Stories have power. They can be so powerful that they can influence the fate of millions of girls for generations of over 300 years. That can be pretty dangerous if the original story has been warped to fit a constricting ideology. So, in order to reclaim stories to their original value, in contemporary times, we have to dig deeper into the past. In the case of Little Red Riding Hood, we have to go back to the 17th Century to peasant folk tales, that were initially told orally. Red Riding Hood was one of those tales.
In the original tale, Little Red Riding Hood meets a werewolf in the forest. She is fully aware of the danger. Being led into her Grandmother`s cottage, the werewolf asks her to get into bed which she does. Red exclaims, "Granny what big shoulders you have"! "All the better to bring in the wood with my dear". She continues with seemingly guileless declarations, but not out of naivety or stupidity. Red is teasing the wolf, with her cunning act, to give herself time, whilst thinking of a solution to escape. Finally Red exclaims "My Granny! What big teeth you have!" to which the wolf`s response is "All the better to eat you with!" and lean dangerously towards her, but Red stops the Wolf "Wait, Granny I have to go", meaning to go to the bathroom. So the wolf ties a piece of rope around her ankle so that she can`t escape and Red jumps out the window into the courtyard where she binds the same rope to a plum tree and escapes.
This original telling of this tale by peasant women with a craft was to see if the girl could replace her grandmother's place in the weavers circle. Little Red Riding Hood manages to trick the wolf by using her own wit. Wit being the combination of humour and ingenuity, that allows her to rise above the dangerous situation to think clearly of a solution to her final escape, whilst deterring the wolf with unexpected tête-à-tête.
Having had a grandmother that recently died and knowing the legacy that she advocated: that of the women in our family to apply their mind first and foremost; to develop their skills to the highest level possible and learn a craft that will support them on multiple levels; reading this initiation tale of a girl, told by peasant women that symbolically represent her passing the test into their circle, is a compelling one. Far more powerful and credible than the Little Red Riding Hood that was appropriated by Charles Perrault in the 17th century who was influential on the French literary scene. He changed the moral so that Red Riding Hood was a very naive and even a stupid character, directing the wolf to granny`s house, so that in the end Red is gobbled up by the wolf. The moral to the story has been changed and has become that well known tale that little girls get what they ask for. "Charles Perrault changed the narrative to suit the 17th century ideology of the aristocracy" Jack Zipes elucidates, a leading contemporary author of the ideologies of the fairy tale.
Preparing for a girl's workshop in the fairy tale like setting of Mirabell Palace with princess weddings churning over every 90 minutes, every Friday; reclaiming stories of how girls can break out of the myth that has remained for over 300 years may be a tall order, but we can use our bravery to begin with and by combining it with a bit of wit, I know we´ll get there.