Perrault: Death and Moral
Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.
Grimm’s Little Red Cap: Eaten, Saved by huntsman, stone belly; Beats the wolf second time around
I usually dislike the versions in which LRRH dies, but in this one she only screws up once. The first time she encounters the wolf in her grandmother’s clothing she is an innocent and she is fooled. The wolf is killed and all is well.
While that is sometimes the end of the story, there is a part two. LRRH encounters another wolf. This time she goes directly to her grandmother and they defeat the wolf together, no men required. LRRH recognizes the danger and the grandmother figures out how to kill the wolf.
Note: Something I learned back in undergrad was that the four elements are gendered. Earth and water are feminine. Do pay attention to how the wolf dies (when he dies) in each of these stories.
Little Red Hat (Italy/Austria): Death. Ogre instead of a wolf. Cannibalism & striptease.
“Grandmother, you have such a big mouth!”
“That comes from eating children!” said the ogre, and bam, he swallowed Little Red Hat with one gulp.
The Grandmother (France): Werewolf instead of a wolf, cannibalism, striptease, and then saves herself
This is one of my favorite versions because LRRH saves herself. She tells the wolf she has to use the bathroom and she refuses to go in the bed. So he ties a rope to her ankle and lets her go outside. Clever LRRH ties the rope to a tree and runs. By the time the wolf figures it out, she’s home and safe.
My other favorite version is similar to this story, but it extends her escape. In that one, the wolf figures out her ploy earlier. As she runs, she comes across some washerwomen at a river. When she explains hurriedly, the women pull their sheets taut and let LRRH run across. When the wolf tries to follow, the women catch him in their sheets and drown him.
By the way, if you’re a lover of fairy tales and you don’t know about Ashliman’s archive, do check it out. Other sites of note are SurLaLune and the archives of Endicott Studio (some great meta, retellings, and new tales; pity they quit).