Little Red Riding Hood Setting

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson describes the time and place in which 'Little Red Riding Hood' is set. We will discover details from various versions of the story that provide insight into the fairy tale's setting.

Variations on a Theme

'Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen.'
Charles Perrault, 'Little Red Riding Hood' ('Le Petit Chaperon rouge'), 1697.

Fairy tales have a trademark beginning: once upon a time. Fairy tales also share common story elements. Girl or boy is quested on a mission, something bad happens, hero learns from mistake.

The setting is the time and place in which a story occurs. Let's look at several versions of 'Little Red Riding Hood' in order to learn about its setting.

Once Upon a Time

Most fairy tales take place in an unspecified past time. They begin: 'Once upon a time,' or 'Once there was a girl. . .' This familiar phrase signals to the reader the beginning of a story that may or may not be true. The storyteller or author could make the tale more believable by adding dialogue, character backstory, and conflict. They might integrate real historical events or indicate a precise year. But fairy tales rely on their ambiguous setting. 'Once upon a time' whisks readers and listeners off to a faraway magical place, out of time, not on any map.

Into the Woods

In 'Little Red Riding Hood,' there are three main locations: the village, the woods, and Grandmother's house. Some versions omit the village, merely indicating that the girl is traveling to visit her Grandmother.

In Perrault's version, Little Red describes her destination as 'beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village.' According to the Brothers Grimm, 'The grandmother lived out in the woods, a half hour from the village.'

The woods are dense - a dangerous place for a young girl. Yet, she seems oblivious to any threat. A trail leads through the woods, connecting two villages. Some versions describe forking trails, and another describes the journey along a road. In the Grimms' version, the wolf suggests the girl should pick flowers on her way through the woods to bring as a gift to the Grandmother. Of course, this is a ruse to buy him time so that he can arrive at the cottage first.

Little Red and the Wolf in the Woods
in the woods

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