Red Riding Hood Redux

February 16, 2014 at 8:15 am (Faery tales) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Cloaked in Red is a collection of short stories that retell the classic fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” All the stories were written by Vivian Vande Velde.

The author’s note in the collection goes into a bit of detail about how the collection came about, including examining exactly how ridiculous the original story is, even by fairy tale standards. This is what Vivian has to say about Little Red Riding Hood:

We are never told Little Red Riding Hood’s age, but her actions clearly show that she is much too young, or too dimwitted, to be allowed out of the house alone.

But apparently Little Red’s mom hasn’t noticed this.

When I was a little girl, my mother was nervous about my crossing the street without adult supervision. But fairy-tale characters do not make good role models. Goldilocks’ parents not only let let her play in the bear-infested woods, they neglect to give her that most basic advice: “Don’t break into strangers’ homes.”

There are other examples of irresponsible adults in fairy tales. The miller in “Rumpelstiltskin” hands his daughter over to a king whose royal motto is “Spin straw into gold or die.” And Rapunzel’s mom and dad trade her to a witch for a garden salad.

We won’t even get into the issue of stepmothers.

Few authors can make their notes laugh-out-loud funny, but Vivian Vande Velde has a uniquely twisted style of telling things that either comes off as charming or annoying. I found her author’s note both amusing and charming. This is not the first book of hers that I have read; I’ve enjoyed many of her works, especially this one. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I have a fascination for witches. Though Vivian writes for a younger crowd, I’ve never felt that I was too old to be reading her books.

And I quite enjoyed Cloaked in Red.

Cloaked in Red has eight new versions of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. Red gets named. We get to meet her family as more than just cardboard characters. We learn more about the wolf and the woodcutter. There are surprise twists. Within the many point of views, there is history and fantasy and fun.

The stories all begin in the usual way.

“Once upon a time, after fashion was discovered but before people had makeovers on TV” (p.16) begins the tale of Red Cloak. Meg (Red) is shy and doesn’t like to stand out, much like me, and is horrified when her mother dyes her cloak bright red. This strong desire to avoid notice is what brings about her fateful meeting with the wolf. What Meg discovers, by the end, is the moral of the story.

“Once upon a time, before department stores and designer labels” (p.32) begins the tale of the Red Riding Hood Doll. Here Georgette is a seamstress. She is tired of this life and wishes for a child but not a marriage. When one of her customers complains about a fancy red cloak, Georgette creates a doll out of it and then uses a spell to turn the doll (Red) real. This does not go well (remember that other wooden doll who wished to be a real boy). Georgette concludes that often children can be more trouble than pleasure.

“Once upon a time, long after people had found out that their families could sometimes be an embarrassment, but before there were advice columnists you could complain to” (p.48) begins the tale of Little Red Riding Hood’s Family. Roselle (Red) is exasperated and embarrassed by her parents. Roselle is the responsible one in the family and because of this is the one who has to visit Granny in the woods. Granny, like Roselle’s parents, has an irresponsible nature and a secret. As does Roselle. Secrets abound in this charming tale.

“Once upon a time, before online dating services” (p.58) begins the tale of Granny and the Wolf. This is, obviously, Granny’s story. Granny’s name is Nelda and she has an unwanted suitor. Granny, also, is a friend to animals (a PETA member before there was PETA). Problems occur when Scarlet (Red) pops in for a visit and a series of hilarious, slap shot, events unfold.

“Once upon a time, before eyeglasses were invented” (p.81) begins the tale of Deems the Wood Gatherer. It is a delightful story of a near-sighted (like me) woodcutter. He inadvertently is also a friend to all, both woodland and fairy tale characters. He also likes being a woodcutter despite his handicap and no glasses! The problem is that he lives near an odd woods with a bad reputation. Can you guess what happens next? Probably not, but in the end, the woodcutter goes home happy.

“Once upon a time, after books were invented but before TV and movies” (p.92) begins the tale of Why Willy and His Brother Won’t Amount to Anything. Here Isobel (Red) lives next to an annoying little boy named Willy. Misunderstandings abound in this tale. You know how it  is with little boys who have overactive imaginations and live near the woods! There is a surprise and delightful twist at the end.

“Once upon a time, before superhighways and hotel chains” (p.100) begins the tale of The Little Red Headache. This is the Wolf’s tale. Here the wolf and Red cannot communicate as they don’t speak the same language. In spite of this, the wolf tries to do the right thing as he is a proper and well brought up young wolf.  There is much confusion and all the wolf ends up with is a headache and I am sure that from then on out the wolf will be wary of little girls in red cloaks, grannies and woodcutters.

“Once upon a time, before malls, boutiques, or online clothing catalogs” (p.109) begins the tale of Little Red Riding Hood’s Little Red Riding Hood. This is the cloak’s tale and it involves a fairy godmother very much kin to Sleeping Beauty’s fairies. Ruby (Red) is gifted with an intelligent and self-aware cloak that she is too self-centered to appreciate. Eventually all ends well for the cloak.

I quite enjoyed the twists and turns in all these stories that started in the conventional way and ended as they needed to.

All pages numbers taken from:

Cloaked in Red

by Vivian Van Velde

Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2010

This week’s synchronicitic finds:

An absolutely gorgeous cloak is here on The Mary Sue and Etsy and Fashionably Geek. Oh, too have extra money to spend on this. But then where would I wear it? I’m not really a cape person though I tried to be one at sixteen (I sewed my own and seldom wore it – it was a small town and I did not yet have the attitude for cape wearing).

Epbot has a charming story about a young girl and her steam-punk twist on Little Red Riding Hood. Go. Read. Enjoy.

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