July 27, 2018
Is That A Man Or A Wolf?
All of us have heard the tale growing up of Little Red Riding Hood, about the girl in the red cloak that visits her grandma in the woods only to find the big bad wolf ate Grandma and plans on eating the little girl as well. You know how the story ends…or do you? In the version our parents told us a huntsman comes and saves the day by killing the wolf and saving Grandma and the little girl. A happy ending. As a matter of fact this folklore did not end so happy in the original version. We aren’t kids anymore, so how about we go back to the beginning and start questioning the conflict. Regardless of the folklore, what’s a compelling tale without a so-called ‘Monster’ anyways? The monster in the Little Red Riding Hood is the wolf. Today wolves portray negatively associated with violence, cruelty, and malevolence. I varied Charles Perrault and the Grimms Brothers version as they both have different local or historical times with conflicting plot lines. With also using Jeffrey Cohen’s Monster Theory, I was able to analyze how it resembles traits of a monster like: thesis two the monster always escapes, thesis four the monster dwells at the gates of difference, and thesis seven the monster stands at threshold of becoming. You would’ve never thought that your childhoods bedtime story can been seen in so many different perspectives.
Little Red Riding Hood, among other tales, lost its earthly humor adapting to the requirements of society or to the social group that distributed it. Originally published in the 17th century by Charles Perrault, Le Petit Chaperon Rouge was revised by the Grimm Brothers in 1857 and they created a new adoption of this fairy tale called Little Red Riding Hood. In the article I found ‘The Better to See You With” by Angela J. Reynolds, she shows how the revision was due to a rhetorical situation change- there was a shift in audience between children and adults. Le Petit Chaperon Rouge was written during the Salon Era, and it is found that the wolf in the fairy tale symbolizes the way men would act around women during that time period- sly and devious. The Grimm Brothers switched up things and made the moral of the story different- a huntsman saves the grandmother and the little girl, and the wolf is the “big bad” by creating conflict. Having the Grimm Brothers aim to children as their audience demonstrates the impact of culture as well since it became less acceptable in society to read about gruesome acts such as eating people alive (Reynolds 14). As of both tales, they equally teach a lesson to keep away from men and strangers that is also emphasized today in the modern culture. This ties down to thesis two: the monster always escapes, which is examined in the culture and time they were created. It also shows the same monster is being used over and over again, but they have different meanings each time. Since the wolf can speak and walk on two feet like an actual human, he is underlining a male figure….unless you’ve seen an actual wolf talk then that’s pretty fricking cool.
Yes, wolves are real. And yes, they’re related to dogs and that is how they get their form and behavior. A book referring to wolves that is written by a best selling author, David Mech, said: “The wolf is a large wild dog. It hunts, pursues, attacks, kills, and eats animals larger than itself, and many of its physical traits reflect these habits….the wolf feeds almost exclusively on flesh, bones, and other animal matter, so it is not surprising that several features of its head are adapted to catching and eating prey” (Mech). This collaborates with The Monster Theory thesis four: the monster dwells at the gates of difference. The differences between wolves and humans is stated in that quote: eating of flesh and bones. People do eat animals, but I’ve never heard of a homo sapien killing an animal with their mouth and then ripping it apart to eat the raw flesh and bones. Also, humans do have violent and brutality characteristics as well, but for a wolf to have a larger figure with bigger muscle mass just makes them that more monstrous (don’t forget about that bushy build).
So are men the monsters or the wolf? The monster stands at threshold of becoming is the seventh monster thesis and can be used to manage the wolf in the tale. The wolf clearly makes us reevaluate cultural assumptions on race, gender, perception toward differences, and tolerance towards its expression. Professor Heather Schell tells us in one of her articles that the reason why the wolf is represented as a male is because men are associated with aggressive characteristics such as vengeance, competitiveness, murder, and rape (Schell 110). Of course women can be wolves too, but if you change the characters gender to the opposite one in the Little Red Riding Hood, your perception would be ambiguous and the story would be, well, not as interesting. Seeing the male and/or wolf wanting the grandma and the little girl just makes our understanding much clearer. Girls and women are prone to being killed and raped by men in today’s society. It’s the sad truth, sorry men.
Overall I believe the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood is a monster. The monster theories helped me backup my reasons to how and why the wolf is a monster. The wolf is a monster and is told in many versions with different meanings to each one, he is unusual to the human behavior, and he is classified as a ‘him’. There are dozens and dozens of Little Red Riding Hood stories from all over the world, each country and each point in history has its own versions with its own meaning and moral codes. So to bring out the original kid story versus the first one ever on paper helped me classify the variations between them two. The moral of the story I got from Little Red Riding Hood is to never talk to strangers or otherwise they will kill you without purpose, and that is what makes them monsters.
Cohen, Jeffrey. Monster Theory. 1996. Biography.
This book has sources to use a grading scale and rate the sources using the Monster Thesis. Looking up Jeffrey Cohen, he is a journalist, free lance reporter, writer, and loves writing screen plays. I used this for some of my sources because it allowed me to include theories inside my paper.
Mech, L. David. Wolf. Doubleday, 2012.
This book explains what is a wolf, how it is used in folklore and tribes, and the power within the wolf; physical and mental. David Mech is a professor in and chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is known for best selling author and journalist. Im going to use this in my essay to back up thesis four.
Reynolds, Angela J. The Better to See You With: Peering into the Story of Little Red Riding Hood,1695-1939. Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children [serial online]. Spring 2018 2018;16(1):14-20. Available from: Education Research Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 18, 2018.
In this article, Angela J. Reynolds reports how the story ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ fascinated her since childhood. She finds history and more knowledge to the tale which is described in the article. Angela is the Community Engagement Coordinator for a Library in Nova Scotia, Canada. She has been reviewing children’s books and audios since 1996, and spends her spare time reading. I will use this article to elaborate the history behind the tale and go more in depth of the story being told.
Schell, Heather. “The big bad wolf: Masculinity and genetics in popular culture.” Literature and Medicine 26.1 (2007): 109-125.
This written work gives a rundown on sexual identities and to why werewolves are mostly males. The belief that men are kin to dogs and wolves. Heather Schell is faculty member and professor at The George Washington University. I will use quotes and information on the masculinity of werewolves.