Friday, January 10, 2014

Why I Love Teaching Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood as the Wolf Via
I've spent the morning ruining my students' childhoods by having them read four different versions of the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale, from the old French folk tale "The Story of Grandmother" (which involves a strip-tease and cannibalism) to Roald Dahl's "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf" (Little Red shoots the wolf with a pistol and has his hide made into a fabulous fur coat). I love teaching this fairy-tale in all its shapes and sizes because it truly demonstrates the elasticity of the form and how deeply rooted our stories are in the particular cultural moment from which they evolve. I also love teaching it because I inevitably get the objection, "This is NOT the Little Red Riding Hood I grew up with" (crossed arms and knitted eyebrows included), which inevitably leads to a great discussion about the cultural value of the fairy tale, its civilizing function, and its disruptive potential. Here are some of my favorite lines of the day, from Dahl's imagination of Little Red. Enjoy!

Then Little Red Riding Hood said, 'But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.'
'That's wrong!' cried Wolf. 'Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?
Ah well, no matter what you say.
I'm going to eat you anyway.'
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers. 
She whips a pistol from her knickers. 
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang, bang, bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood, 
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, 'Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT.'

Next up, "Bluebeard." He he he .... A/J
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