November 15, 2013
Do Folktales Evolve Like Biological Species?

We all know the story: Once upon a time there was a young girl who took a walk through the woods to visit her grandmother, carrying a basket of goodies. When she arrived she found her granny ill in bed.
But something else was wrong.
Why did Granny’s eyes look so big?! And her ears?! And her teeth?! By the time the girl finally realized that “Granny” was, in fact, a wolf in disguise, it was too late—she was gobbled up in an instant. And that was the end of Little Red Riding Hood. 
Or was it? Maybe the story you know has the little girl rescued by a passing huntsman, who cuts her out of the wolf’s belly and kills the beast. Or perhaps her father stormed in with a shotgun, and blew the wolf’s head off just as he was about to devour her. In French and Italian oral tradition, the girl doesn’t need any man to rescue her—she uses her own wits to escape from the wolf. (Interestingly, this more empowered heroine has been reincarnated in some modern versions of the tale, such as Angela Carter’s Company of Wolves, David Slade’s superb Hitchcockian fairy-tale movie Hard Candy and the recent Hollywood flop Red Riding Hood).
Read more. [Image: Gustav Dore]

Do Folktales Evolve Like Biological Species?

We all know the story: Once upon a time there was a young girl who took a walk through the woods to visit her grandmother, carrying a basket of goodies. When she arrived she found her granny ill in bed.

But something else was wrong.

Why did Granny’s eyes look so big?! And her ears?! And her teeth?! By the time the girl finally realized that “Granny” was, in fact, a wolf in disguise, it was too late—she was gobbled up in an instant. And that was the end of Little Red Riding Hood.

Or was it? Maybe the story you know has the little girl rescued by a passing huntsman, who cuts her out of the wolf’s belly and kills the beast. Or perhaps her father stormed in with a shotgun, and blew the wolf’s head off just as he was about to devour her. In French and Italian oral tradition, the girl doesn’t need any man to rescue hershe uses her own wits to escape from the wolf. (Interestingly, this more empowered heroine has been reincarnated in some modern versions of the tale, such as Angela Carter’s Company of Wolves, David Slade’s superb Hitchcockian fairy-tale movie Hard Candy and the recent Hollywood flop Red Riding Hood).

Read more. [Image: Gustav Dore]

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