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LITTLE RED CAP

A retelling by J. Kearns

On her way to her grandmother's with a basket of cakes and wine, a girl meets a wolf on her path.

his tale is also known as Little Red Riding Hood, and I imagine it has been told about as many times as a fairy tale could possibly have ever been told.
Little Red Cap was a very pretty little girl. Everyone who saw her would say, "Oh, isn't Little Red Cap just the prettiest little girl you ever saw? She's going to be quite a catch when she grows up. It's not too long before every boy in the village will be making eyes over her, don't you know." The reason everyone called her Little Red Cap was because her grandmother, who loved her dearly, had thought her darling granddaughter should have something exceptionally pretty to wear, so she had made for her a beautiful, bright red cap.
There was a special day of the week on which Little Red Red Cap's mother did her baking. On this particular day, Little Red Cap's mother, when she was done baking, gave Little Red Cap a cake and a bottle of wine in a basket and told her, "I want you to take this cake and wine to your old grandmother. She's been sick and weak lately and the cake and wine will do her good. You've never gone alone before, so, mind you, behave yourself on the way and don't leave the path to play. Go on now, and remember to mind your manners when you see your grandmother."
Little Red Cap 's grandmother lived in a house in the forest, and the girl was not far into the woods when a gaffer wolf caught sight of her, and seeing that she was alone he began to follow her.

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Hmmm, what is a gaffer wolf you ask? A gaffer wolf could be one of several things. Either he is an old rustic fellow, or the boss of a gang of physical laborers, or a master glassblower responsible for shaping glassware, or a godfather. At least that's what the dictionary says, but I don't know which one of these things this gaffer wolf was as no one has told me.
This gaffer wolf thought, yes indeed, Little Red Cap looked quite attractive. Why, she looked good enough to eat. But he knew he didn't dare pounce on her on the well-worn path where someone might happen by. Besides which, there were faggot-makers working nearby in the forest.
A faggot is a bundle of sticks bound together and used as fuel.
"Whence do you come from and where are you going?" Gaffer Wolf asked Little Red Cap, stepping out in front of her so suddenly that she gasped as she hadn't noticed him.
Taken by surprise, Little Red Cap's heart beat fast, but she calmed herself, knowing the faggot-makers were nearby. Besides which, she admired the beauty of wolves, and though this wolf was thoroughly wicked, Red Cap didn't know it. If he was at ease enough to approach her on the well-worn path, what did she have to fear. So she told him, "I come from the village just beyond the woods that way," and she pointed back behind her, then added, "and I'm going to visit my grandmother who lives that way," and she pointed down the path ahead of her.
"My pretty girl, in your pretty little red cap, what might you be carrying under your apron?" Gaffer Wolf asked.
Little Red Cap answered, "I'm taking wine and cake to grandmother as she has been feeling sick and weak. My mother says the cake and wine will give her strength."
"Your grandmother will enjoy the cake and wine, I'm sure," Gaffer Wolf replied. "Just where does your elderly grandmother live?"
"Grandmother lives under three large oak trees by a hedge of hazel bushes, at the end of this path. You must know the house," said Little Red Cap.

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"Isn't it very beautiful in these woods?" the wolf asked the girl.
"Very," she said.
"Have you noticed all the beautiful flowers that are blossoming everywhere?" he asked her.
"There are some very pretty flowers here," Little Red Cap agreed.
"Oh, how would you know," the wolf answered. "I watched you. You were hurrying along as if you had no use for flowers, nor were you listening to the birds sing. You were hurrying along as if you were on your way to school and all you had on your mind were facts and figures and lessons and tests. Isn't that true?"
Little Red Cap looked and saw how the sunlight was breaking through the trees of the forest, how it reached even to the floor of the forest, and how that sun-sprinkled floor was covered with beautiful flowers moving in the breeze even as the sun on the forest floor seemed to dance with the breeze.
"Does your grandmother like flowers?" asked the wolf.
"My grandmother grows the most beautiful flowers in her garden when she's well," Little Red Cap said.
"Wine and cake are good for the sick. Pretty flowers lift thier hearts and spirits as well," said the wolf.
It occurred to Little Red Cap that her sick grandmother would like a flower, so she stooped down and picked one. Then she saw how just a little further on in the woods, off the path, was a prettier flower, so she picked that one. Further on she thought she saw an even prettier flower and decided that maybe her grandmother would like a nice bouquet of flowers, so she picked that one as well.
In the meanwhile, Gaffer Wolf ran straight down the path toward Little Red Cap's grandmother's house (he did indeed know where it was) and knocked on her door.
"Who's there?" called the grandmother, hearing the knock.
"Your dear Little Red Cap," the wolf answered, trying to imitate Little Red Cap's youthful voice. "It is baking day and mother has sent me with cake and wine for you. Open the door for me, grandmother."
"Dear Little Red Cap, I'm too weak to get up," the grandmother answered from her bed. "Press the latch and the door will open."

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The wolf pressed the latch, and the door opened. Before the grandmother had a chance to cry out, having no time to waste, the wolf leapt upon her in her bed and swallowed her whole! Then the wolf took the grandmother's gown and cap and put them on. He pulled the curtains shut around the bed--for this was a kind of bed that had bed-curtains--and waited for Little Red Cap, the covers up around his chin.
Little Red Cap spent some time in the forest, flower leading to flower, not satisfied until her arms were filled. Then, proudly bearing the gay bouquet, she started for her grandmother's again. When she arrived finally at her grandmother's door, after she had made sure she was neat and presentable, she knocked.
"Who's there?" called Gaffer Wolf.
"Grandmother, is that you?" Little Red Cap asked, for the gruff, growling voice didn't sound at all like her grandmother. "It's Little Red Cap. Mother has sent me with cake and wine to strengthen you, for she says you've been sick. Open the door."
"My dear, dear Little Red Cap, I'm too weak to get up," the wolf answered from the bed. "Press the latch and the door will open."
Little Red Cap pressed the latch and entered. Stepping softly, in order to not disturb her sick grandmamma, Little Red Cap went to her grandmother's bed and pulled its curtain aside.
What a sight her poor, sick grandmother made. Startled, Little Red Cap moved back, amazed, for she hardly knew her.
"Oh grandmother," she said, "your voice, just now, I scarcely recognized it. And you are so hairy, I would never have known you if you weren't in your own house in your own bed." A huge ear suddenly popped out from underneath grandmother's cap, causing Little Red Cap to add, "And your ears, they are so huge!"
"You won't always be the young thing you are now, Little Red Cap. Don't be surprised when hair and a change in your voice come with aging. The ears grow and grow as well, but that's because your hearing goes and it can use all the help it can get," growled the figure in the bed. "Come closer, dear, so I may hear you even better. There's no reason to be frightened, sweetheart, I am still your loving grandmother."
"Grandmother," Little Red Cap said, "now that I am a step closer to you, I wonder at what big eyes you have!"

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"All the better to see you with. As one grows older, one's eyesight goes. Come closer, dear, that I may see you better. There's no reason to be frightened, sweetheart, I am still your adoring grandmother."
"Grandmother," Little Red Cap said, "I am close enough now that it seems to me your nose has become very strange."
"All the better to smell your sweet nature, my dear. As one grows older, the nose grows as well. Come closer, that I may also smell the cakes and wine you have brought me. I feel so much stronger already. There's no reason to be frightened, my lovely, I am still your doting grandmother."
"Grandmother, now that I am right beside you, I see what large hands you have got!" Little Red Cap exclaimed.
"All the better to grasp you close to my heart. Climb into bed with me, dear, for I am chilled and wish to warm myself next to you as we eat together. There's no reason to hesitate, my lovely, I am still your favorite grandmother."
"Grandmother," Little Red Cap said, "now that I climb into bed with you, I see how fearsome and great your mouth is and how big and sharp are your hideously yellow teeth!"
"All the better to eat you, and now you are quite close enough!"
And, so saying, Gaffer Wolf fell upon Little Red Cap and gobbled her, the cakes and wine all up.
It was as delicious a meal as he'd ever had. So good, that he eagerly swallowed the girl whole, not bothering to chew. Satisfied, but scarcely able to move now, when the wolf was done he decided to take a nap, but was unable to rest as his stomach was so full.
His stomach began to act up. "I must not forget to chew my food next time," the wolf reproved himself.
Then his stomach really began to act up. "I will not forget to chew my food next time. My poor stomach feels more uncomfortable than ever. It feels like it might split wide open," the wolf said.
And no sooner had he spoken than that's exactly what happened, Grandmother and Little Red Cap kicking their way out.
Her strength recovered, Little Red Cap's grandmother skinned the creature and made for Little Red Cap a wolf pelt cloak.
Waste not, want not.

Read the Brothers Grimm version of the tale. Off-site link. A new browser window will open.

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