Little Red Riding Hood (also known as Little Red-Cap) is a classic fairy tale which rings out a warning to mankind that is timeless and eternal. We all know the familiar story told to us in childhood of the sweet girl who sets out through the woods to visit her sick grandmother. On the way she meets a wolf who convinces her to dally by the wayside to pick flowers. Meanwhile he races ahead to the grandmother’s house, pretends that he is Little Red Riding Hood and devours her. He then lies in wait for Little Red Riding Hood and pretends to be the grandmother so that he can eat her too. Of course, as with most fairy tales told for the young, it ends happily with Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother being rescued from the belly of the wolf by a woodcutter.
This tale, handed down from generation to generation, has been told to countless thousands of children and has stood the test of time for good reason. It is more than simply an interesting, entertaining tale. It warns us of the danger that lies in wait along the path of life, ready to snare the innocent and unsuspecting, ready to trick and mislead the naïve. It teaches us that there are those who would abuse our trust and use us without mercy for their own selfish interest. Those who would do us harm if we do not keep our wits about us.
Such stories told to us in childhood when we are tender and still forming, seep deeply into our subconscious and form a part of our outlook on life. What we receive as a charming tale is truly a valuable teaching that may set us in good stead for the future. We don’t understood the deeper meaning when we are young but later on, this teaching will be with us when we most need it for who among us has not come across malevolence in some form or another along the path of life?
It is a safe and gentle way of preparing us for the harsher realities of life.
To tell children all the dangers lurking in the world when their minds and hearts are still young would do more harm than good. To wrap them up in the illusion that life is idyllic and without danger would be equally as harmful. Children need to learn about good and evil in stages and Little Red Riding Hood is a perfect and beautiful means for the young child. The seed is planted in the fertile soil of childhood and may grow to maturity and reap its own harvest.
As well, the tale includes the promise that good will triumph over evil which is an essential element in a fairy tale. It is not that children should be taught that life always works out well, it is that they must be fed on hope and faith when very young so that their courage and confidence can grow and be a strong foundation for them later on.
The centuries old ritual of passing down classic stories to children seems at times in danger of dying. Many modern stories for children are frivolous and perverse and offer them little food for true development. We are indebted to the brothers Grimm for recording this timeless tale who in doing so have left for future generations the accumulated wisdom of centuries that should not be forgotten or lost.