Chris's Reviews > The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes
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"Little Red Riding Hood" has to be one of the most famous fairy tales in existence. Everyone seems to know, though very few people seem to know what it is really about.

It's about sex.

In this book, Jack Zipes examines the history of tale, showing how it progessed from a story about a smart girl to a story about a foolish girl who may have had it coming. Additionally, Zipes has collected several different versions of the tale, the earlies one from 1697 and the latest being from 1990.

Zipes has two essays in this book. The first examines the literary history of the tales, tracing the changes made to it and putting forth theories why those changes were made. He agrues that the tale moved from one of ritual to one about rape. He shows what that says about our culture, noting when the blame for the "rape" shifts to the victim. His second essay concerns how LRH is shown in the illustrations of the books. He does a good job of making the reader think twice about many of the illustrations. (This essay appeared in
Don't Bet on the Prince Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England).

It really is all about sex. I already knew that and still some of those illustrations. Hmmm. Strange how most of them were by men.

The stories collected in the volumne are perhaps worth more than the essays. While both Perrault and the Grimms have appearances, Zipes includes lesser well known versions. Two stories were particularly haunting. "Little Red Riding Hood as a Dictator Would Tell It" by H. I. Phllips was published in 1940 and is a rather amusing farce as the title indicates. More emotional was "Little Red Cap" by Max von der Grun. The story was published in 1974 and is really about the Holocaust. It is very touching.

Zipes also includes more adult versions, such as the stories by Tanith Lee and Angela Carter. There is a strange Silicon Valley Red Riding Hood, entitled, "Roja and Leopold". There is a very funny "Little Aqua Riding Hood" which is also very funny. Several of the stories show LRH as more active, in particular the version by the Merseyside Fairy Story Collective. This version has a knife.

No, Dahl's version isn't here, but Thurber's is.

It is interesting to read them in publication order. Zipes does a good job showing how it swings from pre-feminist to post feminist readings. The tales, however, never, ever lose the sexual overtone. What does that say about us? What does it say about us that the story is still told to children? What does it say when that version is usually the one that involes the resuce by the Hunter? While Zipes does not fully answer these questions, he does dwell on them.
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