A Little Red Riding Hood Book List

If there is one thing I love to learn more about in my free time it’s fairy tales. To look deeper into these stories that have been told over and over for generations and see the ways they have changed and morphed and twisted to suit each century’s narrative is fascinating to me. And there is no more interesting fairy tale to me than that of Little Red Riding Hood.

The messages about danger in the woods of the world, the constantly shifting symbol of the wolf, and the coming of age of a young girl and what that meant in each century and each society is a very interesting subject to me.

What follows is a short book list of recommended reading for a deeper look at this particular fairy tale along with a few selections that step back and look at fairy tales as a whole, their hidden meanings, and their mysterious pasts.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked by Catherine Orenstein

My first selection is the book that re-kindled my interest in fairy tales, Catherine Orenstein’s Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked. In it Orenstein covers 10 different versions of the fairy tale in both historical and social context and talks about the implications each had for the society that told it. She writes in a fun and engaging way and doesn’t get you too bogged down in scholarly text or nitpicking. Her leading message throughout is how the story of Little Red Riding Hood serves as a way to measure and gauge views on femininity, womanhood and women’s sexuality throughout history.

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes

If you are looking for a more scholarly approach to Little Red Riding Hood then you should turn to Jack Zipe’s The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood. He explores 35 different versions of the fairy tale and takes into account the historical and political culture that brought rise to each version of the tale. His main focus is on the morality and the values attached to each fairy tale retelling and uses the fairy tale as a lens to examine each society’s views on women in general and sexuality in particular. Probably one of the most fascinating arguments he makes in the book is about the rise of sexism. In earlier versions of the tale Red is wily and saves herself from the foolish wolf, in later versions she is naive and is eaten by the much more savvy wolf. Zipes explores why this is and more.

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar

If my first selection was too hot and my second one too cold this one ought to be just right. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar looks at a single version of 25 different fairy tales and includes fascinating annotations and lovely art that shows you just a few of the interesting origins behind several beloved fairy tales. Whether it’s Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, or even The Little Mermaid, she covers a range of fairy tales from all over Europe and has well researched notes, facts and tidbits about each of them. This book is large and is beautifully bound and illustrated. Perfect for “a bit of light reading” for those just interested in dipping their toe into the pool of fairy tale lore and history.

From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner

For another, more general, look at fairy tales from a more scholarly perspective you should try From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner. She writes about fairy tales from a feminist historical perspective and explores how fairy tales have been used and leveraged to oppress and exploit women in cultures throughout history in many ways. A must read source for people interested in doing feminist readings of fairy tales. This also takes things one step further and examines the tellers of these fairy tales and their roles throughout and that was interesting to read about as well. Her main thrust though is an examination of women both in the context of the fairy tale and the context of the teller of the fairy tale.

Off With Their Heads! by Maria Tatar

In counterpoint to the above selection and in direct response to Bruno Bettelheim’s classic scholarly fairy tale text The Uses of Enchantment comes Maria Tatar’s Off With Their Heads! In it Tatar refute’s Bettelheim’s claims of fairy tales as a direct result of children’s fears (of castration, or of penis envy to name a few) and are instead a result of parent’s fears for their children. Instead of blaming the children and holding them up as the villains in fairy takes Tatar says it is the parents who mistreat the children and who are the, often violent and murderous, villains in fairy tales. I include this book in the list mainly because it is hard to go anywhere in the study of fairy tale lore and not run up against Bettelheim’s often perverse take on the true psychological origin of fairy tales and I believe Tatar’s book works as a nice rebuttal to all his arguments and more.

These are the main works I would recommend in any reading about fairy tales in general and Little Red Riding Hood in particular. Are there any books that you have read that you think would make a nice addition? Please let me know, I love reading recommendations especially about fairy tales!

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