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Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  777 ratings  ·  66 reviews
In Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked, Catherine Orenstein reveals for the first time the intricate sexual politics, moral ambiguities, and philosophical underpinnings of Red Riding Hood's epic journey to her grandmother's house, and how, from the nursery on, fairy tales influence our view of the world.

Beginning with its first publication as a cautionary tale on the perils
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 8th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 2002)
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3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  777 ratings  ·  66 reviews


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Anna (Bananas)
Despite the intentionally sexualized cover, this is an intelligent and interesting exploration of a well-known character, one I hadn't given much thought to before. Red Riding Hood is different from a lot of fairy tale females in that she's a child and doesn't play a romantic role, at least not in the story most of us know.

Each chapter presents a historical version of the tale and then goes on to discuss the theme and often moral message inherent in the story. I was surprised at the various role
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Olivera
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction
Truth be told, I didn't manage to read this one all the way till the end. I maybe had some 50 pages left, but I just couldn't do it. The way the subject was handled was boring and it dragged on and some information was repeated constantly.

It dragged and dragged on and there was little sattisfaction behind it. I suppose, in the future, I'll just stick to the audiobook format when it comes to non fiction.
Kate
After a slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed this analysis of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, from its genesis as a folk tale in many parts of the world through to analysis of the red riding hood theme in modern books, cartoons and films. It was great to see Angela Carter's wolf stories analysed, along with her "Company of Wolves" film collaboration with the director Neil Jordan. Shame the book was written too early to include an analysis of the film Hard Candy...

I loved the way the section on
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Cari
My fascination with fairy tales knows no bounds. Part cultural study, part literary analysis, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked fed that fire and lived up to my expectations. A surprisingly quick read, Orenstein presents her material in a succinct manner and makes each individual section stand on its own merits, thereby avoiding an overabundance of repetition. Her examination of the story's early history and metamorphosis over time is thorough without being dry, riveting enough to hold even a cas ...more
Emma Sea
An interesting meander around some of the motifs from various versions of the classic fairy tale. This encompasses werewolves, lesbian BDSM porn flicks, Reece Witherspoon, the Sun King, rape laws (and lack thereof), Odysseus, suicide, and 20th century lipstick advertising.

It was interesting enough, if not captivating. I enjoyed most meeting some new-to-me 20th century poets.

One important if tiny point, however: NO, Obi Wan DOES NOT bequeath Luke his light saber.
Kara
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-gen
Overall, I liked this book. The history of the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood"--and fairy tales in general--is especially fascinating ("Little Red" was originally written in the 17th century by Perrault as a cautionary tale warning court ladies against sexual "wolves"). But I felt that Orenstein was padding it a bit when she included pieces on the history of wolves vs. man, wolves in literature, an extensive look at Anne Sexton's personal history, and how the classic tale is respun in the mo ...more
Marisa
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a little slow to start, in that its early chapters felt basic and fundamental, but once it started digging into this fairy tale, it didn’t stop. There was so much information in here I’ve never heard of, especially regarding the belief in werewolves in Europe. The later chapters examined gender roles and sexuality, which are exactly the kind of in-depth analytical essays I want to read. This book exposed me to so many variations on a single basic fairy tale, and I am so excited to ...more
Pamster
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Totally engrossing cultural criticism, ranging from crazyass werewolf-mania in the countryside of 1500s France (so much cannibalism!) to Red Riding Hood porn. Each chapter starts with a version of the tale, from Grimm to Anne Sexton to Freeway, and Orenstein makes it clear how the drastically changing tale always mirrors the concerns of its age.
Tasha
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"[Fairy tales] are a form of theater....where cultural and social values and desires play out."
Amy Layton
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I happened to see this book in the stacks as I was searching for folk tales to share with my storytelling class.  I told myself that I was already reading way too much, and could I really handle another book in the middle of the term?  I came back the next day for it and I didn't regret it one bit.  

This book was so interesting that I couldn't stop reading it.  It begins with the origins of the tale and its implications and DANG.  I didn't know half of what Orenstein discussed--and she discusses
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Commodore
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
About 85% of it is *really* great. The subject is well researched, but obviously also quite a labor of love for the author, so it’s enjoyable as well as informative. She gives a lot of historical context for various versions of the tale, and outlines how the story and themes have shifted in modern discourse. I can’t say I agree with all of her assertions—most notably for me where she tries to act like she knows more about pornography than Andrea Dworkin. She attempts to paint Dworkin as a hyster ...more
Bailey Peyton
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In case you couldn't tell, fairy tales are kinda my jam. I love dissecting them no matter the criticism. Guess that's why I gravitate towards retellings, since they place new emphasis on an old tale. Being versed in the origins of the tale, the early chapters veered into symbolism and historical parallels I'd seen as an English major a thousand times over. Honestly, the later chapters and what pop culture has cultivated the tale into captivated my interest tenfold. The author even analyzed two o ...more
Marie
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
The author found a nice compromise between scholarly and readable. She's obviously done a lot of research, but the book is accessible to "laymen". The best part was the first few chapters where she traced the evolution of the tale in connection with cultural changes. Towards the end of the book, when she ventured into feminism and pornography, I thought the book lost focus. Overall it was an interesting topic presented in an engaging way.
Liz
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I want a book like this on all popular fairy tales please. Especially Snow White.
Lily
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
i learnt a lot but I think it got a little tangential towards the end
Connor Coyne
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best critical theory I've ever read. Brilliant, illuminating, probing, challenging. Spoiler: Little Red Riding Hood is a very, very complicated story.
Orsolya
Although we all seem to be familiar with the fairy tale of “Little Red Riding Hood”; most of us are less familiar with the origins of the tale, the meaning and implications, and the evolution of the story. Catherine Orenstein explores these areas in “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale”.

Orenstein opens “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked” with interesting focal points concerning the history of the tale, various versions, the effects of cultural groups
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Wolf-Alice
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The one and only permanent thing in her nature is fluidity.
Itsuka
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: myth-religion
Horrible.

Superficial discussion on the libido tension and the anti-dream-interpretation process of passing on a story. Superficial discussion on morality. Presenting some arbitrary phenomenon chronically is NOT a discussion of "evolution". Lastly, there's no inquiry in the book worthy of the word "unveiling".

All in all the title is the best part. Horrible. If the author didn't blush when she quoted Claude Levi-Strauss, she should.
Sara Jamshidi Zelenberg
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is about the many incarnations of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story. It discusses how these stories embody the views of the time on gender and sexuality. The author also explores the meanings of the themes and symbols beyond the stories. For example, she'll talk about the different symbolic meanings of wolves from the werewolves that struck fear in peasants during the 1500s to lecherous men during the Sun King reign in France to victims of human prejudice during the time of the endang ...more
Nathan Dehoff
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An in-depth analysis of a fairly simple fairy tale, focusing largely on how it changed over time. Some analysts have placed a lot of influence on the red hood, but there are quite similar tales that are likely older and don't specify the color of the girl's headgear. They also have the wolf tricking the girl into lying in bed with him and eating the flesh of her dead grandmother. Even in Charles Perrault's time and earlier, the wolf was portrayed as a sexual predator as well as a literal one, wi ...more
Josh
Sep 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: lit-crit, school
meh
Emily
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great book that has particularly strong chapters on the Perrault and Grimms' versions of the famous fairy tale. It is an excellent introduction to how the tale has changed, and more importantly, why it has changed in response to particular social and cultural conditions. I wish the analysis were a little more in depth at points, but this is an appropriate introduction in many ways. Chapters go on to discuss the sexualization of the fairy tale in popular culture with revisions like that of Sam ...more
Kris
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Meh. I'm probably not the target audience for this. I mean, I was only one class shy of a literature minor in college and a lot of my online non-book reading tends toward social justice matters including feminism, so none of the author's interpretations were new to me. To me it was blatantly obvious that this began with the author's college thesis AND that said thesis was 20+ years ago (some of the terminology is pretty dated, as is the conflating of certain concepts).

The first half of the book
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Emelda
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
An interesting history of an interesting fairy tale. The book was jam-packed with details around various tellings and the cultures they grew up out of. I was never terribly into fairy tales as a child- more into "actual" fairies and magic and ghosts and the lot, so it was interesting to revisit. I was especially intrigued by the history of the "true" fairy tales (which I knew where violent and sex-filled, but hadn't read), miscellaneous laws and traditions around marriage (this being one of the ...more
Frank
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was published in 2003! I found it on my shelves (There are so many more to "find.") This is a scholarly but fascinating and accessible book on Sex, Morality and the Evolution of the Fairy tale. Catherine Ornstein takes us through original and subsequent versions of 'Red' up to modern times. She shows us why some men are called 'Wolves,' how the story as used in advertising and movies and how the theme reverberates in many ways in common culture today. I f0und it intriguing and fascinat ...more
Bea Elwood
Jan 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: research
I appreciated the historical contexted this book tried to offer, as in, rape as we define it today is really only a 200 hundred year idea. And I appreciated how she pointed out that stories continue to change according to the needs and expression of the current culture. It just read at times like a college thesis research paper, and in some areas where you could have used more information it was light and instead there was an intire chapter on just her interpritation of the film "Freeway". Good ...more
Sarah
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read it for my research essay for English. I was only really supposed to read the parts in the beginning about Perrault and the Grimm brothers but I couldn't help reading the rest of the book. It is written in an accessible, engaging style, which somewhat surprised me. I don't know why I was expecting it to be pedantic. However, there were some occasional spelling mistakes, which took some of the zeal from me. Highly recommend it.
Hesper
Reads a bit like a careful undergrad paper, or perhaps a senior thesis from a student on a collision course with grad school. Much of the material will not be new to anyone with an interest in folklore, and it has a tendency to meander toward the end.

Overall good information, if a little dated, though the part where Orenstein claims Jane Austen was writing about Victorian concerns (p.59-60) is laughable.
Daniel Mattox
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was pretty spectacular. It gave me a a nice look at the development of the red riding hood story and different reactions that have been held for the past hundred years. It included a good dose of theory all explained in an easy to access manner. The author writes in elegant style that is both attractive and easy to follow. If you have an interest in fairy tales, sociology,social theory, philosophy, or psychology I would recommend this book.
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