The Various Tales of Little Red Riding Hood

We all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A little girl is sent to deliver food to her sick grandma with the stern warning to stay on her path and not talk to strangers. On her way she meets a wolf who rushes to grandma’s house, eats her, then tricks and eats Little Red. In the end, the huntsman comes and miraculously saves them by cutting open the wolf.

But the amazing thing about classic fairy tales is that they have been told and retold by countless generations. J is currently in a production of Red Riding Hood and the kids are getting to help write their own version. That plus the fact that I was at the library the other day and randomly found the book Little Red Hot meant that this post was born – a fun look at adaptions at Little Red Riding Hood.

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One thing that I’ve noticed is that current tellings of the story often shy away from the violence of the wolf eating grandma or Little Red. Fairy tales were told to teach lessons to children and at times intended to scare them away from bad behaviors. In our world of highly protective parenting, we don’t seem to want to show them the scary consequences that can occur when they go and talk to strangers, which is the main point of Little Red. As awful as it might seem, kids still need to learn to stay away from the Big Bad Wolf.

photo 1Little Red Riding Hood – Adapted from the Brothers Grimm by Gennady Spirin
Of all of the versions that I could get my hands on, this one stays truest to the original Grimm version, down to her red cap rather than cloak. Little Red’s mother sends her off with the reminder to “mind your manners and do not leave the path for any reason.” The wolf is larger than life, fancily dressed. and he fiercely attacks Little Red’s grandmother. Upon hearing the wolf’s loud snores after his grand meal, the hunters manage to save Little Red and her grandmother and Little Red learns to never speak to strangers and always listen to her mother.

Little Red Riding Hood – The Brother’s Grimm, Illustrated by Bernadette Watts
This is the version the Brother’s Grimm wrote down that most of us know, complete with the red cap and the wolf being stuffed with stones at the end. The only reason that this one doesn’t resonate as much with me quite as much as the Gennady Spirin version is that the illustrations are too beautiful. The wolf is just a large dog and you never see him gobble anyone up. It is a lovely version, but less exciting and visually gripping for a young child.

photo 2Red Riding Hood – James Marshall
The James Marshall version is a well loved version that stays true to the original while being zany enough to capture a child’s attention. Marshall’s illustrations are a more modern, fun take on Little Red. The wolf in this tale was not vicious, instead he tricks her by being charming and well-mannered and, once he realizes that he can eat both of them, he offers to escort her to grandma’s. While she stops to pick flowers, he runs ahead and gobbles up granny. Another neighbor hears his post-feast snoring and comes to save the day. Red ends the story telling that she will never speak to strangers, “charming manners or not.”

The Wolf’s Story – Toby Forward
Since we all think we know what really happened that day in the woods, Toby Forward offers up the wolf’s side of the story. According to this story, the wolf was a health nut who did odd jobs for granny. Red had met him many times, but never really liked him. When granny accidentally knocks her head in the closet, the wolf panicked and tried to pretend he was granny.  He didn’t want to eat Little Red, but she tried to pop a sticky toffee in his mouth and he was jumping away from her. At that moment the huntsman came in and wolfy ran away. He’s looking for a new job now, so if you know anyone…It’s a cute looking at the fact that there is always another side of the story.

Little Red Hot – Eric Kimmel
Eric Kimmel takes us to Texas to meet Little Red Hot, a girl who loves to eat hot peppers…on everything. When granny gets ill, her mom asks her to stop by and Little Red Hot decides to make her a hot pepper pie to knock the cold germs out. On her way to granny’s, all of the cowboys warn her that Señor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, is out prowling. Señor Lobo tries to trick her that he is just a coyote who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Of course, he runs to grandma’s but she jumps out the window and runs away. The wolf pretends to be grandma and engages in the traditional “what big eyes” conversation with Little Red. However, when it gets to teeth, Little Red knows what they are for – “They’re for eatin’ this hot pepper pie” which she shoves into his mouth. Her hot pepper pie blows Señor Lobo through the roof and he’ll never be hurting her again. It doesn’t really teach the “don’t talk to strangers” lesson, but it is a very fun retelling of a classic tale.

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood – Mike Artellpetite rouge inside
Rather than visiting Texas, Mike Artell takes us to Cajun country in this rendition which features a brave little duck dressed in red who had to bring some gumbo to her ailing grand-mére. What makes this story go over the top is that it is told in hilarious rhyme with Cajun flair – this is one that must be read aloud. Instead of a wolf, Petite Rouge is stopped by Claude the Crocodile who would like Petite Rouge to share some of her tasty goods with him. He can’t sneak up on Granny due to his size, so she runs next door. But Petite Rouge knows something is up with Claude’s green bumpy skin and her trusty cat TeJean soaks the boudin (sausage) that Claude wants with hot sauce. Grand-mére, Petite Rouge and TeJean all laugh themselves silly at ol’ Claude who thinks that he ate Petite Rouge and now thinks people are too hot for him. Definitely misses out on the “don’t talk to strangers” message, but stands firmly in the stick up for yourself and think on your feet boat.

salma insidePretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa – Niki Daly
This was a very different retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood Story that I’m not a huge fan of, but J really enjoys it and I do enjoy letting her see a culture that we don’t get in a lot of our books. The story is transported to West Africa where little Salma is sent to the market by her grandmother. She is told to go straight there and back without talking to strangers. After picking up all of her goods, Salma decides to take a short-cut home through the wild side of town. She sings her favorite song along the way and Mr. Dog, a very strange looking creature, offers to help her carry her basket. He slowly tricks her into giving him all of her clothing and told her that he wouldn’t give them back until she taught him her favorite song, so he could use it to trick her grandma. Salma starts to get frightened by him and he turns on her. She runs away and finds her grandfather dressed in his Anansi costume, telling stories. Grandfather doesn’t think the story has such a happy ending, so off they go to save Grandma. Grandma must be partially blind as she doesn’t seem to notice that Mr. Dog is not Salma until he takes a bath and she notices that he has a tail. Granny hides from the mean Mr. Dog in her cooking pot (?!?) and gets frightened away when Salma and Grandpa come to the door in their masks. “The next day, Granny sent Salma to market to buy new clothes. Salma went straight there and back. And she never talked to strangers again.”

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China – Ed Young
A friend whose daughter is also in our production of Little Red Riding Hood loaned us this version of the tale. In the Chinese take on the story, rather than the mom sending the little girl off to granny’s house, mom goes to visit grandma on her birthday leaving her three daughters at home. After mother has gone, the wolf comes to their door pretending to be their Po Po. The children realize that something is off and find a way to trick the wolf and keep themselves safe. This is a much darker story with dark illustrations. It is a very interesting take on the story and shows a cleverness in the girls, but is more appropriate for older children.


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