Most of the stories that were left to us by both the Grimm brothers and Charles Perrault, were collected from those local legends and traditions that throughout the Middle Ages, traveled all over Europe. Among them is that of Little Red Riding Hood.
Many of them reflect the psychology of the time, their beliefs, their myths … all of them rooted in occasions in testimonies to which, inevitably, they were satinated by a certain “magical realism”. One of the oldest and perhaps the most striking is found in the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.”
This story is, according to experts, one of those that has undergone most transformations since its inception, always with the idea of making these changes with the intention of “sweetening” some images so that the children could take it in peace.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood has undergone various modifications over time what has left behind what, in reality, intended to convey
But the truth is that, with each change, we lost the original intentionality. Because every story contained a doctrine, a teaching that we all had to follow. And the one that Little Red Riding Hood taught us, is worth taking into account…
Charles Perrault and the Grimm brothers
Charles Perrault was the first to pick up the story of Little Red Riding Hood in 1697. He had to include it in his collection of folk tales, aware that this story was one of the most unknown to the European population.
It had its origins in the north of the Alps and also presented some images too raw that changed by the need to make it reach, innocuously, to the children. That was the first time that the story of this young woman with a red hood arrived in Europe.
In 1812 the Brothers Grimm also decided to include it in their collections. For this, they were based on the work of the German Ludwig Tieck entitled “Life and death of the Little Red Riding Hood” (Leben und Tod des kleinen Rotkäppchen), where it was included – unlike the story of Perrault – the character of the hunter.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood did not reach us in its original form, but there were many elements that were suppressed because they were unsuitable for children.
They removed all traces of erotic and bloody elements, and endowed the story with a happy ending. Because what would a child’s story be without its usual happy ending? As you can already guess, the original story is very different from what children read in their books, so let’s get to know it.
The story of the true Little Red Riding Hood
As we have already pointed out before, this story has its origins in an isolated region of the Alps. The purpose of the story is to warn us, to point out that there are things that are forbidden to our community as a human race, as a community and as a group. In the legend, we have as protagonist a teenager, a young woman who has just entered the world of adults, hence her red cape, symbol of menstruation.
This young woman receives an order from her family: she must cross a forest to take bread and milk to her grandmother. As you can see, until now the variations with the original story are not too many, but we must interpret each gesture and each image.
The forest is the danger, an area of risk for young people and that stands as a test, as the rite of passage for a community, with which to demonstrate that their children have already passed into the world of adults.
This forest has as its main risk the figure of the wolf. This animal symbolizes savagery and irrationality. Something that our Little Red Riding Hood already knows and must face. The young woman manages to cross the forest and enters happily at her grandmother’s house, which receives her in bed because she is sick. Everything very similar to our classic story, without a doubt. But here come the changes…
The grandmother tells the girl to keep the milk and bread, and eat the meat in the kitchen prepared for her. Little Red Riding Hood accesses and devours her hungry, being satiated, and afterwards, obeying the following order of the old woman: she must take off her clothes piece by piece and burn her in the fire, and then lie down next to her on the bed.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood is extremely rich in symbolism
The young woman, solicitous, agrees without hesitating a moment, without thinking about the strangeness of the situation. Because just when he is going to enter the bed, he discovers that it is the wolf who receives it with laughter, pointing out that the meat that he has eaten is that of his grandmother. He has committed a great sin, cannibalism. Later, the wolf, evoke the young Little Red Riding Hood.