Modern Adult Little Red Riding Hoods

Beginning in the 1970s, authors began to return to some of the darker themes in the older versions of fairy tales. In particular, writers began to look at the tales through feminist eyes.

In 1971, the poet Ann Sexton published a collection of poems entitled Transformations based on fairy tales. Sexton led a very troubled life, marked by abuse and bipolar disorder. How poetry is confessional and personal. In her fairy tale poems, she moves between personal and societal commentary.

Read – “Red Riding Hood” – Ann Sexton – https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/red-riding-hood/

What do you think this poem was trying to express?


Our next variation is from Angela Carter’s 1979 The Bloody Chamber.

“The Werewolf” – Text

Or listen here.

The third story for this section is from Jamaican-born Canadian speculative fiction writer, Nalo Hopkinson. A brief introduction to her work:

You’ll need your Brooklyn College Library to access this one here:

“Riding the Red” in Black Swan, White Raven, edited by Ellen Datlow. Pages 44-46.

What do you make of these three variations? Why do you think the writer was inspired by or drawn to Little Red Riding Hood? Comment Below.

17 thoughts on “Modern Adult Little Red Riding Hoods

  1. I think the three story was compared by Little Red Riding Hood. “The Werewolf” can be considered as a feminist approach “Little Red Riding Hood” is very similar to the original version.The differences begin with the setting ,characters and ends with the climax. plots develop and the major differences in gender roles differ from one version to the other.

  2. Within the adult versions, the most evident difference between the traditional and the adult version is the gender roles which can draw someone as is in “Little Red Riding Hood” the roles of the little girl, wold, huntsman and grandmother are evident. In “The Werewolf” it made the wolf not as brave compared to the original in which the wolf is brave to lure the child and eat it.

  3. One of the purposes of fairy tales is to help children deal with difficult life situations that come with images of sex and death but presenting them in symbolic form. These versions are based on the same story and deal with similar themes of innocence and danger. However, these versions aim at an adult audience. Angela Carter wrote a collection of feminist stories like The Bloody Chamber and The Werewolf, inspired by the traditional Little Red Riding Hood. The Werewolf story gives a modern and dark twist from the original tale. The main character is no longer viewed as a young, innocent girl attacked by a wolf but instead challenges the idea that unmarried women are distressed. For instance, Angela Carter describes the young girl as independent and able to protect herself with a knife in case of danger. At the end of the story, the grandmother died by the villagers and her granddaughter. While, in the traditional fairy tale of the little red riding hood, the young girl and the grandmother were saved by the hunter, who appears to be a strong man who is not afraid of danger. We can conclude from Charte’s stories that female characters are strong, independent, and not needed to be saved.

  4. These three variations added additional layers of depth to the more traditional little red riding hood stories that I remember from my childhood. They made explicit the darker themes that are always present in little red riding hood of assault, death, abuse, and mistrust but are often hidden because of the intended audience of the fairy tale. Each author came away with a different reading of the classic tale. Anne Sexton explored how the baggage of trauma followed her throughout life no matter her locality and no matter how well she can function in polite society. Her mind always found its way back to her childhood bed. This is contrasted to the trauma little red riding hood and her grandmother experienced in being eaten by the wolf. They are reborn and brought back into the world no more harmed than they went in. I interpreted this ending to the poem as Anne longing for that re-birth moment that occurs in the version of little red riding hood that she chose, where perhaps the bed in her new home may not be stale. I believe that Angela Carver’s motivation for re-working little red riding hood was to subvert some of the themes in little red riding hood that are taken as a given such as how family must be listened to and should be trusted. Through making the grandmother a witch, and the wolf, and by giving little red riding hood her father’s knife, little red riding hood is made into her own protector against a world more uncertain than even the ominous introduction of the devil being as real as you or I could have let on. Nalo Hopkin’s version is told from the perspective of the grandmother, trying to warn her daughter about those who may pray on her granddaughter as she reaches puberty and the “red riding hood” that comes with it. The oral tradition is something that is important to Nalo, and I think that telling the story from the perspective of the grandmother orating to the mom, an often overlooked but pivotal figure in little red riding hood, is significant to the impact and message that this version has.

  5. “The Werewolf” was a lot creepier than I expected it to be, and at first it felt like the perspective of the wolf and I thought it was only going to be about wolves and then little red riding hood came into the picture. It was very different and slightly confusing, I think what i understood was that the grandmother was either a werewolf or transforming into one I wasn’t sure why she would get beaten to death otherwise. That part was kind of insane, the fact that the grandmother was being beaten to death, I mean werewolf or not no one deserves something like that (unless they’re a serial killer). the story “riding the red” was also a bit confusing at first it felt like a normal story using “wolfie” as a term for a man she probably shouldn’t be flirting with. She flirts with him and I suppose teases him and she expects him to eventually do something about it as men normally do which is what i got from “his turn” but it was a lot worse than she expected and she’s trying to worn her daughter and granddaughter of the dangers of being wild and thinking because you’re young nothing can harm you. Then it began to seem less figurative and more like the story of red riding hood at the end, unless that was her death knocking on the door, it’s ossible as well. just all felt very ambiguous

    1. Aileen, I definitely agree with you! The werewolf was seen as a general evil creepy wolf. In the adult version of Little Red Riding Hood, it was more intense as to where the grandmother was beaten to death. Not till the very end where the ending started to be similar to red riding hood.

  6. These three variations go to show how stories can change overtime while still getting passed on from generation to generation. I think out of the three versions, Riding the Red by Nalo Hopkinson was the most interesting. It was written in the grandmothers perspective. It confused me a little at first but it was still super engaging to see it from a different point of view. The poem by Anne Sexton has a very important message that I think a lot of adults can relate to. It talks about deception and not trusting everything you see, as Red trusts the wolf blindly. It also had a dark theme and was a little unrealistic as Red and the grandmother are still alive while in the wolf’s belly. Lastly, the version by Angela Carter was also pretty dark. As some of my peers have stated, it takes a more feminist approach since Red is portrayed to be stronger as she takes on the wolf. I think the writers wanted to introduce these fairytales in a way that would be more relatable with the message but also more interesting for adults.

  7. Hello Joseph!
    I enjoy reading your comments and your interpretations of the different versions of the Little Red Riding Hood.
    Like you, I have the same thoughts about Carver’s versions. She describes the birth process when the wolf eats grandma and Little Red Riding Hood. She mentioned the that the wolf have a big belly like a 9 months of pregnancy, then the huntsman perform a C-section and took out the little girl. As you a rebirth and the chance to begin in a new slate.

  8. These three variations were a lot more darker and in depth compared to the other variations. I think the writer was inspired or drawn in by little red because there’s a lot of room for interpretation and creation of your own variation. It’s also dark and gives a good base foundation for an adult version of the story.

  9. Hi Maayan, I completely agree with your comment. I can see how you tie the themes of innocence and danger to an older audience because I’m sure kids would be terrorized after reading. I also believe it is pretty cool to have stories for the adult audience as well, made by adults.

    1. Hi Karen and Maayan, I have to agree with the both of you. With it being such a dark storyline, children would have not liked the story. They’ve would’ve been so traumatized by it all. Although it is nice to have a more “mature” version of the story so adults can enjoy it as well

  10. I thought that these variations were very interesting and noticed that they were more graphic and dark. I think that the writer was inspired by/drawn to the little Red Riding Hood because it is a story that many of us are familiar with, but a twist was added to fit a more mature/ adult audience. I thought that “The werewolf” was very dark and you can tell right away from the beginning of the story (for example, the devil holding picnics in the graveyard with witches, and digging up corpses to eat). It is very fascinating to see the different variations of this fairytale and how it is altered depending on the targeted audience.

  11. The tale itself can have a bit of a darkness to it. With that said it may be too dark for children. So as we grow up and go through certain experiences as adults and our reading type expands we enjoy authors pushing the limits with their stories. It would also be pretty boring if everyone wrote the same adaptation of a tale, it would just be a whole lot of repetition. These authors may have been drawn to little red riding hood for many reasons. I think its due to the fact that many versions of events can play out, many characters can be chosen and changed & many lessons and themes can be taught throughout.As adult readers we always look for something more from a story and these authors just wanted to give us more to a classic tale from childhood.

  12. These three versions are more mature because it contains graphic language made for adults. The writer was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood because there were different versions and interpitactions of that story which allowed them to become creative and write their own variation. This story is very popular amongst children so writing an adult version was a way for them to also enjoy it.

  13. These adult versions are very much detailed beyond words. The themes presented ar also heavier and intense. The werewolf paints a very horrific picture for listeners, more so allowing them to know the true dangerous results of being in a situation like that. Others used a creative and oddly mature sense of figuration in their works, specifically Anne Saxtons version. Seeing her referencing Johnny Carson gave me a good idea of what kind of creative I was looking at. The traditional telling’s of red riding hood are more straight forward, and not as explicit in the gory detailing of what the werewolf did and did not do.

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