Saturday, April 14

Grimmoire 26: Little Red Cap

I'm starting to get deja vu. Not the pleasant kind of dejavu where I go Yeah, I remember this but the kind where I'm beginning to feel that story elements take on a mix-n-match approach. Take one girl, put her in a forest, have her meet a wolf...

Yes, this is Little Red Riding Hood. How she got her nickname is going to sound familiar to any parent: she loved her little hooded cape so much she'd wear it as often as she could. Boys get their lucky shirts and socks and whatnot that are essential for sports, girls like that one pair of jeans that they'll share with their friends four summers running, Red likes her hoodie.

No real revelations in the story itself this time, this chestnut's as old as they come. Innocent Red goes to granny's and the crafty wolf eats her just as he's already eaten her feeble old granny. The huntsman comes along, hears "granny" sleeping off her food coma, discovers it's the wolf and, well now, wait a minute. While the wolf sleeps he cuts open his belly and removes both granny and Red without waking him? He swallowed them whole? Then they fill his belly with heavy rocks and sew him back up? And he wakes up, goes into shock and dies then?

Sounds a bit like those urban legends about people who wake up in their bathtubs with a note and a cell phone telling them they have half an hour to call 911 because their kidneys have been kidnapped. I know I've read this about the belly being refilled with rocks before and it strikes me as both cruel and unusual punishment. What is the logic or reasoning behind not just killing the animal up front and releasing the prisoners within, why go through all that just to let the animal die with the shock and recognition? It isn't like they need to interrogate the wolf for information vital to national security (thus justifying their torture).

Interestingly, the story doesn't end there. The Grimm's continue with "There is also another tale..." where Red is on her way to granny's again, but this time she is all the wiser. She sees the wolf and races ahead to warn granny. This other wolf, older and craftier, waits on the roof of granny's house to pounce on the occupants when they come out. Granny suggests Red take the water that the evening's sausages were cooked in and dump it in the water trough outside. Unable to resist the smell the wolf edges toward the roof, slips and falls into the trough where he breaks his neck and dies. It's a pretty lame coda, and no wonder that version isn't generally known.

The one little detail that I like in all of this is that whenever granny is sick her daughter sends Red to visit with some cake and wine as medicine. I have long thought that sometimes the best way to cure a sick body was to shock the immune system into reacting. Everything we do -- drink plenty of fluids to hydrate and flush the system, alternately feed and starve the fever, vitamins and medicines -- all seems like closing the barn door after the fact. If a person has the stomach for it, why not a nice rich cake and some vino. It's medicinal properties can be argued, but making the sick person comfortable with food can't hurt the psyche. I'm not going to change any science with this thinking, but I honestly don't think it could hurt to try.

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