I chose Red for our first foray because she’s well known, and there have been some recent film interpretations that have left people scratching their heads, especially regarding the sexual under(and over)tones. Each of these analyses will be relatively short since I don’t want to spend one full post on each of the interpretation (though I could do that if asked nicely). So here we go.
Wolf as Human Predator
The wolf displays human traits with a predator nature. He is capable of speech, extreme cleverness, quick wits, and is able to improvise answers on the spot. At any time he could end the charade and simply devour Red, yet he chooses to continue the charade, taking a perverse enjoyment out of the game, demonstrating a more terrifying kind of predator.
Wolf as Common Class
The Wolf represents the poor, common class, which will eventually rise up and devour the upper class represented by Red. Red’s hood is quite expensive, and maintaining a residence in the city indicates a degree of wealth, not to mention a cottage in the woods solely for Grandma. The Wolf, however, is destitute with no visible shelter save the woods, and is suffering from extreme hunger, which are classical signs of the poor. The myth provides a cautionary tale how the wealthy need to stop focusing on their wealth and superficial physical features or they risk eventual overthrow by the lower classes.
Wolf as Natural World
The Wolf is of the natural world, and its ability to devour both Red and Grandma show the inevitable power of nature over humanity. Mankind, for all its technical achievements with buildings, dyeing cloth, manufacturing butter, is unable to guard itself against the cunning and power of the natural Wolf.
Wolf as Sexual Predator
The Wolf is a sexual predator. He deceives Red and Grandma, insinuating himself into positions of trust, which enable him to devour them. The features comparison between Red and the wolf present a seduction scene; the wolf is attributed with features—though fetishized—commonly found desirable in a sexual situation.
Wolf as Trickster Figure
The Wolf is a trickster who relies on subterfuge and deception. He is not evil as the culture’s morality within the story doesn’t account for this. More simply the Wolf is clever while human beings are not, and humans suffer a deserved fate for not being clever. He uses humans for his own amusement, making his relationship with Red akin to a toy or a pet.
The culture of the story values prudence and cleverness; however, the values are split between Red and the Wolf. If Red had exercised prudence and not discussed her plans with the wolf, she and her Grandma would not have been endangered.
The Wolf, meanwhile, exhibits cleverness and intelligence; he uses these to capitalize on the opportunity before him. At any time he could simply devour Red, but he employs his intelligence to devour them both.
The story portrays curiosity in a negative light, where Red is punished for her constant curiosity. She talks to the Wolf, takes her time on the path by looking at flowers, and constantly questions the Wolf masquerading as Grandma. At each turn this curiosity leads to her fate as a meal for the wolf, ultimately showing the world as a very dangerous place to be on guard from. Failure to be on guard—that is, being open and curious—will lead to destruction.
These are a bare handful of interpretations. I could go into more detail for any of them, and even come up with more besides: Red as sexually submissive, irresponsibility of youth, feebleness of the very young and the very old, order vs. chaos, etc. This analysis only looked at the version of the story without the Hunter who comes along and rescues Red and Grandma, which brings in all sorts of interesting interpretations regarding gender roles, chivalry, misogyny, and so on. So when it comes to Fairy Tales, the sky is the limit with regards to analyzing them.