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Little Red Riding Hood Exposed As “Fake″

September 10, 1989

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The Little Red Riding Hood story read to generations of children is a fake, distorted from original folk versions by male writers who made the girl into a frail victim, an anthropologist said Saturday.

″Male writers completely ruined the tale by bringing men into it,″ said Alan Dundes of the University of California-Berkeley, editor of a new book of scholarly essays on the classic folktale.

″They made the girl a weak little thing who had to be rescued. The original folktale is a female story in which the mother sends the daughter out and the little girl is triumphant.″

Dundes’ book includes analyses of Little Red Riding Hood by psychologists, historians, anthropologists and sociologists, plus versions of the oral folktale collected in Europe and Asia.

″There are enough oral versions around in different languages so that we know what the original must have been like,″ Dundes said in an interview.

The original folktales may have been considered too crude by Charles Perrault, the French writer who first put the story into written form in 1697 and made it into a moral fable warning girls against listening to strangers, Dundes said. At the end, Little Red Riding Hood got gobbled up by the wolf.

The Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, based their popular 1812 story on a second-hand account of Perrault’s version and changed the ending. This time the girl was saved by a hunter, who cut open the wolf’s stomach to allow Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother to spring out alive.

Once upon a time, though, Little Red Riding Hood was a craftier character who escaped the wolf’s big teeth. In fact, said Dundes, the wolf was orginally female and the little girl didn’t even have a red hood.

In European oral folk stories, the girl unwittingly eats the flesh and blood of her grandmother, who had been killed by the wolf, Dundes said. In various Asian versions, she is tricked by the villain, usually a female tiger or ogress, into eating her sister’s finger or bone.

In all the oral stories, Dundes said, the girl triumphs over the villain and gets away.

Perrault and the Grimm brothers left out the cannibalism and made Little Red Riding Hood into ″a real wimp″ who ″stupidly tells the wolf where she’s going″ on the way to her grandmother, Dundes said.

″The feminists have attacked the wrong tale,″ Dundes said. ″They are rightly concerned about the influence fairy tales have in society. But they should be attacking the Grimm or Perrault or Walt Disney versions. It’s not the tale that’s at fault. It’s the male versions.″

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