Little Red Riding Hood: A Philosophical Approach

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the wedding of an old friend of mine. Flamy and I were pretty good friends throughout the "bookends" of high school--we met and chummed up in year eight, got separated after a war between mutual friends, and eventually became good friends in year twelve and have stayed in touch in the thirteen years following the graduation ceremony that neither of us bothered to attend. Anyway, it was wonderful to see her marry a totally awesome guy and see both start their new lives together. I was also lucky enough to be the single lady who caught the bouquet. Funnily enough, it was only as I was leaving the wedding that I realised something odd. It was a year to the day that my heart had been broken, quite possibly intentionally, by an unrequited love. And not only that, but I had gone through an entire wedding without thinking about the idiot once. (But hey, why spoil someone's special day by thinking about that idiot?)

Anyway, the whole thing made me feel a little bit philosophical about life and about the roads that we are meant, and are not meant to travel along. My friend, Flamy, quite clearly, has found the road that she's meant to be travelling on. I'm still at a bit of a crossroad--certainly my writing has come along in leaps and bounds this past year, while my personal life is a little, well, confusing at times and I hope someone out there knows what the fuck is going on with my day job and the roster, because I'm sure I don't. And suddenly I'm thinking about those metaphorical roads I am meant to travel down or not travel down and the story of Little Red Riding Hood pops into my head. And then I think about it. Really think about it.

Little Red Riding Hood, as I'm sure most of you know already is a fairy tale of French origin that later became part of the Grimm Brother's collection of tales. It tells the story of a young woman or a young girl (depending on the version,) who is on the way to visit her sick grandmother. As she travels to her grandma's house, she encounters a wolf who befriends her with the intention of gaining her trust so that he may snack upon both her and her grandmother later on. He tells Red Riding Hood of a shortcut to her grandmothers house (which, of course, turns out to be a longer route,) and then races to the house where he eats her grandmother and then puts the old woman's nightdress on (presumably not the same one that she was wearing when she got eaten,) and then poses as grandma when Red Riding Hood comes to visit. And, of course, when Red Riding Hood notes that grandma's mouth has become significantly larger since the last time they spoke, Red Riding Hood is promptly gobbled up. And then, because it's a children's story, a lumberjack comes along and rescues the pair who are still alive inside the Big Bad Wolf's Stomach. (I guess his teeth just weren't that sharp after all.) The trio then fill the Big Bad Wolf's tummy up with stones.

The moral to the story is that the woods are a dangerous place and that you shouldn't talk to strangers and give out personal information. (And this is a moral that damn well holds true today, though you could probably substitute the word "woods" for "facebook".) But it is also a story of how, when travelling through life, it can be very easy to mistakenly take the wrong path or one that is not intended for us. Red Riding Hood starts out with the purest of intentions. She wants to visit her sick grandmother. This is her destination. To get there, however, she must travel through along a path where she has never been alone before, the woods. In the beginning, this is quite an enjoyable journey. And then she encounters the Big Bad Wolf. And here is the thing. We, the readers, know he's a complete bastard. Red Riding Hood doesn't. She thinks he's a nice guy who wants to talk to her about her sick grandma. And you know, she's having such a lovely morning and she's met someone who seems like a nice guy, so she has no problems chatting to him. And presumably he has a a pretty charismatic personality and convinces her that they are friends. Now here is the interesting thing. The Big Bad Wolf could have eaten Red Riding Hood then and there. In fact, he would have had a better chance at getting away with the crime if he had. But because he's such a crafty, cunning little bastard, he sees not only the opportunity to get two meals (Grandma as well,) but he can have a good time messing with Red Riding Hood's head at the same time. So he leads the poor girl off her chosen path, into a deeper and darker part of the woods, and runs on ahead to gobble up her grandmother. So poor Red Riding Hood is not only about to meet a deadly fate but, the Big Bad Wolf going to have some fun fucking with her head first. He leads her along the path that she isn't supposed to travel down. And because Red Riding Hood is young and innocent, she believes that everything that he has said has been done out of friendship. I'm fairly certain now that the tale was originally written by someone who had been screwed over pretty badly by some kind of con-artist. 

Red Riding Hood ventures along a longer and darker path than what she is supposed to, seeing and passing a whole lot of crap that she doesn't really need to see or pass along the way. She finally reaches her destination and despite having a pretty shithouse morning, is oblivious to the fact that the person in the bed is not her grandmother. Now here comes the most depressing part of the story. It is only when she starts to wise up and make a few enquiries as to why "Grandma" has so dramatically altered that she gets eaten. The Big Bad Wolf knows that the whole mind-fuck is almost over so its time to make his meal before the somewhat wiser Red Riding Hood runs away. 

And then comes the final part of the story. The lumberjack comes to the rescue, cutting Red Riding Hood and Grandma from the Big Bad Wolf's stomach. Both emerge, still alive, but wiser from their experiences. Red Riding Hood has learned a valuable life lesson--that you cannot trust everyone and sometimes people have ulterior motives. And in some ways, this is the lesson that I learned a year ago. I veered off my chosen path, wasted a whole lot of time and put my faith and hope into something that was not meant for me. So what do I do? Mourn? Dwell on it? Or, perhaps like Red Riding Hood, I'll stop being attracted to the charismatic Big Bad Wolf and see the value in a humble lumberjack instead...


Andrew Leon said…
I think I lack whatever it takes to believe in things that are or are not meant to be. I think there are the things we choose or don't choose which may be good or bad, but they are still our choices.
Kathryn White said…
I think when it boils down to it, it's just different words or phrases for the same thing--that which is right for us and that which is wrong. Some people see it as fate and are guided heavily by intuition and gut feeling, whereas others are guided more by their senses and the evidence is clearly laid in front of them. Ultimately it's just different schools of thought and types of intelligences leading to the same ends.
Unknown said…
Kathryn, I'm sooo in love with your writing! This post TOTALLY rang true for me, as I decided to take the long trek to nowhere only to find that I was right where I needed to be in the first place *shakes fist at her reflection*.
Thank you for the reminder sweets ;)
Love & Squishy Hugs
Kathryn White said…
Thank you Nicole! I'm glad that you enjoyed my post. I've certainly had those long treks through nowhere myself.

Squishy hugs,

reese said…
Hi, can i ask you something? You seem to know a lot about children books and illustrations. The thing is, I’m looking for children books with “scary” animal illustrations like the big bad wolf (or a fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding hood or birds in Chicken Little) or being pictured with a fat stomach. Could be any other animal as well. I need it for my research. Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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