Little Red Riding Hood has always been one of my favourite tales. That it’s one of those frequently reinterpreted stories we carry with us from childhood into adulthood adds to its richness, as far as I’m concerned. Even though each variation may draw on common elements, I’m always delighted to hear how different storytellers respond to it – what they bring to it, what they choose to leave out. From the sexy and the sinister to the sermonising and the comical. From the Brothers Grimm to Roald Dahl.
My favourite retelling of all is, without a doubt, Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves. This is a stunningly evocative story from an anthology (The Bloody Chamber) that I've found almost addictive at times, and which includes variations of Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, The Erl-King, and Beauty and the Beast, amongst others.
I don’t mind admitting that it was my great admiration of her writing that inspired me to include my own ‘folk tales’ as interludes in The Grease Monkey’s Tale, and to retell Little Red Riding Hood one more time (although my version was also shaped by witnessing the horrendous abuse of a young child by her drunk grandmother once).
With this in mind, I looked forward to watching Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood recently, but was disappointed. While I particularly liked the palette of colours Hardwicke employed – all that red and white, blood and snow – it felt as if the screenplay had attempted to cobble together as many stories connected with wolves as possible, and ended up doing justice to none of them. (Conversely, Angela Carter references the story of Little Red in The Company of Wolves to a number of other lycanthropic stories too, but achieves a tremendous unity for doing this.) I quite liked the medieval setting (reminiscent of the one episode of Game of Thrones I’ve managed to watch), but thought the CGI wolf was laughably bad – so bad I couldn’t stop laughing. All very corny and disappointing. To shake it off, I revisited The Bloody Chamber and Carter's wonderful description of the seduction of a wolf.