I’m taking an interlude from both Greek myth and the Bible to revisit the fairy tale that is most on my mind. Little Red Riding Hood. I can’t explain why, but I’ve known there’s much more to this story than meets the eye, and I think I might finally have an answer.
Grandmother lives outside of town, and not even in the next town. Yes, the Perrault version says she lives in the next village, but villages are busier than forests. If the wolf is put off by a few woodcutters, he definitely wouldn’t go for a village where people would see him.
Other versions of the story have her living alone in the wilderness, and this makes the most sense with the rest of the story. Sure, there’s a path to her house, but this should be setting off alarm bells. Why would a frail old woman live out in the woods? Alone?
Most of the time, we never question this. This is what the story said, so it’s no big deal. It’s just the way of things.
I don’t think so, anymore.
There’s really no reason for Red’s grandmother not to live in the village. Europeans have long had a tradition of having multiple generations in the same house, so this would not be a big deal for either the time and place of the story. An elderly woman living alone, however; that is unusual.
And it’s not like Red’s family is too poor to take care of her, either. Red has a red cloak, which is a symbol of wealth. Red-dyed clothing was only for those rich enough to afford red dye, often reserved for nobility and royalty. I’m not saying that Red is either of these, but the cloak alone is a symbol of money in a time period where the wolf has “not eaten for three days.” The wolf is human, not an animal, but that’s for later.
So Grandmother should not be living on her own outside of the village. It’s unusual. Unless it’s not. In this case, it’s not unusual at all because this is not Red’s grandmother. Red is not related to this woman. At all.