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Value in Fairy Tales: Appropriations of Little Red Riding Hood

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Introduction

Value in Fairy Tales: Appropriations of Little Red Riding Hood Lloyd Ruz; Extension English; w/ Miss Boyd Critical Response Essay; Year 11 Preliminary; June 2007 Fairy tales give us an insight into the values of the society in which they were written. In different appropriations, we are presented with the author's reaction to the values of their society and/or the values of previous societies. Through the study of these appropriations we observe the relationship between the values of author and context, and are able to compare these values to those of a changing world. This concept of value in fairy tales can be applied to a study of the various appropriations of Little Red Riding Hood. The purpose and value of the tale has been altered through aspects of the narrative that have been added, omitted or transformed over time. The authors either reinforce or challenge their society's values through their use and subversion of the conventions of the fairy tale genre, specifically in relation to the role of women and through the use of allegorical techniques such as symbols, archetypes and motifs. The following appropriations of Little Red Riding Hood are key examples of how value is shaped by the author's specific context and how values change through time: The Grandmother's Tale - the 'original' tale from French Oral Tradition; Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault and The Company Of Wolves by Angela Carter. ...read more.

Middle

Perrault wrote his story with the specific intention of 'maintain[ing] traditional ideas about the role of women...his tales demonstrated the "correct" behaviour of women in his class.' (1) Perrault's Little Red Riding Hood is a na�ve and 'hapless creature' whose loss of innocence 'is her own blessed fault.' (1) The beautiful young girl wandering through the woods attracts the lustful attention of the wolf. Her na�vety is stressed when, 'The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."' (4) The heroine is 'foolish' enough to talk to the wolf, which leads to her death and the death of her grandmother. Perrault also played with the idea that the girl's disobedience played a part in her downfall, the girl was asked to go 'directly to grandmother's' (4) but instead, she stops and talks to the wolf. In his appropriation, Perrault has shown a definite shift in the value of women. Assuming the values of Perrault's story, the values of 18th century France, women are na�ve 'hapless creatures' for whom the impending loss of innocence awaits, should they stray from the path of righteousness and morality. The literal value of women, as commodities, is one that was also important to this society. Women had to be chaste and virginal to assure they married well. To be woman was to be chaste, obedient and pure. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this society, the fear was of the intrusion of a sexual encounter but also of the loss of chastity associated with sexual acts outside of marriage. A woman's virtue was defined by her sexual purity; any indication of a loss of this purity put a woman's virtue in jeopardy. Carter completely subverts the notion of the fear of rape that had been instilled in women long before her time. Reflective of her 'bitch' feministic beliefs, the heroine in Carter's appropriation loses her fear of the wolf. Carter's reflection of her context is that women do not have to be submissive to men and that they need not feel guilty for exploring and enjoying their sexuality. This challenges the fear of rape and the guilt that was thrust upon the women of both her society and the societies that preceded her. Attitudes have changed through the ages. Different societies have had different opinions and attitudes towards sex, violence, evil and the notions of femininity and masculinity. Different appropriations of Little Red Riding Hood had a variety of agendas, ranging from celebrating a young women's resilience to warning girls of the dangers of promiscuity and even to empowering women through sexual aggression. Through the study of these appropriations, we learn to appreciate the values of the author and try to understand how these values were shaped in relation to those of the society. When values have been established, we can compare them and see how changes in attitudes, over time, are reflective of a changing world. By Lloyd Ruz. ...read more.

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