Little Red Riding Hood

by Tolovaj

The story of Little Red Riding Hood with its rich history and symbolism offers many possible interpretations. It is not among the most popular fairy tales in the world for nothing!

Little Red Riding Hood (sometimes Little Red Cap) is one of the most popular fairy tales on the planet but many people don't realize there are literally hundreds of known versions and they REALLY differ one from another. So here I collected top 10 interesting facts about the story of Red Riding Hood - to inform and possibly amuse.

Be warned - there might be some blood involved...

(all used images are in public domain!)

Little Red Riding Hood characters:

1. It looks simple: Red Riding Hood, her mother, her grand mother, wolf and the hunter, right? Red Riding Hood by Harry Clarke

Nope! We have versions without a hunter (yes, poor girl dies - forever!), versions with a father instead of the hunter and even versions with two wolfs (and both die in the story...). There are also several versions with a werewolf or a witch instead of the wolf. But the list of characters from the beginning is really the most popular of all.

2. There are basically two 'classic' stories of Red Riding Hood. The Perrault's don't have a hunter and it ends with a moral: "Don't trust a stranger!" and Grimms' have a hunter and it says: "Don't stray from the path!" We all know how important was a promise for brothers Grimm.

Did you ever hear about Little Red Riding Hood without a hunter?

Red Cap illustrated by Johnny Gruelle

Red Cap illustrated by Johnny Gruelle
Red Cap illustrated by Johnny Gruelle

3. In some older versions (before 15 century) of Red Riding Hood we have a father in the role of the rescuer. Surprisingly he doesn't save the eaten girls by opening wolf's belly. He cuts his head instead. The reason is probably one of old superstitions. Wolf's belly is associated with pregnancy and touching a belly of pregnant women was strictly forbidden to men in many old cultures.

4. The role of predator in this fairy tale is not too typical for classic fairy tales. Most of them have a human (evil queen, deceptive king, ogre, witch, giant...) in this role, but it seems in times when it was firstly written the fear of wolfs (and werewolves - werewolves were really popular several centuries ago) was strong enough to make the versions with animals more popular than version with humans as opponents in this case.

The color red

5. It was Charles Perrault who painted the girl's hood in red color. Color red can mean many things but in this case it is obviously connected with sin.

Red Riding Hood illustrated by Arthur RackhamIn Perrault's time only ladies of negotiable virtues wore red and looking at:

- his audience (adults in the court of Louis XIV),

- the allusive dialogue between the wolf and the girl,

- the action itself (she undresses before she gets in bed - yes, Grimms cleared all that),

it is very clear Perrault was talking about man-woman relationship.

It was especially written as a warning to young girls as an easy prey of older (rich) men.

6. The color of Red Riding Hood's cap in versions before Perrault is not always mentioned. But if it is, it is gold.

Looking the mythological explanation of Red Riding Hood this is really clear. Mythologists understand this story as a story about day and night, the girl is representing the sun and wolf steals it every evening.

More interpretations of Red Riding Hood

Every reader can interpret it as he/she wants it: pregnancy, resurrection, seasons...

7. For feminists it is a story about rape. We have a male predator and two female victims. The predator is punished (in most versions), but feminists are not too happy with the rescuer (he is male too). So they prefer versions of Red Riding Hood where the girl (sometimes with a help of her granny and sometimes with a shotgun) takes care of herself.
Red Cap by Carl Offterdinger
8. Psychoanalysis focus on sexual (what else?) maturity of the main character. Red color is color of menstrual blood.

It is very important to notice the grand mother, not mother is giving her a hood. Grand mother, not mother is the one who is slowly loosing her life force (represented with blood).

We have a scene where mother gives advice to her daughter (this is the job of all mothers) and we know the daughter doesn't listen (this is the job of all daughters).

There is symbolically very important scene of girl's flower picking which represents her careless attitude, we have a forest which represents unconsciousness, pretty explicit dialogue, clear scene with the bed and ending scene with pregnancy and birth.

All aspects of sexual maturity are represented in short.

The story behind the fairy tale of Red Riding Hood

...and more!

The Story of Little Red Riding Hood
Her is my initial article about Red Riding Hood with short summary, some symbolism, additional illustrations and possible interpretations.

Top illustrations
My blog about some of the finest illustrations from vintage children books. If you like the illustrations on this page, I invite you to check "Top illustrations blog" too.

Messages of Red Riding Hood

(Warning against consolation)

9. No matter how much erotics and violence is presented in older versions of Red Riding Hood, they are always tales of caution. Listen wiser people! Don't trust a stranger! Stay on the path! In most but not all versions there is also some kind of consolation at the end of the story.

10. In 20 century new versions of Red Cap started to become popular. Parents became more aware of the effect of fairy tales on their children (don't forget, fairy tales were not meant for kids until 19 century anyway), so they started to delete certain scenes from the stories.

Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf by Jessie Wilcox SmithIn Red Riding Hood the most disturbing were:

- undressing of the girl (already deleted by Grimms),

- man-eating (did I mention in some versions wolf and the girl eat the granny together?)

- the surgery in the end.

So we got the sanitized Red Riding Hood where the girl convince the wolf to become a peaceful vegan and in the end of the story everybody sits together to enjoy a nice meal!

We have a happy ending and at first sight we can be satisfied with the message: good defeats the evil. Sorry, I don't buy that. Most of the wolves in real world are still evil. Sweet words can't convince them. Little girls will still be in danger. Only this time, a girl will meet a wolf without a lesson learned from the 'real' Red Riding Hood.

No more nightmares for children and no more powerful notes of caution. It seems a big bad wolf looses some proteins but children lose much more...

This scene could be interpreted as flirting, right?

Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane
Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane
Updated: 03/05/2016, Tolovaj
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What is your favorite version of Red Riding Hood?

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Tolovaj on 09/03/2023

Derdru Marriner - it's work of Harry Clarke. He was a part of Arts and Crafts movement but his style is an eclectic mixture of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Symbolism.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/14/2023

Your characters fact has an interesting image.

What version is that image associated with? It looks quite French to me, and even more elegant than rustic in the wide skirt so popular in revolutionary France and in the War Between the United States.

Tolovaj on 01/25/2014

I didn't see this one. Happy endings are still the most popular, right? The Grimm's version with both saved is my favorite too. Thanks, Maggie Crooks, for your visit and comment.

Maggie Crooks on 01/25/2014

My favorite version is the 2011 movie, Hoodwinked. In the end Red, Grandma, Wolfie become friends. Among the versions you mention, I guess the one in which the woodsman saves both Red and Granny.

Tolovaj on 05/17/2013

Thanks for your feedback, AnomalousArtist!

AnomalousArtist on 05/16/2013

I've always loved this topic of these iconic characters/situations (like so many people), thanks for shedding some light on WHY it's so popular!

Tolovaj on 05/15/2013

@WriterArtist, you are right, both carry strong messages and can be effective in many, although different situations.

WriterArtist on 05/15/2013

Well, I liked both the versions because each of them have a morale to learn.

Tolovaj on 05/15/2013

Kids will always be kids, right?

sheilamarie on 05/14/2013

Red Riding Hood does have some lessons for girls. Things don't seem to change much. Unfortunately, sanitized versions leave them even more vulnerable.

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