Study Guide

Little Red Cap in Grimms' Fairy Tales

By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Little Red Cap

Red is the Tastiest Color

Little Red Cap is one adorable and loveable kid. Come on, if your grandma makes you a hat that you wear everywhere, that's gotta mean something, right? Well apparently, to the wolf, it means "lunch."

Little Red Cap is a sweet kid, but obedience is not at the top of her priorities, which is kind of a problem in fairyland. Her mom is all, "Bring this to grandma and blah blah blah don't stray from the path blah blah blah." Maybe that's a warning you can ignore if the path doesn't go through a forest filled with shady predators, like a smooth-talking wolf. But you can bet that as soon as she ignores it (and she does), bad things are gonna go down.

Who You Calling Innocent?

On the plus side, she does take to heart her mother's advice to be polite, since she is super polite to the wolf, including giving him directions to her grandmother's house. Very clear directions. We're beginning to suspect that this girl doesn't have the best survival instincts. Nor is she the brightest crayon in the box.

When she comes upon the wolf dressed in her grandmother's clothing (hey, we're not judging), she goes right over to the bed and begins asking questions. She gets points for curiosity, sure, but having an up close and personal conversation with a predator shows dubious common sense at best. Luckily for Red, being lovable seems to run in the family, since a huntsman stops to check in on grandma, and finds the wolf snoring after his buffet meal.

So while her innocent naiveté gets her between a rock and a hard place (read: the walls of a wolf's stomach), it's also her family's goodness that wins her a trip back into the land of the living. And hey, she totally learns her lesson, like all good girls in fairy tales. The next time she sees a smooth-talking wolf, she tells him no dice and moves right along. Stranger danger? Yeah, she's all about that.

Happily Ever After (For Now)

Unlike other Grimms heroines, Red doesn't wind up married. What's up with that, you might be asking yourself? Well, self, this is a tale more about attaining maturity than doing anything with it.

Again, some versions of the tale lay it on really thick with the "don't talk to sexual predators, er, we mean wolves, wink wink" but this tale is about learning to follow rules as you're growing up. After the rescue by the huntsman, Red thinks to herself: "Never again will you stray from the path by yourself and go into the forest when your mother has forbidden it" (Little Red Cap.95). So she's got the point of this whole disaster down, and now things will be just peachy from here on out (at least, they will in fairyland—that's how it works).

Red is also a curious and enthusiastic character, which is somewhat redeeming. When the wolf suggests that she pick flowers for her grandmother, she happily does so, knowing that her grandma will enjoy a bouquet of fresh flowers. Sweet, right? Still, the fact that this tale dogmatically condemns curiosity in children (because it will get you eaten by a wolf) is a bit disheartening. Sure, the tale has a happy ending…but is Red's loss of childlike innocence really something to be celebrated? She learns her lesson and never talks to wolves or strays from the path again. Sounds pretty boring if you ask us.

Other Versions

In the Grimms' version, Little Red Cap comes out on top, but it's worth noting that in other versions from other time periods and cultures, this little tyke is not so lucky. In the French version by Charles Perrault, for example, she winds up eaten. Just eaten. Period. End of story. No rescue.

So here, by comparison, she makes out as just plain lucky. Of course, there are other versions in which she is clever enough to engineer her own escape, but we'll leave that to when you're feeling in more of a Girl Power mood.