Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is, of course, a modern retelling of the “Little Red Riding Hood” story. So what better way to better appreciate Sisters Red than to delve into the origins of the story itself!
To grandmother’s house …
The story of Little Red Riding Hood has been told and retold many times over the years, though most classic versions can be trailed back to either the Brothers Grimm version or the version told by Charles Perrault. However, some of its earliest incarnations are decidedly darker and more mature than the relatively tame version most children learn in school.
In some early versions, in fact, it’s not a wolf at all — but a werewolf! Some of the other variations also include:
The wolf usually leaves the grandmother’s blood and meat for the girl to eat, who then unwittingly cannibalizes her own grandmother. Furthermore, the wolf was also known to ask her to remove her clothing and toss it into the fire. In some versions, the wolf eats the girl after she gets into bed with him, and the story ends there. In others, she sees through his disguise and tries to escape, complaining to her “grandmother” that she needs to defecate and would not wish to do so in the bed. The wolf reluctantly lets her go, tied to a piece of string so she does not get away. However, the girl slips the string over something else and runs off.
These and some of the other darker themes were clearly influential in the drafting of Sisters Red.
Besides the obvious lesson of not talking to strangers, many of the versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” also have other interpretive meanings, many of them having to do with female sexuality and sexual maturity. (Not quite the children’s bedtime story you remember, eh?)
My, what big teeth you have!
In all versions of the Red Riding Hood story, the wolf (or wolf-figure) is the antagonist — who sometimes is victorious in his quest to eat (or do otherwise with) Red. In other cases, he ends up filled with rocks or drowned or killed or worse.
Last year, Jackson Pearce told us part of her inspiration for the “Fenris” in Sisters Red, however, was the Norse myth of the Fenrir. The origins linking the Fenrir myth to Little Red Riding Hood are described on Wikipedia as such:
The dialog between the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood has its analogies to the Norse Þrymskviða from the Elder Edda; the giant Þrymr had stolen Mjölner, Thor’s hammer, and demanded Freyja as his bride for its return. Instead, the gods dressed Thor as a bride and sent him. When the giants note Thor’s unladylike eyes, eating, and drinking, Loki explains them as Freyja not having slept, or eaten, or drunk, out of longing for the wedding.
Red Riding Hood: A Fashion Statement?
Not all of the earliest versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” actually featured a red riding cape (or “cap,” as some versions referred to). But in the many versions that do have the protagonist wearing a red cloak of some version, the meaning has various interpretations. Here are just a few of them:
- sexual maturity
The story of Little Red Riding Hood has been told and retold over the years. Sisters Red is just one of a handful of modernized takes. Here are a few more (though some are a bit mature):
- Tex Avery cartoon: “Red Hot Riding Hood”
- “The Company of Wolves” by Angela Carter
- Into The Woods, a musical by Steven Sondheim
- Red Riding Hood – a movie & a novelization released last year
For the comments: What version of Little Red Riding Hood is your favorite? Do you remember when you first heard the story?