So I admit to being just slightly obsessed with Little Red Riding Hood (okay, okay maybe actually completely obsessed...). What piqued my interest? A lot of that has to do with the research I did into the history of the folktales and a fascination with how a story can shift and change over time to reflect changes in the cultures it resides within.
As a result I was really excited to discover that there was a film version of Red Riding Hood, produced last year by Catherine Hardwicke (director of Twilight). When I finally watched it, I admit I was disappointed, mostly with the casting; not of the main characters who are for the most part good, but it's amazing how bad supporting actors can make a film seem fake & ruin a mood!
The film, however, is a visual feast with splendid, gorgeous, stunning images of long red cloaks against white, white snow, beautiful tree lit night scenes and chic neo-medieval costumes that are meticulously researched with details to satisfy the hippy-geeks in all of us. This in turn spurned some research into medieval costuming. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog with some cool books about medieval dress...
Fortunately the more I watched the film (obsessed remember), the more I appreciated the subtle metaphors and historical references it embeds. For instance, was Peter, Peter The Wolf? Also, it's obvious in the final stew scene at grandmother's cottage that Catherine Hardwicke put some research into how the tale was originally a metaphor for the passing on of wisdom from one generation to another (grandmother to granddaughter Eucharist style). I appreciated this, along with the soundtrack, which is fantastic. Check out Bloodstream and Keep The Streets Empty for Me by Fever Ray!
In fact does a fairy tale have to seem real? Or does a certain amount of fakeness actually seek to better distill the story and symbolism in your subconscious in a more subtle way than if everything was completely realistic? The fakeness allows it to exist in the realm of metaphor, fantastic space, the dreamworld where things aren't usually completely logical.
After being obsessed with the film I read the book by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright. She wrote this after the movie was created, spending time on the set researching the characters and getting to know them. They book delves deeper into the inner lives of the characters and has additional scenes. This was really fun - I kept expecting the book ending to be different and was somewhat disappointed in the end. You have to go online to read the last chapter. If you don't, the book ending leaves more tantalizing trails left for the imagination to follow...
So what other Red Riding Hood remakes have made the mark? Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is tantalizingly well written featuring an innovative re-imagining of the whole werewolf adventure. Available in book, e-book and book CD formats at CPL! Stiefvater is also a musician and artist and has created her own songs to go along with each book, as well as stop animation teasers (scroll down) using wallpaper cutouts! The book is followed up with Linger and Forever. On a side note, Stiefvater likes to decorate things such as her printer and guitar with intricate designs in sharpie markers. You can see some of this on her website as well as in the preview for Forever (scroll down). Click Here and scroll down for a neat pop up animation for Linger.
I think it is important to point out that most of the heroines in the RRH revisions in this blog (except in the comedy section) have teenage or young women as protagonist. This changes the moral tone of the stories and makes them (slightly) less creepy! For instance, Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by artist Daniel Egneus is definitely not the watered down version served up for most 5 year old. And the woman in the illustrations is definitely not 5 or 8 or even 11. Scoring high on beauty in line quality and penmanship, they also evoke a sense of horror in their disjointedness - hinting at how truly horrific such a story would be, were it actually real.
Adaptations that are truer to legend with juicy twists are: Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie (Ruth follows in her grandmother's footsteps learning her wise lore) & Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is another werewolf adventure involving 2 sisters. Red Hood's Revenge by Jim C. Hines is one of four books that reinvent RRH, Cinderella, Snowhite and the Little Mermaid into one cohesive world where our famous heroines form sisterhoods rescue children from Rumplestiltskin, marry, attempt assassinations on each other, reconcile, etc. Fun, fun, fun! Cloaked by Alex Flinn has references to RRH as well as fairytales such as The Shoemaker and the Elves, The Frog Prince and others. In Birthmarked, a great dystopian novel Caragh M. O'Brien, servant girls wear red cloaks however, the resemblance stops there. Similarly from the cover, what with the red cloak and wolf!!, you'd think The Light Bearer's Daughter by O.R. Melling was a RRH re-vamp, but no! Scores are in order however, for a great cover...
Woods Wolf Girl by Cornelia Hoogland takes the story of Little Red Riding Hood and turns it inside out in this sensuous Canadian retelling. Published by http://wolsakandwynn.ca/about
All this fuss about a girl and a cloak and a wolf? Well yes, rich in myth and symbolism, fairytales are a metaphoric minefields, hands down. "Our lives are stories, and the stories we have to give to each other are the most important. No one has a story too small and all are of equal stature. We each tell them in different ways, through different mediums—and if we care about each other, we'll take the time to listen." - Charles de Lint
"As our storytellers continue to draw upon past knowledge, including looking to the animal world and to tribal storytellers for guidance, we grow in strength. We reshape our ancestors' stories for our children, so that these tales will, like our people, our spirits, endure." - Carolyn Dunn
I find the psychological effects of fairy-tales intriguing. If you are interested in the psychology of fairy-tales Clarissa Pinkola Estes has written Women Who Run with the Wolves, which examines folk and fairy-tales from a Jungian perspective. Reading it might just put a new spin on Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg, or a whole lot of your childhood as well! Far from being outdated, fairy tales continue to shape our lives. Currently the re-shaping of these stories is booming. As Terri Windling says, "Why are so many of us en-spelled by myths and folk stories in this modern age? Why do we continue to tell the same old tales, over and over again? I think it's because these stories are not just fantasy. They're about real life. We've all encountered wicked wolves, found fairy godmothers, and faced trial by fire. We've all set off into unknown woods at one point in life or another. We've all had to learn to tell friend from foe and to be kind to crones by the side of the road. . . ."
On a more humorous note: Artist Wiliam Wegman did a Little RRH book in 1993 which involved photographing dogs posing as all the characters, and in true English hound style... plaid for the book end pages! Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde are 8 short story RRH re-makes that may never have you looking at fairy-tales quite the same way again! Gail Carson Levine recently wrote Betsy Red Hoodie illustrated by Scott Nash, and there are hilarious graphic versions of little red riding hood in these two YA Graphic Novels. Definitely not for little ones : some very Grimm fairy-tale comics and Fracture Fables by Jim Valentino. When a RRH girl finally karate chops the wolf in self defense rather than being gobbled up by him, we know we are living in a society that is beginning to place more of a priority on empowering our little girls rather than seeing them pay blind obedience instead. And that, in my mind, is a good thing!
If you are interested in researching the history of folk and fairy tale these are some good websites: Endicott Studios, JOMA (Journal of Mythis Arts) , Cabinets des Fees - a journal of fairy tales, Terri Windling. In our E-Library (once you sign-in) there are articles like "The Trails and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood" by Jack Zipes. Look under Book Authors and E-Books, Literature Resource Center or Literature Criticism Online and enter in a heading like "Little Red Riding Hood". You will get links to a variety of great articles! Do some research using our spiffy new catalogue and do a re-vamp as you see suggested in the challenge issued here!
"Our lives are our mythic journeys, and our happy endings are still to be won." TW