Little Red Riding Hood

From Charles Perrault to today

Once upon a time… One of the first and most thrilling fairy tales we know since our childhoods. From tragic icon of being naughty and naive — the 1967 earliest version by Charles Perrault named Le Petit Chaperon Rouge just ended with the young girl being eaten — to important test and inspiration for writers, illustrators, cartoonists, photographers, filmmakers, stylists or advertisers, as well as real sex symbol for different genres and sensibilities, Little Red Riding Hood is essentially a European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. Also known as Little Red Cap or simply Red Riding Hood, the story has been changed considerably in its history and subject to numerous modern adaptations and readings.

In the Grimms’ version, Rotkäppchen, as tale number 26, the wolf dies from the weight of his belly filled with stones. Here, both Little Red Cap and her grandmother are out, Little Red Cap fills the knocked out wolf’s belly with stones. When the wolf wakes up, he is stifled under the weight of his own belly and dies from the effort of moving. In some other elaborate folk versions, Little Red Riding Hood after getting in bed excuses herself to use the toilet. Skeptical, the wolf ties a rope around her waist. The girl slips out of the rope, ties it to a tree, and escapes out the window.

The story was told by French peasants in the 10th century. In Italy, the Little Red Riding Hood was told by peasants in fourteenth century, where a number of versions exist, including La finta nonnaThe False Grandmother. It has also been called The Story of Grandmother. It is also possible that this early tale has roots in very similar Oriental tales — e.g. Grandaunt Tiger.

A sort of mystery is the case of the early twentieth-century Russian-language edition of the classic tale, Krasnaia Shapochka. Bound in boards and only ten pages long, this appealing edition includes black-and-white lithographed drawings and four full-page chromolithographs with movable parts. As is customary with many children’s books, Krasnaia Shapochka was published without a title page by the little-known publisher Ia. Orenshtein in Russian, but in the town of Kolomyia, which was under Austrian rule ostensibly from 1772 to 1918, or even in Kyiv — more info here.

Since its launch, the story was laced with moral overtones and different interpretations, many of them sexual. It’s been metaphor for puberty rites, rebirths and sometimes the season of spring — or the month of May — escaping the winter. The feminist versions see the tale as a rape allegory. However some choose to explicitly focus on Little Red Riding Hood’s escape as a woman’s liberation. However, in the 21st century with the Amanda Seyfried starrer Red Riding Hood — 2011 — and fantasy romance genre, there have been weirder things than the ones written in the older versions. Actually, it is number 333 in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales.

Countless images of Little Cap were made since late 17th century, especially in illustration. We tried to collect as much material as possible, including names such as Gustave Doré, Trina Schart Hyman, Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham, Gabriel Ferrier, Jessie Willcox Smith, Margaret Ely Webb, Scott Gustafson and many others, in order to give our tribute to a story that is just part of us.

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