This week is banned book week. In the spirit of standing up against censorship I thought I would share fairy tales that have been banned in the United States, and their very silly reasons for doing so.
In 1987 a children’s book was published by Houghton-Mifflin that retold the Grimm version of Little Red Riding Hood, find a copy here. It was awarded the Caldecott Honor Book Award. In 1990 the school board of a district in Empire, California objected to the book because of the depiction of wine in Red’s basket on the cover.
That same year in Clay County, Florida parents of fifth and sixth graders also challenged the fairy tale because of the wine. Because fifth and sixth graders commonly read picture books in Florida.
The fear in both cases was that the book was promoting alcoholism and drinking to minors. Because grandmothers are commonly under the age of 21 in their school districts, apparently.
In 1991 a Bradford County, Florida school teacher complained that the wolves actions were too violent in this book. Because children should be taught that wolves (both literal and metaphorical) are not dangerous.
Interestingly enough none of these school districts have any problems with the sexuality inherent in the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. The first song ever known to be banned from radio back in 1925 was “How Could Red Riding Hood (Have Been So Very Good)?” by A.P. Randolph. It was banned for “sexual suggestiveness.”
When it comes to Grimm though they keep things pretty prudish, the sexuality is more between the lines than usual. And while Grimm tales have a lot of problems, violence being the least among them in my opinion, a grade school child should be able to read this fairy tale. They are old enough to question and, as all lovers of fairy tales know, nothing breaks the power of a fairy tale like reason.
Just wanted to show what I was talking about earlier with regards to modern retellings of Little Red Riding Hood and the inversion of the roles to be found therin, particularly in modern American retellings.
“Little Red Mugging Hood”
Many modern fairy tale retellings take the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood and flip it to make her the hunter and the wolf the prey. This illustration takes things one step further and also has her hunt the other prey of the wolf. She is no longer acting in self defense (the wolf’s head on the wall proves that) but instead has replaced him and has picked up where he left off with his destructive, devouring ways as she prepares to eat the three little pigs. There’s a line between empowering women to be strong, wily, no longer defenseless, and turning them into needlessly violent characters that seek out defenseless prey themselves for their own sick enjoyment.
The Wolf said, “You know, my dear, it isn’t safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone.”
Red Riding Hood said, “I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid worldview. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way.”
Little Red Riding Hood - A Politically Correct Fairy Tale by Jim Garner
A wood cut depicting the trial of Stubbe Peeter, an accused werewolf, that took place in 1589 in Collin, Germany.
For the vision impaired the image contains several inset images telling the story of the trial. In the back left corner is the crime. The wolf comes upon a child and attempts to take hold of her neck but fails because her collar is too tall and in the way. He is then chased off by a woodsman to eventually be trampled by livestock. In the center in the back are the townspeople of Collin and the nearby villages of Cperadt and Bedbur, many of them armed, several of them would sign an affidavit swearing to the truth of these events that still survives to this day. In the front left Peeter has been lashed to a wheel of torture and is being blindfolded and branded with red hot pinching irons. In the front center he is being hacked at with an ax. In the front right he is beheaded after having finally confessed to the townspeople’s allegations of being a werewolf. In the back right Peeter, his mistress, and his daughter are all being burned at the stake. In the center of the image stands the accused werewolf’s head on a spike set up near the town gate.
As I’ve talked about before there are some who think his true life trial had too many similarities to the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood to be coincidence and it predated the fairy tale by several hundred years.
Little Red Riding Hood is a young tale in that it most probably didn’t develop until the Middle Ages. Most theories seem to agree that in the seventeenth century, sometime after the Thirty Years War in Germany, a fear of wolves and a hysteria about werewolves developed and some think that the tale of Little Red Riding Hood developed right alongside all of that.
In the book The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes, Marianne Rumpf points out some proof that this is true. She says, “Wherever oral versions of the Little Red Riding Hood tale were found later in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they were primarily discovered in these regions where werewolf trials were most common in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries.”
the fairy tale is over
WAKE THE FUCK UP and GROW THE FUCK UP
Keeping the commentary because it is stunningly accurate. This is actually a very true image to one of the versions of Little Red Riding Hood commonly told in France, the one written by Charles Perrault. It’s one of the most jarring versions because in it, as in this image, Red dies and stays dead. The End.
The concept of using fairy tales as a cautionary tale, and as a way to enforce gender roles and class morals, was a completely new one in 1697 and can be safely said to have begun, at least in France, in the court of King Louis XIV. Little Red Riding Hood was meant to be a warning for young girls to be wary of the wolves in the court and to protect their virginity at all costs. For without it you were dead, at least to the upper classes, as it was your only bargaining chip for an upper class husband.
In particular the maidens of the court of King Louis XIV had to look out for his bisexual cross dressing brother. A man who was known to go into the women only salons dressed as a woman, would get into one of the beds with an unsuspecting girl and, sometimes successfully, seduce her with his actions hidden beneath his vast skirts or the bed covers. Truly the end for the girl in question who would have to leave the court in shame and, if she reported it, faced either death or banishment from France as was the law of the time for victims of rape.
Charles Perrault’s message to the young women of court was just that: The fairy tale is over. Wake up and grow up. The End.
First off, I love this twist on Little Red Riding Hood. I love science fiction takes on fairy tales and this one has several extra layers if you consider Star Wars in this particular fairy tale’s context.
Here we have Red casting aside her hood, and with it her innocence and naivety and showcasing her proud and by no means defenseless stance as a Sith warrior. She is not even trying to be sexy here, everything from the cocked hip to the sneer on her lips shows she is just DONE with the helpless girl. She is also showcasing what all of this sexist victimizing crap has driven her to become. I like that.
In the background is the wolf, and I love everything about him from his stance to the position he holds his saber to his bowed head. I think he is meant to symbolize Anakin Skywalker and the only reason I finally decided on that was the mechanical arm. The partially rebuilt body and the jedi garb combines to show a man who wants to be good, but has fallen before hence the lost arm.
His bowed head shows he is fighting his attraction to Red and what she symbolizes (the dark side) but the way he is holding his saber makes it look distinctly phallic and he seems almost ashamed of both this and his attraction and yet his gaze is still directed at her. She symbolizes that which he both wants and yet fears because of what it might make him become.
“Darth Red Hood” by David Ramon
If there is one thing I love to learn more about in my free time it’s fairy tales. To look deeper into these stories that have been told over and over for generations and see the ways they have changed and morphed and twisted to suit each century’s narrative is fascinating to me. And there is no more interesting fairy tale to me than that of Little Red Riding Hood.
The messages about danger in the woods of the world, the constantly shifting symbol of the wolf, and the coming of age of a young girl and what that meant in each century and each society is a very interesting subject to me.
What follows is a short book list of recommended reading for a deeper look at this particular fairy tale along with a few selections that step back and look at fairy tales as a whole, their hidden meanings, and their mysterious pasts.
Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked by Catherine Orenstein My first selection is the book that re-kindled my interest in fairy tales, Catherine Orenstein’s Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked. In it Orenstein covers 10 different versions of the fairy tale in both historical and social context and talks about the implications each had for the society that told it. She writes in a fun and engaging way and doesn’t get you too bogged down in scholarly text or nitpicking. Her leading message throughout is how the story of Little Red Riding Hood serves as a way to measure and gauge views on femininity, womanhood and women’s sexuality throughout history.
The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes If you are looking for a more scholarly approach to Little Red Riding Hood then you should turn to Jack Zipe’s The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood. He explores 35 different versions of the fairy tale and takes into account the historical and political culture that brought rise to each version of the tale. His main focus is on the morality and the values attached to each fairy tale retelling and uses the fairy tale as a lens to examine each society’s views on women in general and sexuality in particular. Probably one of the most fascinating arguments he makes in the book is about the rise of sexism. In earlier versions of the tale Red is wily and saves herself from the foolish wolf, in later versions she is naive and is eaten by the much more savvy wolf. Zipes explores why this is and more.
The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar If my first selection was too hot and my second one too cold this one ought to be just right. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar looks at a single version of 25 different fairy tales and includes fascinating annotations and lovely art that shows you just a few of the interesting origins behind several beloved fairy tales. Whether it’s Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, or even The Little Mermaid, she covers a range of fairy tales from all over Europe and has well researched notes, facts and tidbits about each of them. This book is large and is beautifully bound and illustrated. Perfect for “a bit of light reading” for those just interested in dipping their toe into the pool of fairy tale lore and history.
From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner For another, more general, look at fairy tales from a more scholarly perspective you should try From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner. She writes about fairy tales from a feminist historical perspective and explores how fairy tales have been used and leveraged to oppress and exploit women in cultures throughout history in many ways. A must read source for people interested in doing feminist readings of fairy tales. This also takes things one step further and examines the tellers of these fairy tales and their roles throughout and that was interesting to read about as well. Her main thrust though is an examination of women both in the context of the fairy tale and the context of the teller of the fairy tale.
Off With Their Heads! by Maria Tatar In counterpoint to the above selection and in direct response to Bruno Bettelheim’s classic scholarly fairy tale text The Uses of Enchantment comes Maria Tatar’s Off With Their Heads! In it Tatar refute’s Bettelheim’s claims of fairy tales as a direct result of children’s fears (of castration, or of penis envy to name a few) and are instead a result of parent’s fears for their children. Instead of blaming the children and holding them up as the villains in fairy takes Tatar says it is the parents who mistreat the children and who are the, often violent and murderous, villains in fairy tales. I include this book in the list mainly because it is hard to go anywhere in the study of fairy tale lore and not run up against Bettelheim’s often perverse take on the true psychological origin of fairy tales and I believe Tatar’s book works as a nice rebuttal to all his arguments and more.
I do like the underlying message in this photograph, even if it was just taken in fun. It inverts the cautionary fairy tale where Red is powerless and flees from the wolf to one where the Reds of the world can fight back against the wolf forcing him to flee instead. Yet another showcasing of the transformative power of a fairy tale to reflect the society that tells it.