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Tag Archives: Arthur Rackham

[Review, DVD] Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood (2011)

Fairy tales suffer a lot. They undergo constant revision, both by design and by accident; by people purposely seeking to subvert the traditional tales (a la James Thurber), and by misrememberings and chinese whispers of oral storytelling.

Little Red Riding Hood may well be the most reinterpreted of the classic Tales of Mother Goose: Roald Dahl’s comic verse; Angela Carter’s twisted tales in The Bloody Chamber; Toby Forward’s POV swappage. There’s a plethora of retellings available on Amazon, from  board books for toddlers to long YA tomes that Freud would be proud of. In its lifetime, the story of the hooded one has been a morality tale, a metaphor for sexual awakening, a love story. It has been a thriller and a creature feature, a revenger’s tragedy and a modern satire.

Hollywood has taken the story to heart, with the character having been portrayed on-screen in at least 117 features. The The Weinstein Company‘s Hoodwinked! was released in 2005 to a lukewarm reception, and the latest take on the tale comes from Twlight director Catherine Hardwicke.

Perrault’s Le Petit Chaperon Rouge is the simplest and most well-known version of the story. In it Red is beat to Grandmother’s house by the wolf because she stops to pick wildflowers, and after running through the ‘what big arms/legs/ears/eyes/teeth you have’ schtick, is eaten up by the wolf. There’s no rescue, no redemption, and the tale ends with a moral:

Little girls, this seems to say,
Never stop upon your way.
Never trust a stranger-friend;
No one knows how it will end.
As you’re pretty, so be wise;
Wolves may lurk in every guise.
Handsome they may be, and kind,
Gay, or charming never mind!
Now, as then, ‘tis simple truth—
Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth!

Rotkäppchen (or Little Red Cap) by the Grimms differs slightly from Le Petit Chaperon Rouge. Split into two parts, the first half mirrors the Perrault text but has Red rescued by the Huntsman after she’s been eaten. Once bitten, twice shy, the Grimm’s add a second part to the story that sees Red and Grandmother foil further similar attempts to gobble them up by a second wolf. Read the rest of this entry


Origins: For Want of a Nail

Household Cavalry horse being shod. From

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the Kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

A cautionary tale that warns us of the importance of details, For Want of a Nail has appeared in a number of forms since at least as early as 1640, when Outlandish Proverbs was published by George Herbert, an Anglican priest:

For want of a naile The shoe is lost; for want of a shoe the horse is lost; for want of a horse the rider is lost.

The sentiment was certainly not new, as this proverb from John Gower‘s extremely long middle-English poem Confessio Amantis (c. 1390) shows:

For sparinge of a litel cost
Ful oftë time a man hath lost
The largë cotë for the hod.

The proverb was probably in the mind of Benjamin Franklin in 1758, when he said

A little neglect may breed mischief… For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost; being overtaken and slain by the enemy, and all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.

As a proverb, the sentiment is expressed in many European languages, with Spanish, German and Greek all having a version of their own. As a rhyme, fully expanded, For Want of a Nail first appears relatively late, in Arthur Rackham’s Mother Goose, 1913.

The rhyme expresses what is often called the Butterfly Effect, and has been said, probably erroneously, to refer to Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1425 when he fell from his horse.