Fairytale Origins- Little Red Riding Hood

We all know the story of  Little Red Riding Hood, usually Charles Perrault’s version, as little girl who ventures to visit her grandmother who lives in the woods, but is tricked and eaten by a wolf. The moral of the story being, don’t talk to strangers. However, some of the original versions are far darker, and not quite as suitable for younger audiences. Here is  a link to one of the earlier version of this tale:


There are many ways of analysing this story and breaking down its symbolism, however, after looking at the story myself, I found  that it could be taken as a metaphor for the process of coping with death. A young girl experiencing death of a loved one for the first time and how she deals with it.
She arrives at her grandmothers house to find her dead, obviously a frightening experience for anyone, let alone a young child, so death is portrayed as a wolf which has always been a symbol for something frightening. The eating of her grandmothers flesh and blood symbolises her taking in the fact that her grandmother is dead, processing what has happened. When the wolf tells her to get into the bed and take off her clothes, it could be seen as a metaphor for death taking control of the girl, as it takes control of many people when they experience a loved one dying.  She questions the wolf, the eyes, the ears etc, a symbol for her taking some control, questioning what death really is and realising that it does not have control over her. In the end, she manages to escape from the wolf and therefore, for this symbolic interpretation, she manages to escape the grasps that grief can hold. The moral of the story – Don’t let grief take over or control your life.

Many people would disagree on the points that I have made above. However, a story is only as understood as it is perceived and different people perceive things in different ways. This therefore further explains one reason why storytelling has changed so much over the years, it doesn’t just matter how it is told, the way in which it is heard is just as, if not even more important.

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration By Daniel Egneus

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration By Daniel Egneus

(Ideas adapted from lectures by Donna Leishman)


Fairytale Origins

From the beginning of our existence we, as humans, have been storytellers. From images on cave walls, to oral tales, literature, and now in the form of photography  and film. Humans are social animals and we express ourselves through these mediums in order to further our sociability. Just like the form of storytelling has changed over the years, the details of stories have also changed. If you imagine it like a game of Chinese whispers: stories that have been told by word of mouth and are changed slightly from person to person and can end up being a completely abstracted or elaborated version of previous ones.

“There is never a single orthodox version of a myth. As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth.” – Karen Armstrong

The extent to which stories are adapted is incredible look at. For example, you may be surprised to hear some far more gruesome versions of what we know from our childhoods of beloved fairy tales or Disney adaptations. A Little Red Riding Hood who ate her Grandmother and was called a slut by a cat, two horrible step sisters who cut off parts of their feet to fit into a glass slipper and have their eyes pecked our by pigeons, and  a Rumpelstiltskin who decided to rip himself in two after being shown up as a fool!  Whether it be adapted by the famous Charles Perrault or the Grimm Brothers, those individual seeds that were planted as the initial ideas to  demonstrate morals and values have branched out into different directions significantly over time.

Visual Narrative 6


Lectures by Donna Leishman

Karen Armstrong (2004). A short history of myth. London: Canongate. Introductory pages