Most people realize that a lot of the classic fairy tales we read today have been altered and sterilized. Many of them come from the Grimm brothers, whose first volume of fairy tales was criticized way back in 1812 for being unsuitable for children thanks to abusive parents, rape, incest, and other nasty stuff.
I recently read the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a bedtime tale for my daughter. Although this fable originated hundreds of years before the Grimm brothers were born, theirs is the version I chose to go with. The selection bothers me not because of the violence involved, but because the people in this story have such needlessly circuitous plans that they make 1960s supervillains seem downright efficient.
Why Won’t the Wolf Just Eat Them?
My first problem is the wolf:
The wolf thought to himself, “What a tender young creature. What a nice plump mouthful, she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both.”
Okay, so the wolf wants to eat both Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all, but why not just eat them? I mean, he’s a wolf. Little Red Riding Hood is right there on a forest path with nobody around. Hell, she even goes a step further by following the wolf’s advice, leaving the path, and going into the dangerous woods where there will be no witnesses. Eat her and then bust into granny’s house for dessert. Or, if you prefer, use the distraction you’ve created to eat granny first, then ambush Little Red Riding Hood as soon as she walks in the door.
How it should have ended: The wolf gobbles up both Little Red Riding Hood and the grandmother, end of story.
How it actually ended: A whole lot of trickery and cosplay, all to achieve what could have been done in just a couple bites.
The Huntsman is a Sadist
Despite the needless complications in this plan, I will admit it works for the wolf. He eats the grandmother, he eats Little Red Riding Hood, and he would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for the huntsman who happens by.
When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself, how the old woman is snoring. I must just see if she wants anything.
Wandering into an old lady’s house just because she’s snoring is a bit creepy, but I’m going to let it slide since the huntsman does save some lives here. He doesn’t want to shoot the wolf because he figures the wolf’s victims might still be saved (apparently, despite having long, sharp teeth, the wolf likes to swallow his meals whole). So instead he gets a pair of scissors and surgically removes the contents of the wolf’s stomach – and the wolf sleeps through it all. However, instead of hoping that the vicious predator is the soundest sleeper of all time, why not just shoot him in the head?
How it should have ended: “Boom! Head shot. Now let’s cut this critter open.”
How it actually ended: “Good thing I apparently studied surgery before quitting to become a hunter.”
Little Red Riding Hood is the Worst of Them All
Of all the characters in this story, Little Red Riding Hood is the biggest psycho around. There’s a tipoff to her dark nature when, upon emerging from the wolf’s belly, her first words are, “Ah, how frightened I have been. How dark it was inside the wolf.” Yeah – she’s afraid of the dark, not of the fact that she just got eaten alive by a talking cross-dressing wolf that can apparently unhinge its jaw and swallow human beings whole.
But anyway, the huntsman has just saved both Little Red Riding Hood and the grandmother. The wolf has been sliced open and is probably going to die. Just to make sure, should the huntsman use his gun and kill the animal? No…Little Red Riding Hood has a better idea – the type that should have landed her as the villain in a Thomas Harris novel.
Little Red Riding Hood, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead.
What the hell, lady?! I know the wolf put you through a lot, but what kind of monster are you?!
How it should have ended: Bang! Bang! Dead wolf.
How it actually ended: Little Red Riding Hood decides to become the inspiration of the Saw franchise and both her grandmother and the huntsman enable her.
As a side note, the Grimm version of this story ends with a little epilogue in which Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother find new and innovative ways to kill wolves.
It is also related that once when Little Red Riding Hood was again taking cakes to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to entice her from the path. Little Red Riding Hood, however, was on her guard, and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother that she had met the wolf, and that he had said good-morning to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten her up. “Well,” said the grandmother, “we will shut the door, that he may not come in.”
Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried, “Open the door, grandmother, I am Little Red Riding Hood, and am bringing you some cakes.”
But they did not speak, or open the door, so the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait until Little Red Riding Hood went home in the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts. In front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the child, “Take the pail, Little Red Riding Hood. I made some sausages yesterday, so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough.”
Little Red Riding Hood carried until the great trough was quite full. Then the smell of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned. But Little Red Riding Hood went joyously home, and no one ever did anything to harm her again.
I don’t begrudge them for killing the wolf, as it was clearly a matter of survival. However, I do find it creepy that Little Red Riding Hood went “joyously” home after drowning another living being. That should be a traumatic experience, but she apparently gets a kick out of it.
Little Red Riding Hood is obviously a dangerous, disturbed child who delights in murder and carnage. This tendency was unleashed by a wolf whose plan got too cute and by adults who did nothing to discourage her obviously sadistic behavior.
Images: Juergen_G, ivanovgood, Gustave Doré, Walter Crane, ItNeverEnds