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 pretty much supplanted Perrault's in the collective consciousness.
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. *
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. Of course, that does hit 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
. And a not so nice one, too
. And yet another one, which is very... different.
The most recent film rendition of the story features a 2011 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:
- An Aesop
- The Bad Guy Wins: In the Perrault version.
- 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.
- Big Badass Wolf, specifically The Big Bad Wolf.
- Big Damn Heroes: "A villainous wolf preying on old women and little girls? This looks like a job for WOODCUTTER MAN!"
- 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.
- Deus ex Machina: The woodsman in the Grimm version.
- Downer Ending: Perrault's.
- 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: She's warned about leaving the trail and talking to strangers. (Not always, the warning was added in one of the Grimm versions; it's standard now, since "obey your parents" is considered a better moral for children's stories than "avoid seducers and rapists.") 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.
- 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 some reason.
- Infant Immortality: Played straight in the more modern Grimm version, averted in Perrault.
- The Ingenue: Little Red Riding Hood herself, but perhaps not in versions where she does a strip-tease after accidentally cannibalizing her grandmother.
- In the Hood: Red herself.
- Just Eat Him: The wolf opts to swallow his victims whole, for maximum rescuing potential.
- Killed Off for Real: Some variations have Little Red escape but still bump off poor Granny.
- 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
- 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.
- 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. Maybe Grandma was really hairy?
- Little Red was blind?
- Oooh, boy. That would make it even creepier, as she'd have to feel how big each of Grandma's body parts are. Talk about giving the chills to someone.
- 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 probably 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 does make 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
- 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.
- Swallowed Whole
- Too Dumb to Live: The eponymous character, who can't seem to 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.
- And 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. 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 subversion by having him wear a Granny Puckett apron costume.
- 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.