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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.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Event - The House of Fairy Tales at Clumber Park

If you went down to the woods this weekend (well to Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire) you certainly would have had a big surprise. The Victorian Pleasure Grounds of this beautiful park were transformed by The House of Fairy Tales and their travelling troupe of artists, musicians, puppeteers and storytellers. I was invited along to represent New Fairy Tales and I had a fantastic day working with children to make up their own new fairy tales. Over 80 wonderful stories were created and these certainly were new fairy tales - featuring aliens, robots and elephants alongside the more traditional trolls and princesses. The children were inspirational and I had such a wonderful time (based on a giant four poster 'Grandmother's bed') that I was only sorry I was so busy that I didn't get to see any of the other workshops and performances taking place, which included the magical Feral Theatre, Matthew Robins' Death of a Flyboy Opera (fresh from The National Theatre) and Jim Bond's Kinetic Art.
The House of Fairy Tales is an arts education charity set up by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk which 'uses the vast narrative scope of fairy tales to provide creative, innovative and transformative learning experiences for young people of all ages and their families' visit their site to find out more about their brilliant mission (and there are some fun games on there too!).

Sunday 2 August 2009

Exhibition - Enchanted Worlds

Enchanted Worlds: Art of Fairy Stories and Mermaid Tales is a fantastic exhibition at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, Lancashire until 5th September. When I visited I was really struck by how much they've managed to fit in, this is a treasure trove of paintings, illustrations, books, film, sculpture and puppets that cover the entwined worlds of fairy painters and fairy tales (five fairy tales are focused on in detail - Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Cap and Rumpelstiltskin, the texts of the versions they've used are avalaible here as PDFs). They also have the Cottingley fairy photographs and one of the cameras used to take them (if you're not familiar with the story this is a great local site with lots of detail on the hoax, which famously convinced the creator of the world's most famous detective that fairies lived at the bottom of a garden in Yorkshire).

Enchanted Worlds is the perfect title, the images you encounter in this exhibition are truly magical. There is the beautiful Arthur Rackham Jewels from the Deep, which was completed for but never used in Undine (a novella which George Macdonald thought 'the most beautiful' of all fairy stories), fairy paintings by masters such as Richard Dadd and William Blake. Rare first editions illustrated by the likes of Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Mervyn Peake are tantalisingly laid out in glass cabinets. La belle et la bête plays on one screen and Lotte Reiniger's Hansel and Gretel on another.

This eclectic sensory journey doesn't neglect contemporary artists either, there is a chance to see Quentin Blake's illustrations for Beauty and the Beast, Jan Pieńkowski's illustrations for Hansel and Gretel, David Hockney's Rumpelstiltskin drawings and Paula Rego's disturbing Little Red Riding Hood Suite, which definitely touches on the darker side of fairy tales.

With a fantastic room of activities for children containing fairy tale dressing up clothes, a puppet theatre, puzzles and books and a packed programme of events including curator talks and children's craft activities this is a fantastical treat not to be missed. But if you're too far away to visit a small selection of the artworks, including three of the Rego paintings and Rackham's Jewels from the Deep can be seen on the exhibition's Flickr page here.