Monday, July 16, 2012

On Red Riding Hood's various incarnations

Little Red Riding Hood (or Little Red Cap) started out as an ordinary if somewhat kindly and overly naive young girl, nothing more or less than human, who was confronted by a vicious wolf, sometimes to be eaten and sometimes to survive and become a wolf hunter. But in recent years Red Riding Hood has become much more than her original few incarnations and she is likely to continue to develop and change for many a year yet. She's moved on from being a literary legend as a little human girl with no particular skills and is now a meme that is applied to many young girls of various abilities and distinctive traits. But as long as she's a girl and wears a red hood she's an incarnation of Red Riding Hood.

Nowadays, Red Riding Hood is a ninja, a warrior, an assassin, a serial killer, a psychotically delusional young girl, a werewolf, a werewolf hunter, a guide through the forest, a saviour and even an older and sexually active woman or werewolf. She's sometimes even her own grandmother or great grandmother. Most incarnations pull on either her naivete, bravery or the subtle sexual references found in the original works and bring these to the fore in a big way. The most interesting incarnations though, are those where most of the world she originally lived in is only reflected in Red Riding Hood's mind.

The wolf, in turn, has also received several incarnations as Red Riding Hood is not truly herself without a wolf about. The wolf has become part of her, a figment of her imagination, her inner hunter, the man stalking her, the man desiring her (if the story is more romantic than horrific), a werewolf with similar intentions as the men or simply a wolf in the dark. And sometimes the wolf and Red Riding Hood are the same in human form, the wolf taking on the role of her psychosis.

Meanwhile, the grandmother is nearly forgotten. The wolf and Red Riding Hood make such a pair on their own, especially when the central focus of the story is sexual in nature, that the grandmother can become obsolete. If she is around she's generally portrayed as either a controlling figure, part of the wolf lineage (as she's likely also a werewolf) or an overly protective figure who doesn't want her granddaughter attacked. Rarely is she a kindly old lady as all we know of the original grandmother is that she told Red Riding Hood not to go wandering alone in the woods or off the path (depending on the version). It is a fair enough order though, don't you think? That is, if the path is literal and not figurative but even then a warning may be needed. After this order there's little known of the grandmother as she's eaten up by the wolf and what remains is either frightening or creepy, with big teeth and eyes and ears. Sometimes the grandmother does survive in the original incarnations but in such cases she often becomes like Red Riding Hood: a hunter of wolves.

To write a good Red Riding Hood she has to appear with a wolf, even if the wolf is only in her mind. For those interested in Red Riding Hood in a non-sexual setting then including the grandmother allows for extra twists and turns to the story. Likewise if the story is romantic or sexual but such stories often only need to revolve around the central pair so if the grandmother gets in the way too much she can be discarded.

Red Riding Hood also needs to learn and be brave in the process. No matter the intelligence and capability she has at the beginning of the story she must learn something by the end. Her bravery though, should always be present. It is the other reason (naivete the first) she wanders through the woods alone or leaves the path in the first place. As such, really fun representations of Red Riding Hood have her as an active, leap before she looks kind of girl who does so for a good cause rather than for naive notions. Whether she is killed or captured by the wolf or the wolf is captured or killed by her is up to you. But if you make the wolf part of her, what you write concerning this crucial relationship should prove rather interesting.

The worst you can do is make it unclear if she's the sexual type or the warrior type. It is very hard to combine these two aspects unless the wolf is of a certain proclivity and Red Riding Hood is able to do fierce in a sexy way. As a hint, don't make her girly while she's a warrior. It just doesn't fly.

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