Text of Story
In France in the 1600’s, when Perrault wrote his version, titled "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge," a chaperon was worn by women of aristocracy and middle class. Thus for a village girl like Little Red Riding Hood to wear a "red chaperon" made her a nonconformist. Clothing codes were strictly enforced during Perrault’s time. Thus the wearing of the red cap is one way that Perrault sets up Little Red Riding Hood as not doing what one should. It also contributes to why she is punished in the end. 
In Erich Fromm’s psychoanalytical interpretation the red cap is a symbol of menstruation.
In the Myth-ritual interpretation, a red hood is a symbol of the May Queen. During the May celebration the May Queen would wear a flowery hood made of white or red roses as a crown.
In the wolf-solar interpretation,
the red cap symbolizes the rising sun.
In the historical/political interpretation ,
the red cap
is a symbol of the wearing of Republican caps in honor of the French
Revolution. The version of the Little Red Riding Hood
from Tieck’s play,
"The Life and Death of Little Red Riding Hood: A Tragedy," is
where Perrault’s chaperon was changed into a cap
Wolf or Werewolves
Thus, Marianne Rumpf argues that the original villain in
was probably a werewolf, and that
Perrault in his version changed the werewolf to a simple wolf since
in his time the witchcraft craze had subsided.
The Brothers Grimms' happy ending is one of the biggest and obvious differences in their version and previous literary tales. For a tail to be a folktale the "happy ending" is an indispensable component. It is what makes folk tales different from literary tales. 
The Grimms' happy ending also reflected educational views of their day. It was thought that a child must derive moral lessons from every event, experience, or story to which he is exposed. Thus the Grimms transformed Perrault’s tale from a satire to a tale about reward and punishment and learning a lesson. 
According to the wolf-solar theory, Little Red Riding Hood represents a new year. She needs to be rescued or the story would be incomplete. 
Wolf - Solar Theory
Scholars, Alan Dundes and Jack Zipes, criticize the
use of traditional interpretations of sunrise/sunset
for Little Red Riding Hood.
These interpretations use the color red of the hood for the basis of
their interpretations. The red cap was introduced in the
first literary versions of the tale. It was
not in the independent oral tales from which the
story is based and from the time where the rituals were believed.
The Grimms used contemporary images of contemporary political events
in their adaptation of a traditional story.
This is one of the reasons for the change in the ending from Perrault’s
version. Supporters of the Political Interpretation suggest that
a positive ending was
needed to be used as motivation as means of political encouragement
inspire hope for freedom in an age of bondage.
Fromm’s Psychoanalytical Interpretation
The warnings by her mother of "do not run off the path" and "break the bottle," are warnings against sex and losing her virginity. Little Red Riding Hood promises to obey. This contract is broken when Little Red Riding Hood is tempted by sensuous delights of the forest.
In this interpretation the wolf is an expression of animal (male)
The moral of the tale is a warning
of the danger of sex (the wolf) and the consequences of violating Mom’s
The huntsman that is in Grimms version was first introduced
in 1800 in Tiecks’
play-version of Little Red Riding Hood,
"The Life and Death of Little Red Riding Hood: A Tragedy."
Bettelheim’s Psychoanalytical Interpretation
Little Red Riding Hood lays the grounds for her own seduction and rape.
She wears a red cap and she stops to listen to a stranger,
the wolf. Her "dallying" of picking flowers, or her undisciplined ways,
lead her to where the wolf is waiting.
Because of her acts she is responsible for her own rape.
Little Red Riding Hood wants to break from the moral restraints of
her society to enjoy her own sensuality (inner nature) and nature's
Where order and discipline reign young girls will be safe from both their
inner sexual drives and outer natural forces. Where inner and outer nature
are out of control chaos and destruction reign.
For this indulgence in sensuality, more specifically - sexual pleasure,
and her disobedience, she must be punished.
1. Alan Dundes, ed, Little Red Riding Hood (Madison Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 19. Back
2. Jack Zipes, "A Second Gaze at Little Red Riding Hood's Trials and Tribulations," The Lion and the Unicorn 7/8 (1983): 80. Back
3. Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood (London: Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc. 1983), 6. Back
4. Maria M. Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimm Fairy Tales (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 39. Back
5. Zipes, Trials and Tribulations,7. Back
6. Dundes, 73. Back
7. Ibid., 189. Back
8. Ibid., 148. Back
9. Ibid., 149. Back
10. Ibid., 82. Back
11. Ibid., 183. Back
12. Ibid., 77. Back
13. Christa Kamenetsky, The Brothers Grimm and Their Critics: Folktales and the Quest for Meaning (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1992), 257. Back
14. Dundes, 80. Back
15. Ibid., 182. Back
16. Ibid., 100. Back
17. Zipes, Trials and Tribulations, 17. Back
18. Dundes, 100 Back
19. Zipes, Trials and Tribulations, 17. Back
20. Dundes, 183. Back
21. Ibid., 211. Back
22. Julius E. Heuscher, A Psychiatric Study of Myths and Fairy Tales: Their Origin, Meaning and Usefulness, 2nd ed. (Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas, 1974), 99. Back
23. Zipes, "A Second Look", The Lion and the Unicorn, 16. Back
24. Maria M. Tatar, Off With Their Heads!: Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 36. Back
25. Zipes, "A Second Look", The Lion and the Unicorn, 81. Back
26. Dundes, 151. Back
27. Ibid., 218. Back
28. Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography ( FF Communications, 2nd rev., no. 184. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1961), 125. Back
29. Zipes, Trials and Tribulations, 55. Back
30. Ibid., 57. Back
31. Ibid., 56. Back
32. Ibid., 16. Back
Annotated by Sherry Lake © 1999,
Last Updated: December 9, 1999