Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood

*** Just a quick head's up on this particular A to Z post, as it brings with it some slightly more adult themes. 

Along with the often violent themes accompanied with many of our favorite fairy tales, there has been some interest in the often sexual nature of these stories. I can think of no two stories that demonstrate this more than that of Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood

Charles Perrault's Little Red Riding Hood is the most obvious of the two, red being the color most often associated with sexuality. In one interpretation of the story, young Red's venturing out into the forrest alone is a metaphorical sexual awakening, the red cloak she wears a physical representation of her intimate desires. There is a definite sexual undertone to the relationship between Red and the Wolf, and it can therefore be understood that the wolf is the corresponding sexual predator, a threat to her innocence. 

Thus Perrault warns good little girls about the dangers of talking to strangers and the moral of the tale becomes one of slut shaming, predicated on an early understand of rape culture . . . the general idea being "caution toward sexuality, for fear of repercussion". 

Or, you know, it could just be a story about a little girl who goes off into the woods and almost gets killed by a wolf. Whatever. 

The story of Rapunzel is one similarly representative of sexual awakening. Rapunzel is locked away in a tower at the tender age of twelve, the age generally associated with female transition into puberty. In essence, she is barred from her own sexual development. It is interesting then, isn't it, that a woman's hair is often associated with female sexuality. Long, unbound hair is symbolic of sexual intent, and in Rapunzel's case, it grows long and longer as she remains shut away from the world. And men. Even more interesting then when the sorceress finds out about her encounter with the prince, and punishes her by cutting off her long locks, symbolically castrating her. 

It's interesting to note that in the Grimm Brother's 1857 version of Rapunzel, the sorceress who holds her captive finds out about her visitations from the prince when she accidentally asks why pulling up the prince is so much easier than pulling up the sorceress. However, in the original 1812 version, Rapunzel betrays their secret when she asks why her clothes have grown too tight, revealing that she has become pregnant through her trysts with the prince.

My favorite version:
Disney's Tangled.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is Fairy Tales. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you'd like to check out the other participants, simply click here


  1. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I can totally see it now you mention it. I love the original version of Rapunzel, where she is found out through pregnancy. It just makes more sense than the other versions.

  2. Wow, Little Red will never be the same for me. I had never, ever thought about it that way. I guess it all goes back to my old literature classes where the teacher would ask what the author was intending to say. I would usually miss all that undertone of a story.

  3. There are great interpretations of the tales. Very Jungian. I love that you used Rackham's illustrations. I have an old book with these very picture's in it!

  4. I must be the densest creature in the world as I never saw either of these as having sexual overtones. But when I think of these, I think of the Bugs Bunny versions...he was always making fun of classic things (Barber of Seville - funniest thing ever!). I seem to remember Elmer Fudd as Red. lol

  5. The wolf call for women we know very well and the red cape gives it away. My mom's favourite fairy tale was Rapunzel and I liked it until I read what she said to the witch. I thought she was just plain stupid. A real dumb blonde. I also thought, "how did she get 2 kids later on?" Not until many years later when I bought another book with the Grimm Fairy Tales and read the original versions did it make much more sense. She wasn't a stupid blond but just naïve which is more believable.

  6. I must be pretty dense too! My favorite little red story is the movie Hoodwinked (first one). Such a cute and funny kids' movie. Love that Granny Puckett is a hard core extreme sports addict!! And the wolf is innocent:)

  7. I didn't know about the 1812 ending of Rapunzel. Much earthier than modern interpretations :)
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
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  8. She became pregnant? Didn't know that ending.

  9. Wow. I never thought about it before but it's really obvious when you lay it out like that.

  10. Of course, there's also the whole "eating" thing with the wolf.
    Not to say anything, but Rapunzel's not the only one of those that involved pregnancy. I'll wait till tomorrow to see what you have to say about that, though.

    1. Yeah, tomorrow's post will feature a similar theme...

  11. I read a version of "Rapunzel" to my daughter last night from one of her many princess storybooks, and in this one the prince was bringing Rapunzel a little bit of silk each day so she could build a ladder. I looked at my daughter and said, "Would have been better if he'd just brought a ladder from wherever he lived, don't you think?" My daughter agreed: "Stupid prince."

  12. i knew about the rapunzel, but i didn't think that red was like that. now it's apparent.

  13. It's interesting how a lot of these fairy tales are a lot darker than we realize as kids. I prefer the innocent and fun versions, a la Disney. Love Tangled!

  14. Blog hopping on the 21st day of the #Challenge. This is an interesting theme and I love the blog presentation. Focused, uncluttered, easy to read. Congratulations.

  15. Well LRRH is one of my fav tales. My daughter loves Rapunzal! We've watched the move like a billion times. It's a good thing I'm down with the kid movies. :)