Thursday, September 20, 2007

deconstructing red riding hood

The wall is black.

Where is Christ in "Red Riding Hood?" Is he the grandma, who is killed by the wolf, and who satisifies the wolf's hunger so that he spares Red Riding Hood? Is he Red Riding Hood herself -- no, I think perhaps what is striking about "Red Riding Hood" is itslack of chrisocentric imagery. It is a world of lawlessness, where the mighty and the powerful prey upon the weak and defenseless with remorse. It is a land given over to savagery, and the innocent cannot survive.

One could contend that it is Red's failure to obey the rules of her world that gave the wolf the means to destroy her. That is certainly the traditional reading, which we despise for its cruel savagery -- that if little girls do not listen to their parents, they will be raped and killed in the worst ways imagineable.

That's the chief reason we've added the huntsman and the impossible salvation that he brings. We would much rather celebrate the myth that says that the innocent will be avenged and the wicked punished, and more importantly we want to believe that no mistake is so bad that we cannot be rescued from it and its consequences ameliorated.

So perhaps that is the better story: The wolf kills Grandma, and he kills Red Riding Hood, but the woodsman kills him and ends the wolf's reign of terror in the woods/forest community. One can see wolf and hunter locked in a battle of wills, the hunter giving or losing all he has, to fight until at last he lays the wolf low.

Another story I can draw from this is one of lawlessness and nihilism. There is no God, no Christ, and each does as he wants. The wolf kills Red Riding Hood because he can. She feasts on her dead grandmother's flesh because she is hungry, and the woodsman kills the wolf out of spite, the way a child might kill an ant simply because it amuses her to do so.

A story like that is simply horrifying, and though I can imagine it, I rather doubt I would have the stomach to write it. It is too raw, too violent, too decidedly animlistic and lacking any virtue that separates us from the animal world. I imagine that nearly all of us would pull away from such a tale rather than immerse ourselves in it. In such a world, which lacks all sense of God or any law of morality, even the fruitless injunctions of Red Riding Hood's parents to stay on the path and talk to no one lacks any talismanic power to protect, or any authority to compel Red Riding Hood to obey.

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