The short story Little Red Riding Hood is one of the world’s best-known fairy tales. It is a folktale of European origin and there are many other variants from around the world. The Brothers Grimm collected the tale in their Children’s and Household Tales and there exists a much more sinister Italian version named La Finta Nonna (‘The False Grandmother’). However, most scholars date Charles Perrault’s Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (1697) as the first ‘fixed’ version of the tale.
The Short Story of
Little Red Riding Hood
by Charles Perrault
Once upon a time, there lived in a certain village, a little country girl, the prettiest creature was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grand-mother doted on her much more. This good woman got made for her a little red riding-hood; which became the girl so extremely well, that every body called her Little Red Riding-Hood.
One day, her mother, having made some girdle-cakes, said to her:
“Go, my dear, and see how thy grand-mamma does, for I hear she has been very ill, carry her a girdle-cake, and this little pot of butter.”
Little Red Riding-Hood set out immediately to go to her grand-mother, who lived in another village. As she was going thro’ the wood, she met with Gaffer Wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he durst not, because of some faggot-makers hard by in the forest.
He asked her whither she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and hear a Wolf talk, said to him:
“I am going to see my grand-mamma, and carry her a girdle-cake, and a little pot of butter, from my mamma.”
“Does she live far off?” said the Wolf.
“Oh! ay,” answered Little Red Riding-Hood, “it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village.”
“Well,” said the Wolf, “and I’ll go and see her too: I’ll go this way, and you go that, and we shall see who will be there soonest.”
The Wolf began to run as fast as he could, taking the nearest way; and the little girl went by that farthest about, diverting herself in gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and making nosegays of such little flowers as she met with. The Wolf was not long before he got to the old woman’s house: he knocked at the door, tap, tap.
“Your grand-child, Little Red Riding-Hood,” replied the Wolf, counterfeiting her voice, “who has brought you a girdle-cake, and a little pot of butter, sent you by mamma.”
The good grand-mother, who was in bed, because she found herself somewhat ill, cry’d out:
“Pull the peg, and the bolt will fall.”
The Wolf pull’d the peg, and the door opened, and then presently he fell upon the good woman, and ate her up in a moment; for it was above three days that he had not touched a bit. He then shut the door, and went into the grand-mother’s bed, expecting Little Red Riding-Hood, who came some time afterwards, and knock’d at the door, tap, tap.
Little Red Riding-Hood, hearing the big voice of the Wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grand-mother had got a cold, and was hoarse, answered:
“‘Tis your grand-child, Little Red Riding-Hood, who has brought you a girdle-cake, and a little pot of butter, mamma sends you.”
The Wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, “Pull the peg, and the bolt will fall.”
Little Red Riding-Hood pulled the peg, and the door opened. The Wolf seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes:
“Put the cake, and the little pot of butter upon the bread-bin, and come and lye down with me.”
Little Red Riding-Hood undressed herself, and went into bed; where, being greatly amazed to see how her grand-mother looked in her night-clothes, she said to her:
“Grand-mamma, what great arms you have got!”
“That is the better to hug thee, my dear.”
“Grand-mamma, what great legs you have got!”
“That is to run the better, my child.”
“Grand-mamma, what great ears you have got!”
“That is to hear the better, my child.”
“Grand-mamma, what great eyes you have got!”
“It is to see the better, my child.”
“Grand-mamma, what great teeth you have got!”
“That is to eat thee up.”
And, saying these words, this wicked Wolf fell upon poor Little Red Riding-Hood, and ate her all up.
From this short story easy we discern
What conduct all young people ought to learn.
But above all, young, growing misses fair,
Whose orient rosy blooms begin t’appear:
Who, beauties in the fragrant spring of age,
With pretty airs young hearts are apt t’engage.
Ill do they listen to all sorts of tongues,
Since some inchant and lure like Syrens’ songs.
No wonder therefore ’tis, if over-power’d,
So many of them has the Wolf devour’d.
The Wolf, I say, for Wolves too sure there are
Of every sort, and every character.
Some of them mild and gentle-humour’d be,
Of noise and gall, and rancour wholly free;
Who tame, familiar, full of complaisance
Ogle and leer, languish, cajole and glance;
With luring tongues, and language wond’rous sweet,
Follow young ladies as they walk the street,
Ev’n to their very houses, nay, bedside,
And, artful, tho’ their true designs they hide;
Yet ah! these simpering Wolves! Who does not see
Most dangerous of Wolves indeed they be?