For generations there has always been a constant battle between good and evil. In society today, and societies in the past, people have struggled over the desire to be good, and the temptation to be evil. In one single tale we see different forms of good and evil, as well as how different ideas become viewed as good and evil as time goes on. The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is one that has allowed authors to write and rewrite over and over in order to fit into the beliefs of society, during specific time periods.
Two tales in particular have allowed for deeper discussion into the definition of good and evil. The Brothers Grimm tale, “Little Red Cap”, was written and published in the 1800s; their target audience what that of school aged, middle-class children. The second of the two tales is that of Charles Perrault. “Little Red Riding Hood”, written and published in the late 1600s, his target audience was that of young girls would have the potential to be tempted by elder men. Through analysis of the texts it is clear that throughout different societies there are multiple types of good as well as evil.
Whether it is the idea of obedience being of the utmost importance, or chastity being of the utmost importance, these two tales teach lesson after lesson to their audience. In the Brothers Grimm tale, “Little Red Cap”, it is made very clear that obedience is of the utmost importance. The intended audience for this tale was that of middle-class, school aged children, during the early 1800s. At this time it was understood that children were to be respectful and compliant of their elders, specifically their parents.
In this tale the mother gives drawn out specific instructions as to what Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) is to do; Look, Little Red Cap. Here’s a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is ill and feels weak, and they will give her strength. You better start now before it gets too hot, and when you’re out in the woods, walk properly and don’t stray from the path. Otherwise you’ll fall and break the glass, and then there’ll be nothing for grandmother. And when you enter her room, don’t forget to say good morning, and don’t go peeping in all the corners of the room. 7) The mother’s long drawn out instructions for what LRRH was to do show the audience the importance of listening to instructions. She says specifically what Little Red is to do, along with what she is not to do, much like a mother of this time period would have done. But in this tale, LRRH does not listen to her mother’s instructions exactly; instead she is tricked into frolicking by the wolf, and ends up showing up to her grandmother’s house to be eaten by the same wolf that tricked her.
This half of the story is important because it contains the main lesson for children that if they disobey orders, and stray from the path, bad things will happen. The intended audience, being school aged children, were told this story as an exaggerated warning. The likelihood of them being eaten by a wolf because they strayed from a path is very minimal, but it allows for them to see an example of how bad things will happen if they defy the orders that their elders gave to them.
The Brothers Grimm does a wonderful job exemplifying why it is of the utmost importance for children to be obedient and well behaved. The Brothers Grimm not only shows that listening to orders from one’s elders as being a good and important thing, but they also show that the tempting of innocence is a corrupt and evil thing. The audience for The Brothers Grim believed that it was essential to work hard, be reasonable, and take life seriously. They display how not doing these things or causing others to not do these things is a sense of evil through the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
In their version of the story, they show LRRH being fooled into dilly-dallying through flowers after she runs into the wolf, the wolf tells her, Little Red Cap, have you seen the beautiful flowers all about? Why don’t you look around for a while? I don’t think you’ve even noticed how sweetly the birds are singing. You are walking along as if you were on the way to school, and yet it’s so heavenly out here in the woods. (7) This section of the story send the message of needing to listen to the orders of your elders, but more importantly it sends the message of how the temptation of innocent minds is wrong and evil.
Had the wolf not tempted LRRH then she would not have wandered through the woods aimlessly picking flowers, and would have made it to her grandmother’s house in time. The audience for this tale strongly believed in hard work, rationality, and seriousness. The wolf tempting LRRH caused her to break all of the principles that she was raised on. She focused less on her task at hand and more on frolicking; her decision was viewed as irresponsible, unreasonable and frivolous, but she was not solely at fault for her actions.
As a young child she was more susceptible to temptation, and the wolf knew that. He had no right to tempt an innocent girl with such beautiful things, and thus can be viewed as the true evil behind LRRH wrongful dawdling. Perrault’s tale provided the audience of a fine example of why it is important to remain innocent and chaste until marriage; but this wasn’t the only lesson it taught. It educated the audience on the idea that it is important to be innocent, but it is also important to not be naive. In the tale Little Red Riding hood is stopped by the wolf and tells him where she is going.
Perrault phrases this as so, “The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stop and listen to wolves said: ‘I’m going to see my grandmother and am taking her some cakes and a little pot of butter sent by my mother. ’” (6). This statement infers that Little Red Riding Hood did not know any better and that she cannot be put at fault for speaking to the wolf. Perrault’s use of ‘the poor child’ made LRRH seem more innocuous and helpless. This provides the perfect set up for the advancement of the idea that Little Red although innocent is naive.
Being naive in this time period was not a good thing, due to the fact that men were constantly trying to tempt young women and lure them into sleeping with them. The wolf, representing man, was able to get Little Red Riding hood to tell him where she was headed; had LRRH’s parents taught her that it is not okay to speak to strangers, especially wolves, she would not have gotten eaten, but do to her naivety she did. The intended lesson for the audience here is that it is good to be innocent but is bad to be naive. Young girls need to be smart and cautious; especially when it comes to the ‘wolves’ of the world.
In Charles Perrault tale, “Little Red Riding Hood”, based on the intended audience it is understood that an evil in the world is that of loosing one’s innocence as a young woman, or not being chaste. During the time frame of the late 1600s and early 1700s, it was simply understood that men are men and they will do as they please, thus making it up to the woman to resist the temptation and remain pure and innocent until marriage. In this tale LRRH is again tricked into leading the wolf to grandmother’s house, where he can await her arrival.
Perrault described Little Red Riding Hood getting into bed, saying, “Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and climbed into the bed. She was astonished to see what her grandmother looked like in her nightgown. ”(6) He also describes her being eaten by saying “Upon saying these words the wicked wolf threw himself on top of Little Red Riding Hood and gobbled her up. ” (6) This section of the story largely differs from the same section in other versions of the story, because LRRH takes off her clothes before getting into bed, thus suggesting that Little Red Riding Hood is not innocent because she gave into the wolf.
The wolf himself could be seen as more than just a wolf, but rather as a man who is after the innocence of a young girl. The authors use of the saying “gobbled her up” can also be taken in more of a sexual manner. Gobbling her up would then mean that the wolf wooed LRRH so she would get into bed with him. This story sends a message to young girls that they are to protect themselves and be aware of the ‘wolves’ of the world, because it is up to them to remain pure. If a woman looses her innocence before marriage, she would no longer be looked at as a fine suitor for marriage.
After having sex out of wedlock, she would be looked down upon as a sinful, impure being. It was important for girls of this time to hold onto their chastity because it would help them marry a man of higher standing, consequently bringing her and her family into a ring of greater importance in a community. Perrault’s audience of young girls are told the story of LRRH as a caveat for what will happen if they loose their purity too soon. The tempting of innocence and the ability for one to distract another from the orders they were given, are examples of evil’s that lived in the societies of Perrault and The Brothers Grimm.
The use of LRRH provides perfect examples or relatable characters for the two authors audiences. Whether it be the 1600s or the 1800s; targeted at school aged children, or just young girls, LRRH is a solid educator in the good and evil in the world. Little Red will continue on for generations to come continuing to educate young children on the good or evil in society. So long as the battle for between good and evil doesn’t go anywhere, neither will little red.
Works Cited Page
Perrault, Charles. “Little Red Riding Hood”. Templeton 5-6.
The Brothers Grimm. “Little Red Cap”. Templeton 6-8.
Templeton, Janet ed. RWS 200 Course Reader. San Diego; KB Books, 2012