chapter  20
34 Pages

A Second Gaze at Little Red Riding Hood's Trials and Tribulations

In my book The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, I I demonstrated that the origins of the literary fairy tale can be traced to male phantasies about women and sexuality. In particular, I showed how Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers transformed an oral folk tale about the social initiation of a young woman into a narrative about rape in which the heroine is obliged to bear the responsibility for sexual violation. Such a radical literary transformation is highly significant because the male-cultivated literary versions became dominant in both the oral and literary traditions of nations such as Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United States, nations which exercise cultural hegemony in the West. Indeed, the Perrault and Grimm versions became so crucial in the socialisation process of these countries that they generated a literary discourse about sexual roles and behaviour, a discourse whose fascinating antagonistic perspectives shed light on different phases of social change. In discussing this development, however, I did not devote sufficient time to an examination of the illustrations which in many cases are as important or even more important for conveying notions of sexuality and violence than the texts themselves. Since a complete re-examination of the illustrations would require another book, I should like to limit my study here to one particular scene, the traditional depiction of the young girl encountering the wolf in the woods, with the intention of exploring further socio-psychological ramifications of the Perrault and Grimm versions. Before re-examining the key illustrations of the standard Red Riding Hood texts, however, I should like once more to summarise my arguments about the socio-psychological implications of the changes

made by Perrault and the Grimm Brothers. Here it is important to refamiliarise ourselves with a rendition of the oral tale as it was probably disseminated in the French countryside during the late Middle Ages before Charles Perrault refined and polished it according to his own taste and the conventions of French high society in King Louis XIV's time. 2

The Story of Grandmother

There was a woman who had made some bread. She said to her daughter:

'Go carry this hot loaf and bottle of milk to your granny.' So the little girl departed. At the crossway she met bzou, the

werewolf, who said to her: 'Where are you going?' 'I'm taking this hot loaf and a bottle of milk to my granny.' 'What path are you taking,' said the werewolf, 'the path of needles

or the path of pins? 'The path of needles,' the little girl said. 'All right, then I'll take the path of pins.' The little girl entertained herself by gathering needles. Meanwhile the

werewolf arrived at the grandmother's house, killed her, put some of her meat in the cupboard and a bottle of her blood on the shelf. The little girl arrived and knocked at the door.