September 2, 2012

Often there is more than one version of a folk tale or a fairy tale. Let’s have a look at Little Red Riding-Hood, for instance. In the version found in Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, bottom row up there, third from the right, the final sentence of the story, coming directly on the heels of Red’s list of questions concerning the large size of Grandmamma’s various body parts, goes like this:

‘And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding-Hood, and ate her all up.’

The end. It’s over. Wolf wins.

However, in my Arthur Rackham illustrated volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, blue book in the top row there next to the painting of the lavender witch’s cottage, the Red Riding Hood story sentence corresponding to the Andrew Lang one says:

‘Hardly had the wolf said this, than he made a spring out of bed and devoured poor little Red Riding Hood.’

No big difference. Right? But wait a minute. That is not the last sentence in my Rackham Grimm. Not by the hair on your chinny chin chin. Here comes the huntsman strolling by. There goes the huntsman slicing open the wolf and freeing Red and her grandmother. Now come the final sentences:

‘They were all quite happy now. The huntsman skinned the wolf, and took the skin home. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine which Red Riding Hood had brought, and she soon felt quite strong. Red Riding Hood thought: ‘I’ll never again wander off into the forest as long as I live, if my mother forbids it.’

Two versions. Two different outcomes. Wolf wins. Wolf loses. I guess which one is told depends on the mood of the storyteller and how the child/children attached to the listening ears had behaved that day.

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