10 Messages of Red Riding Hood

by Tolovaj

Red Riding Hood offers several different messages for each of the several hundred known versions. Let's explore a few of them!

Red Riding Hood (also Red Cap or Little Red Riding Hood) is not one of the most popular fairy tales in the world without a reason. Several reasons, actually. Numerous messages, presented at different levels in each of the hundreds (!) of known variations, are an indelible part of its charm.

Seemingly a simple story about a girl who wants to visit her sick grandmother but meets a wolf on her way occupies thousands of experts from different areas of literature, history, psychology, education, ..., but nobody managed to explain it satisfactorily. Is it just a cautionary tale? A cry for women's rights? A symbolic presentation of the balance between good and evil? Or is it a coded message of Christianity fighting against Paganism?

One of the main characteristics of every artistic masterpiece is to give a spectator the possibility of experiencing and understanding it in his/her own way. This is definitely true for Red Riding Hood, a story from which everybody can learn something tailored to his/her needs. For starters, here are the top 10 messages of Little Red Riding Hood.

1. You often create your own problems

One of the overlooked messages of the story is the relationship of the characters with their problems. While we don't know why grandmother lives in the woods, her illness creates unnecessary problems for her and her relatives. Red Riding Hood doesn't listen to her mother's advice, which leads her into a life-threatening situation. The wolf eats both of his victims, but instead of moving to a safe place, he falls asleep.

All of them are at least partially responsible for their troubles.

Red Riding Hood by Frances Brundage

2. Don't send a girl to do a woman's job

The role of the mother in Red Riding Hood is overlooked in most cases. But we can still ask a legitimate question: Why didn't she take the basket with goods to the grandmother's house? Or, maybe go with her daughter? We are pretty well informed that the forest is a dangerous place, and none of the popular versions explains what keeps Red Riding Hood's mother at home while granny lies sick and alone in the woods.

3. Don't leave the path!

In the most famous version of Red Riding Hood, written by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, the message is clear: Respect the authority!

Mother warns the girl: "Stay on the path!" The girl should only listen to her, and everything would be all right. It's not our intention to find how much truth is in this authoritative approach. We could definitely stay without one of the best fairy tales ever if her daughter wouldn't fall into the temptation presented by the wolf.

Red Riding Hood by Frances Brundage

4. Don't trust a stranger!

Charles Perrault gave the girl the red hood. Red is the color of life and the color of sin. His version wasn't the first with erotic subtones, but he emphasized it most of all. His Red Riding Hood gets into bed with a wolf, which is just a pictorial representation of an old popular French phrase: Elle avait vu le loup - literary translated as 'she had seen a wolf' but actually meaning 'she lost her virginity'.

Perrault never wrote for kids, after all. His fairy tales reflected the relationships in society and the situation with older men, using their power and money to pray after young naive women. And when his wolf eats the granny and the girl, nobody comes to rescue them. The story concludes just with a moral in the form of a warning.

Little Red Riding Hood by William Wallace Denslow

5. A good advice is not always good for you

The wolf charms the girl with his sweet words and apparent concern for the granny's health. He suggests picking flowers and making an old lady happier with a colorful bouquet. As we know his intentions were different - he just wanted to get to the grandmother's house before Red Riding Hood, so he could eat his first course before the dessert was served.

Red Riding Hood by Frank Adams

6. A shortcut may not be the best path

Depending on the version, the wolf tells the girl about a shorter way to the granny's home. This changes the understanding of Red Riding Hood's character. If she delays her visit for flower picking, she's irresponsible. But if she delays her visit because she was deceived, she is just a victim.

And a bit naive, of course.

7. Delayed gratification leads to greater rewards

The vast majority of authors and interpreters focus on the title character only but the wolf can offer a few valuable lessons too. He is, for instance, a perfect example of the usage of delayed gratification. While he can obviously overpower and eat the girl right after their first meeting, he decides to delay the satisfaction of his urge and have two meals instead of just one.

Such ability separates an animal from a human. The wolf in this story is not just a talking animal. He possesses other human characteristics as well.

Little Red Riding Hood by William Wallace Denslow

8. A wolf can change his coat but not his character

This lesson can be seen from the view of the victim and the predator. The wolf can pass as a nice gentleman at his first encounter with the girl. He can pass as the visitor when he enters the granny's home. And, for a few minutes, he can play the role of the granny, when Red Riding Hood enters the cottage. Yet, in essence, he is always a beast. Everything he does, including pretending, has the same goal - to eat his victims.

Red Riding Hood is fooled by his nice approach at first and by his likeness to her granny at the second encounter. When she realizes his true identity, it's already too late. Too late for her, but not for the audience.

9. Gluttony is a deadly sin

The wolf is a clear winner of the story. He wants to eat the old lady and the young girl. His plan is executed perfectly. Well, maybe his portions are a bit too much for him. Instead of helping his digestion with a long walk, he rather falls asleep. Instead of finding a safe place to sleep, he snores at the crime scene.

He is a smart predator but not so smart winner. He is an easy prey to the woodman or the hunter (depending on the version). His gluttony is punished. Deadly sin with a death penalty.

Red Riding Hood by Frank Adams

10. Learn from the mistakes!

Only hardcore fans of fairy tales know about the second version of Little Red Cap, which was also included in the first edition of Children and Household Tales in 1812. In this tale, the girl later meets another wolf who (what else) tries to trick her too. But she already knows how important is to stay on the path and get to the granny's house before the wolf. When he arrives, Red Cap and her grandmother defeat the beast with their wit.

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Updated: 05/23/2024, Tolovaj
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Tolovaj 22 days ago

Of course, fairy tales are reflections of real life situations.

Tolovaj 22 days ago

It never occured to me. May be:)

Tolovaj 22 days ago

Yes, these colors are used for reason.

DerdriuMarriner 23 days ago

The first subheading, You often create your own problems, and the second subheading, Don't send a girl to do a woman's job, call to mind the Bolivian film Utama (from Runa Shimi ["language of the people"] -- known as Quechua [so called by the Spanish conquerors from the Runa Shimi verb "to steal"] -- for "our home").

The two subheadings describe a grandmother distantly -- perhaps dangerously -- dwelling alone and a perhaps underaged daughter doing filial duties between her domicile and there.

The aforementioned film features an older couple who function as llama raisers in a drought-susceptible, resource-poor, scattered, tiny community in the mountainous countryside.
The other community people likewise go about hard, lonely lives with their children growing up in great urban landscapes such as La Paz ("the peace").
The husband in the above-mentioned couple perishes even as the wife pursues that hard, lonely lifestyle.

Would it be possible that fairy tale-writing times went through similar tendencies of the old on their own and the young on their own from wending their way from their country, tiny-village homes to big cities?

DerdriuMarriner 24 days ago

Thank you for the three links at this wizzley's very end.

The Frank Adams images contains a painted portrait on the wall alongside Grandma's bed.

The aforementioned painting does not show the mouth-nose area clearly.

Might that profile almost look pig-like to you too?

DerdriuMarriner 25 days ago

Thank you for the three links at the very end of this wizzley.

The Frances Brundage artwork here and her illustrations through that first link lined up just on the other side of the above advertisement cause me to consider something.

That link describes the red preponderance in her Red Riding Hood images.

Blue, red and white also dominate, such as in the second in-text image here.

Might the above-mentioned combination be deliberate, as an artistic reference to the Unitedstatesian flag colors?

Tolovaj 25 days ago

The idea was probably to not horrify children.

Tolovaj 25 days ago

It's very likely a mistake.

Tolovaj 25 days ago


Tolovaj 25 days ago

Hunter has higher status in fairy tales. Woodcutters are by default at the bottom, maybe only charcoal burner is lower.

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