Why do we keep telling each other Little Red Hood?

Already in the 1970s, the great Italian writer and educator Gianni Rodari stated in his fantasy grammar that just hearing these five words “girl, forest, flowers, wolf and grandmother” everyone evoked the same story. It is not surprising, since if there is a fairy tale par excellence that has been transmitted from generation to generation in Western societies, it is that of red Riding Hood.

Illustration by unknown author from the manuscript of Histoires ou contes du temps passedé, avec des moralités, avec cet autre titre au dos: Contes de ma mère l’Oye by Charles Perrault, 1695.
Wikimedia Commons / Morgan Library and Museum

For many of us it is the first story our parents or grandparents told us, and it is probably one of the first we have ever told. However, few will remember that it was Charles Perrault who published the first written version of the tale in 1697 (in which the grandmother and granddaughter are devoured by the wolf), and that it was not until 1812 when the Grimm brothers gave life to the hunter, thus saving To the girl from the jaws of the wolf.

Hundreds of versions in the 20th century

red Riding Hood has been one of the most shared and reinterpreted fairy tales of the 20th century, with more than a hundred different versions since World War II.

red Riding Hood It is a world literary benchmark that has known how to adapt to the social, moral, political, educational and literary concerns of each era, to the point where it is considered a universal icon today.

As Miguel de Unamuno said: “Progress consists of renewal.” The way in which Little Red Riding Hood, like the fairy tale genre, has been transformed in recent decades is an example of how children’s literature has evolved at the turn of the century.

The importance of illustrations

One of the main characteristics of contemporary children’s narrative is that, after its consolidation as written literature, it incorporates the visual code –that is, the image or the illustrations– in the narrative and semantic construction.

We can currently find endless versions and illustrated interpretations of this story, some of which contain only illustrations, as is the case in the textless album by Adolfo Serra entitled red Riding Hood (Nórdica Libros, 2019) or that of Lorena Martínez Oronoz entitled A (Cenlit, 2018).

These types of silent books require a more participatory reading by the reader, since there is no narrative voice that interprets the story; offering, in this way, an active reading exercise that allows the reader to develop their literary competence and advance in their reading training.

moral burden

cover of Little Red Riding Hood in Manhattanby Carmen Martín Gaite (Siruela, 1990).

Despite the novelties brought about by postmodern cultural trends, some of the adaptations of red Riding Hood Published lately continue to have a strong moral charge, especially those that do not sweeten the end of Perrault’s story.

That is the case of the version of red Riding Hood (Youth, 2019) written by Beatrix Potter more than a century ago and recently illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. The combination of the work of these authors – two of the most prestigious in English children’s literature – place the plot in the English countryside.

On the other hand, we can currently find Little Red Riding Hoods in which a more psychological characterization of the characters is evident, for example, in The stamp thief by Txabi Arnal with illustrations by Julio Antonio Blasco (Edelvives, 2014), where Little Red Riding Hood cannot overcome the death of the wolf and tries to communicate with him through letters.

cover of the girl in redby Frisch and Innocenti and translation by Carlos Heras Martínez (Kalandraka, 2013).

In addition, there are also versions of Little Red Riding Hood in which there is an underlying social criticism of the modern lifestyle, as in the girl in red (Kalandraka, 2013) illustrated by Roberto Innocenti and written by Aaron Frisch, who turn the dangerous forest into a big city – a resource that had already been used at the end of the 20th century in the well-known Little Red Riding Hood in Manhattan by Carmen Martín Gaite (Siruela, 1990).

humorous versions

Lastly, another characteristic of contemporary children’s narrative that the new adaptations of the classic tale have also adopted is humor and parody as a literary game, as occurs in The true story of Little Red Hood by Agnese Baruzzi and Sandro Natali (Editions B, 2008), in which the wolf becomes polite, helpful and loved by all the characters except Little Red Riding Hood, who has lost her main role.

Another funny version is What Little Red Hood Didn’t See by Mar Ferrero (Edelvives, 2013), in which the wolf, granny and the forest animals are the ones who tell us what really happened that day.

It is not surprising the inexhaustible interest that Little Red Hood arouses, since through the opposition of archetypes it addresses some of the fundamental concerns of humanity such as family, morality, growth and aging or relations between the sexes. . Some archetypes that have reinvented themselves and have been able to adapt to the social changes that have occurred over time.

Why do we keep telling each other Little Red Hood?