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.
(Ideas adapted from lectures by Donna Leishman)