for the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical
references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations
which appear on the Little Red Riding Hood Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated
Little Red Riding Hood to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.
of the Grimms' version might also be of great use. You can read the Grimms'
version here: Little Red Cap.
1. Red: Scarlet
or red is a sexually vibrant and suggestive color. At one time, it was
not worn by morally upright women thanks to its sinful symbolism. It is
also the color of blood with all of its connotations. Perrault introduced
the color red to the tale when he first wrote it. Return to place in story.
2. Little Red Riding
Hood: The red riding hood is a popular and familiar symbol to much
of Europe and North America. In the height of portraiture in the nineteenth
century, many young daughters of wealthy families were painted wearing
red capes or hoods. Today, some little girls still want to wear red capes
for Halloween or other imaginative play.
Some scholars, such as Erich Fromm consider
the hood to symbolize menustration and the approaching puberty of the
young character who wears it.
Scholars also debate whether the red garment
is a hood or a cap according to the earliest versions which more closely
translate from the French and German to "cap." Return to place in story.
3. Go, my dear, and
see how your grandmother is doing: In Charles Perrault's version of
the tale, the mother simply instructs the young girl to take the items
to her grandmother. The Grimms, however, added an admonition from the
mother to not stray from the path, adding a moral message to children.
Perrault adds the moral to "not talk to strangers" at the end
of the tale. Through the moralizing of both Perrault and Grimms', critics
explain that the tale moved away from its obvious sexual and horrific
tones, to more closely resemble a fable or cautionary tale (Tatar 1992).
You can read the Grimms' version here: Little
Red Cap. Return to place in story.
4. Cake, and this little
pot of butter: These are the food items originally described by Charles
Perrault. Later versions have included other food items, most often a
bottle of wine. Return to place in story.
5. Wolf: The wolf
has become a popular image in fairy tales thanks to this tale and The
Tale of the Three Little Pigs. The wolf is a common predator in the
forest and thus is a natural choice for the story unlike the witch, ogre
or troll found in other tales. The wolf is often a metaphor for a sexually
The wolf also figures prominently in other
parts of British folklore, such as the traditional children's game, "What's
the Time, Mr. Wolf?" Return to place in story.
6. Ate her up in a moment: In some versions of the tale, the wolf swallows the grandmother whole,
foreshadowing her rescue by a huntsman later.
In feminist criticism of the tale, the eating
of the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood is seen as a metaphor for
rape. This interpretation has led to the story's frequent reinterpretation
by authors, both male and female, in poetry, fiction, and film. Return to place in story.
7. Come get into bed
with me: Most of the later versions of
the tale omit this element of the story due to its sexual connotations.
However, one of the most famous illustrations of the tale by Gustave Dore
shows Little Red Riding Hood in bed with the wolf. A study from the illustration
is in the upper right hand corner of this page. The full illustration
can be seen here Gustave
Dore's Little Red Riding Hood. Return to place in story.
what big arms you have!": These exclamations are a favorite story
element for tellers and listeners. They are an excellent storybuilding
tool, creating anticipation and horror for the listener/reader as Little
Red Riding Hood realizes she is not talking to her grandmother. Many oral
versions of the story add extra body parts to increase the bawdiness of
the story. The list inevitably ends with the teeth however.
Marina Warner considers Little Red Riding
Hood's initial failure to distinguish the wolf from her grandmother to
be a crucial element of the story. She explains that the wolf and the
grandmother (as a crone character) are related as forest dwellers needing
nourishment (Warner 1994). Return to place in story.
9. Ate her all up: In Perrault's version, Little Red Riding Hood is not rescued but actually
dies at the end of the story. The terrifying ending makes the story more
realistic and solidifies his advice to not talk to strangers. Bruno Bettelheim
is especially critical of Perrault's version since it "deliberately
threatens the child with its anxiety-producing ending" (Bettelheim
The Grimms offer a different ending in which
a huntsman happens by and rescues the grandmother and Little Red Riding
Hood by disemboweling the wolf. The two females escape from the wolf unharmed,
like Jonah from the belly of the whale. The huntsman then sews rocks back
into the wolf's stomach for punishment. The huntsman in this version represents
patriarchal protection and physical superiority.
Yet another version of the tale--the French
"The Story of Grandmother"--has Little Red Riding Hood rescuing
herself. After she is fed a piece of her grandmother by the wolf, she
announces that she needs to go to the bathroom. Since this activity is
done outside--this is before the common appearance of indoor bathrooms--she
goes outside and then runs away.
While the interpretations are almost unanimously
dismissed today, early scholars considered the tale to symbolize death
and rebirth specifically with Little Red Riding Hood as the sun or dawn
and the wolf as night (Dundes 1988).
Both Roald Dahl's poem of the tale and Stephen
Sondheim's musical, Into the Woods, have Red Riding Hood overcome the
wolf and later appear wearing a fur coat made of the wolf's fur, instead
of the identifying red cloak.
But perhaps my favorite version of the tale
comes from James Thurber's "The Little Girl and the
Wolf." Red Riding Hood is not fooled by the wolf, but takes
a gun from her basket and shoots him. Thurber explains, "It is not
so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be." You can
find full bibliographic references for this short story and the others
mentioned in these notes on the Modern Interpretations
of Little Red Riding Hood Page. Return to place in story.