BARTLEBY SCRIVENERS ASSOC.
PO Box 1274
Gloucester, VA 23061
Versions of the Little Red Riding Hood fable have been frightening children, especially girls, since at least a century before Columbus planted the Spanish flag in the Bahamas. In many of these versions the ending is not happy for Riding Hood or her grandma, as the wolf, later known as The Big Bad Wolf, eats them both. These versions were intended to scare the bejeebies out of kids, impressing upon them the importance of avoiding strangers and staying the hell out of deep dark woods.
The rescuing Woodsman doesn't appear until a couple of centuries down the road. In one of the first versions with him as hero he does not arrive upon the scene until after the wolf has eaten the two, but because they were swallowed whole the Woodsman frees them – still alive, of course – by slicing open the wolf's belly. The three – Riding Hood, Grandma and the Woodsman – then fill the wolf's belly with stones, and when the foul creature awakens and is thirsty from his “big meal” he waddles to the well, falls in and drowns. In later versions the Woodsman rescues Riding Hood by hearing her screams and arriving in the nick of time as she flees Grandma's house with the wolf, wearing Grandma's nightgown, close behind. The Woodsman chops the wolf to pieces. Grandma, who had been hiding in the closet, comes out and joins the celebration.
That's the basic story my mother read to me before I wore long pants. There are more recent versions, some in which Riding Hood seduces the wolf and others in which she and the Woodsman are close close friends at the beginning of the story and in which Grandma's role is too complicated to bother with at the moment. The point I'm building to here, which is hinted at in the title, is that unless the Woodsman is at Riding Hood's side at all times she's fairly helpless in the event a hungry wolf with a yen for the flesh of a tender young maiden eyes her all alone, especially if she's taking a break in the deep dark woods whilst on her way to Grandma's house with a basket of goodies.
What if the Woodsman, then, is not in attendance, but asleep under the tree against which his axe is propped, too far away to hear his beloved's shriek of terror should the wolf pop out from behind a tree bearing evil intent? Or at least too far away to awaken and schlup to where it seemed the shriek emitted from in time to bring this tale to a happy denouement? What if his ardor for Ms. Hood had cooled, his heart found someone else? What if? There are hundreds of them, perhaps thousands of what ifs that could interfere with Riding Hood's rescue from the snarling, befanged, drooling beast that looms before her.
Of course, were she packing, had she slipped a 9mm Beretta into her basket before tripping down the path into the deep dark woods, then surely a different outcome could be anticipated. Let me tell you something. That's what I would have in my basket were I wearing a cute little skirt and a bright red cap on my jaunt through the deep dark woods to Grandma's house or anywhere else. That way, were I to tire midway along my jaunt and decide to sit a spell under the canopy of a big oak tree, leaning my back against its rough, protective trunk, I'd be ready in case a big bad anything popped out and confronted me with ill designs. As they say on the mean streets of the city, speaking of caps, I'd be ready to pop right back at my would-be molester.
As they say in the comfy suburbs of the city, when seconds count, the police are are only minutes away. Unless, of course, you're prepared to help yourself.