Ship Filled With Riches
When I was a child my grandma used to tell me fairy tales. My favorites were Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel but most of all Red Riding Hood. Ever since this story about a girl who meets a wolf captivated my imagination with its grim beauty. First literal mentions of Red Riding Hood are from the year 1000 from a manuscript called fecunda ratis, ship filled with riches. This was a collection of poems written by a French man called Hegbert Deliefe. His poems contained moral lessons and they were read in monasteries.
One poem especially stands out. It is a poem about a girl who receives a red dress as a baptizing gift from her godfather. When the girl is five years old she is walking in the woods and gets kidnapped by the wolf mother. The Wolf takes the girl into their cave where the little wolves start licking her face. The girl says to the wolves "I forbid you to tear my dress. It was a gift from my godfather". The poem is based around a Christian idea of god being the creator of predator animals and he is the only one who can tame their wild nature and so the girl is safe because she is baptized.
Charles Perrault´s Red Riding Hood
This poem was believed to be one of the inspirations for Charles Perrault when he wrote his own version of Little Red Riding Hood which first appeared Perrault´s famous fairy tale collection Tales from mother goose (1697). Perrault´s fairy tale has similarities to the French poem but he did not include Christian elements to the fairy tale.
In Perrault´s version a girl gets a beautiful red hood as a gift from her grandmother. In the beginning of the story the girl´s mother tells her to take piece of bread and jar of butter to her grandmother who is ill. Red Riding Hood meets a wolf on the road and tells him where she is going. The wolf says "I´ll go to see grandmother as well but I take the other road and I will meet you there".
Grandma opens the door and wolf gets in telling that he is Red Riding Hood and after that he kills the grandmother and eats her. The Wolf goes into bed pretending to be the grandmother. He tells Red Riding Hood to put bread and butter into the table and then he asks her to take off her clothes and come to the bed with him. She asks:
"Grandma why you have so strong arms?"
"So I can hold you better?" The wolf answers
"Grandma why you have such big feet?"
"So I can run faster"
"Grandma why you have such strange looking ears "
"So I can hear you better"
"Grandma why your eyes are so wide?"
"So I can see you better"
"Grandma why your teeth are so sharp?"
"So I can eat you"
The Wolf eats the girl and this is where Perrault´s story ends.
Fairytales for scaring purposes
There are many ways to analyse Perrault´s Red Riding Hood but first we need to categorize it. There are several ways to categorize fairy tales such as: Happily ever after - Underdog winning - fairy tales with moral teachings - Frightening/ shocking fairy tales Red Riding Hood belongs in the category of frightening fairy tales. These are fairy tales which are meant to be read or told out loud for the audience in the purpose of scaring them. In the original script Perrault’s edition it was written that the story teller must scream the last words of the wolf.
"SO I CAN EAT YOU"
Charles Perrault was the official fairy tale writer in 17th century France in the court of the Sun King Ludwig XIV. Many of his fairy tales were meant for aristocrat children and the teenagers of the court. Red riding hood is a disturbing fairy tale- the who gets eaten by the wolf has become an allegory of her being raped by a pedophile. Perrault´s fairy tale was quickly turned into a folk tale which was retold again and again. The use of the color red on her coat started to highlight femininity because of it’s connections to the menstrual cycle and so because of this the tale also depicts strict gender roles of the 17th century Europe.
Red Riding Hood of the Brothers Grimm
After its release, Perrault´s fairy tale was translated into several different languages. A writer called Ludwig Tüg translated story into German and created the character of the hunter. In his version the hunter kills the wolf but he cannot save the little girl and in the end there is only a hand left from poor Red Riding Hood.
The brothers Grimm most likely first became familiar with German translation and decided to add it into their collection of fairy tales. The Brothers gave their story a happy ending- the hunter was about to shoot the wolf but instead he took scissors and cut open the wolf´s stomach. Red Riding Hood and grandmother came out alive and girl said "it was so dark and I was so scared all the time". Wolf died and it´s stomach was filled with stones.
There is also a German folk tale version where the wolf drowned in a pool where the drinking water was kept for the farm animals. There are also folk tale versions of Red Riding Hood where the girl hides herself into grandmother´s closet. The hunter comes to look out for the wolf but it manages to escape.
Compared to the original French poem where the girl seems to be more self-conscious Perrault´s Red Riding Hood is more weak and helpless. This story is a model example of the class system of the time as children were seen more naive innocent and considered little people who were created to this world to amuse the adults. In 18th century children gain more individual status and childhood became sacred. Now it was parents job to protect the child and teach them moral lessons.
In the brother´s Grimm version, there is a moral teaching us that curiosity is deadly. Her Mother gives Red riding hood a cake and wine to take to her grandma. She says to Red Riding Hood "Don´t break the bottle and when you meet grandma be polite and don´t run around" "I can do it" says the girl and they shake hands. In the end of the fairy tale after girl was saved by the hunter she is thinking by herself: "From no on I will never look away from the road neither I will talk to strangers".
All these gruesome details that Brother´s Grimm added into their stories are one of the reasons why I´m not huge fan of them. If Perrault´s fairy tale had twisted suggestions to pedophiles the Brother´s Grimm story has much more bloody and sadistic details. The idea that the stomach of the wolf is cut open and gets filled with stones presents an unpleasant image.
Many of the folk tales and fairy tales of the 17th century before the arrival of industrial revolution were cautionary tales. They were warnings for children not to go too far away from home because wild animals could take them. Most of the time wild animals avoided people but predator animals such as bears and wolves did sometimes kill farm animals which caused great anger and created fear towards untamed nature.
In 18th century in Sweden, Norway and Finland Lutheran church started to pay extra for people for killing wolves. This so called "wolf hate" was part of the church process of "taming nature" and done to get rid of pagan totemic beliefs of the people. Before the spread of Christianity the wolf was not demonized but it was one of the most respected animals of the ancient world. Among Romans, Etruscan's, several native american tribes, Slavs, Vikings and many more cultures wolves were worshiped as divine beings.
In Finland the wolf was the sacred animal of Louhi- the goddess of shamans. When Christianity spread and female goddesses were demonized Louhi was turned into a representation of Christian Satan. Wolves were described to be "devil´s children". Wolf propaganda that was originally started by the church has been very harmful for wolves in Nordic countries where they are endangered species.
Meghan Ory as Ruby/Red in ABC`s Once Upon A Time
Was she a werewolf?
The story of Red Riding Hood is often connected to folk tales told about were-wolves. A person who had ability to shape shift itself into a wolf was a widely seen mythical creature in folk tales all over Europe. Werewolves of the 16th and 17th centuries were part of the witch-hunt phenomenon (Accusations of lycanthropy however were small part of the witchcraft trials). Shape sifting from an animal to a man and back was a common part of shamanic rituals and it is likely that by demonizing the wolf which was a sacred spirit animal among several tribes was just one more way for the church to convert people from their pagan beliefs to Christianity.
Wolves generally avoid people. They live in packs and are very family-oriented animals. While writing one of his most famous fairy tales Charles Perrault unfortunately also participated on wolf hunts and suspicion which still takes place today. Within past years there have been several film adaptions made of Red Riding Hood which show Red as a werewolf. In ABC`s Once Upon A Time character of Red goes through several physical and spiritual transformations before she can fully accept herself.
Amanda Seyfrid as Valerie in the movie Red Riding Hood.
Amanda Seyfried played the part of Red Riding Hood in a movie made in 2011. This movie is one of my personal favorite fairy tale adaptations and it is filled with hauntingly beautiful landscapes with mysterious captivating atmosphere
Little bit of Red
You might be surprised to find out that one of the reasons why the story of Red Riding Hood is still very popular is because of the color red. For centuries in Europe red was seen as an unholy color. It was connected to love, power, attention, sex and sexuality. Red was the color of blood and therefore it was the color of life. Red hood has several meanings in the fairy tale. Red can represent life whereas wolf can represent death. If girl is seen as a werewolf red hood can represent rebirth. It can represent girl´s awakening or suppressed sexuality and her ability to shape shift herself as a wolf is another metaphor for person owning their body. In the end Red Riding Hood is not just a fairy tale about a wolf and a girl. It is a metaphor how we can face our own fears and how we react to them. The magic and the thrill of the story make it one of the most exiting, visually appealing and horrifying fairy tales ever told.
Cinderella The Beginning
Cinderella is one of the most well-known fairy tales but did you know that the first version of Cinderella comes from ancient China?
First literal version of the story appeared in China in 823 AD. Writer heard it from his servant who was originally from Vietnam. In the story Cinderella was part of the cave tribe. Living in caves was very common among some ethnic groups in ancient Vietnam. Some of the caves had whole Eco-systems inside them including forests and lakes. According to common custom Cinderella´s father had two wife's. Cinderella´s mother passed away when she was a child and few years later her father passed away too. Stepmother and two step-sisters were cruel towards Cinderella and she was forced to work as their servant. One day in despair she was crying by the pond and a giant gold fish started to talk to her. Soon goldfish and Cinderella became good friends. Goldfish was always there to comfort her. One day stepmother saw Cinderella hugging the goldfish and got outraged. She ordered the goldfish to be catch and told the chef to prepare a meal from it. When Cinderella heard that fish had been killed her heart was broken. When she was mourning spirit of the mountain appeared in front of her in the shape of an old man. He told Cinderella to pick the bones of the goldfish and hide them into her room. Whenever she would need something all she had to do was to ask that from the bones and the wish would come true.
Love For Shoes
There was a great ball coming and Cinderella asked for gown and shoes. Bones granted her wish and she received a beautiful dress that was made of king fisher´s feathers and tiny delicate golden shoes. Cinderella went to the ball. She had great time there but when she returned to her home she had lost other one of the golden shoes. One of the men in her tribe found the shoe and admired it´s beauty. Man thought that the king himself would appreciate such a beautiful shoe. So he sailed to the neighbor kingdom and represented the shoe to the king. King was blown away by the beauty of the shoe and ordered all his servants to look for the girl who the shoe would fit. King found Cinderella and asked her hand in marriage and they lived happily ever after.
This fairy tale was written down during Tang-dynasty. There was a cruel custom in China to bind women´s feet still in the end of last century but this story was told way before this custom started. However also in this story comes out the admiration for small feet that the Chinese had.
Cinderella Travels To Europe
China was trading with Indonesia, Malaysia and India. From these countries story spread to Europe with merchants. First European version of Cinderella appeared in 1630´s in Naples. Story was rewritten by Italian writer and story teller Giambattista Basile. Cinderella was included in his story collection Il Pentamerone stories for the little ones. Name of the book can be misleading. These stories were rancid and meant only for adults.
Story starts the same way as the Vietnamese fairy tale. Cinderella´s mother dies and father re-marries. Soon she finds out that the stepmother is a horrible woman and she and her governess kill her together. Plot gets thicker when father marries the governess. New stepmother turns out to be even more cruel than the previous one. She also has two stepsisters who make fun of her and force her to sit by the cinders and that is where she gets her famous name Cinderella.
Charles Perrault´s Cinderella
Most famous version of Cinderella was written by French fairy tale author Charles Perrault. Cendrillion" appeared in 1697. His version has all the famous elements that we all know: pumpkins, clock striking at midnight and above all, glass slipper. Perrault´s Cinderella is not as violent as Basile´s Cinderella. On the contrary she is overly kind and obedient. When she finally ends up marrying the prince she even finds husbands for her evil stepsisters. Perrault was the official fairy tale writer in the court of the sun king Ludwig the 14th. France was very Catholic country in the 17th century and all fairy tales needed to have moral lessons and nothing suspicious or unappropriated. Perrault´s writing style is vivid and tells a lot about human nature.
"Was she then so very beautiful? How fortunate you have been! Could I not see her? Ah! dear Miss Charlotte, do lend me your yellow suit of clothes which you wear every day."
"Ay, to be sure!" cried Miss Charlotte; "lend my clothes to such a dirty Cinderwench as thou art! I should be out of my mind to do so."
Cinderella Of The Brothers Grimm
In the beginning of the 19th century Brothers Grimm decided to add Cinderella to their fairy tale collection. Brothers hesitated first because they considered Cinderella mainly as a French fairy tale. As a result they made Cinderella more fitting to Germanic fairy tale tradition. Grimm´s Brothers Cinderella was no longer daughter of a count but she was a daughter of merchant and they did not live in a town but in the rural country side. Brother´s Grimm version of Cinderella is dark and sadistic. Stepsisters cut their heels off so that the glass slipper would fit and during Cinderella´s wedding, white doves fly down from the heavens and pick stepsisters eyes making them blind for the rest of their miserable lives.
Cinderella in Folk Tales
Folk tale means a story that has been told orally by generation after generation. In many cultures folk tales can be based on myths and legends but what it comes to some of the world´s most famous fairy tales they have also become folk tales. From Europe alone one can find over 500 folk tale versions of Cinderella. Interestingly enough in Finland and in Sweden there are folk tales about male Cinderella who has an evil stepfather and two stepbrothers and he falls in love to a girl who is way above his social status.
Scene where Cinderella gets her iconic dress was Walt Disneys personal favorite animated scene.
Cinderella on the big screen
There are over 100 film and tv- adaptations made from Cinderella. One of my favorite movie adaptations is Disney animation from 1950. After the second world war Disney animation studios were out of money and near bankrupt. Cinderella was a financial success and helped the studio to get back to it´s feet. Disney´s Cinderella is based on Charles Perrault´s fairy tale and movie is quite loyal to the story but Cinderella in the animation is not all that obedient as in Perrault´s story. What is interesting in the animation is that in the halfway of the movie viewer starts to see little changes in Cinderella´s character. She is near the breaking point and the signs of rebellion starts to show. Lady Tremaine is one of the scariest Disney villains. If you watch any sequels of Cinderella you will see that she does not only want to control the life of Cinderella she also wants to control the lives of her own daughters. Lady Tremaine never shows her true feelings. Can it be possible that she doesn´t have any?
In Roger and Hammerstein musical film from 1997 Brandi played the part of Cinderella.
Drew Barrymore played Danielle in the movie "Ever After". Movie was based on the story of Cinderella and it was one of the most successful films in 1998.
Rags to Riches
Cinderella is one of the most beloved fairy tales still today. It has rich visual world. Pumpkins, fairy godmother, talking animals, handsome prince and the glass slipper. Magic in Cinderella is enchanting. Love does not care about your social status or how much money you have in your bank account or even more importantly love doesn´t care if you have terrible family. We use the phrase "Cinderella story" to describe person´s against-the-odds journey from rags to riches. Cinderella speaks to people because it is a fairy tale that encourages us to dream and to believe in ourselves, to follow one´s heart and maybe someday those dreams can truly come true.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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