History of Little Red Riding Hood

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Introduction

There are numerous popular children’s stories that have deep roots in folk traditions. Storytellers have adapted and retold tales, using both words and illustrations, to entertain and educate both children and adults at different times in many cultures. Historians tried to trace the roots of these folk tales but as what they found out that it is almost impossible to trace where this stories originated. One of the most used theory by historians is that folk tales are passed down orally by generation to another generation usually the aim is to teach moral or to scare the little children or for entertainment, merchants who travelled to different places to trade for goods occasionally would sit around the campfire and trade stories just like in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury tales.

The story of Little Red Riding Hood is one that almost everyone is familiar with. It is a childhood story told and retold by parents before bedtime to sleepy children, but the story goes much deeper than just an innocent fairytale. We explore the different versions and adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood and see how the story changes as a result of the advances in morals and social norms. The story of a young protagonist, who encounters malevolent creature, which varies depending from where the story is from, some monstrous creatures commonly depicted was a tiger from the same story in China, ogres in some part of Europe but wolf are the most consistent. These stories can be traces back during Nordic tales that are over 900 years old (Joy, 3) while some was saying that it was originated in China. (Power, 22)

The age of the young girl who encounters a wolf while going to visit her grandmother also varies depending on the version. Storytellers rarely mention the age of the young protagonist in words, but illustrators portray her as being anywhere from about three or four but older oral versions of the story tells that the little red riding hood was somewhat older (Librarian).  The red riding hood is a popular and familiar symbol to much of Europe and North America. In the height of portraiture in the nineteenth century, many young daughters of wealthy families were painted wearing red capes or hoods. Scarlet or red is a sexually vibrant and suggestive colour. At one time, it was not worn by morally upright women thanks to its sinful symbolism. 

Wolf was used in the versions of the brothers Grimm’s Rotkäppchen (Little red cap) and Perrault’s Le petit chaperon rouge (Little red riding hood) and some other versions. The wolf in the story proposed human features which lead Historians to conclude that these wolves were related to werewolves which is said to attack towns and kidnap children at night (Powers, 4). During the sixteenth and seventeenth century depictions of wolves in the stories or paintings was like the devil that always sees mankind as prey and circles the sheepfold of the. The fears expressed in the fables and fairy tales, especially in Europeans countries was probably because of beliefs. A lycanthrope is a person who assumes the human-wolf form. These half-human/half-wolf creatures were seen as manifestations of the Devil. Legend tells us that these dark, evil creatures of the night would come into villages under cover of darkness to feed upon mortals which was commonly connected to stories. The wolf has become a popular image in fairy tales thanks to this tale and The Tale of the Three Little Pigs. The wolf is a common predator in the forest and thus is a natural choice for the story unlike the witch, ogre or troll found in other tales. The wolf is often a metaphor for a sexually predatory man.

The critical theories used in this research are Historicism and Structuralism using Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the folktales. The aim of this research is to find out the social historical influence of The Little Red Riding Hood during its time. Historism’s aims to find out the destructive developments of...
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