In some of the various versions of the classic tale of “Little Red Riding Hood”, there are many symbols of sex, whether perverse of traditional. For the intents and purposes of this paper, I will analyze more specifically Charles Perrault’s version, which is considered one of the most satirical.
As Zohar Shavit explains in “The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales” Charles Perrault did not hesitate to deviate from the classic formula of most folktales and opted instead to focus on an ambiguous nature of the text. By doing this, Perrault could cater to two different audiences at once. For the adult audience, there are many symbolic references to sex.
Firstly, the color red, the color of the riding hood itself, can be seen as a symbol. The color red is usually associated as the color of passion, love, blood, sin or as a reference to a woman’s biological crossroad (her menstruation) transitioning from girl to woman. Perhaps, LRRH’s entire adventure which started out as a journey to visit grandmother becomes a trip down the path to womanhood. There is also LRRH carrying cake and wine to take with her to visit her grandmother. A somewhat obvious reference to the religious sacrament; which could also be seen as LRRH carrying her virtues with her on this path. As Shavit, points out, “It is clear that the erotic aspect of encourages the reading of the text as the story of a gentleman exploiting the innocence of a village girl and enjoying her charms, rather than simply as the story of a little girl who is devoured by a wolf” (Shavit, p. 325).
Symbolically speaking, the wolf represents a ‘male beast’ but also offers a reflection of wolf’s true nature, as wolves are seen as predators and this story insinuates that men (or rather, their inner beast) can prey on the young and innocent. Like the wolf in LRRH, a man will disguise his inner beast (perhaps, for example as a cad might hide behind the mask of a gentlemen) in an effort to make a woman feel comfortable and familiar. In the tale of LRRH, the wolf dresses up as her beloved grandmother (cross-dressing) and uses LHHR’s own curiosities against her and to his own advantage, aiding him in his overall seduction. The act of devouring her flesh and blood can be seen in a sexual manner as well.
In Conclusion, I think the overall (moral) message of Perrault’s version of LRRH was to warn young women not to succumb to their idle, sexual curiosities and desires, not to stray from the virtuous path as it could cost them their innocence.
Perrault, Charles. "Little Red Riding Hood." Pitt. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 April 2012.
Shavit, Zohar. “The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales: Test Case-‘Little Red Riding Hood’” p. 317-331.