This morning I had the opportunity to accompany Little Bit’s preschool class to a production of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Those of you familiar with this classic story might have had some difficulty recognizing it.

In this modern version, it seems the wolf is “allergic to meat,” and only wants a bite of the birthday cake Red is bringing to her Granny. Granny, a spry 40 something, gives the hunter what-for when he suggests she stay home and let him do the protecting. Furthermore, she forbids him to bring his gun along on their expedition to find the missing Red. She’ll just use her Super-Granny karate chop on that wolf, she assures him.

Red is a feisty chick on roller skates who lectures the audience on the importance of wearing your helmet while skating or riding a bike. She overwhelms and intimidates the poor vegetarian wolf, and having asserted her dominance, befriends him.

In the end, the four characters chase each other around and accidentally knock the cake over. But not to worry, having learned that everyone is OK, they can work cooperatively, each using their own strengths, and make a new cake. Hooray!

Through the whole play, I had one thought in my mind: Thank god my husband isn’t here. Not one to suffer fools gladly, he would have been on his feet, shouting at the actors. “You’re not a wolf, you’re a wuss!” And “If you tried to karate kick a wolf it would eat your foot!” All of the preschool teachers in the theater would have risen, en masse, to put his butt in time out.

Later, I pulled out my copy of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and read the original story, which was called “Little Red Cap.” As you may recall, the wolf tricks Red into straying from the path, eats Granny, and then eats Red when she finally arrives at Granny’s house. The hunter cuts the wolf open with scissors and frees the women, then fills the wolf’s belly with rocks.

The thing is, these fairy tales are archetypal stories. The characters serve as templates for people in that category. Red is the innocent maiden who, having been led from the path of righteousness finds herself in quite a pickle.

But wait, why would she be Red and not Little White Riding Hood? Isn’t white the universal symbol of purity and innocence? In fact, Red is red because she bleeds, making her that most dangerous of creatures, an unmarried (and therefore uncontrolled) fertile female. Naturally, the wolf (archetypal male) cannot control his impulses around this daring temptress and eats (screws) her, thus winding up with the woman in his belly, clearly a metaphor for what really happens- she winds up with the wolf’s baby in HER belly.

In the new millennium version, Red claims all the power. She screws the wolf, Granny emasculates the hunter, and they all live happily ever after in a non-traditional family structure in which we can all hook up with whomever we like because there really are no bad guys, nor are there any consequences for failing to control our impulses and oh my god somebody please stop me!

EDIT: just to clear up some confusion: my daughter’s class did not perform the play, they went on a field trip to see a professional production at a theater. It was performed by adults.


42 thoughts on “

  1. Chuckling..thank you for my faeire tale appreciation read!
    I had no clue to read much deeper than a silly girl getting chased after by a wolf…lol
    Funny how gruesome the real Grimms fairy tales are.
    Have a great weekend.

  2. I am not sure which version is more Grimm, the archetype or the modern empowered revisionist episode. The former is the Old World distilled in a modern world setting, the latter is a reimagined tale that may one day reflect shifts in our society. I am not sure what is more beneficial or worth keeping, old stories and traditions or replacing them with new ones.

  3. White is the symbol for death in Asia is it not? Seems I read that somewhere…but I’m sure here it is a symbol for purity since it’s Western. I doubt there’s a universal symbol for anything. Continental is probably about as far as you can go. I like teaching tolerance and diveristy (well really I like living it, which models it, which teaches it) but surely there’s a better way. I always interpreted this as the girl not following instructions and therefore getting into trouble. Definitely the simplistic version. Don’t stray from the path!

  4. You’re a good read.  I’m thinking back to all the Disney cartoons I watched as a child and seeing what is out now and thinking how much crap there is.  How much sarcasm do children need?  There are modern child psychologists out there, people with kids, who sound like my mom.  Their parenting makes sense.  Pop psychology makes me ill.  ::descends her random high horse and will come back to read you later::

  5. Wasn’t this a ‘Sex and the City’ Episode?  I’m pretty sure that it’s a waste of time to talk to these people.  Archetypes and political correctness will rule the day for a while yet. This despite the underlying bigotry and malfesance of the general public.  Hide it all behind the banner of political correctness and all is well.

  6. OMG, that is so WRONG!!!
    What is the world coming to?  First ethnic puppets and music (& dancing) on Sesame street, and now this???  I am SO glad I do not have to bear witness to such atrocities!

  7. Of course it still goes both ways in public schools. I watched a fourth grade class this Christmas sing about “going out to save the little Hebrew children” and then doing “How” Indian routines. We can’t seem to find a way to be authentic without being completely offensive. And honestly, it shouldn’t be hard.

  8. Oh my.  Oh my, oh my, oh my.  Honestly, you shouldn’t get me started on this.  I could really get going in a bad, bad way.
    I don’t see why they bother with the Grimm fairy tales in preschool anyway.  They contain old, adult themes and don’t gel with our modern approach to childhood, in any case.  Why not make up a whole new play where everyone can learn that the world is wonderful and no one is bad and we all love each other?  It would make a lot more sense.  It wouldn’t be as compelling as an original Grimm tale, or as entertaining as a poor re-write, but at least it would be honest.

  9. this isn’t about ethnic tolerance, folks, it’s about faking reality … wolves eat meat … hunters use guns to shoot animals … unlike some who simply put a pound of hamburger in their shopping cart and pay others to do their killing … there are things in this world that are frightening because they might kill us … has an interesting account of a moose that attempted to stomp a dog and then charged her son … who was fortunately holding a .44 … the moose is now dinneryes, we make everything nice and sterile and artificial for the kiddies so they’ll feel safe … and then they end up expressing rage and violence … they cut themselves, go to violent movies, listen to violent music … they participate in extreme sports that could get them injured or killed … they find ways to make the world challenge themthe world is often cruel and capricious as well as being wonderful … people can be good and loving … or they can be vicious cut throat bastards … and it’s ironic in a country where the left accuses the government, with good reason, of sliding towards fascism that they also insist on feeding children feeble pablum like the new red riding hood that will cause them to either “cooperate” with this fascism … or rise up in fury when they realize how badly they’ve been lied tolife can be tough … and we’re not doing children any favors by hiding that from them … and i STILL hope godzilla squashes red, granny, the wolf and the hunter flat, flat, flat

  10. Hi, came over from neuroticfitchmom’s.  She’s actually very insistent that we come over here. 
    I’m afraid I would have been in time-out along with your husband.  But my mouth would taste like soap because of the bad words I used.

  11. For what it’s worth… mythology and fairy tales are constantly evolving, and we often use different versions of them for different purposes because we have a human need to use stories to teach. Grimm’s version of LRRH is only one “legitimate” version out there on the bookshelves; in different stories, the wolf lives and/or repents, the granny is eaten or escapes, Red is eaten or not… some versions are terribly bloody, and some are whitewashed. In some, Red develops a relationship with the wolf before he tricks her into trusting him. In others, they meet for the first time when she stumbles upon the scene of his murder of her grandmother.
    Nearly all contemporary movies and books are based on the structures of our fairy tales and mythologies, but they are changed to suit their message. What message was the preschool trying to convey to the students? The original text teaches an adult message of chastity, trust, obedience, sex, murder, and salvation. Is that a necessary message for preschoolers? Or would a more appropriate message be one of empowerment, sympathy, friendship, forgiveness, and redemption? Sure, these kids need to know about the harsh realities of the real world, but do they need that at age 4?
    As storytellers we have always rewritten our own texts for our own purposes. Some philosophers claim that there are no original ideas, and they may be right — just old ideas, retold.
    I did a lot of research on fairy tales in my undergrad work… it’s a fascinating subject. Read about thirty different versions of LRRH — there’s some messed up renditions out there! I think it’s less important that we stick religiously to the exact original text (for one thing, because it no longer exists, and it certainly isn’t the one that we read in the Grimm or Anderson books — they rewrote it from the original German because it was deemed too scary and graphic for children) but that we give children a balanced opportunity to explore literature for themselves, and to find their own lessons within the pages. At the preschool level, I think a mischievious wolf, an active granny, a contemporary Red, and a message of friendship is an appropriate exploration of the fairy tale medium. After all, it’s not like these kids probably don’t already know the “real” story. This was just fun. (Plus, think how hard it would have been for them to stage the whole “getting eaten” and “stomach chopped open” thing! :))
    Just my two cents. 🙂

  12. ø¤°`°¤ø,¸¸¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸¸»«¸,ø Little Red Riding Hood ø¤°`°¤ø,¸¸ You sure are looking good ø¤°`°¤ø,¸¸¸,ø You’re everything a big bad wolf could want ø¤°`°¤ø,¸¸¸, Aooooowwwww!!!
    Now if I only knew how to write a wolf whistle

  13. interesting how we’ve changed and the messages we want our children to learn are so different now too! as if we can protect them from the ugliness of the world by changing a story! just wait until they do the three little pigs!

  14. They have commited a crime of censorship!  I certainly do not want my children learning censored Greek Tragedies in high school.
    Gimme a break!  BTW, this is aperfumedsea.  I had to shut down my other site.  My son thought of this name for me from one of his books.

  15. First, what did those teachers hope to teach those preschoolers by taking them to see that play? Second, I think this whole “politically correct” business can get carried away. I would have done the same… gone home and read the original to L.

  16. neuroticfitchmom had this up an i am glad i went herewow on the play an the description of the other playi will never look at little red riding hood the same way again

  17. Sometimes a sneeze is just a sneeze.  As CapnK8 said, rewriting original text isn’t all that unusual.  Some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays were rewritten versions of ancient stories, and I sometimes ask my students to do contemporary rewrites as a means of extending comprehension and composition.  Maybe this play was meant to do nothing more sinister than entertain.  And maybe it just did a poor job of it.  As always, thanks for a great read!

  18. Wow,
    You’re good at looking at things,
    In different ways.
    I want to see how the kids would preform the new millenium,
    Even though they didn’t preform this one.
    I still wato to see.
    And your husband would of been right.
    I’m not sure I like the vegiterian wolf,
    He does seem like a wuss.
    /././././././././././././. <.3.3.3.

  19. I was told to come over here by nueroticfitchmom. Glad I did.
    Im only 14 and I used to love Little Red Riding Hood. Thats probably because I didnt understand the real meaning until just now. Im so glad someone opened my eyes up to the real truth. Red turned out to be slighlty skanky.
    Nice site. Come visit mine anytime.

  20. of course you realise that the original Grimms brothers fairy tales were seriosly altered for our generations too, cause they were originally far too violent. With no happy endings

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