Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday is for Fairytales: Red Riding Hood

Friday is for Fairytales is a meme hosted by Irena (me) at This Miss loves to Read. Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love, or simply find interesting or haunting, and review it or simply say why you like it so much, or why it has captured your attention. Instead of a fairytale, you can choose a favourite fairytale character and describe him/her and tell us why you like them, or you can simply share an experience connected to a fairytale. Fairytales can be old and modern, written by a known author or anonymous, written down or passed on orally, short or in novel form (like re-writings of fairytales), international or typical for your country alone. In this case, present your country’s fairytale and we can all become acquainted with a new fairytale. So, make a post every Friday that is connected to the world of fairytales, be it a review, a character description or your own fairytale experience. Let’s celebrate fairytales and share our love for them.

MY POST IS ABOUT: Red Riding Hood

I have a weird relationship with this fairy-tale. I should write about my appreciation for it, I know, but today I feel like wording my frustrations. This story is actually very scary and I don’t think children should read it without their parents. I liked it because it was both interesting and scary to me, and I like to be scared just a little by stories. But years later, my like for this fairy-tale abated. Why? Because I read an analysis of Red Riding Hood and I just realised how rationality can ruin a magical experience that is, probably, not meant to be rational at all.

I never saw this story as a story of sexual awakening. I saw this story as a warning for children not to wander around alone and not to talk to strangers because this can get you in trouble. I love symbolism and hidden, subtle meanings, but I want fairy-tales to simply be fairy-tales. I want to enjoy them for the magic; I don’t read them to think. If I want that, I turn to other genres. So, now that I know that Red Riding Hood is supposed to show sexual awakening, I feel sort of cheated.

Because I’m lazy and because this is perfectly worded on Wikipedia, I’ll copy-paste this explanation:
“Red Riding Hood has also been seen as a parable of sexual maturity. In this interpretation, the red cloak symbolizes the blood of the menstrual cycle, braving the "dark forest" of womanhood. Or the cloak could symbolize the hymen (earlier versions of the tale generally do not state that the cloak is red—the word "red" in the title may refer to the girl's hair color or a nickname). In this case, the wolf threatens the girl's virginity. The anthropomorphic wolf symbolizes a man, who could be a lover, seducer or sexual predator. This differs from the ritual explanation in that the entry into adulthood is biologically, not socially, determined.”

It seems like there was a lot of work put into writing this fairy-tale, when in truth, I think that the brothers Grimm (I am referring to them for their popularity) probably just liked some gore and danger in their stories. To me, the message of Red Riding Hood is still for children to be careful and obey their parents, and never, ever talk to strangers. Although the fairy-tale is a bit cruel, it’s to the point and educational. I highly doubt that any child will see anything else in this story. Originally, fairy-tales were not meant to be read by children, sure, but nowadays it’s a popular (mis)concept(ion) that this genre is meant for children and children don’t really care about the abstract.

My point is – sometimes, we should just enjoy things and not over-analyse them. I love to analyse literary texts, but there are stories that should just be enjoyed.

However, if we stick to the theory of sexual awakening in Red Riding Hood, I discovered a music video that shows just that. I think it is worth seeing. Click HERE to watch the video. It is obviously based on Red Riding Hood.


Rachel said...

Wow, I never really thought about that aspect of Red Riding Hood. Interesting post! :)

Joel Le Blanc said...

People can analyze (and over-analyze) fairy-tales if they want, but they shouldn't forget that they are very old stories used not just for entertainment, but for providing hope and comfort to people living in very difficult circumstances - the hidden meanings behind fairy-tales are not just psychological, but also anthropological and socio-political.. I imagine before the days of cell phones, police and the evening news, there were a lot of people attacked during travel, or who returned home to find their loved ones hurt, or murdered. Red Riding Hood could be seen as a way, as you have said, to convey warning as well as comfort and a sense of justice to people, where danger and the unknown were inexplicably tied.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Joel, very well said!

Blodeuedd said...

Truth be told, i doubt the Grimms thought of that. It was a tale about just waht you said. fairytales were ways for kids to learn