Wolves and Girls

So, it’s Charles Perrault’s 388th birthday. I wouldn’t say he’s one of my favorite fairy tale writers (hello, Andersen and L’heritier), but he coined some of my favorite fairy tales.

In the case of “Cendrillon”, it’s one my favorite versions. He also has one of the least terrible “Sleeping Beauty” variants. I don’t recall there being any rape and, rather than his wife, it’s the Prince’s mother who tries to eat the title character and children.

But I don’t want to talk about either of those. Nope. While it wasn’t included in the Google art today, I want to talk about “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” or “Little Red Hood.”

First, it’ww2s my favorite fairy tale. And I’m not sure why. Especially since Perrault’s version ends with Red being eaten. But there’s a wolf and the cast is entirely of women (except when there’s a huntsman or woodsman).  Red is usually clever in earlier oral versions. But even in Perrault’s she makes a
choice about what she does on her way to her grandmother’s.

After the wolf says that they should each take a different path to her grandmother’s house, Red “took the longer path, killing time by gathering hazelnuts, chasing butterflies, and making bouquets from the little flowers she came across” (133). The wolf doesn’t goad her into admiring the flowers. Here, Red simply chooses to enjoy her walk because she feels like it. It’s a small detail in an otherwise very short story, but I like it.


“Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the forest” by Carl Larsson, 1881 [source]

On the subject of wolf in this scene, there’s no sense that the wolf is trying to distract Red, as happens in Grimm. Nor is there any sense that the wolf is trying to nudge Red off the path of obedience; the starved wolf just really wants to eat her and her grandmother.

Of course, Perrault’s not really writing about a wolf. At least not the kind I like.

So it’s got a wolf, a clear familial link of only women (grandmother – mother – daughter), warns against men who prey on women, and has a positive history of escape (which Perrault doesn’t let Red have). Plus there’s room for gender-fluidity with the wolf, which I like.

There’s also the color red, which I associate with fire and certain wolf-positive historical organizations.

Gibbon wolf pack standing on snow;Doug Smith; March 2007

Gibbon wolf pack standing on snow; Doug Smith; March 2007 [source]

Yay, wolves!

Works Cited

Perrault, Charles. The Complete Fairy Tales in Verse and Prose / L’integrale des Contes en vers et en prose. Ed. and trans. Stanley Appelbaum. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.





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