Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Blood Red Bride
Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It was one of my favourite fairytales as a child and it's full of mystery and adventure. Most of all it's a frightening story even for children.
The story is traditionally old. Well known as a story by the Brothers Grimm it has earlier origins. Charles Perrault and Angela Carter, plus many others, have their versions of the story. It's a folk story going back centuries.
The story goes:
A girl dressed in a hooded cloak, the colour red, takes a basket and goes to visit her sick grandmother. On the way she encounters a wolf, befriends him and tells him where she's going. As she stops to pick flowers, the wolf disappears. He emerges into the home of the granmother and devours her. When Little Red Riding Hood comes to the house, she mistakes the wolf for her grandmother. Then the wolf devours the girl, or she hides, and is saved by the axe of the woodsman who shows up to rescue her. In some stories the grandmother also reappears from the wolf's mouth and in other stories, the Ladybook children's version, both the grandmother and the girl were hiding in the closet.
The grandmother was unknown to the wolf until the girl told him about her. As the old woman lived in the woods, and obviously the wolf lingered there, why didn't he previously know about her? Wolves have acute senses and this story version of the wolf didn't seem to follow the scent of a very sick old woman in the woods.
Why did the girl wear red?
Why did she stop to pick flowers?
How could this girl have communicated to the wolf?
How did the wolf manage to trick her into thinking he was her grandmother?
Where did the woodsman hero come from?
My own interpretation:
Little Red Riding Hood, as with other folk tales, isn't a true "fairy tale" as it features no enchanting magic or wonder. It's dark and decayed. A scary story that was a reality in past centuries when there was far more woods and forests filled with dangerous animals. Back then children did play on the edge of forests and some were attacked by wild beasts. Not many people actually lived inside dangerous forests unless they were they were hunting, or outcasts, anyone in hiding like robbers, ect. Why would the heoine's grandmother be living there? Who could she have been?
In times past, people made offerings to the gods and spirits of nature. Forests were potent as well as mysterious. Red is linked to sacred colours such as blood, fire, passion, womanhood. The girl featured in the general version is an adolescent but sometimes in other stories that borders to Horror, features her as a grown woman but not yet a wife or mother. She's seen as virginal, or atleast without a lover.
Wolves equally were considered very important to our ancestors. The wolf pelt has been used in rituals. People worshipped nature and they understood the Earth Mother. The sick grandmother in the story is like the goddess in hybernation, or the earth during the season of Winter. The grandmother is the great mother, or the dark goddess, found buried in the woods of the female psyche. The heroine Little Red Riding Hood ventures there as she approaches womanhood. She wants to cure her grandmother who owns the woods and resides in the forest. The grandmother had always been invisible to the dangers of the predatory wolf until the girl tells the wolf. Red Riding Hood reminds the wolf about the sacred Mother living deeper in the forest.
The wolf could be symbolic of a man. Men are linked with predatory animals such as bears, wolves, tigers. Men have the power as great as these animals when they hunt or take themselves into battle. They also express this animal side during passionate lovemaking. The wolf in the story is a man encountering the naive young woman. As Red Riding Hood continous on her self discovery, the wolf is also clever as well as feral. He manipulates and deceives. He steals. He robs. He removes the house that belonged to the grandmother and awaits for Red Riding Hood. When she comes, the wolf shows himself. It reminds me of entering a wedded home after marriage. The grandmother is also the ancestor of the heroine and the parents who GIVE the bride away.
Now Red Riding Hood is living in a house with a man/wolf and husband. She's experiencing what her grandmother used to experience when she was young. Symbolically, the Maiden Becomes a wife. The red cloak is a scarlet gown, the colour of blood, menstrual blood, and blood from a broken hymen.
Devouring is the man-wolf's power. With his power he overcomes the young red bride and mates with her. With her, the wolf/man deflowers her and causes pain and blood.
The woodsman can be anything. He could be another aspect of this feral, dangerous wolfman. He is like the lover and the caring heroic master of the forest. He is also the knight of the trees. He is the good side of the dark forces. He turns the bloody household into a home again by destroying the wolf. He's the man that was inside the wolf, who follows the wolf, who hunted the wolf, who opposes the wolf, who prevents the wolf. The woodsman exists within men as the masculine nature, showing love, spiritual awakening, logic, devotion. Red Riding Hood goes to the woodsman. The woodsman was her husband also. The wolf was a werewolf, or the uncontrolled beast inside the woodsman.
The woodsman could also be seperate from the wolf and like the god of the woods. The Hunter. The slayer of demons and beasts. Warrior of the forest. He's like the destroyer of the dark forces and the hero of women. He's like Sigurd the Dragon Slayer or Conan the Barbarian. He comes to rescue the maiden/damsel trapped in the wolf's den, the wolf big enough to eat her grandmother. The wolf who was monster and eater of the goddess, the goddess helper of young women.
The Wolf - Fenris, who east the Sun during Ragnarok (Norse myth)
The Woodsman - Hunter and warrior, Herne the Hunter, Odin, Sigurd.
Red Riding Hood - A young woman/bride entering danger. She's like all other princesses and damsels of fairy tales and legends. In a way she is like the coming Spring.
Grandmother - Earth Goddess
Fenris wolf devours the goddess (grandmother) but is stopped from devouring the maiden, or in some versions the maiden is saved before she disappears.
The fairytale is just a sweet children's bedtime story. But it could be something far deeper. It could be psychologial. It could be a based on true events. It could also be like the stories of myths and legends that give us wisdom. Many other fairytales parallel with stories from ancient traditions.
Picture by Another Wanderer http://anotherwanderer.deviantart.com/