Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by The Brothers Grimm

Little Red Riding Hood
George Frederic Watts
source Wikipedia

“Es war einmal eine kleine süße Dirne, die hatte jedermann lieb, der sie nur ansah, am allerliebsten aber ihre Großmutter ……….”

German is not the best of my multiple basic languages, but for this month, I decided to tackle Little Red Riding Hood.  I was hoping that my familiarity with the story would help my stumbling reading and I was right! The story begins with: There once was a sweet little girl who was loved by everyone who saw her, but was most of all loved by her grandmother, … … ”  

Even though this story is a version by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood has existed possibly since before the 10th century, and no one knows definitively where it originated.  There is evidence of it appearing in France in the 10th century, and Italy in the 14th century.  Not only do numerous versions exist but they occur in widely different areas:  La finta nonna (The False Grandmother) in Italy, The Story of Grandmother and even in Oriental tales like Grandaunt Tiger.  Although the first written version appeared in the 17th century (by Charles Perrault), scholars surmise that the tale did indeed originate in the 10th or 11th century in Europe and somehow spread to Asia.

Little Red Riding Hood (1881)
Carl Larsson
source Wikipedia

This German version, was somewhat different from the anglicized versions that I’d read as a child.  In this version, the wolf eats both the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood, whereupon a huntsman arrives, cuts open the wolf’s stomach to free them and puts stones inside him before he sews him up.  The wolf awakes and dies from the weight of the stones.  This was similar to the versions that I read as a child, yet this present version ended with a slight twist:  Little Red Riding Hood meets another Wolf one day, who tries to lure her off the path but, with the wisdom of her first experience, she refuses and arrives at Grandmother’s house in one piece.  The wolf follows, climbs on the roof of the cottage, and plans to eat Little Red Riding Hood when she emerges to make her journey home.  Slyly the Grandmother instructs Little Red Riding Hood to put the water she had used to boil sausages in the trough outside.  The wolf, attracted by the wonderful smell, slides off the roof and drowns in the trough.

Little Red Riding Hood (1883)
Gustave Doré
source Wikipedia

Other tidier versions I’ve read as an adult, have Grandmother merely hiding in the closet to escape the wolf, or the huntsman rescuing Little Red Riding Hood before she is eaten.  Call me bloodthirsty, but I don’t care much for these sanitized versions.   These stories were meant to inculcate caution in children and the thought of being eaten would be much more effective than the possibility of having a little scare before you are rescued.  I imagine, during these times, a properly instilled caution could be the difference between life and death.

What fun to read Little Red Riding Hood in German!  Now I won’t be so intimidated to tackle another German tale!

Further reading:

8 thoughts on “Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by The Brothers Grimm

  1. When I try to learn German again, I must practice with fairytales; it sounds fun. 🙂 I didn't know there was a two-wolf version of Little Red Riding Hood. Heading over to that Natl Geo article!

  2. Wow, those "real" fairytales certainly did have a thing for the most gruesome details! :-O But you're right, they must have had to instill fear in such a graphic way back in those days…

  3. The article gives some interesting details. I was surprised at the two wolf version as well. I almost feel like scouring bookstores to see how many different versions that I can find!

  4. It's fortunate that these tales don't give too much detail. I guess, then the child's imagination could fill in the rest at a level that they were able to deal with. These tales are not nearly as bad as some modern T.V. programs. :-Z

    Have you ever read any of Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales, Marsar? "Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned to Death" or "Rebecca Who Slammed Doors For Fun and Perished Miserably"? They are quite shocking but he makes them funny, so it certainly decreases the "shock-effect". My daughter loves them!

  5. Firstly – well done for reading it in German 🙂

    Secondly – agree with you re. sanitised versions of fairy tales, and I don't agree with the reasons for toning them down in the first place. It's my opinion that children (not *all* children) can sometimes be bloodthirsty little creatures who are more than capable of "handling" these kinds of stories. They're exciting, too, and I don't need explain why it's good for reading to be a thrill for children!

  6. Thanks, O! Well, I may have to revise my comment about sanitized versions. After saying in my comment above to Marian about finding different versions, yesterday I discovered a fable and fairy tale book which includes about five different earlier versions. When I read The Story of Grandmother I was shocked. It's actually quite repellent and disgusting. So I now can see why perhaps original versions have been changed BUT I still don't agree with the modifications of the modern ones, like having grandmother hide in the closet.

    I know what you mean. Most children aren't bothered by them and, as history can attest, they become well-loved tales from childhood.

  7. Oh, I've never heard about the sausage-water version! Interesting! I feel that the "blood-thirsty" versions are more authentic, but reading several of Grimm's tales in a row always puts me in a grim mood (pun totally intended!), because so many bad things happen there!

  8. Yes, the tales can be pretty "Grimm". Ha ha! 😉

    I have plans to read through both the Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen …… a project for another year though.

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