Fairytales are believed to illustrate characters and events to teach an audience valuable morals or life lessons. However, Sheldon Cashdan, author of “The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales”, explains this is a common misconception amongst readers, and in fact, the stories are to help us deal with internal conflicts and struggles we face throughout our lives (8). However there is much more to be taught when identifying a fairytales underlying meaning. For example, the classic Brothers Grimm tale, “Little Red Cap”, portrays the potential consequences lead by our inability to discern the nature of evil. Through its characters and events, “Little Red Cap” truthfully depicts the wolf’s evil attempts to motivate Little Red Cap’s disobedience for his own pleasure. The struggle of good versus evil depicted in Little Red Cap also directly corresponds with the accounts of Genesis in the Bible. God’s first creation of humans, Adam and Eve, encounter Satan, the tempter of evil, to sin against God. The consequences from succumbing to these sins, or natural desires, can be expressed in Little Red Cap as well as the Gospel. This correspondence is important to identify because it illustrates the evil intentions sin will always impose on our lives. Brothers Grimm creatively proves that evil will use our desires to sin to not only stray away from the path of the woods, but stray away from our own understanding of good and evil.
“Little Red Cap” is the Brothers Grimm version of the more commonly known fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood”. It starts with the main character, Little Red Cap, being instructed by her mother to take food and drink to her sickly grandmother who lives in the woods. Her mother emphasizes to not stray from the path or to be distracted, otherwise bad things may happen. Little Red Cap responds with encouragement and takes off for the woods alone. On her journey however, she runs into a wolf, who seems very interested in where she is off to. Little Red Cap does not see the wolf as a threat, and naively gets distracted by telling the wolf where her grandmother lives. The wolf tricks Little Red Cap to stray from the path and pick flowers, causing her to arrive at her grandmother’s later than planned. This gave time for the wolf to sneak in the house however, so he can eat the grandmother up and disguises himself as her to wait for Little Red Cap. When she arrives, she is tricked by the wolf and he swallows her whole. This would be the end of the tale, however a hunter is nearby in the woods and hears the commotion and enters to cut the belly of the wolf, freeing the two from inside. This ends in a happier manner, with the grandmother still alive and Little Red Cap learning a valuable lesson to listen to her mother.
The tale commonly teaches young readers to never disobey their parent’s instructions, unless bad things will happen. When reading from a more analytical perspective, the roles and actions of the characters prove to show a deeper meaning with the events and consequences from succumbing to evil desires. Little Red Cap represents the “good” of the story, someone who is supposed to obey and complete blameless tasks. She is portrayed as a naive, spoiled girl, who has simple instructions to follow from her mom. Her grandmother “loved her most of all and…could never give the child enough”, (13). Specifically, she was given a cap of red velvet, and due to its beauty, wore it all the time. This is important because it depicts her desire for material items that only hold value in appearance. This part represents the natural desires we all have and later becomes her weakness because it leads to her sinful action of disobedience, an example the authors depicted of good versus evil. She is also proven to be naive during her first encounter with the wolf. She responds to his greeting saying, “thank you kindly wolf” after he is introduced to the audience as a wicked beast (14). She does not realize his evil at first, so she does not fear telling him where her grandmother lives. Portraying the main character as young, innocent girl, represents the good in the story and in ourselves. Her inability to see his evil intentions to trick her is the start of her distractions. According to the Grimm’s German Dictionary, a wolf is used as a symbol of evil, or satanic character, due to his constant urge to devour characters souls (Murphy 78). He greets Little Red Cap with her name, showing the audience he already knows who she is. He is interested in devouring her and her grandmother, but needs a way to get to the house first. By knowing her desire for pretty things, the wolf acts as the antagonist to distract her with the beauty around them. He says, “have you seen the beautiful flowers…how sweetly the birds are singing…so heavenly out here in the woods…” (14). The choice of diction like “beautiful”, “sweetly”, and “heavenly”, refer to his previous knowledge that she likes things that have beauty, and he knows he can distract her with her desires. What also makes this character the epitome of evil is he takes pleasure in tricking her to disobey her initial instructions. Instead of eating her then, he takes her natural desires and uses them against her causing a clear example of the deception and irresistible temptations of evil. If Little Red Cap had the ability to discern what was evil, then she would have known the wicked ways of the wolf. However it was her choice to let her cravings falter her obedience, which lead to nasty costs. The Grimm Brother’s fairy tales are said, by Chasdan, to subscribe to biblical principles by portraying the desires of evil and consequences of succumbing to those evils, or sins (83). Little Red Cap depicts the desires of evil and how our inability to discern these evils result in costly measures. The consequences of Little Red Caps submission to her desires by being distracted with pretty objects causes the near death experience of her and her grandmother getting swallowed whole. This same image of good vs evil is illustrated in the book of Genesis in the Bible. God creates Adam and Eve and instruct them to not eat the forbidden fruit from the garden where they live. However a serpent enters the garden and speaks to Eve. The evil character he is, he takes pleasure in causing disobedience, or sin. This sin was to trick Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. The evil is disguised in the snake, just as the evil is disguised in the wolf. Both take the desires of others and causes defiance against the rules. Little Red Cap had a longing for pretty things, thus the wolf points out the beautiful things around her to distract her from her responsibility. The serpent also knows Eve’s desires for curiosity and exploration, so he used them to tempt her to sin against God. Ronald Murphy explains his biblical connection in the book, “The Owl, the Raven & the Dove”: the serpent tells Eve that the fruit is good and she sees that it is “pleasing to the eye” which correlates with the longings of Little Red Cap (80). Each doing by evil leads to sin, causing consequences on both Eve and Little Red Cap. However, there comes along a savior in both stories as well. The hunter in the fairytale comes to the rescue and saves the women from the belly of the beast. He represents the savior, even though the characters sinned they were given mercy. God enters the garden and still shows mercy on the ones who sinned. This representation of good vs evil allows the readers to see a God who is merciful and forgiving. Although the characters sinned and it led to consequence, the savior will always be there. I believe that this is the most important interpretation of Little Red Cap, it can truly show the ways that evil uses our natural desires to sin against our beliefs. Although we are full of sin, God will always be the savior. The Grimm story is one of temptation and fall, resulting in defiance, but always ending with the salvation of the savior.
Cashdan, Sheldon. The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales. New York: Basic, 1999. Print.. Murphy, G. Ronald. The Owl, the Raven & the Dove the Religious Meaning of the Grimms' Magic Fairy Tales. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print. Tatar, Maria Ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton., 1999. Print.