Little Red Cap
With stories from The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault
Episode 7 - Thursday, 9 January 2020
Forests feature a lot in fairy tales, have you noticed? I am not sure whether it is because they can be spooky, or because Europe was once buried under trees, but they do.
The tale of Little Red Cap is one we tend to know as Little Red Riding Hood. The original tale turned up in the Mother Goose book written by Charles Perrault in the seventeenth century, though the actual story is probably several hundred years older.
Later on, the Brothers Grimm got hold of it and changed it quite a bit. My adaptation is based on their version because I prefer the outcome and I think the warning is a little more subtle than in Perrault's version.
Like many of these stories, it was a little short! So I have taken the opportunity of making the tale a little more rounded and given the characters a few more lines to get their teeth into - quite literally in the case of the wolf!
I am rather proud of my wolf. Drawing is not really my thing and I find the artwork difficult, but I enjoyed this one.
If you like what you hear, PLEASE leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever, and tell all your friends and family.
Hello! And welcome to another edition of Deep in the Dark Forest, with me, CC Hogan.
If this is your first time, Deep in the Dark Forest is a podcast of stories, old and new. Many are new adaptations of familiar old tales like the one today, but some are my own, and others are from new authors wishing to be heard. If you like the podcast, please rate me and leave a review on Apple Podcasts, or mention me on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #deepinthedarkforest.
Now, straight onto the story.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood is a tale that goes back centuries, and has appeared in so many shapes and sizes that it is almost impossible to track them all down. This adaptation is based on the tale as told by the Brother’s Grimm, and in their version, she is called Little Red Cap.
Little Red Cap
Adapted from the story by The Brothers Grimm
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was so sweet, everyone who looked at her for even a moment, fell in love with her. But no one loved the girl more than her dearest grandmother. So much did she love her that there was nothing she would not have given the little girl had she asked. But the sweet little girl only ever wished to be loved.
One day, her grandmother gave her a beautiful red velvet cap to wear. The little girl loved it. It was comfortable, it was pretty, and from that moment, she never wore anything else. And so, her grandmother called her Rothkäppchen, which means Red Cap.
One day, when the sun was bright, and the birds were chattering along the washing line, the girl’s mother called her in from the garden.
“Your dear grandmother is feeling ill, and she has tucked herself in her bed. Would you like to take her a cake and a bottle of wine? I am sure she will feel better if you do. She so loves to see you!”
Her mother wrapped up the cake and the bottle in cloth and packed them in a little basket. “Stay on the main path, Little Red Cap,” she said, smiling at her daughter. “For that is always busy with people and is the safest. And don’t run! For if you fall and break the bottle, your poorly grandmother will have no wine.”
Little Red Cap promised her mother solemnly that she would be careful. “I will be so very careful, mama,” said the little girl. “As careful as anything!”
Little Red Cap’s grandmother lived in an old cottage in the forest, at least half an hour’s walk from the village, especially if you have little legs and have a habit of taking the long way around even when your mother has forbidden you. The girl loved the forest, and she skipped along the path as happy as anything, smiling at the people she passed, and then tiptoed when she remembered she should be careful and not break the bottle. And then, singing with the birds, she forgot to be careful again, and skipped along once more.
By and by, she came across a wolf. He was lying on a big rock, soaking up the sun as it glinted and danced through the leaves of the great oaks and ashes. His chin was leaning on a paw, and he watched the little girl approach. Little Red Cap really was very young, and she did not know that some wolves are not the noble creatures of the forest that they should be, and will do anything to sate their hunger. So, when she saw the great furry beast, his beautiful grey pelt turned almost yellow in the warm sun, she smiled her biggest smile.
“Good day, pretty child,” said the wolf, smiling back. “What is your name?”
“Good day, Mr Wolf,” said the child happily. “My name is Little Red Cap!”
“What a wonderful name, and what a beautiful little cap.”
Little Red Cap giggled and bowed, showing off her fine velvet cap.
“And where are you off too on this fine early morn, Little Red Cap?” asked the Wolf.
“I am off to see my Grandmother, Mr Wolf,” said the girl. “She has been sick and is feeling so weak, she has taken to her bed. Yesterday was baking day, and I have fine cake and a bottle of wine to make her feel stronger and well again.” She patted the little basket which she carried in the crook of her arm.
“What a kind little girl you are, Little Red Cap,” said the wolf, sitting up and licking his lips, for he was very hungry today. “And where does your poor grandmother live?”
“It is another quarter of an hour’s walk with my little legs,” said the girl, giggling. “Her cottage sits in the shade of three big oak trees and is surrounded by little nut trees. Do you know it?”
The wolf looked the girl up and down. “She is a nice plump mouthful,” thought he. “A tender little morsel to fill my belly. Surely she is sweeter than old woman, but if I am clever and quick, perhaps I will get to eat both!”
“Shall I walk with you for just a little way, Little Red Cap?” asked the wolf, sliding off his rock.
“Thank you, Mr Wolf,” said the girl, and she skipped along while the wolf padded softly and silently next to her, and slowly led her from the path and into the trees. After a little while, the wolf turned his head towards the small girl.
“Look at the beautiful flowers, Little Red Cap,” said he. “Do you not see them all around, between the trees, on the fallen logs, peeking up between the leaves? And listen to the birds? Hear how sweetly they sing? For you are dancing along as if rushing to school and you are missing the wonders of the forest.”
Little Red Cap stopped skipping and walked quietly like the wolf, turning slowly. She saw how the sunbeams broke through the leaves on the great bowers drawing patterns over the forest floor. And everywhere they touched were little, pretty flowers, basking in the warm sunlight.
“How beautiful they are, Mr Wolf!”
“They are indeed, Little Red Cap,” said the wolf. “But now I must leave you and bid you good day.” He bowed once, smiling, and slipped silently away into the forest.
Little Red Cap’s eyes were full of all the colours of the flowers. “I should pick a posey for my grandmother,” said the little girl. “It is still early, and I have lots of time.” And so she skipped and danced between the trees. And whenever she picked a beautiful flower, she saw an even prettier one farther on, and so chased after it. And flower by flower, skip by skip, she went deeper and deeper into the wood and farther and father from the safety of the main path.
The wolf, in the meantime, raced silently through the trees, for he knew every secret path and way in that great forest. And in just a few minutes, he came to the nut trees and the three great oaks under which was built grandmother’s cottage. The wolf tapped gently on the door.
“Who is knocking at my door?” asked the frail old woman.
The wolf coughed and put on his lightest voice. “It is I, Little Red Cap,” said he. “And I bring you the sweetest cake and the finest wine, grandmother. Will you open the door to me?”
“Just press the handle, Little Red Cap,” called out grandmother, who was a little deaf. “For I am too weak to get out of my bed.”
The wolf pressed down on the door handle, and with a click, it unlatched and swung open. Grandmother opened her mouth to scream, but the wolf flew across the room like a deathly shadow and devoured her whole!
“Now,” said the wolf, smiling to himself and rubbing his belly. “How shall I greet sweet Little Red Cap, I wonder?” The wolf set to work. First, he tidied up the bed, making it neat. He opened a window to let in the fresh air. Then he searched through the grandmother’s chest and he donned a frilly nightshirt, a pretty little bonnet, and tied a ribbon around his great furry neck. Then he pulled the curtains closed, and he climbed into the grandmother’s bed to await the main course.
A little way down the lane, Red Cap finally emerged from the trees, her arms full of flowers, for she had run in and out of the trees, laughing and playing, and had lost all track of time. She sat on a log and sighed. “I have picked so many flowers,” she told the birds. “But now I should run to grandmother’s cottage, for she might be worried!” She took a lace from her little dress and tied the big bunch of flowers into the most beautiful posey, tucked it under the handle of her little basket, and skipped merrily along the leafy path to where the nut trees grew and the cottage nestled by the three giant oaks.
To her surprise, the door of the cottage was open, and inside was all in darkness.
“Grandmother?” asked the girl nervously, stepping inside. “Oh dear, oh dear. I do so love visiting my grandmother, but why do I feel so frightened today?” Biting her lip, she peered through the dark. “Good morning, grandmother,” she said in the sweetest voice. “I have brought you cake and wine, and a fine posey of flowers. Shall I set them out for you?” She put her head on one side, listening, but all she heard was a gentle snore. “She must be sleeping,” said the girl sweetly to herself. So, she went to the counter and opened the curtains. From the cupboard she took a painted plate and she placed on it the delicious cake, making sure the little cherry was just right. And she poured the wine into a jug and put it and a glass onto a tray. And lastly, she untied her big posey and placed the beautiful forest flowers around the sills and on the table.
Little Red Cap took the tray and put it on the table by the bed, and pulled opened the curtains, letting the warm sun send beams across the pretty bedspread. Her grandmother was dozing with her cap pulled down over her face. Little Red Cap frowned, for there was something different about her grandmother today.
“Are you awake, grandmother?”
“What is it, child?” asked the grandmother, who was really the wolf.
“Oh, grandmother,” said Little Red Cap. “What big ears you have!” For the Wolf’s ears were poking out from the sides of the night cap.
“All the better to hear you with, my dear child,” came the reply.
“But grandmother,” said Little Red Cap, peeping under the nightcap. “What big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with, child,” came the reply.
“And Grandmother,” said Little Red Cap, seeing the hairy paws holding the edge of the bedspread. “What big hands you have!”
“All the better to hug you with,” said the wolf.
“Oh!” said Little Red Cap, looking into the big, hairy face. “And what a scary big mouth you have!”
The wolf grinned, showing all his sharp teeth in a row. “All the better to eat you with!”
And with a roar, he pulled back the bedspread, and leapt onto the poor, innocent little girl, swallowing her in one great big mouthful!
“And that, dear child, is that,” said the wolf, as he lay back down on grandmother’s bed and fell into the deepest, happiest sleep, a great snore rumbling from his nostrils.
Now it so happened that a hunter was passing. He liked the old woman and he would always check up on her if he should chance upon the cottage. To his surprise, he saw that her door was open, for grandmother only left it open if she was working in her small garden.
“Grandmother?” he said gently, walking up to the door and peering in. “Oh, my,” he said, “I have never heard such snoring from such a frail old soul. I wonder if she is alright? Grandmother?” The hunter ducked through the low door, and to his horror, he saw the wolf asleep on the bed, his tummy bulging and full.
“You old sinner,” whispered the hunter. “I have long sought you, you demon.” He pulled his loaded musket from his back and he took aim at the mighty grey beast. And he was just about to fire when he noticed grandmother’s old nightcap on the floor. “Oh, my,” he said. “Have you eaten the old lady, old sinner? For if you have, and she still lives, I dare not shoot. I might yet save her!”
The hunter rested his gun upon the table, and he took from the drawer the old woman’s scissors, and snip-snip, he cut open the belly of the beast. After just two cuts, he saw a flash of red velvet. Two more snips and out from the belly leapt the crying Little Red Cap!
“Oh, thank you!” cried the little girl. “I was so frightened, and it was so dark inside the wolf. But hurry, for my grandmother is in there too!”
And the hunter quickly snipped open the belly all the way to the chest, and sure enough, there was grandmother, gasping for air. He and Little Red Cap helped her to her feet, whereupon she glared at the wolf.
“Such an evil beast,” said grandmother. “We should be rid of him.”
Little Red Cap, a fierce look on her sweet face, ran into the garden, and staggered back in with the biggest stones she could find. And she told the hunter to fetch more. She filled the wolf’s belly to bursting, and then grandmother took her needle, and she sowed the belly tight shut.
“Wake up, Mr Wolf!” called Little Red Cap in her sweetest voice.
The wolf opened his eyes, and seeing grandmother, Little Red Cap, and the hunter standing there, leapt to his paws.
“What is this?” he cried.
“Begone, old sinner,” cried the hunter, raising his musket.
“I will return!” said the wolf, and he leapt from the bed to run from the cottage. But before he had taken three strides, the heavy stones dragged him to the floor, and with a howl, he fell down dead.
As the morning sun rose high into the sky, the three celebrated in the garden together, sharing the cake and the wine, though Little Red Cap had berry juice. Then the hunter cut the pelt from the wolf to make a fine rug for grandmother, and he went on his way.
And Little Red Cap thought to herself wisely: “I must take care in the forest, and as long as I live, I promise never to leave the safe path and talk to strange wolves when my mother had forbidden me!”
But wolves are not solitary animals. And where you get one wolf, you will always get another. And if you are unlucky, then perhaps this other beast is also an old sinner, and a disappointment to his noble kind.
One day, when Little Red Cap took her mother’s delicious cakes to her grandmother, she met another wolf, hiding behind a tree on the busy main path. And this hungry beast used all his charms to persuade and entice the girl from the path and go with him deeper into the wood. But Little Red Cap was as good as her promise, and she picked up her skirts and ran as fast as she could to her grandmother’s cottage.
“What is it, child?” asked grandmother when little Red Cap rushed in, her heart all a flutter.
“Oh, grandmother,” she replied, “I was on the main path as I should be, when a wolf stepped from behind a tree and said good morning to me, as polite as anything. But he had such a wicked look in his eye, that I am certain if I had not been on the main path, he would have eaten me up! I ran and ran, all the way here!”
“You good child, Little Red Cap!” said her grandmother. “Now, shut the door tight so that he cannot get in.”
They shut the door and the windows, and pulled the curtains closed. And soon enough, they heard a tapping at the door.
“Open the door, grandmother,” said an unconvincing voice. “I am little Red Cap and I bring you cakes!”
Grandmother put her finger to her lips, telling the girl to be as silent as a mouse.
Old greybeard the wolf crept around the house. Not once, not twice, but thrice. Then he leapt up on the roof and settled himself down to wait.
“She will leave soon enough,” he said to himself. “And then I will follow her into the trees and devour her there…”
But grandmother was no fool, and she knew what was in the wolf’s heart.
“See that pan there?” whispered grandmother to Little Red Cap, pointing to a pale by the hearth. “I boiled sausages in it yesterday and it is full of the scent of finest pork. Take it outside and empty it into the big stone trough.
Little Red Cap took the pan, and, singing a happy song to keep herself brave, went out to the trough and filled it quite full with the sausage water.
The smell of finest pork sausages wafted into the air, tickling the wolf’s nose. He peeked down to the trough, stretching out his neck, his eyes closed, sniffing the irresistible aroma, for there is nothing an old wolf likes more than a good sausage! He stretched his neck farther and longer, and suddenly, his feet slipped. With a howl, he skidded down the tiles and with a yelp, crashed into the tough where he drowned in the sausage water.
And so, sweet Little Red Cap went joyously home and never did an unkind deed to any kind person. And never again did a wolf dare to eat her!
When I am working on adaptations rather than just reading someone else’s version, I come across odd little problems with the story. For instance, the wolf meets her on the public path, which we are told is safer because other people use it all the time. Except you would think other travellers might notice a wolf walking along with a little girl. I played with changing it so she left the path first, but then decided to leave it as it is. Maybe there is another unintentional lesson there about passers-by not looking out for children as perhaps they should.
The story itself is very old, dating back perhaps a thousand years. Commentators, especially those who look for deep psychological issues in everything, have deduced all kinds of meanings from the story, probably far more than is really there. The two most famous versions are this one by the brothers Grimm and an earlier French version by Charles Perrault. In his version, granny and the girl are eaten and that is that. They don’t survive. He wanted his tale to be a simple warning. Stray from the path and that is your lot. But by doing that the blame is on the girl for straying, not on the wolf who is the predator. I like that she survives in the Grimm’s version and that the wolf takes full responsibility. And I made sure the grandmother called the wolf an evil beast and didn’t tell off the girl. The lesson being that you should take care, but if all goes wrong, it really isn’t your fault. I do wonder, however, whether the real lesson is not don’t talk to wolves, but rather don’t tell them grandmother’s address!
Some have a problem with the hunter being a man and that in rescuing grandmother and Little Red Cap, it is asserting male dominance over the weaker female. I’m not so certain about that, for it is Little Red Cap who decides to fill the wolf with stones, not the hunter. And in the second part of the story, she and grandmother get rid of the wolf without any help whatsoever. It really doesn’t matter whether the hunter is male or female. It is more important that it is a person who is kind enough to check on grandmother.
But I really should read you the words of warning as set out by Charles Perrault, which he does as a little poem after the story. There are lots of versions of this, but I offer my own reworking of his French original.
And so we see that children young,
And pretty girls who just want fun,
Should beware when strangers you meet,
That you to them aren’t something to eat!
Listen not to their charming words,
For they may cut you from the herd,
For wolves are many and of many minds,
And often are tame when young girls they find.
They’ll be polite and sweet in their way,
As they follow behind their tender prey,
Right to their homes where live their souls
And with a toothy smile, devour them whole.
For now we know the most charming of beast
Is the most dangerous kind to invite to the feast
I have added a couple more variations I found at the end of the transcript, including the original French for those who want to have a go at their own interpretation.
Anyway, that is enough of chopping this fine little tale into pieces. I hope you are enjoying my podcast and my retellings of old stories. Please leave a comment wherever you found the episode, and if you have any recommendations for tales you think I would like, please let me know on Twitter or Facebook – links in the show notes.
You have been listening to Deep in the Dark Forest – I am CC Hogan, and I wish you good fortune as you travel on your way.
These are various versions of the poem by Charles Perrault that I have dug up, starting with the original French:
On voit icy que de jeunes enfants,
Sur tout de jeunes filles,
Belles, bien faites et gentilles,
Font tres-mal d’écouter toute sorte de gens,
Et que ce n’est pas chose étrange
S’il en est tant que le loup mange.
Je dis le loup, car tous les loups
Ne sont pas de la mesme sorte :
Il en est d’une humeur accorte,
Sans bruit, sans fiel et sans couroux,
Qui, privez, complaisans et doux,
Suivent les jeunes demoiselles
Jusque dans les maisons, jusque dans les ruelles.
Mais, hélas! Qui ne sçait que ces loups doucereux
De tous les loups sont les plus dangereux!
This is from one of the many published books in English:
From this short story easy we discern
What conduct all young people ought to learn.
But above all, young, growing misses fair,
Whose orient rosy blooms begin t'appear:
Who, beauties in the fragrant spring of age,
With pretty airs young hearts are apt t'engage.
Ill do they listen to all sorts of tongues,
Since some inchant and lure like Syrens' songs.
No wonder therefore 'tis, if over-power'd,
So many of them has the Wolf devour'd.
The Wolf, I say, for Wolves too sure there are
Of every sort, and every character.
Some of them mild and gentle-humour'd be,
Of noise and gall, and rancour wholly free;
Who tame, familiar, full of complaisance
Ogle and leer, languish, cajole and glance;
With luring tongues, and language wond'rous sweet,
Follow young ladies as they walk the street,
Ev'n to their very houses, nay, bedside,
And, artful, tho' their true designs they hide;
Yet ah! these simpering Wolves! Who does not see
Most dangerous of Wolves indeed they be?
And another from 1900.
Now, children, take warning, and chiefly, I pray,
You maidens so gentle and fair,
When you come across all kinds of folk, have a care
Not to listen to what they may say;
For it can't be thought strange if you do,
Should the Wolf choose to eat up a few.
The Wolf, I say here, for you'll find
Wolves are many, and vary in kind;
There are some, easy-mannered and tame,
Without malice, or temper, the same,
Most obliging and sweet in their way,
Like to follow their tender young prey,
And will track them right into their homes—lack-a-day!
Who among us has not learnt by this time to know,
The most dangerous of wolves is the soft, smooth-tongued foe!