The "Little Red Riding Hood” story is found on every continent. Since ancient times, every culture has used this fairy tale to impart vital lessons about family, growing up, and the world around them. I have chosen 6 tales to highlight the variety in the versions. Unlike the Grimm’s version popular in America, most of these tales highlight empowered children who outsmart their antagonist--making them ideal for modern readers.
My 3 Favorites
Author: Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Illustrations: Pencil, black ink, and watercolor
Characters: Flossie, Big Mama, and the wolf
Distinctions: Spoken in old southern dialect (some non-standard English used)
Summary and Analysis: Flossie is sent to take eggs to Miz Viola’s house. When she meets a fox on the road, she exchanges pleasantries with him (like she’s been taught to do). The fox wants to know why she isn’t afraid of him. She insists he is not a fox. He is determined to convince her with his thick luxurious fur (she says, “like a rabbit”), long pointed nose (she says, “like a rat”), sharp claws and yellow eyes (she says, “like a cat”), and bushy tail (she says, “like a squirrel”). Her responses infuriate him! Finally, he points out his sharp teeth and running abilities. Flossie responses—“like the dog behind [you]!” The fox runs away and yells back, “I told you, I am a fox.” She smiles, winks, and says “I know.” Flossie safely brings the eggs to Miz Viola’s house. I especially enjoyed Flossy and the Fox because the protagonist is sassy (in the best way) and smart. She outwits the fox. No victim here. Just a resourceful young girl. I, also, like the way the dialogue about his appearance is inverted and imaginative.
Pretty Salma (African)Author: Niki Daly
Illustrator: Niki Daly
Illustrations: Watercolors and digital media
Characters: Salma, Mr. Dog, Grandmother, Grandfather, and Little Abubaker
Distinction: Dog is the antagonistic instead of wolf
Summary and Analysis: As Salma goes off to the market for her grandmother, she sings a song about her grandmother’s love. She buys all the items she needs and heads home using a short cut through “the wild side of town.” Mr. Dog greets her with flattery. He offers to help her out by carrying her food and eventually wearing most of her clothing (since it so hot). He tries to imitate her in every way. Then, he runs off. She finds her grandfather dressed as Anansi while telling stories. Salma gets the idea to dress as the bogeyman. Little Abubaker follows with clapping sticks. Meanwhile, Mr. Dog is charming grandmother who catches on he is not Pretty Salma. She jumps in a bit pot of soup to get away from him. The trio scares Mr. Dog away and rescue grandmother from the pot. They all sit down to eat watermelon and to drink ice-cold pink drink. The next day Salma goes to the market to buy new clothes. This time, she goes straight there and back. She never talks to strangers again. There are lively sounds and pictures to go with this creative retelling. Pretty Salma is rich in cultural details with a sprinkle of humor.
Lon Po Po (Chinese)Author: Ed Young
Illustrator: Ed Young
Illustrations: Ancient Chinese panel art with watercolors and pastels
Characters: Mother, Shang, Tao, Paotze, and Po Po (wolf)
Distinction: Caldecott winning illustrations
Summary and Analysis: Mother leaves for an overnight trip to grandma’s house. Shang, Tao, and Paotze are instructed to lock up tight. At dusk the wolf comes disguised as their grandmother. He convinces them that they must have missed each other, so they let him in. The wolf quickly blows out the candle before they can see him. They jump into bed together, where the kids point out his surprising features—bushy tale, sharp claws, and so forth. The eldest child realizes they are in bed with a wolf! She entices him with the idea of the “soft and tender” gingko nuts in the tree outside their house. The wolf agrees to let them climb the tree to get some. Once up there, the children do not come down. Eventually, they convince the wolf to allow them to pull him up in a basket. They drop him as he reaches the top, causing him to die of a broken heart. The illustrations are amazing! I love the way the children continuously outwit the wolf and save themselves.
Other Important Multicultural Versions
The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids (German/European)
Authors: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Illustrator: Bernadette Watts
Illustrations: Traditional drawings in soft, mostly neutral colors
Characters: Mother goat, her 7 little kids, and a wolf
Summary and Analysis:
Before the mother goes out looking for food, she warns her children that a wolf may disguise himself in order to eat them up. He is known by his hoarse voice and black feet. Shortly after, the wolf comes to their door and says, “Open the door, dear children! Here’s your mother back, with something for each of you.” They reply, “Our mom has a soft, gentle voice.” The wolf leaves to get some chalk to make his voice soft and gentle. He comes back and says the same thing. The children see his black paws this time, so he goes to the baker where gets some dough and flour to cover them. The kids finally believe him and let him in. He eats all but the youngest that hides in the grandfather clock. Mother comes home. The youngest tells what happen. When they find the wolf resting in the meadow, something is moving in his stomach. The mother goat cuts it open, letting all the kids out. She sews him back up with rocks. Waking up, he finds he is thirsty. As he leans over a well to get some water, he falls in and dies. The kids dance with joy. Though it is the mother (rather than the kids) who leaves, many of the same elements are included—being tricked, eaten whole, cut out, and stones sewn in. Unlike the traditional tale, children learn to not let strangers in the house (good lesson).
Little Roja Riding Hood (Latino)
Author: Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrator: Susan Guevara
Illustrations: Watercolor, ink, and gouache in bright colors
Characters: Roja, Abuela, and the wolf
Distinction: Bilingual—Mostly in English but some words are in Spanish
Summary and Analysis: When Roja is sent to her grandmother’s with some soup, she is warned not to talk to “anything furry or wild.” She drives a 4-wheeler through the forest. She stops at a tree where a wolf encourages her to bring some flowers to her grandmother. Roja lays her capa (cape) down and picks some. The wolf steals the cape. Wearing the cape when he appears at Abuela’s house, there is a dialogue about his appearance between the grandmother and himself. As he attempts to pounce on her though, she holds up a heavy statue for protection. Before she has the chance to hit him, Roja arrives and throws the hot soup on the wolf. Abuela agrees to be more careful about letting people in and little Roja keeps her phone in the pocket in case of an emergency. This version is an imaginative blend of contemporary and traditional elements. The Latino elements of language and culture (especially in the illustrations) give it a unique flare.
Petite Rouge (Cajun)Author: Mike Artell
Illustrator: Jim Harris
Illustrations: Watercolor and pencil on Stathmore rag bristol
Main Characters: Petite Rouge (duck), TeJean (cat), and ol’ Claude (alligator)
Distinctions: French and Cajun words; written in poetic verse; non-standard English used
Summary and Analysis:
Petite Rogue lives in a bayou. Her mother sends her with gumbo and shrimp etouffee to care for her ill grandmother. Along with TeJean, she takes a boat through the swamp. Ol’ Claude stops her, but she fends him off with a stick. Swimming ahead, he sneaks into grandma’s house. She sees him and hides in the closet. The gator dresses up to impersonate the grandmother. When Petite Rouge comes in, she points out his “odd” features which he dismisses as being a result of his cold. During the attack, TeJean thinks to grab the hot sauce and toss it to Petite Rouge. Ol’ Claude gets a huge taste of it. Horrified by the flavor, he swims away. Everyone laughs at the silly gator. Convinced that little girls taste like the hot sauce, Ol’ Claude never bothers them again. The language, while colorful, is a bit of a challenge. If you are planning on reading it out loud to a group, practice beforehand. The pictures (especially the last one) are silly and amusing.
Activities and Resources for Lesson Plans
- Visit SurLaLune for more about Little Red Riding Hood and other beloved tales.
- Traditional Versions
- Pinterest Collection of "Little Red Riding Hood" activities (Feel free to give additional suggestions for this board)
- Pinterest Ideas for Fairy Tales