Literature: Little Red Riding Hood
aka: Red Riding Hood
Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?"Little Red Riding Hood"
("Le Petit Chaperon Rouge") first appeared in print as a story by Charles Perrault
; another, more optimistic version ("Rotkšppchen" a.k.a. "Little Red Cap") was later published by The Brothers Grimm
, which has supplanted Perrault's in the collective consciousness. The story itself is much older, having been told orally centuries before that, possibly as far back as the 10th Century.
In the story, a young girl, known by her favourite red hood
, goes out into the woods
to bring her sick grandmother some good things to eat. On the way, she is stopped by a wolf, who asks her where she is going. Too innocent
to be afraid, she tells him, and they go their separate ways. Specifically: the wolf takes a shortcut to the grandmother's house, impersonates Little Red Riding Hood, and swallows the grandmother whole.
When the little girl arrives, the wolf has dressed himself
in the old woman's bedclothes
and gotten into bed. Red Riding Hood, growing worried, remarks on how unusual her "grandmother" looks:
"Grandmother, what big arms you have!"
"All the better to hug you with, my dear."
The dialogue continues in this pattern (but omits Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have
) until she makes the comment:
"Grandmother, what big teeth you have!"
"All the better to eat you with, my dear!"
And the wolf springs and devours her.
Depending on the version, the girl and her grandmother may be rescued by a passing huntsman or other benefactor, whereupon they may take revenge upon the wolf (in "Rotkšppchen", they fill the wolf's belly with stones); this may be the influence of The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids
or similar tales. In Perrault's version, however, the story ends with the girl's death, followed by a moral warning young ladies to beware of "wolves", especially those who are "charming, quiet, unassuming, complacent, and sweet". French folk versions (such as this one
), which do not feature the red hat, have the heroine deduce the problem before the wolf eats her, and escape by saying she needs to visit the bathroom; folklorists believe this is the older version. note
to this story appears in the song "Hey Little Red Riding Hood" which makes the wolf out as a would-be suitor rather than a vicious animal wanting to consume her for food. This may be closer to the original version of the story, which some scholars believe to be a tale of seduction, with the red cape symbolizing menstruation, and therefore fertility. This hits the slight
problem that Perrault introduced the red cape. In the original folktales, no mention was made of any particular article of clothing, let alone its color.They made a nice little video game based on the story
, a not so nice one,
, and yet another one, which is very... different.
A 2011 film rendition has a live-action film treatment
starring Amanda Seyfried
as the eponymous heroine, and a wolf based more in the supernatural realm. It's also the basis for the pilot episode of the 2011 TV series Grimm
, in which a young girl in a red hoodie
is abducted by a shapechanging wolf-creature.
Such a ubiquitous story is naturally a Fountain of Expies
Adaptations or works that revolve around this fairytale include:
"Little Red Riding Hood" contains examples of the following tropes:
- Almighty Janitor: The hero of the story is a lumberjack or occasionally a huntsman, Depending on the Writer. (Less unlikely a hero than most examples of the Trope, maybe, but still just a manual laborer.)
- An Aesop: To quote the darker, grittier Perrault version: "Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf."
- The Bad Guy Wins: In the Perrault version, the Wolf eats Red.
- Bed Trick/Squick: Which other reason would the wolf have to want Little Red naked?
- Big Bad: It's in his name!
- Big Bad Friend: The Wolf only pretends to be a friendly stranger just so to get to Grandma's house before Red.
- In Hoodwinked, the trope is applied to Boingo, who is close enough to Red to know her on a first name basis, and he also poses as a friendly passerby to send the Wolf and Twitchy on a "shortcut" to Granny's house.
- The Big Bad Wolf: The Trope Maker, and Trope Namer. This is the first instance of a cunning and villainous wolf that would be repeated in various stories.
- Big Damn Heroes: "A villainous wolf preying on old women and little girls? This looks like a job for WOODCUTTER MAN!"
- Bluff The Imposter: In some of the earliest versions (before even the Perrault version) the protagonist does see through the disguise after he convinces her to get into bed with him, and she manages to save herself by complaining to her "grandmother" that she needs to defecate and would not wish to do so in the bed. The wolf reluctantly lets her go, tied to a piece of string so she doesn't get away. However, the girl slips the string over something else and runs off.
- Bring My Red Jacket: Clearly there's something about the color red that connects it to dangerous situations.
- Character Death: Some variations have Little Red escape but still bump off poor Granny.
- Composite Character:
- The Goodtimes version of the Wolf is a composite of himself and any benefactors Little Red met in other versions as the Wolf disguised himself as them and the true ones never appeared.
- In many modern depictions, the wolf in this story and the one in The Three Little Pigs is the same character.
- Damsel in Distress: The various versions of Red have this trouble around the Wolf. Other versions get Red into this trouble with other things, like evil rabbits and cable cars packed with dynamite.
- Damsel out of Distress: Some versions show Red escaping on her own, usually with guile.
- Deus ex Machina: The woodsman in the Grimm version shows up out of nowhere and has no characterization beyond saving the day.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Early versions that end happily for Red Riding Hood often show the Wolf's punishment being downright horrible. In one version, when the Huntsman cuts her free, then fills his stomach with rocks, he wakes up, then tries to flee, and the weight of the stones causes him to tear himself in half. In another version, he wanders off without noticing, simply thinking his meal isn't settling well, tries to take a drink at a stream, and then the weight causes him to fall in, and he drowns. Long story short, many versions show that Red and the Huntsman are without mercy.
- Downer Ending: Perrault's version ends with both Red and her grandmother eaten.
- Fan Disservice: The wolf has Little Red strip in some versions. Disservice on account of she's usually portrayed as very young and because these versions often have the Downer Ending.
- Forbidden Fruit:
- In the Grimm verisions and many of the later versions, Red is warned about leaving the trail and talking to strangers but steps off anyway. note
- Hoodwinked, a 2006 adaptation, references this with Red telling the Wolf, "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," although in this case she probably means not talking to strangers who are clearly trying to unsettle her.
- Fractured Fairy Tale: Thanks to its immediate recognizability, this is a favorite tale for fracturing in just about every possible way. Popular twists include making the story Hotter and Sexier, turning Red into Little Red Fighting Hood, making the wolf Stupid Evil, playing up how stupid Red is to not recognize her "granny" is the wolf, doing anything involving Werewolves, or mangling the whole thing with Political Correctness Gone Mad.
- Heavy Sleeper: In some more modern versions of the story, the Wolf, immediately after eating Red and her Grandmother, settles down in Granny's bed and decides to take a nap. Generally these are the ones where Red is rescued, and of course the wolf somehow sleeps through a man breaking into the house, cutting his stomach open, filling it with stones, and sewing it back up again.
- I'm a Humanitarian: In some versions of the tale the wolf tricks Little Red into eating some of Grandma's dead body, for shits and giggles.
- Infant Immortality:
- Played straight in the more modern Grimm version where the young girl is rescued via deus ex machina
- Averted in Perrault where she is eaten.
- The Ingenue:
- In most versions, Little Red Riding Hood is too innocent to see harm in a wolf that speaks so politely.
- This is not the case in versions where she does a strip-tease after accidentally cannibalizing her grandmother.
- In the Hood: Red herself, hence her nickname.
- Just Eat Him: The wolf opts to swallow his victims whole, for maximum rescuing potential.
- Lady in Red: The classic connection between red clothing and "look at me, I am hot, hot, hot!" informs many of the Hotter and Sexier interpretations of the story.
- Lighter and Fluffier: The modern version of the story, which adds a happy ending and downplays the Freudian overtones.
- Little Dead Riding Hood: Almost certainly the Trope Namer and perhaps the origin.
- The Lost Woods: Granny lives in them and so Red has to travel into them. Stay on the Path or you'll find danger.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: The Wolf is not really supposed to be a werewolf, but many modern versions of the story have recast it that way. That animated version might be one of the few not-werewolf versions.
- In earlier French versions, the wolf is called a "loup garou," which means werewolf.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Even at close quarters, Red is at most merely suspicious of the wolf, even though he has not disguised himself further than putting on the old woman's clothes. Either Granmother was hairy, Red was blind, or both.
- In Hoodwinked, to fool Red, the Wolf wears a plastic Granny face mask, which hides his face and most of his ears (for the film, Granny is given a Marie Antoinette-esque hairstyle so that such a mask could be invented). This is what Red says when she's interviewed by Nicky Flippers:
Nicky Flippers: So this wolf, he was dressed as your grandmother?
Red Puckett: Yes.
Nicky Flippers: And you bought that?
Red Puckett: No. Not really.
- Arguably, the reason why the Hoodwinked! version of Red doesn't buy the disguise is because she knows Granny's normal voice (as she makes two phone calls to Granny during the day - one from a payphone shortly before she discovers the break-in at Granny's store, and a second time through a telephone in Japeth's shack).
- Person with the Clothing: The girl's name is taken from her iconic red cloak.
- Promoted to Love Interest: In versions where the Wolf is turned into a werewolf, he's almost always this to an Age-Lifted Red.
- Punch Clock Villain: In The Huckleberry Hound Show, Red and Granny were so upset at Huckleberry for trying to get involved they got him arrested for this and after that the Wolf proposed the three of them would resume their routine.
- Scare 'Em Straight:
- Many versions of the story present an Aesop along the lines of "Always obey your parents" or "Don't talk to strangers"— or you could be eaten by a wolf.
- The original version (possibly) of the story is meant to be something like "Any stranger could be a pedophile and/or rapist".
- Sequel: The Grimm Brothers included a second tale, in which she is once again approached by a wolf; she hurries off down the trail, and immediately tells her grandmother about it when she arrives, and her grandmother therefore has them bar the door. When they do not let it in, it climbs on the roof to pounce when she leaves. The grandmother gives Little Red Riding Hood water in which sausages had been cooked and has her pour it out the window into a trough. The wolf, smelling the sausages, leaned over so far that it fell into the trough and drowned. After that, she had no more problems with creatures in the woods.
- Spared by the Adaptation: In more child-friendly versions, the Wolf locks up the Grandmother in the closet and before he could eat Red, the Woodsman shows up and chases the Wolf out of the house.
- Swallowed Whole: The fate of Grandmother in most versions.
- Too Dumb to Live: The eponymous character, who can't tell the difference between a wild animal and her own granny. Some versions play with this by describing the wolf as a shapechanger or a werewolf, which might explain why it takes so long to realize the deception.
- One version penned by James Thurber, averts it, where Red wasn't fooled at all because, quote, "Even in a nightcap a wolf looks about as much like your grandmother as the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion looks like Calvin Coolidge." So she pulled a revolver out of her picnic basket and shot the wolf dead.
- Hoodwinked averted it with Red. It's clear she isn't buying the Wolf's disguise, which consists of a costume and a plastic face mask, and it looks as if the "What big [facial qualities] you have" lines are her attempting to trick him into removing his disguise.
- Then there's the version(s) where the wolf is a lycanthrope... and also, is the grandmother.
- In The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett observes, "... some girl who can't tell the difference between a wolf and her grandmother must either have been as dense as teak or come from an extremely ugly family."
- Hoodwinked also applies this trope to the Wolf and to Kirk: in that version, Kirk is too incompetent to operate an axe, and the Wolf chases Red's cloak, which visibly has no legs underneath it as hummingbirds are flying it.
- Too Smart for Strangers: Nope, she wasn't. It's Often used as An Aesop.
- Unexplained Recovery: "Swallowed by a wolf eh? Well, you should both be fine. Just take it easy for a few days."
- Villainous Crossdresser: Straight in most versions of the tale with the Wolf. Hoodwinked provides a different idea by having him wear a Granny Puckett apron costume.
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: ...well, in Grandmother's clothing.
- You Can Leave Your Hat On: In some versions of the tale, the wolf instructs Little Red to strip off all her clothes one by one and throw them on the fire.