Our little son (age four) asked if I could read Little red riding hood as a bedtime story. So I did, but halfway, the story got a little twist. This is what happens when a biologist tells a fairytale …
Afterwards, he asked why the little girl didn’t get eaten. Well, because real wolves don’t eat little girls! And with that, he went happily to sleep
Then I wrote the story down in our blog, let me know what you think of it
Once upon a time, there was a little house on the edge of the forest. It had a shiny red roof and the walls were covered with ivy. In this house, lived a little girl. She was sweet and sang happy songs whenever she was playing outside in the sunlight. Deep within the forest, there was another little house. This was where the grandmother of the little girl lived, all alone. You understand that grandmother often visited the little girl and every time, she brought some sweets or a small present.
On the little girl’s birthday, Grandmother brought a bright red hat for the girl. She immediately put it on her head and no longer looked at any of her other hats. She wore the red hat wherever she went and it wasn’t before long that everyone started calling her “Little red riding hood”.
“Little red riding hood”, said her mother with a tender smile, “could you come for a moment”? On the table stood a woven basket with fruits, a cake and a little bottle of wine. “Grandmother doesn’t feel too well, could you perhaps take this to her”? Little red riding hood was delighted because it was a sunny day and the forest would be a beautiful place. When she left, her mother called after her: “please stay on the path, and beware of the wolf”. Indeed, there was a wolf in the forest, and everyone talked about how dangerous he was …
Little red riding hood often played in the forest edge, but she had never seen the wolf and wasn’t too concerned. The sun shone through the branches and forest birds sang high up in the trees. In open places between the trees, there were hundreds of flowers and butterflies danced. “What a pity that Grandmother can’t see this”, thought Little red riding hood, and she decided to gather a nice bouquet of forest flowers.
While she picked flowers, she forgot about her mothers advise and went deeper and deeper into the forest, away from the path. Eventually, she had to put the basked down because she had her arm full of flowers. When she turned around to see where the basket was, she saw an animal. He had a beautiful, dense fur in grey, brown and ochre. And he quietly sat next to her basked. Little red riding hood was scared because there was the wolf! But he didn’t do anything. Instead, he was just looking at her.
Then he spoke, “Hello little girl, where are you going?” To Grandmother, because she is not feeling well and I am going to bring her fruit and a cake!” answered the little girl. “But what are you doing so deep in the forest, away from the path, are you not afraid to get lost?” “I am picking flowers”, she answered, and she told the wolf that she kept an eye at the direction of the sun, so she could find her way back to the path. She bent down to pick up her basket, and when she looked up, the wolf was gone.
The wolf ran far and wide, but he was old and not as fast as he used to be. He also wasn’t as careful and when he crossed a forest road, a hunter spotted him and aimed his gun. The sound of the shot disturbed the entire forest, birds flew up and squirrels and mice jumped into small, dark places where they sat as silently as they could. Only the butterflies danced as before. The hunter had aimed a bit too quickly though and only wounded the wolf and he managed to get away.
Sometime later the wolf arrived at Grandmothers little house. He remembered the kind little girl and hoped that Grandmother would be nice as well. He knocked on the door and when Grandmother asked who’s there, he said with his kindest voice “I am just an old wolf, wounded by the hunter, and I need a place to hide”. Grandmother answered: “pull the rope and the door will open”. Shivering from the pain, the wolf did what Grandmother asked. Grandmother, in the meantime, was feeling a lot better and was up and walking around in her house. When she saw the wolf, she felt sorry for him. He was so cold and miserable! She gently led him to her own bed and even dressed him in her nightgown, hoping that he would get a bit warmer. Then she told him that she had to gather wood in the forest and left the wolf in her bed.
When Little red riding hood knocked on the door, the wolf instructed her to pull on the rope beside the door and a moment later, Little red riding hood stood beside her grandmother’s bed. She looked surprised at what she thought was her grandmother. The old lady looked so different!
She looked a bit better and suddenly asked: “Grandmother, why do you have such long arms?” The wolf played along and answered: “with those arms and legs I can run four days and four nights and then still a bit, dear girl”.
Then Little red riding hood asked: “but Grandmother, what do you have large, shining eyes!” “With those, I can see as well in the dark as in bright daylight” said the wolf, “so that I know whatever happens in the forest”.
“But Grandmother, why do you have such large ears?” asked the girl. “With those ears, I can hear the hunter coming long before he sees me, so that I can get away. Alas, I am old and don’t hear as well as I used to” answered the wolf.
“And Grandmother, why do you have such a long snout with large teeth?”, asked the girl. “With my long snout I can smell where all the animals in the forest have been and with those teeth, I can catch a deer and even the biggest wild boar, said the wolf proudly”.
“Now now, don’t scare the little girl so much”, said grandmother, who came in with a large armful of wood. “Silly girl, don’t you see that it’s the wolf who is in my bed?”, she then asked Little red riding hood. “Of course I do”, said the little girl, “but I am supposed to ask those questions, I read that in my storybook!” “You better forget all you read about wolves in that book, and get to know the real wolves, so you know that you never have to be afraid of them”, answered her kind grandmother.
Together they took care of the wolf’s wound and later, in the moonlight, all three of them even howled at the moon, as real wolves do. Little red riding hood often met the wolf in the forest, and she wasn’t scared anymore. However, she was careful to wear her red hat when she was out there, so that the hunter wouldn’t think she was a wolf and accidentally shoot her!