‘Red Riding Hood’ grown-up elements aren’t so far from the original tale

Amanda Seyfried as Valerie ("Red")

“Red Riding Hood,” a retelling of the classic fairy tale directed by Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke and starring Amanda Seyfried, is coming to the theater on March 11.

The Warner Bros production, which receives a PG-13 rating for violence, creature terror and sensuality, generates anticipation due to its gothic influence and darker themes. However, a closer inspection of the children’s tale reveals that the grown-up motif of this thriller doesn’t stray very far from early variations of the story. According to BookRags.com, early versions of Little Red Riding Hood dated back to 14th century France and Italy, hence the “700 year-old legend” suggested by the movie trailer. In these variations, the antagonist isn’t always a wolf but sometimes a werewolf.

The girl usually escapes the wolf’s trap using her own wit and without help from any male figure. This tradition differs from the Brothers Grimm’s 19th century German version “Little Red Cap,” the children’s story as we know today, where a huntsman helps Red and her grandmother kill the wolf.

The earliest printed version of Little Red Riding Hood is the 1697’s Le Petit Chaperon Rouge by Charles Perrault. Perrault was the first to introduce the red color to the girl’s cloak, which has been interpreted to symbolize menstrual blood and her entry into puberty. In this account, Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed with the wolf, which reinforces the sexual connotation.

Shiloh Fernandez & Amanda Seyfried as young lovers

The Perrault’s story didn’t have a happy ending as the wolf ate the girl. The author even included a moral passage, warning red young ladies against advances from wolves (men), especially those who are “charming, quiet, polite.”  

The upcoming Red Riding Hood is about Valerie (Seyfried), a beautiful young woman who is in love with a woodcutter (Shiloh Fernandez) but forced to marry the heir of a rich family (Max Irons). She and her lover were going to elope together when her younger sister is killed by the werewolf. A werewolf hunter (Gary Oldman) who is summoned to kill the beast increases turmoil when he reveals that the werewolf is one among the village people.

Red Riding Hood is very loosely based on the fairy tale even though there are some recurring themes. The fantasy creature, the werewolf, echoes early variations of the story and the director’s Twilight background. The plot parallels Perrault’s motif in that Valerie is attractive and vulnerable, especially when she finds out that her unique connection to the wolf makes her the bait. The sexual awakening theme is also present in Valerie’s young age and infatuated love affair.

The traditional huntsman’s character is updated with the werewolf hunter. However, the woodcutter, who served as Red’s guardian against the wolf in Perrault’s version, is now Valerie’s brooding outcast lover. Part of him represents the dangerous, unknown elements of the woods.

The premise of Red Riding Hood is enticing enough and promises to deliver the thrill and drama from a love triangle and ferocious werewolf hunt. Hopefully, it will be a well thought out coming of age story that conveys educational lessons to the teen and young adult audience it’s expected to draw.

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