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The History of Little Red Riding Hood

Updated on October 17, 2012
Little Red Cap
Little Red Cap

The original story written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm entitled "Little Red Cap" is about a young girl who is told by her mother to stay on the path while traveling to her sick grandmother's house. Along the way, however, she is enticed by a devious wolf to wander off the trail and pick some flowers, which gives him enough time to run ahead to Grandmother's house, eat Grandmother, and then lie in wait to eat the little girl. Fortunately, a huntsman hears the ruckus and cuts open the wolf's belly, releasing the girl and her Grandmother. He and Little Red Cap then sew stones into the wolf's belly so that he can't repeat his crime.

The story written by the Grimm brothers has been revised in many different versions over the years. However, the differences between the newer stories and the original are perhaps more numerous than the similarities. In a recent movie version of the story, starring Amanda Seyfried, the wolf is actually a werewolf, and many other key plot points were changed or developed. There are no themes of love or sexuality present in the Jack Zipes edition of "Little Red-Cap," unlike in some adaptions in which the woodcutter is young and handsome, and he and Little Red Riding Hood, as she comes to be called later on, fall in love. In the Grimm's story, the huntsman is presumed to be an older man who is only interested in destroying the wolf, who he describes as an "old sinner," and keeping his pelt.

While many have tried to find deeper, darker meanings to the folktale (possibly influenced by the much darker tone of some of the Grimm's other works), the Jack Zipes edition of the Grimm's "Little Red Cap" is a fairly simple tale of a girl who learns that she should always listen to her mother. An additional small story is even tacked on the end explaining what happened the next time a wolf came along, and Little Red-Cap decided to do the right thing and stay on the path. It is clear that the story was meant only to be a teaching tool for young children. That such a classic, well-known story came of it might have surprised even the Grimm brothers.

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