Friday, September 2, 2011

Variations on Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty

The first reading for my honors course had us reading different versions of the classic stories Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty. From different times and countries, some of the variations are startling.
The morality tale for children to learn obedience, Little Red Riding Hood has sometimes included blatant references to canabalism where the wolf makes Little Red eat some of her grandmother and drink her blood. The earliest version of the tale actually describes the wolf as a sort of werewolf creature, half man, half wolf. The sexual danger posed by the wolf depending on the tale-- some version play on the idea of the wolf as a sexual predator, making Little Red take off her clothes and get into the bed with him.
Some version do allow Red to be more than an unwitting victim, but rather she cleverly outsmarts the wolf. In an early Chinese tale that also shares elements with The Three Little Pigs, three young sisters outsmart and kill a wolf that comes to their door while their mother is away.

Sleeping Beauty also contains canabalism in several versions of the story. A jealous wife or mother to the beauty's prince/king lover tries to eat both the Sleeping Beauty figure and her children on several occasions. The earliest Sleeping Beauty story in the book involved a philandering king coming upon Talia (the beauty) unconscious and basically raping her in her deep slumber. The Brothers Grimm story, Briar Rose, is by far the tamest version of the tale, but tells it more from the perspective of the prince. The chapter wraps up with "Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane" a clever modern take on the idea of the unattainable sleeping princess from the perspective of a modern day would-be prince.
It's just interesting to analyze how these stories have changed over time and what each change enhances. Sleeping Beauty seems to promote female passivity in most version, while Little Red Riding Hood encourages wariness and obedience.


  1. "Sleeping Beauty seems to promote female passivity" You know what, when I really think about it, that statement is absolutely correct. Sleeping Beauty is what a young woman should be according to men in the Medieval - beautiful and peaceful, but stupid and always doing what she's told to. SEXIST. :/

  2. Yes, if we look at it as a story about growing up, being ready for matrimony, the prince must have adventures and prove himself brave and determined. The princess must only wait. A passive role.
    Many fairy tales definitely have a sexist slant.

  3. In my college english class we read and compared the two different versions of Little Red Ridding Hood. As a class we decided that the only version suitable for a child is the main version that is updated. (fairy tale version). I personally like the other versions better were the wolf kills both of them in the end. Not to sound bad but it just makes the story a little more interesting. I defiantly would not read those different versions to my child though if i had one. I think the fairy tale version is even a little harsh with the dad cutting off the wolfs head, but that would be just for a child.