Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t typically fall under the fairy tale stereotype. It doesn’t have the usual damsel-in-distress saved by knight on a white horse. It’s more along the lines of Hansel and Gretel and Goldilocks & the Three Bears. Compared to the other fairy tales, Red Riding Hood is a story of a girl against an actual beast, with the exception that our sly wolf talks, the story is probable in the real world.
The original story is based on an Old French Tale and told the story of a Wolf wanting to eat Little Red Riding Hood. Here’s the story as taken from Wikipedia.
A wolf wants to eat the girl but is afraid to do so in public. He approaches Little Red Riding Hood and she naïvely tells him where she is going. He suggests the girl pick some flowers, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother’s house and gains entry by pretending to be the girl. He swallows the grandmother whole, and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandma.
When the girl arrives, she notices she looks very strange to be her grandmother. Little Red Riding Hood then says, “What big hands you have!” In most retellings, this eventually culminates with Little Red Riding Hood saying, “My, what big teeth you have!”, to which the wolf replies, “The better to eat you with,” and swallows her whole, too.
A hunter, however, comes to the rescue and cuts the wolf open. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother fastly emerges unharmed. They fill the wolf’s body with heavy stones. The wolf awakens thirsty from his large meal and goes to the well to seek water, where he falls in and drowns.
In Lynn Robert’s re-telling, Little Red, while keeping to some elements, she made a few changes and additions, as the synopsis at the back of the book say:
Little Red is a story of a boy, a grandmother, a big bad wolf and a keg of delicious fizzy ginger beer.
Therefore, unlike the original French Fairy, Little Red is a boy and involves a fizzy ginger beer. Which begs the reader to ask, what do these two differentiating elements add to the story?
Little Red Riding Boy and the Fizzy Drink
The change in gender I think doesn’t really bring in any specific twist. Little Red is young and fearful, maybe the difference is his interest in stories about the big bad wolf that travelers to the inn bring. Making Little Red male, sets the stage for a change in story. I think changing the main characters’ gender or even background allows a simple introduction to a fractured fairy tale.
On the other hand, the Fizzy ginger beer is the story changer. It offers an alternative ending and allows the reader to learn the back-story of Little Red and his family. We are told the real name of Little Red is Thomas and that he lived in a cozy inn famous for its fizzy ginger beer. So delicious is the drink that it can save lives and protect you from the wolf.
Unlike the original, the wolf’s role in the Roberts’ version only becomes active midway. He is not cunning and does not actively delay Little Red. Here, the wolf is sly as a fox. While the original story tells us of a wolf that actively seeks his prey, here we are told of a wolf that takes advantage of circumstances and tricks you into believing something that isn’t true. Very much the way society operates, wherein the wolves are often in sheep’s clothing.
Little Red Fights Back
Compared to the original story, Little Red, in Roberts’ version doesn’t need a hunter to save him. While the wolf tricked grandmother due to her very very shortsighted vision, Little Red catches on and fights for his life. What is interesting in this version is Little Red uses smarts over brawn in his defense. He entices the Wolf to take a sip of the Fizzy Ginger Beer and belch grandmother out. There is a sense of David and Goliath in it that I love. It offers an alternative and allows the seemingly weak (Little kids, grandmothers) to outwit the ‘stronger’ ones.
The artwork is very distinct and breathtaking. There could have been a million ways of interpreting the story, but I love how ‘periodic’ and gothic the artwork is. David Robert gets inspiration from 18th century fashion with the wigs, the dresses and the jacket. He also evokes fear by adding faces to trees. By studying the artwork, the reader gets the feel of each characters’ status. You get the feel of grandmother’s wealth with the blue china and the artworks that hang in her house. In one of the pictures where we get a peek into the inn’s storehouse, the detail the artist gives to the food and the content is just wonderful, I love how it evokes that this is foreign and this is set a long time ago, maybe even medieval.
This rendition of Little Red is a mix of new and old, while keeping to the general framework of the story and a period-set artwork, it gives us a glimpse of modern society and how things are more gray than black and white, as well as how smarts can be better than brawn.
According to Jacketflap, Lynn Roberts is a published author of children’s books. Some of the published credits of Lynn Roberts include Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story; Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn; Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale.
David Roberts, the brother of Lynn Roberts is a British illustrator. His black and white work mainly features in books for older readers and he has worked with such well-known authors as Philip Ardagh, G.P. Taylor, Chris Priestley and Tom Baker (on The Boy Who Kicked Pigs). He also produces works for younger readers in picture book format. His most notable works being those for acclaimed children’s author, and current Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson (Tyrannosaurus Drip, The Troll and most recently Jack and the Flum Flum Tree). His other picture books include Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Dear Tabby by Carolyn Crimi, Mrs Crump’s Catby Linda Smith, Hopping Mad by Michael Catchpool, Don’t Say That Willy Nilly by Anna Powell and The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman which was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2010.