Myths and Legends

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The Transformation of Little Red Riding Hood

Through the Years

Nicole Rose

English 4950 Section 602

Professor Hackett

July 27, 2008

The Transformation of Little Red Riding Hood

Through the Years

The world has always had a fascination with Little Red Riding Hood. The little girl in the red hood has meant many different things to different people. Early oral versions were told for adult audiences and contained a background of dark and sexually oriented plots. As stories were written and published, the versions dramatically changed through the years. The story grew so popular that Walt Disney chose to animate the story in 1922 (Orenstein, 2002). Presently, “Barnes and Noble sells more than one hundred different editions, including one diagrammed in American Sign Language.” (Orenstein, 2002, p.3) In a society that is accused of losing its morality over the years, Little Red Riding Hood developed morality through modernization in the 19th century. However, in the 20th century, a new kind of Little Red Riding Hood character developed. This essay will explore the transformation of Little Red Riding Hood through the years. Alan Dundes, a psychoanalytical folklorist, explained that before a written version of Little Red Riding Hood existed, there was an oral version in which the little girl did not even wear a red hood (1989). This oral version was known to have a French or Italian background and it was entitled The Grandmother, according to Zack Zipes (2001). However, Maria Tatar also lists a similar story titled as The Story of Grandmother as being told by Louis and Francois Briffault in 1885 (2002). Dundes stressed that some critics question whether the oral version existed and they insist that Charles Perrault’s 1697 version is the original version of Little Red Riding Hood (1989). In the controversial oral version of The Grandmother, a little girl who is carrying bread and milk encounters a wolf on the way to her grandmother’s house; however, the wolf arrives at her grandmother’s house first and after eating the grandmother, he “puts some of her flesh in the cupboard and a bottle of her blood on the shelf.” (Dundes, 1989, p. 198) The wolf, who is in bed and disguised as Grandma, invites the little girl to eat meat and drink wine, which is really the flesh and blood of the grandmother. After the little girl partakes of the offering given to her, the wolf instructs her to take off her clothing and climb into bed. At this time, the little girl asks the conniving wolf about his hairiness, big ears, mouth, and nose (Dundes, 2003). The series of questions ends with the wolf telling the little girl “…with a mouth to eat you with.” (Dundes, 2003, p. 198). Next, the little girl tells the disguised wolf that she must use the bathroom. The wolf responds to her request by telling her to just go in the bed. Eventually, the little girl tricks the wolf and says that she will go outside and come back. The wolf ties a rope to her foot and the little girl goes outside and takes the rope off and ties it around a treeoutside, takes the rope off, ties it around a tree, and runs away. The wolf discovers that she has tricked him and the little girl escapes unharmed. This oral version was supposedly changed and a modified written version was developed. (Dundes, 2003) The first literary version entitled Little Red Riding Hood was written in 1697 by Charles PerraultCharles Perrault wrote the first literary version entitled Little Red Riding Hood in 1697. In this version of the story, a little girl with a red hood is going to visit her grandmother and carrying biscuits and butter. The girl, now called Little Red Riding Hood, was walking through the woods and met a wolf that was waiting for her. The wolf asks her where she is going and she naively tells him directions to her grandmother’s home. The wolf mentions that he also wants to visit the...
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