The Tale of Red Riding Hood…Part III

The Tale of Red Riding Hood Part I

The Tale of Red Riding Hood Part II

When last we left our heroine, she was running from a pack of vengeful wolves in the company of her mysterious travel companion, Rummy…

On Red Riding Hood ran, feeling the same panic she felt as a little girl facing down a wolf in her grandmother’s gown. There was no woodsman to save her now, but the thought jolted her memory. Still running, she fumbled with her cape feeling the familiar heaviness of the ax. Her concentration was so focused on freeing the weapon from the billowing fabric, that she didn’t notice the exposed root of an oak in front of her. She landed with a crash, but quickly grabbed up the ax.

The wolves were now in a tight circle around her, snapping and salivating. Rummy was close behind, still laughing at the foolish girl on the ground.

“This is the family of the two wolves you killed. The fairies promised to make me one of them if I could help a creature who is reviled. Nothing is more hated than a wolf lurking in the woods. Now they shall have their revenge and I’ll have my reward.”

Red had little time to think about his words for before long she was beset by teeth and claws. Her ax was her only defense, which she used in short, hacking strokes. The wolves had not expected Red to be armed, but their blood lust and need for revenge fueled their attacks. Two of them continued to lunge even after sustaining terrible wounds and another three tried plunging under the arc of the ax.

Her arm began to feel heavy, but Red continued in fear for her life. The attacks were becoming clumsy on both sides. The two fiercest wolves were beginning to succumb to their injuries and the other three were losing the rhythm of her hacks. Soon all of them were in a heap of fur and blood and Red, bloodied and bruised herself, was the victor. An enraged Rummy stomped his feet and railed against the silence.

“I did as you asked. It’s not my fault they weren’t able to revenge themselves!” he yelled at the heavens. Red raised her ax keeping a safe distance from herself and the man shrieking in front of her. Through the trees a voice whispered on the wind.

“Helping those in need is not hurting others. This is your third such offense. You may not join us and what’s more you will become a figure of ridicule until you can find a soul to love you,” said the voice and Rummy was transformed into small wizened man with scant hair and a pointy face. He looked like an angry man child stomping his feet and then running away from the forest.

“To you Red of the Riding Hood, we give our good wishes. If there is anything you want, please name it.”

Red thought long and hard about her wish and was inspired by the events of the day. The fairies honored her request and sent her back to her cottage in the woods from which an ax shaped sign swung reading, “Red of the Riding Hood, Forest Escort”.

As for Rummy, he found another who needed his help. A miller’s daughter with a room full of straw…


The Tale of Red Riding Hood…Part II

When we last saw our heroine, she was leaving a tavern in search of an adventure and being followed by a mysterious man with a nefarious reputation.

Red continued down the path through the middle of town. The sun wasn’t warm enough to take off her namesake cloak. The chill in the air didn’t seem to bother all the townsfolk walking about and stealing glances at it. But whether they were staring at her or her clothing was of little importance to Red. She was more concerned with finding a quest. What she didn’t know was that adventure was coming for her.

“Are you lost little girl?” asked the man as he approached.

“I am neither little or lost, sir,” she replied making a point not to look the man in the eye. Her hand instinctively went under her cloak to assure herself the ax the woodsman had given her was still accessible. The reflex was not lost on the man and it gave him an idea.

“Ah, an adventurer. I knew from the look of you that you were no ordinary girl…young woman,” said the man warming to his theme. “I think I may be able to help you.”

“I do not need help,” she replied, but she stopped nonetheless. Something in his voice was compelling. Then again she remembered the flattering wolf who led her astray. “Who are you?”

“I am a traveler, like yourself. I was going to the capitol, but I’ve been told there is a fearsome band of outlaws living on the roadway and walking it alone has become treacherous. I had hoped to get a group of people to walk with me. Outlaws are less likely to attack a group. Sadly, none will make the journey with me for they are frightened. Perhaps the party that came with you would allow me to join them?”

“I came alone for I can take care of myself. Wolves are all the same whether on two feet or four,” she replied with a smirk. The man stifled a chuckle at her arrogance.

“Perhaps we two can share the journey together. I can see you are quite capable and it would set my mind at ease to have someone such as you as a companion. My name is Rummy,” he said with an odd smile.

“I am Red and I would happily accompany you on your journey,” she replied feeling the adventure about to being.

What could another trip through the woods hurt? She thought. They decided it would be best to waiting until first light before heading out on their trip. That night, while Red was sleeping in her bed dreaming of heroic acts, her traveling companion was making his way into the woods to make ready for their departure. A low growl carried on the wind.

The next morning, bright and early, Red and Rummy set off for the capital. Rummy said little and Red preferred it that way. They walked in silence through the green wood looking for signs of the band of thieves. On and on they trudged until they reached a section of the woods that was dark despite the midday sun.

“I believe we should stop here and have our lunch. We are nearly half-way to the capital by now,” said Rummy in a loud voice. It felt out of place in the dark of the woods and startled Red.

“It’s best to press on and save our hunger for the capital. Stopping in the woods is never a good idea,” she replied remembering smooth words from a mouth that had eaten her.

“No, no. I cannot take another step without a little rest. We have not seen or heard anyone for hours. Perhaps the outlaws have moved on to a better location,” said Rummy, sitting down and opening his pack. Red was starting to think it would have been better to walk alone, but the sight of food melted some of her resolve. She sat down and opened her pack, as well.

Rummy chewed slowly driving Red mad with impatience. As she was about to give voice to her irritation, she heard rustling in the bushes. She stood up and looked down at a smiling Rummy with teeth she could almost remember.

A pack of wolves circled their picnic area bearing their teeth and growling. Rummy looked completely at ease and Red realized that she had been tricked. One of the wolves crouched low, coiling his muscles for a high pounce. Red ran through the trees narrowly avoiding his lunge. She could hear them running on the underbrush, snapping twigs and gaining ground. The high laugh of Rummy drifted through the trees, mingling with the howls of her pursuers…

The female roadtrip – Red Riding Hood Grows Up

A reader and friend brought an article in The Atlantic to my attention. It is entitled:

It’s Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women That’s Not About Love

“Literary girls don’t take road-trips to find themselves; they take trips to find men.”

Although the title is provocative enough to make anyone click the link, I’ll summarize. The author, Kelsey McKinney, takes note that while plenty of novels center around the coming of age story, for men it involves an adventure and self-discovery. For women it centers around find herself through love and a man…or in this day and age it could be another woman.

In short, men look for themselves, women look for romance. At least in literature. And she bemoans this fact because in the real world there are plenty of women who do not think the be-all end-all of life is a husband and kids. Very few novels have women focused on finding themselves or pursuing a career without also adding a love subplot. She calls for more books like Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, about a girl who comes of age, but doesn’t search for love and acceptance. She just grows.

I could argue that writers see women as more well-rounded people who know that the search for love is just as important as the search for purpose, which could include children, a mate, and a career.

Or I could argue that I am just as frustrated by the lack of adventure-seeking girls and women who can thumb their noses at romance.

The truth is, I can see both sides. I think it’s just as sad that books geared towards men have them only pursuing a promotion or a trophy and I think love can be just as great an adventure as rolling down the Mississippi. However, as a writer what I see is a challenge. How do we revive the road trip that makes it possible for women to have just as much adventure as men? The answer seems to start with them as children.

I remember reading Pipi Longstocking and her parent-free adventures with her monkey and horse foiling robbers, teachers, and the police. She was wild, carefree, athletic, but she was still happy to have friends. Her road trip would have been a high-seas adventure, but with her father and therefore defeat the purpose.

Mathilda, by Roald Dahl, is also a good candidate for the “strong girl grows up to be strong woman”, but with magical powers and being so decidedly good, I imagine her adventures would be rather tame and ultimately, safe.

Perhaps we can look to a fairy tale for the answer. She went into the woods a naive girl and returned a smart young woman. All it took was being swallowed by a wolf. I think she would have grown up to be an adventurer, despite promising never to stray from the path. Did anyone actually believe she kept that promise?  This is a girl who was eaten by a wolf along with her grandmother, was cut out of its belly by a huntsman, fills the wolf’s belly with stones until he dies and when she goes back to her grandmother’s house on a subsequent trip meets with another wolf who she outsmarts with granny’s help by enticing him with the smell of sausages and drowns him. That’s a girl I would take a road trip with, wouldn’t you?

With a challenge to meet and a heroine ready for anything, I’ve decided to write a story about a grown Red Riding Hood seeing the world–fairy tale style.

The Tale of Red Riding Hood

Part I

                Once there was a girl who grew up quite suddenly after being eaten by a wolf. It was only natural that she should learn from such an experience and become more wary of the ways of the world and admire the strong female influences in her life.

                After her grandmother passed away, Red was left the cottage in the woods. But her adventures as a child gave her a longing to know the world better and so she closed up the house, put on her red cloak, and set off on a journey.

                Her first stop was to the city. It was the largest she had ever seen. But Red knew that wolves didn’t only lurk behind trees and bushes. They also walked the paved roads and roamed the taverns. Feeling prepared for anything life could throw at her, she entered one such tavern for lunch.

                The patrons glanced her way, wondering what a young woman was doing in a tavern alone, especially one with such an attention-grabbing cloak. She ordered her food and ate alone at a table ignoring the whispers. When the barmaid returned with her food, she stood next to the table for such a long time, that Red had to speak to her.

                “Good day to you. The food is delicious, but I don’t plan to order any more just yet.”

                “Look here, what are you doing in a place like this alone?” asked the barmaid.

                “Having a meal as all the others are doing. Why do you ask?”

                “All the other patrons are men and the women are accompanied. Are you lost?”

                “Not at all. But I have no destination in mind if that is your real question,” she replied and continued to enjoy her meal.

                “Then let me give you a word of caution. There is a man in the corner who has taken a particular interest in you. Others who have caught his eye have not been seen again.”

                “I am not a stranger to wolves on the prowl,” said Red looking at the man.

                “Pardon me?”

                “It’s no matter. I thank you for your warning,” she said and went back to her meal. The barmaid hesitated, but left Red alone thereafter. She thought her a foolish country girl and knew that fate and the city would treat her cruelly. Red had no such concerns and after finishing her lunch, paid her bill and left the tavern. Shortly thereafter the man in the corner rose from his place and followed her…

To Be Continued…

Adventures in Fairy Tale Land

As a child, when I read, heard and watched fairy tales it was always with a British accent. Mostly English, but occasionally Irish or Scottish. I was convinced, and movies seemed to back me up, that when Europeans congregated they all spoke English with an accent straight from Oxford. With that in mind, I assumed that all fairy tales were from the British Isles. From the Grimm Brothers to Hans Christian Andersen, all of them were from the English countryside. It stood to reason. Castles were in Britain. The Queen was in Britain, so it had to be true. Years, schooling and research have disabused me of that belief on an intellectual level. But in my heart, fairy tales have an accent.

So, it was with great joy and more than a touch of whimsy that I set off on my vacation to the Lake District and Edinburgh (also the reason that I’ve been so negligent with my blog. I don’t believe in internet in fairy land) hoping to have a fairy tale adventure. The countryside did not disappoint. I walked fells and through pastoral scenes that would make an shepherdess feel at home. I trudged through forests and scrambled through ghylls that held perfect hiding places for the fairy folk and maybe a wolf or two lying in wait for Red Riding Hood. I even walked through the world of Beatrix Potter, who although isn’t strictly a writer of fairy tales, is still a staple from my childhood reading menu.

Edinburgh was more gothic and therefore more Grimm, but in the nicest way possible. I climbed castle towers and ramparts almost expecting knights to lay siege. That may have been the whiskey haze, but I could see it. Swords, spears, and a stone of destiny were mythic, yet close enough to touch. Mary, Queen of Scots was like Rapunzel in the tower at Holyrood. ImageImage

This was not my first trip to the UK, but since starting my blog and committing to being a writer, it felt like a new place. Every corner was a literary opportunity and I could understand why I thought Britain was Fairy Tale Land as a child. I’ll admit that this post sounds like a long digression on how I spent my summer vacation, but I thought it was important to share the most important thing about fairy tales. Why we love them. Why we read them. Why they’re the stuff of dreams and nightmares. Please remember, dear reader, what matters most about fairy tales…