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Tag Archives: Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

[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

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Feminism for early starters – Traditional Folk and Fairy tales

Molly Whuppie steals the ogre's sword

This is without a doubt the most fascinating (to me, at least) Feminism for Early Starters topic I’ve written on so far. Most fairy tales, as I’ve noted before, are inherently misogynistic. Their female protagonists are usually passive (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, The Princess and the Pea and so on ad nauseam) and their mother-figures either evil (Snow White) or uncaring and selfish (Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel). When they do display curiosity or independence, they are punished for it (Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks and the Three Bears) and in order to get what they want they are subject to severe penalty (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) or ignored completely (Patient Griselda). Indeed, there are more than a handful of tales in which women do not feature at all (The Steadfast Tin Soldier). The life of the fairy tale heroine is a constrained one. It’s okay, though. As long as we depict them in pointy hats with scarves hanging out of the top of them no one will mind, because, hey, it’s historic, innit. They’re happening in another time, another place. This land called Once Upon a Time where it’s okay that the adventures of women are destined to be more heir raising than hair raising.

But it’s not all bad. While most fairy tales in their original (where for ‘original’ we can substitute ‘most famous’ or ‘canonical’) are not exactly equality driven, there are a few fairy and folk tales that do have something of a feminist message. Sometimes you have to squint.

These are a few of my favourites, retold, badly and briefly*, by me.

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