Red Riding Hood, Allegory for the Phases of Womanhood

For day five of Winter Faerytale Week, I have chosen the topic of the tale Red Riding Hood.   This tale has a very Wintery feeling for me, as the young girl is taking a care package to her grandmother during a bleak time.   She is walking alone in the forest, after having been warned by her mother not to stray from the path for her own safety.

In other versions of this tale, or those that use this as part of their story, the Red Riding Hood tale is set during the Winter months.   This makes a great supporting point to my feeling this is a truly Wintery tale.    In the 2011 Red Riding Hood film that starred Amanda Seyfried, we see that the time is in the middle of Winter with lots of beautiful snowy imagery.   In Once Upon a Time, Snow first meets Red and Granny during the Winter months, during what is termed “Wolf Time.”   I would also like to note that both of these takes on the tale make Red the wolf herself in the form of a werewolf, or made into one in the course of the film.

During the course of the story, Red becomes more mature, going from childhood to womanhood through her encounters with the wolf.   She begins by accidentally giving away where she is going to the wolf, also letting herself get distracted by picking flowers or other pieces of flora or fauna to bring to her grandmother, thus straying from the path.   Once she gets to her grandmother’s house she encounters the wolf yet again.   In more traditional versions of the tale, she does not realize it is the wolf in the beginning and often also gets eaten by the wolf.    This leaves the saving to the kind woodcutter or huntsman who saves both Red and her grandma by cutting open the wolf.   Other versions have them not saved or have Red not get eaten at all, just saving her grandmother.   Then sometimes there is the version where Red saved both of them from inside the wolf by cutting him open from the inside!   That has to be my favorite version to be honest, as I love the idea of her coming full-fledged into her adulthood by slaying the beast that tried to kill both herself and her grandma!   I must note, that this was the version that Lucy Cavendish chose for her retelling in her book Magickal Faerytales.

I truly loved Cavendish’s interpretation, as it also related the timing of the tale to both the full moon and Red becoming a woman by having her first menstrual cycle.    It truly became a tale of choices and transitions from childhood to womanhood that I believe beautifully echoed the more traditional tellings!   At the end of the day, Red Riding Hood is a story that sticks with us because it contains innate truths.   We all must grow up and learn to face challenges by ourselves.    We all must learn to save ourselves and our loved ones, albeit not always from mortal peril (at least I certainly hope not)!   This is the tale of going from being the innocent who is too trusting and transitioning into a more knowledgeable person who is ready to conquer the challenges that lie ahead.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the allegory and interpretations of Red Riding Hood.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is from the 2011 film.   I found the image on

Further Reading/Watching

  • Red Riding Hood by The Brothers Grimm
  • Magickal Faerytales: An Enchanted Collection of Retold Tales by Lucy Cavendish
  • Once Upon a Time (2011)
  • Red Riding Hood (2011)
  •  (This is my video on Red Riding Hood.)