Red Hoods, Dark Woods Part I
|"The Company of Wolves II" by Olukemi|
The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is centuries old. Most people will be familiar with it thanks to growing up with the likes of the slightly diluted version by the Brothers Grimm, in which a young girl and her grandmother are rescued from the belly of a ravenous wolf by a chivalrous woodsman. Earlier versions of the tale were much darker, and bleaker. The earliest recorded written version of the tale dates back to 17th century France and a writer named Charles Perrault. Perrault’s tale featured young Red Riding Hood and her sickly Grandmother being devoured by a Big Bad Wolf who tricks both of them, only this time; they are not rescued by a woodsman. Prior to Perrault's adaptation though, were oral folk stories in which a young woman outsmarted a crafty werewolf.
A typical fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood works on a subconscious level to teach us about the dangers inherent in our world; it isn’t just the story of a young girl who is menaced by a wolf when she gets lost in the woods on her way to her grandmother’s house. It is a story, as most fairytales are, that hangs heavy with cautionary morality, warning young women of the dangers of conversing with strange men and the potential threats they may encounter as they cross the threshold into adulthood.
|"Le Petit Chaperon Rouge" by Gustave Doré|
|Still from Trick 'r Treat (2007)|
Fairytales remain a relevant and powerful form of storytelling because of their ability to be constantly reinterpreted and retold, making them relatable enough for most generations. That they are usually drenched in sexual connotations and concerned with the awakening of sexuality renders them even more potent. The renowned psychologist Bruno Bettelheim – also a follower of Sigmund Freud and an important contributor to psychoanalysis - proposed in his book “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales”, that the fairytale is an important part of helping children define who they are and what their place is in the world. Bettelheim believed that by hearing about life-threatening problems and potential threats, children are given vital information that operates on a subconscious level, educating them about the struggles of life, and that these struggles are actually an intrinsic part of our existence. Like Plato, Bettelheim maintained that the education of children should begin with the telling of myths and that the fairytale presented a model for behaviour; giving meaning and value to our lives. He commented: “As children, we need monsters to instruct us in the ways of the world.”