Monday, May 13, 2013

Little Red Riding Who?

It occurs to me that Little Red Riding Hood is an odd name to give anyone. In fact, it's not a name at all, it's a description, and worse, it's not a description of a person, but an article of clothing.  In which case, why, when we say Little Red Riding Hood, do we immediately think of some anonymous little girl rather than something to wear? How did she get to be called that?  Did her parents go in for the modern fad of oddball children's names?

Yet, in spite of being called after an article of clothing, there's a famous fairy-tale about her in which a wolf wants to eat the child, puts off eating her until he's eaten her grandmother as an appetiser, and then, just when everything seems to be going his way, is chopped open by some woodcutter - in front of the child's eyes.  Extraordinary.  Exceptionally Freudian.

How did a story with such an odd name come to be so popular?

We'd be unlikely to read - let alone buy - a children's book entitled Horseback Riding Pants.  Even though a book entitled Horseback Riding Pants might be about a little boy, the youngest of three brothers, who goes off to seek his fortune when his aged father marries a wicked stepmother. Even though Horseback's bigger brother might be called Long Riding Crop, and his oldest brother, Safe Riding Helmet.  But the name of the book is a real turn-off.  (The older brothers' names don't help much either.)  Horseback Riding Pants isn't likely to go whizzing off the shelf, or get downloaded by the hundred-fold from Kindle.

So why on earth is Little Red Riding Hood still popular after all these years?  There's even been a movie made about the story recently - admittedly a story which has taken the bare bones of the fairy-tale and turned it into something in the horror genre, with a werewolf, and a priest who can exorcise the man trapped inside the wolf's garb.  Try selling a movie entitled Horseback Riding Pants. I don't think it's going to happen somehow.
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