- Revisioning Red Riding Hood Around the World: An Anthology of International Retellings ed. by Sandra L. Beckett
Sandra L. Beckett has taken on the grand (and ultimately never-ending) quest of gathering together international literary variants of “the world’s most retold fairy tale” (1). Revisioning Little Red Riding Hood Around the World is the result of the editor’s hard work of gathering tales through barriers of language, time, and place for the benefit of all literary and fairy-tale scholars. Beckett brings together “fifty-two retellings of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ which, with two exceptions, have never before been published in English” (3).
The works included in Revisioning Red Riding Hood are organized by theme into seven parts. Beckett makes the argument in her introduction that this organization is less “arbitrary” (4) than one of chronology and does not address the idea of geographic organization at all. This may be frustrating to those scholars who see the value in the historical-geographic approach of folklore studies and in experiencing tales in conversation with their cultural moment. Literary scholars may be equally frustrated by what can seem like prescriptive interpretations of included texts. Frequently, in trying to describe pictures that had to be excluded from the texts, the editorializing becomes especially pronounced. Beckett is understandably trying to make up for the information lost with the illustrations and the idiom of the original language, but the individual introductions can cloud readers’ ability to come to their own interpretations of the tales. Readers who worry about exegesis coloring their perceptions of the stories may wish to read the introductions after they have read the text.
The first part is “Cautionary Tales for Modern Riding Hoods.” These stories take Perrault’s tragic version as their hypotext, and the protagonist rarely escapes unscathed or escapes at all. Mia Sim’s Korean tale, “Ches! Eotteohge alassji? Honjaseo gileul gadaga yugoebeomeul mulrichin bbalganmoja iyagi” (“Pooh! How Did She Know? The Story of a Little Red Riding Hood Who Escaped from Her Abductors,” 39–44), is a cheerful exception in this group of [End Page 354] tales. It is one of the few stories in this part that counsels thoughtful caution rather than abject fear. As Beckett points out, the tales included in this part are the closest to the classic literary fairy tales.
“Contemporary Riding Hoods Come of Age,” the second part, brings together stories that take exception to ideas of timelessness in fairy tales. These stories are more hopeful than the previous set and portray Little Red Riding Hood as an older child, adolescent, or adult who is prepared to take on the Wolf or has already successfully done so. The endings may be happy, but they are not happily-ever-afters. The reader is left with the sense that Little Red Riding Hood has more adventures to go on.
Part 3, “Playing with the Story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,” brings together tales that imbue their narratives with more humor. In this part some authors inject metacommentaries that question the sense of reading and repeating such a ridiculous tale. Other versions use modern technology to rewrite the story, as is the case of the German tale “Das elektrische Rotkäppchen” (“The Electric Little Red Cap,” 153–58) by Janosch, which features clockwork characters and an electrician in place of a woodsman. This part is followed by “Rehabilitating the Wolf,” in which stories seek to make the Wolf a less fearsome character, often by having him become penitent and turn vegetarian.
The Wolf gets his (throughout the book the Wolf is almost always male) own chance at subjectivity in Part 5, “The Wolf’s Story.” Some of these stories reiterate the idea of the Wolf as a sexual predator that occurred in the cautionary tales of Part 1. Excerpts from Pierre Gripari’s Patrouille du Conte (Tale Patrol; 261–69), are among the more satisfying retellings, as they acknowledge the Wolf’s natural role and needs as well as the...