Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps one of the most popular French fairy tales today. The story revolves around a young (and naïve in some versions) girl and an evil wolf which is determined to eat her up. Depending on the version under consideration, the story has several other characters such as the grandmother, the mother, the hunter among others.
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As already alluded to above, several versions of this story exist today. For example, there is the Charles Perrault earlier version, the Grimm brothers’ version among others (Schilb & Clifford 24). It is noted that there are several notable differences between the various versions of this story. The differences are to be found in the themes, the structure of the narrative and such others. However, there are also some similarities such as the main character in the story. It is noted that the storyline in the various versions is more or less the same.
In this paper, the author is going to make a comparison between three versions of this story. These are the versions by Charles Perrault, Jacob and Wilhem Grimm and Angela Carter. The author is going to look at some of the major similarities and differences between the three versions of the story.
Little Red Riding Hood: A Brief Summary
It is important at this juncture to provide a summary of the story before comparing the three different versions. This is especially so given the fact that the story line (as earlier indicated) is more or less the same among the various versions.
According to Orenstein (100), the story opens with a young girl being sent by her mother to take bread and milk to her ailing grandmother who lives a few miles from the girl’s home. The girl is referred to as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ given the fact that a red riding hood was one of her favorite piece of clothing.
To get to the grandmother’s house, the girl has to pass through a forest full of wolves. On her way to the grandmother’s place, the girl comes across a wolf who tricks her into telling him where she is going. The wolf goes ahead and gets to the grandmother’s house before the girl does. He eats up the grandmother and lies on her bed waiting for the young girl.
When the young girl arrives, she immediately notices that something is wrong with her ‘grandmother’. Some versions of the story tell of how the girl is eaten by the wolf just like her grandmother. Other versions tell of how the girl is rescued from the wolf by a hunter.
A Comparison between the Three Versions
A notable similarity between the three different versions is the depiction of the main character as an innocent little girl wearing a red riding hood. Although the disposition of the girl appears to be different in the various versions, it is important to note that all the three versions revolve around her. Charles Perrault refers to her as “…(the) little village girl” (Schilb & Clifford 45).
On their part, the Grimm brothers refer to her as the “…sweet little girl” (Grimm & Grimm 32). It is also noted that all the three authors depict the girl as the good or pious character in the story. There are also similarities in the other characters used by the three authors. They all make reference to a grandmother who is ailing, a mother and a wolf.
Other similarities include the little red cap worn by the girl. According to Grimm & Grimm (39), the girl received the “…little red cap made of red velvet” (p. 39) from her grandmother. This is the same in Charles Perrault’s version where the ‘good woman’ (read grandmother) gave the girl a red riding hood.
On her part, Angela Carter replaces the red riding hood with a knitted red shawl (Orenstein 92). Despite this minor inconsistency with the other two versions, it is noted that Carter’s version still makes reference to a red piece of clothing which is given to the girl by the grandmother.
Differences between the Three Versions
Perhaps a major difference between the three versions is to be found in the ending of the story. Charles Perrault’s version (the earliest between the three) seems to have a brutal ending to it. Both the grandmother and the little girl are eaten by the wolf. The author closes the story by saying: “And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up” (Schilb & Clifford 34).
This is a very sharp contrast to the ending in the other two versions. The Grimm brother’s version seems to have an optimistic ending where the girl and the grandmother are rescued from the wolf by a hunter. This seems an appropriate ending for a tale meant for children. Perhaps Carter’s is the most optimistic of all the three endings. The story closes with the girl and the wolf sleeping together like old friends.
Another major difference between the three stories can be discerned from a feminist perspective. The three authors depict female characters differently. Perrault depicts the little girl as a disobedient and rebellious child who fails to follow the instructions of her mother.
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This is perhaps one of the reasons why Perrault uses the color red for the child’s hood. Red is the color of rebellion as used in Perrault’s version. In the Grimm brother’s version, the girl is depicted as weak and naïve. It takes the intervention of the hunter to save both the grandmother and the little girl from the wolf. On her part, Carter depicts the girl as strong and courageous. The girl is able to tame the wolf.
This paper compared three versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story. The author looked at some of the differences and similarities between the three versions.
Grimm, Jacob & Grimm, Wilhelm. Little Red Riding Hood. New York: Free Press, 1982.
Orenstein, Catherine. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. London: London University Press, 2006.
Schilb, John & Clifford, John. Making Literature Matter. 4th edition. New York: Free Press, 2005.