Red Riding Hood

After posting the bit on Genesis, I was challenged, jokingly I’m sure, to explain Little Red Riding Hood in the same way. Challenge accepted.

The redness of the girl’s cloak is a later embellishment. We don’t need it to understand the symbols, but it helps. This is another transformation story, only the subject matter is pretty well restricted to a young girl’s awakening to grown-up sexual experience. The wolf is an agent of transformation. One of Loki’s children is Fenrir, the Great Wolf who will kill Odin at the Ragnarok. The point of killing a god is to pass on his power to his successor (a god who withers and dies of old age can only pass on witheryness and old-age-ness; that’s why the Vikings thought a warrior’s death was best, to be killed in your prime and your glory, because that’s what you’ll pass on).

In the case of Red, the “god” is her grandmother. The wolf kills her so that her old-woman wisdom regarding sexual experience can be passed to the young girl. Then the girl takes off her clothes and gets in bed with the wolf. Now the wolf is wearing the grandmother’s clothes. It’s like a hairy grandmother, with big ears and fangs, et cetera. The girl’s questions in this regard, and her belief that it actually¬†is the grandmother confirm that this is what it symbolizes. This is the portrayal of the Wild Woman, who is a figure of uncivilized female energy. To become a woman, the girl is going to have to trust the Wild Woman and go with her, which is why the girl trustingly gets in bed with the grandmother-wolf. The girl is then devoured by the Wild Woman, but not to be killed, just so that she has to spend some time in a “low place.” What is a stomach but a place where one thing is changed into another?

Let’s back up: The girl’s mother tells her to “stay on the path,” which the girl disobeys (at the behest of the wolf, mind you). This means a break from the mother, and that the mother cannot directly help with this transformation. The mother wants to hold on to her “little girl” forever, and doesn’t really want the girl to grow up. That is why the grandmother must intervene and bring about this change, and why it is the grandmother’s death that transfers “woman energy” to the girl.

Versions differ (some stop with the eating of the girl), but I prefer the version where the woodsman shows up and slices open the wolf, because woodsmen represent special mediation between worlds. That is, the final step of the girl’s awakening is accomplished by crossing into “the next world,” and this requires the intervention of a mediator, a craftsman, i.e., one who has knowledge of how things work. The woodsman’s work is very like a C-section delivery, done not with a knife but with scissors, a craft-tool.

There you are. Glad to be of service!