The Brothers Grimm – “Little Red-cap”

The fairy tales are born of the realities of the people who tell them, and are, essentially, morality tales, similar, in some degree, to fables. This makes them universally accessible to all people, of all ages, the essential moral values presented in them being something that everyone can understand, something that is present in every society around the world.


When discussing the Crane translation of the Grimm brothers’ version of Little Red-cap, the main interpretation is supported by words and phrases that could belong to a semantic field of sexuality. In fact, the whole story can be read as a cautionary tale about rape. Little Red-cap gets advice from her mother to “walk properly and nicely” (p. 132), but in the woods she meets “a bad sort of animal” (p. 132), a wolf (who happens to be a “he”). The wolf thinks that Red-cap “would be a delicious morsel, and would taste better than the old one (…)” (p. 133). He tricks the girl, eats her grandmother, and takes her place. When Red-cap arrives, she feels “very strange” (p.133), and “uncomfortable” (p.134).


The hunter can be seen as a representative of the law, punishing the “old sinner” (p.134) for his crimes. He may also symbolize the victims’ desire for vengeance, as the wolf is not given a quick death, but a painful one: “he did not fire, but took a pair of shears and began to slit up the wolf’s body” (p. 134).


The moral may not be explicitly presented at the end, like in a fable, but it can be easily understood from the story. When the same thing happens a second time, the girl is no longer a victim.


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Works cited:

The Brothers Grimm – Children’s and Household Tales (Lucy Crane translation with Walter Crane illustrations, 1882)


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