LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD: Life Lessons from a Fairy Tale

by Marilyn A. Hudson. Used at a religious event for young women. (2008)

A wise person once said that we learn everything we need to know in Kindergarten. That is only partly true. This familiar story is not always told in it real, factual form. This is the true story of the girl, the wolf, and journey.
Once upon a time, at the edge of vast and complex forest, sat a small cottage where a mother and her two daughters lived in simplicity.

“RED CAP,” was the oldest, and so named because she wore only the red cap off her specially made red cloak. Her younger sister “LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD” always wore the entire bright red cloak that covered her from head to nearly her toes. One day, their mother looked at the window into the deep heart of the forest and then looked at her oldest daughter. “Red Cap. It is time; you must carry this bread, salt, and vinegar to Mother in the garden in the forest. Remember everything I have told you.”

Reluctantly, after a long noisy argument, RED CAP grabbed the basket.
“Yeah, yeah. No stopping, no feeding the animals…..I got it already.”
“Is there anything you want before you leave?” asked her mother.
“I just want to get this thing over with and get out of there!” She said as she stomped out of the house toward the heart of the forest.
As she walked deeper into the forest, the path suddenly separated.
“Going to see the old lady in the forest?” asked a voice.
RED CAP turned to see a lanky wolf rise up from the grass. “Yes, I have to take her these things for my mother. Don’t ask me why. I’d love to be anyplace other than here. My life is so boring.”
“That’s because you are not meant for this homey stuff…you ought to come hang with me and my crew. With us it’s partay time tonight and every night! A pretty thing like you – well now, you deserve to have a good time.”
RED CAP thought for a moment. She had liked what she was hearing. She did something she rarely did and stopped to think. He had a made sense and so what if he was suggesting things her mother had taught her to avoid? Maybe he didn’t think like her mother. He had a perfect right to have an alternative, and perfectly valid, world-view despite what some single mother buried in the back of beyond thought. That decided it.
“You want some food?” she asked. Society had no doubt made him feel an outcast. He had lived outside of proper society with its slavish adherence to a Western-only, linear thought. No wonder he was feared and misunderstood. Besides, he made her feel special, pretty, and it sound so FUN to party for a change instead working.
“Besides, “urged the wolf said as they started off, “all the leading psychologists, and even Oprah, agree that you are really, deep inside, a wild wolf. You need to find your inner animal and come, run with us girl!”
Her mother and sister heard from her only a little after that. Her mother heard that she was in a GIRLS GONE WOLF video, but she hoped and prayed that was a case of mistaken identity.

One-day months later, their mother looked at the window into the deep heart of the forest and then looked at her youngest daughter.
“LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. It is time; you must carry this bread, salt, and vinegar to Mother in the garden in the forest. Remember all that I have taught you.”
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD helped pack the basket. Her mother asked, “Is there anything you want before you go?”
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD looked at hr mother, “I don’t want to make any mistakes or come to any harm. Will you give me your blessing before I go?”
Her mother drew her close, laid a hand on her head, and prayed a blessing of wisdom and safety on the journey LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD was taking. With a smile, RED headed out of the house toward the heart of the forest.

As she walked deeper into the forest, the path suddenly separated.
“Hey, going to see the old lady in the forest?” asked a voice. “I know a shortcut that will save you hours.”
Her feet were hurting her, but she remembered her sister who never came home. She remembered the instructions to go straight to the house in the garden.
“No, I will continue the way I have started. I will stay on the path.”
“It’s longer – you will get tired. You’ll get hungry too. Got anything good in the basket?”
“It may be longer, and it may be harder, but it will take me to where I am supposed to go I will stay on the path and go to find my mother’s mother.”
“Come on…cut loose, take a run on the wild side, and explore your inner wolf.”
The girl pulled her crimson red hood, cloak tighter, and hurried off for the house in the garden in the forest.

The Wolf did not take rejection well, and having lost any self-control, he sprinted ahead and broke into the house, knocked the old woman into the closet with a gag on her mouth, and jumped under the covers. The quilt had barely settled before a knock sounded on the door of the cottage,
“COME-hummph” he cleared his throat and trilled, “Come in!”
“Grand Parent! I have finished my journey. I have brought to you these gifts of flour to make bread, salt to preserve meat, and wine to mend your stomach.”
“Come closer dear.”
“Grandone, what big eyes you have.”
“So much easier to see what a lovely child you are, won’t you take off your red covering?” The Wolf insisted feeling impatient and hungry. “You don’t need that here.”
“No, this is my protection, my salvation, and my strength” The girl looked at the figure in the bed. “Grand one, what big – teeth -…..”

At that moment, unable to contain himself anymore, the wolf leaped up toward LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.
LITLE RED dashed to the fireplace and shoveled out red, hot coals, which she tossed right at the wolf. The Wolf screamed and slapped out the many fires erupting in his fur before jumping out the window.
A knock came at the door and LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD whirled around to open the door.
Outside the cottage stood a familiar figure, little RED CAP. She stood there looking a lost and so different from the confident sister LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD remembered. What did it matter? They were together again and they hugged and cried.
“What was that?” LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD asked as a sound come from the closet. Picking up a heavy iron frying pan, she moved to open the door.
Spilling out on to the floor was the GRAND PARENT.
The girls quickly removed her bindings and tore away the gag.
After a warm and delicious meal, the girls and their Ancestor sat before the roaring fire. Grandmother pulled open a sewing bag and with a few stitches finished a new bright red cap for the older girl.
“To replace your other one,” she told the girl.
“I’d like….” RED CAP stammered and looked at her bare toes. “I would really like to have a red cloak to cover all of me.”
The old woman looked at the girl and smiled in understanding.
“But Grandmother,” asked LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. “With the Wolf gone, will girls be safe?”
“There is always a WOLF out there a daughter….It is the lamb you should find and treasure in yourself…. There I, as the Wolf said, a wolf buried deep in the heart of every woman…”
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD looked horrified and RED CAP looked frightened.
“Don’t worry child,” said the wise old woman. “Remember my words and tell them to your children one day. Every girl makes a journey where she has to find her source, herself, the person she must become. The one the Creator dreamed of one day long ago.”
Grandmother went to her closet and pulled out a fur cloak to wrap around her before she continued.
“I was a little chill. Where was I? Oh, yes, just pull on a bright red cloak that will cover you from head to toe in protection and distinction. Know to what family you truly and eternally belong and learn from those who have gone before. That is where strength is, that is where joy is, and that is where you find fulfillment.”
Grandmother smiled at the two girls.
As she smiled at them, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and RED CAP noticed for the first time grandmother really did have some very big, strong teeth in her head.
“I don’t want a Wolf inside of me,” said RED CAP.
“Everyone has some animal in them. Don’t you worry about anything child – what grows inside you- that which determines what you are in your heart -is always the thing you feed.”
Then the girls noticed that grandmother was wearing a wolf-fur cape. Grandmother looked at them and smiled, showing her large, sharp, front teeth. She adjusted the wolf fur. “Yes indeed, every woman has a little wolf in her…you just have to be the one in control.”

Notes on the story:
Elements of folktales “Journey Cakes”, “Red Cap” and “Little Red Riding Hood” versions were combined, with a sprinkling of the Estes work “Women Who Run With Wolves”, a Native American folktale, Bettleman’s “Uses of Enchantment” were added and then shaken with a touch of Campbell’s hero’s journey, Patterson’s hero archetypes, the symbolic returning to the source motif, and the salvation of Jesus Christ.

For Discussion or Activities: Keys to the Mythology: (Obvious Freudian interpretations are not included)

  • The Journey – Everyone must take a journey of self-discovery, everyone must make decisions (good and bad) on that journey

  • The Source – Everyone must connect with his or her Source, her true spiritual “home”, that is where one finds knowledge, wisdom. Also known as, the Grandmother, the God figure, The First Cause.

  • The Red Cloak – The Blood of Jesus Christ, the protection of God, the Grace of God, Individualism, Courage, etc.

  • The Wolf – The uncontrolled self, the temptation to self-fulfillment without regard to consequences, the animalistic nature

  • The Woods – Challenges of life, the Unknown, the place of decision and transformation

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