ENG 125 Introduction to Literature
Karen Risley, MA
May 27, 2013
Lying with Wolves Fairy tales have always been designed to entertain as well as teach the essential morals of good vs. evil. One classic tale that epitomizes this theme is Little Red Riding Hood. This fairytale has endured different versions and translations over hundreds of years primarily as a children’s story. It’s a classic evil vs. innocence fairytale that’s theme is highlighted with graphic imagery and underlying symbolism. The primary lesson of this fairy tale is designed to teach children to beware of strangers and dark areas. Rereading this story as an adult takes on a deeper meaning when understanding the literary consequences for lying with wolves.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood classically opens as most fairy tales do with “once upon a time” but closes with a bitter cold warning. It’s become a children’s story designed to teach the shrewd lesson that talking with a stranger equals danger. Even though the initial setting is in Red Riding Hood’s house, the primary setting is the woods, the barrier which separates the village Red lives in from the village of her grandmother. The woods or forest is characterized for its natural beauty however it is also associated with the abundance of trees which also limits the amount of light to the area thereby creating darkness and promoting fear. The allegory of beware is constant throughout the story.
One common symbol found in this story is that of the color red. Red is often associated with danger or passion and so it is in this story as well. Red is also a color used as a warning sign that can lead to death as in a stop sign. One glaring question of immediate concern is why Red Riding Hood’s mother sends her off through the woods to visit her grandmothers by herself. There is no mention of her having a father in this story which only leads the reader in assuming her mother is a single parent which further begs why is Red’s mother so careless in allowing her child to enter the woods by herself in the first place? It makes you wonder if Red’s mom is equally careless and or promiscuous with her own life. The role of the mother is to protect their children, not leave them in harm’s way.
Rereading this story as an adult also suggests the symbolism of the wolf as a sexual predator. The character of the wolf symbolically aligns himself as a stranger; his imagery however is that of a stalker in the woods on the prowl. Predators generally don’t do their dirty work out in public as observed when the wolf wanted to eat little red but noticed a group of wood cutters nearby in the forest (Clugston, W. 2010). The wolf is clever in his actions (most predators are) when the wolf beguiles a naive Red Riding Hood into telling him exactly where she’s going and why so he can join her (Joseph, M. 2011). As the wolf takes the shortcut to grandmother’s house, red innocently entertains herself by gathering flowers, nuts and chasing butterflies while taking the longer route.
The transition from the long path to her grandmother’s home is the beginning of the end of Little Red Riding Hood’s innocence as a child. Once the wolf has killed the grandmother, Red Riding Hood is no longer a blameless child (by no account of her own) and now faces the trauma of an adult. Bettelheim offers Red now has to contend with her sexuality but is not mature enough to cope with the consequences (Bettelheim, B. 1976). The removal of her clothes as she gets into bed with her grandmother as well as her observances (how big your arms, legs, eyes and teeth) further indicate this is Red’s