Can Fairy Tales Bring Us Together?

My daughters have been into fairytales recently; there is not a bedtime story book pile that does not include a fairytale in some form or another.

Their interest has led us to read, and watch, many different versions of some of the classic European fairytales, which also got me thinking about the fairytales we know and love.  Where did they come from? Are the stories I am familiar with in the US the same as what my friends around the world are familiar with?

It also led me to think, can fairytales bring us together?

Using the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale (Charles Perrault’s version) or Little Red Cap (as the Grimm Brothers called it) I set out to see what I could find. An anthropologist with National Geographic tried to trace the roots of little Red Riding Hood back to its origins, and found there are versions of the tale in folklore all over the world including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Another researcher from Durham University claims to have traced the story’s origins back to the 1st century.

I was able to gather quite a few versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story, which we have been enjoying over the past few weeks. Showing kids the stories they know are the same or similar to the stories children around the world are hearing, sends a powerful message. We are all entertained by stories, all have similar fears, can all overcome those fears, and have more in common than we might think.

Stay tuned for #folktaleweek next week. I’ll be contributing by posting some incredible Russian folktales/fairytales.


Little Red Riding Hood Versions Pictured

Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (I love her dark illustrations for a few fairytale retellings I’ve seen), published by Holiday House. This version is pretty close to the Grimm’s version.

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China, by Ed Young, published by Philomel Books is a version of the Red Riding Hood tale from China thought to be over a thousand years old, which was translated, retold, and illustrated by Ed Young.

Little Red Riding Hood Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales, by Jessica Gunderson, illustrated by various artists, published by Picture Window Books, is a collection of three Little Red Riding Hood tales. One each from Germany, Italy, and Taiwan. You can really see the similarities (and differences) in the tales by comparing them in this book. This is one in a series of books, all including different versions of fairy tales.

Brothers Grimm: The Wolf & the Seven Kids by Keiko Kaichi, translated from the Japanese by Anthea Bell, published by Minedition is a version more similar to Lon Po Po.Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa, by Niki Daly features a young girl named Salma, and a cunning Dog in a bright, lively retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.Little Red Riding Hood, by Jerry Pinkney, published by Little, Brown and Company, is a visually stunning version of the Grimm Brothers Little Red Riding Hood version by a five-time Caldecott Honor winning artist. 

Red, by Jed Alexander, published by Cameron & Company, is a wordless retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a fun twist at the end. Knowing other versions of the story, both my girls loved the ending of this one.

If you’re looking for adult retellings of Little Red Riding Hood (think dark & sensual), I enjoyed The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter (a collection of short story fairy tale retellings), and Beasts and Beauty, by Soman Chainani (also a collection of short story fairy tale retellings).

And, for more information about fairy tales in general, and their importance in child development, check out The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales, by Sheldon Cashdan, published by Basic Books. You should also listen to The Literary Life Podcast’s episode on Fairy Tales.

What’s your favorite version of Little Red Riding Hood?

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