herself.

Read all about her in:
The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: versions of the tale in sociocultural context (ISBN-13: 978-0415908351) by Jack Zipes and Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of A Fairy Tale (ISBN-13: 978-0465041268) by Catherine Orenstein

Watch her in:
The Company of Wolves, directed by Neil Jordan, David Kaplan's saucy film starring Christina Ricchi and see Reese Witherspoon walk the urban woods in Freeway but I would advise against watching her in Black XXX-Mas. I was there when Jack Zipes showed this film at a conference (The Fairy Tale after Angela Carter at UEA) and it's definitely grim viewing - only for adults who aren't easily nauseated!

And one to watch out for....Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is currently developing a gothic reimagining of the story.

A list of all sorts of places you can find her in multiple media can be found here and now for some cake, because as Anne Sexton noted in her "Red Riding Hood" (from Transformations)...

'This one day her mother gave her
a basket of wine and cake
to take to her grandmother
because she was ill.
Wine and cake?
Where's the aspirin? The penicillin?
Where's the fruit juice?
Peter Rabbit got camomile tea.
But wine and cake it was.'

So here's a lovely recipe for some cake that would definitely cheer granny up (it has rum in it!) and lets leave Little Red Riding Hood here...

'See! sweet and sound she sleeps in granny's bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.'
(from Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves" in The Bloody Chamber)

The lovely illustration above is called "The Butterfly Woods" and it's by artist Karen Hurd whose work will be featuring in the next issue of New Fairy Tales.


  1. Hi,
    I'm so pleased to have found your blog. A Fairy
    Tale site. Wonderful!!:)
    I love all things fairy too. If you have a moment, come and visit me. I'm now following you.:)

    Best wishes Jo.

    P.S Can I put your blog on my site list?

  2. Hi Jo,
    Yes please do, I just had a look at your blog, it's lovely! I have such good memories of the version of The Elves and the Shoemaker you just posted about, it was lovely to see it again and it has made me want to go and track a copy down!
    Best wishes,

  3. Hi Claire,
    It took me a while but you are now on my blog list!
    Lovely to get to know you and have a great fairy weekend.:)

    P.S.Thank you for following too!;)

  4. A link to a great post on 'Once Upon a Blog' for anyone interested in the latest ruckus Little Red Riding Hood has caused amongst academics: