Is the fairy-tale Little Red Riding Hood a simple warning to children to obey their parents and stay on the straight and narrow? Or does it have a deeper hidden meaning?
The journey through the forest could also be interpreted as the road to adulthood: in that case the red hooded cloak symbolises menstruation. A lot of psychoanalysts consider Little Red Riding Hood an early adolescent who’s confronted with the dangers of sexuality. The Big Bad Wolf represents the bad man trying to seduce her.
One thing is sure: the origins of the story can be traced back to 100bC in the Middle East. The most famous version by far is the one written by the Grimm Brothers. Little Red Riding Hood is one of the 201 stories in the Kinder- und Hausmärchen which was published by them from 1812. The story was first published by Charles Perrault (1628-1703), but without a happy end. In his version, Little Red Riding Hood dies. A more recent version can be found in the poem collection Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl. There, she shows some initiative again and kills the wolf by shooting him.
With and without hood
A lot of research has been done into Little Red Riding Hood. Interesting is the 1995 essay by Yvonne Verdier (Le petit chaperon rouge dans la tradition orale). She discovered something remarkable. In the oldest version of the fairy-tale the girl wasn’t wearing a hood and didn’t need any help to escape from the wolf. From the moment she was depicted with a red hood, her IQ dropped: she needed a hunter to save her from the animal. According to Verdier the journey through the forest has all the signs of an initiation ritual. In all versions the story is about growing up and different generations.
There are also other interpretations: Little Red Riding Hood is just a warning for small children to listen to their parents. Or the fairy-tale depicts the ancient human fear of wolves. In previous centuries, this fear was very real.