Charles Perrault's Little Red Riding Hood: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:03 Perrault's Version
  • 0:40 'Little Red Riding Hood'
  • 1:51 Breaking It Down
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Charles Perrault's version of a popular childhood fairy tale offers some distinct differences and symbols for readers. In this lesson, we'll take a look at his 'Little Red Riding Hood' and how it differs from other renditions.

Perrault's Version of a Popular Tale

Unless you've been hiding out under a rock, you've probably heard the story of the girl in the red cape who, on her way to her grandmother's house, encounters a wolf that ultimately re-appears for a dramatic ending.

The story of Red Riding Hood, or even Little Red Cap or Little Red Hat as she's known in other variations, is an old fairy tale told in cultures around the world. Each version might be slightly different, as is the case with the one we're discussing in this lesson, Charles Perrault's ''Little Red Riding Hood.'' It is believed that Perrault's version may be the oldest written variation of the tale. Let's take a look at Perrault's interpretation.

Looking at ''Little Red Riding Hood''

Charles Perrault's tale of the little girl heading to her grandmother's house is not much different than most variations of the story told through the years. The story starts with a little country girl that Perrault identifies as ''the prettiest creature that ever was seen.'' She has been tasked to take a custard and some butter to her grandmother, the same woman who made a red hood for her to wear.

Along the way, she encounters a wolf in the woods. The story tells us that the wolf had a ''great mind to eat her up'' but did not because of workers nearby. Instead, he asks her questions to figure out where she is going, and offers to race the little girl to the grandmother's house.

The young girl gets distracted along the journey, causing the wolf to beat her to the grandmother's house. By the time Red Riding Hood arrives, the Wolf has already eaten the grandmother and is posing as the old woman in her bed.

When she arrives, the wolf (posing as the grandmother) asks her to join him in the bed. Little Red Riding Hood notices the size of her grandmother's arms, legs, ears, eyes, and teeth and remarks about how big each is.

Red Riding Hood's last remark, ''Grandmamma, what great teeth you have got!'' was her last before the wolf responds with, '' That is to eat thee up,'' and gobbles Red Riding Hood whole.

Breaking It Down

Comparing the story to more traditional versions, you can see that the general plot is virtually the same: a young girl heading out to see her grandmother encounters a wolf and then runs into it again at her grandmother's house. Yet, Perrault included some subtle differences.

Here are a few of note:

1. Perrault's version is missing a hunter. In the version of ''Little Red Riding Hood'' presented by the Brothers Grimm, a huntsman appears just at the appropriate time and helps save Red Riding Hood and her grandmother from the wolf's hungry jaws. Perrault's version is much more sinister in that there's no happy ending for either young woman or old.

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