This is a story of mine, though you will all recognise it as a twist on that old favourite, Little Red Riding Hood. I've told it to adults rather than kids, and it's part of my (still growing) series of Fairy Tales for Middle Age.
This re-telling has a very particular style - rather wry, dry and definitely subversive! Some people dislike it (it's modern or even post-modern), but thankfully I find more people love it!
If anyone would like to re-tell it, you'd be very welcome, so long as you credit me. Please let me know when and where too, 'cos I love the idea of being able to track a story of mine as it travels round the world - from England to the States, and on to who-knows-where ...!
AN IMPORTANT TRUTH ABOUT WOLVES (AND GIRLS IN RED HOODS)
Once upon a time (you know how it goes), there was a girl who lived on the edge of a forest with her mother, not far from her granny’s house. This girl was young and pretty and cool, and she had a top with a RED hood – and it was not just any old red, either, but a fabulous, flaming crimson! Now, a red hoody may be okay to wear in the city – wicked! – but it’s a bit of a liability for a girl in a rural area. It makes her rather too conspicuous. We know for SURE that this lass is going to attract attention, and probably get herself into a spot or two of bother. R-E-D spells Trouble, with a capital T.
One day, Red’s mother sent her to her granny’s with some lunch in a basket, and some stern Laying-Down-the-Law words about staying on the path, avoiding poisonous mushrooms and all sorts of other dangers (yada yada, you’ve heard it all before!) and Not Talking To Strangers.
Well, you know, Mum could have saved her breath, ‘cos Red – like any girl dressed so symbolically – couldn’t, or wouldn’t, quash her curiosity. Everything caught her attention: birds and butterflies, spiders and slugs; favourite flowers and unfamiliar fungi; strange smells and intriguing noises through the trees. She soon wandered off the path …
… And, pretty soon, of course, Red met a WOLF.
The Wolf was huge, hairy and scary, sharp-toothed and dangerous … but also (you know it’s true!) INTERESTING … and more-than-a-little exciting. So Red just couldn’t resist it: she chatted with the Wolf. And where’s the harm, eh, in just a few words … and maybe a teeny, weeny bit of flirtation?!
And the Wolf (did I say he was smart and streetwise, too?) didn’t ask any suspicious questions or make any inappropriate suggestions at all; so Red was soon happy to tell him exactly what she was doing and where she was going. You may say this was because she was naïve; but personally, I’d say she rather LIKED Playing with Fire …
SO … Red and the Wolf agreed to race. And before long (let’s cut to the chase, along with the Wolf) granny is gone – all eaten up – and Red and the Wolf are going through that well-known What-Big-Eyes/Ears/Teeth-You-Have routine.
And there’s Red, leaning over the bed … leaning over the WOLF … staring intently into his deep, dark eyes …
… Just beginning to wonder (I’ll bet) whether teeth like THAT can POSSIBLY have Honourable Intentions …
… When – TA RAA! …
… In rushes the Woodcutter – dressed for action, axe in hand – and chops off the Wolf’s head! Whizz, thump!
“You’re safe now!” crows the Woodcutter. And perhaps we can forgive him for feeling just a little bit smug and self-satisfied, under the circumstances.
“You IDIOT!” retorted Red (unexpectedly, you may think). “You blithering idiot!” (She may have been less polite) “I had the situation TOTALLY under control!”
“But - but -” spluttered the woodcutter, inarticulately.
“Wolves get a bad press,” the furious Red continued, “They’re NOT as tough as they make out. I could’ve handled him! And in any case – it was MY problem, and you should’ve left ME to sort it out!
“I – I – ” spluttered the woodcutter, still lost for words (and let’s face it, he’s only a secondary character, and he’s lucky to have ANY kind of speaking part at all).
“Hasn’t anyone ever TOLD you people need to learn to deal with their OWN mistakes?!” demanded Red angrily.
But the woodcutter (who had never watched daytime TV or read Iron John) just scratched his head and said nothing.
“Don’t you REALISE,” Red ranted on, “How important it is for me to learn to deal with wolves MYSELF?! After all, my family has a history of dysfunctional behaviour when it comes to wolves, y’know. And I don’t want to repeat THEIR mistakes! My Mum can’t cope with ‘em at ALL: she’s too scared even to leave the path! And look at Granny! She never learned to handle ‘em either: SHE was so scared she took to her BED! But she couldn’t even recognise one when it crawled in beside her, and you KNOW what happened to HER!”
And Red turned sadly to gaze at the undeniably nasty mess on the bed.
“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful”, she said at last, “But wolves can’t be AVOIDED. You have to learn to DEAL with them. And now that you have deprived me of an Important Learning Experience, I am just gonna have to go out and find MORE wolves, aren’t I? It’s a hassle”.
So she did. And although we shall never know what happened to her, we can be pretty sure some of it was Trouble, and I think it’s quite possible she got eaten in the end. But at least things HAPPENED to her along the way – which is – without a doubt – what any girl who wears a Red Hood WANTS.
© Fiona Weir 2008