According to the article “1st-Century Roots of 'Little Red Riding Hood' Found,” Tehrani, a researcher, discovered “that ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ likely branched off 1,000 years ago from an ancestral story that has its roots in the first century A.D.” Versions from ancient European oral traditions, including one where the girl outwits the wolf by leaving to use the bathroom, and “The Tiger Grandmother” (from Asia and Africa) are connected to it. Tehrani discovered that the tale appears to have descended from the ancient narrative "The Wolf and the Kids” (from Europe and the Middle East).
Why does this story continue to be rewritten and recycled with each generation? Some have suggested it is because of the universal themes, which center on venturing out into the adult world and surviving varying degrees of dangerous situations. Authors continue to retell this story with their own imaginative plot elements and creative twists. Here are just a few modern retellings and fractured fairy tale versions:
Author: Joan Holub
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher Summary: Once upon a time in pencil school, a teacher named Ms. 2 told her class, “Today we’re going to write a story.” “Yippee!” Said the birthday pencil. “Slammin’!” said the basketball pencil. “Sharp!” said Little Red. So begins a hilarious and exuberant retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” in which a brave little red pencil finds her way through the many perils of story-telling, faces a ravenous pencil sharpener (the Wolf 3000)…and saves the day.
Why I Chose It: This book is ideal to begin an activity or unit on story writing. Many elements of narrative writing as well as the process of putting it together are depicted. There are also many puns, multiple meaning words, and other fun word play that can be discussed formally or informally. In some parts, where she is putting her story together quickly—due to danger, there are run on sentences and choppiness. Another instructional idea would be putting those parts up on an overhead and then discussing where to add punctuation and transition words. Finally, the story ends with a strong teachable moment. Red believes she is not brave because she was scared while working to defeat the Wolf 3000. Principal Granny says, “Even heroes get scared, but they do brave deeds anyway.” There are so many layers in the text and illustrations that with every reading you could focus on different area each time.
Author/Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher Summary: “Don’t dilly dally,” said Carmine’s mother. “Go directly to Granny’s.” And, as Carmine takes off on her bicycle with Rufus, it is just what she intends to do. But Carmine is a dreamy painter, always in search of capturing just the right hue in her drawing, and this drawing—the one she begins in a lovely forest clearing just off the path to Granny’s—must be her best yet.
Why I Chose It: One of the best parts of the book is the illustrations. In some of them are embedded subtle references to other fairy tales and nursery rhymes like “Three Blind Mice,” “The Three Pigs,” and “Little Jack Horner.” Sweet maximizes her story telling opportunities with lots of action and activity on each two-page spread. Carmine’s artistic, dreamy side gives the character an interesting dimension that many will relate to. This version leaves out Red’s interaction with the wolf. Instead, he communicates with her dog that tells him everything he needs to know. Granny is simply pushed into a closet while the wolf steals the bones she has laid out for soup. Another unusual technique is the use of 26 key words—one for each letter of the alphabet—which are incorporated into the narrative. Many are common words. Some, however, will be new to children. This idea could easily be incorporated in an extension activity by providing children with words—focusing on vocabulary, a part of speech, or random words—and allowing them to write their own version of this or another tale.
Author: Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrator: Laura Huliska-Beith
Publisher Summary: Little Red Hot loves red-hot chili peppers. She eats them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When her grandmother catches a cold, Little Red makes her a hot pepper pie that will “knock those cold germs right out of her!” But before Little Red shares her pie with Grandma, she meets Senor Lobo—and this pie comes in very handy when the wily wolf tires to trick her into thinking he’s her grandmother.
Why I Chose It: Little Red Hot is one spunky character! This version is full of fun exaggeration reminiscent of a tall tale. This version could be used to teach hyperbole. Children can practice writing their exaggerations related to this story or in a different one. Instead of the woodsman, Pecos Bill and his crew make a cameo to warn her about Senor Lobo (the wolf) and again at the end. (Read a Pecos Bill tale and/or teach about tall tales. Compare the characteristics to this book.) When Red confronts Senor Lobo at Grandma’s house, she goes through the “what big” encounter. One of the most memorable parts is when she says, “What big teeth you got! Now don’t say another word, ‘cause I know what they are for.” She has the perfect solution for him! The vivid and energetic illustrations compliment this riotous ride!
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Publisher Summary: This wolf just can’t catch a break! Every since the three little pigs started teaching everyone Ninja skills, huffing and puffing just hasn’t been enough to scare up a good meal. Wolf’s craving for meat sends him to classes at the dojo, and soon he’s ready to try out his new moves. A little girl and her granny should be easy targets—right?
Why I Chose It: The story is mostly told through the wolf’s perspective, rather than Red’s. During their meeting at grandma’s house, he moves to eat her. However, she whips off her cloak to reveal she has been training as a Ninja too! There are several inventive twists as the narrative comes to a conclusion. The snappy poetic verse format makes Ninja Red Riding Hood perfect for reading out loud. The illustrations have an animated graphic novel look. Kids are sure to get a kick out of this creative fractured fairy tale.
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Illustrator: Scott Nash
Publisher Summary: Betsy is finally old enough to take cupcakes to Grandma all by herself—with the company of her faithful sheep, of course. And although wolves aren’t good for grandmas, Betsy lets her best friend, Zimmo, come along too. But will Zimmo’s wolfish instincts make Grandma the tasty treat instead?
Why I Chose It: This fractured fairy tale takes some interesting turns. First, Betsy is a shepherdess who has a wolf (Zimmo) helping her with her sheep. Keep in mind that Zimmo has always been “good” to the sheep, but he (because he is a wolf) is a threat to grandmas. When she is sent with cupcakes to her Grandma’s house, Zimmo begs to go! She finally agrees. Next, The sheep add a lot of humor. They often make silly comments on their way, including comparing the eyes, arms, and teeth of grandma and wolf and make mischief. Then, Zimmo runs ahead, causing Betsy to become concerned. The ending is an original twist. Nash utilizes every surface for his lively illustrations.
Author/Illustrator: Lisa Campbell Ernst
Good Reads Summary: It's the story of the girl in the red hood--with an unpredictable plot twist. She pedals over to Grandma's with a tasty treat a hungry wolf wants for himself. But, he soon discovers that broad-shouldered, sharp-eyed, tractor-driving Grandma has no patience for pesky predators.
Why I Chose It: The wolf is not interested in eating Little Red or Grandma. Instead, he wants her muffin recipe. When he meets Grandma though, he is the one who is scared! The “what big” encounter is reversed. Grandma is the hero of the story. She stands up to the wolf and, eventually, tames him. Grandma’s muffin recipe is included. Make mini-muffins for the class or bake together at home. Perhaps compare it to another favorite recipe.
Author: Susan Lowell
Illustrator: Randy Cecil
Publisher Summary: Little Red Cowboy Hat has saddled up her buckskin pony and is off to Grandma’s house with fresh bread and a jar of cactus jelly. It’s rattler season in the desert, but Little Red has more to worry about than snakes. A big gray wolf in a tall black hat is lurking behind cactus, and he’s got a hankerin for a Little-Red lunch. Getting ahold of this cowgirl won’t be easy, though, because he’s got to get past Grandma first.
Why I Chose It: This version stays fairly close to the traditional tale in structure, but the desert setting and colorful southern-style language set it apart. The end also has a modern twist. Both Red and the Grandma are the ones who chase off the wolf. The lesson at the end is “A girl’s gotta stick up for herself.” Fun onomatopoeia throughout make for an opportunity to add some dramatic flare and to encourage child participation.
- Pick two or more tales with different characters who “save the day.” Compare and contrast how the characters resolve the conflict. Which is most effective? How would you resolve it?
- Break the story up into parts, like beginning, traveling to, arriving at Grandma’s house, and resolution. Take different parts from two or more versions. Rewrite a new tale. Can be done as a class, with a parent, with a peer-partner, or independently.
- Rewrite the tale using a new premise like being in space, in the future, on a boat, or some other creative setting.
- Read a traditional version (like Grimm’s) or multicultural one. Compare and contrast with one of the modern versions.
Activities and Resources for Lesson Plans
- Other Little Red Riding Hood Books Reviewed
- Use a Venn Diagram to compare/contrast 2 versions.
- Visit SurLaLune for more about Little Red Riding Hood and other beloved tales.
- Pinterest Collection of "Little Red Riding Hood" activities (Feel free to give additional suggestions for this board)
- Pinterest Ideas for Fairy Tales