Over the years there have been many stories told about little girls in red hoods. I am not one to add to hoopla or jump on bandwagons, and even if I were, what could I contribute that hasn’t already been told and retold? And since you know that I am not one to seek the spotlight or grandstand – sure, I have been known to get a little wordy at times, perhaps even filibuster the lesser storytellers around the campfire (knowing that I only do this for you, the audience) – you can trust the authority in which I speak, on all matters of red hoods, wolves and huntsman. My reputation is unimpeachable. I am known across the land as one who pays such great attention to detail that after assembling a 1000 piece puzzle, and then disassembling it, I can reconstruct everything blind-folded just from memory.
Why are my details beyond reproach? Well, despite the fact that I am universally known for never embellishing or minimizing the facts of a tale – my methods of accumulating truths have been the case study for numerous young storytellers – in the instance of Little Red Riding Hood, my fact findings go beyond the maniacal precision that has made me the standard bearer for accuracy in the industry of storytelling. This added insight comes from the connection I have with the adorable little girl I am about to tell you about. She is my niece.
Normally, I am not one to interject my own personal commentary into the story, but as I have a close personal relationship with Red – Red being what those dearest to the girl call her – I feel it is my duty as an adult in her life, a parental figure if you will, (seeing as how the poor girl has no father and there seems to be very little information in the way of his whereabouts) to point out I do not think it’s appropriate the way young girls are prone to dress these days. I blame myself really. If I hadn’t been so tenacious in improving my craft of storytelling, I might have spent more time around the cottage where she lived with her mother, offering the paternal guidance she lacked, and maybe I could have forestalled any future run-ins with wolf types, if only I had been there to regulate the way she dressed. Far be it from me to “blame the victim,” as it were, but Red’s skirt barely came down to past the crease in her bum. She wore a tight red tank-top that fit the form of her body like a second layer of skin. A black bra pushed her breasts together almost up to her chin, for crying out loud.
Here is where the so-called historians and intellectuals get their facts wrong – I get angry when someone mentions those Grimm brothers who don’t give our craft the focus it deserves – but Little Red Riding Hood… never wore a hood. That’s right. You heard me. No hood. She wore a bright red hijab (something I picked up for her in my travels to the Middle East), and not for religion or inclement weather; around the forest it was always warm during the day and at night it got exceedingly cold (the hijab wouldn’t offer nearly enough protection in the hours after the sun had set). She wore it because even though she was very young, she had mineral green eyes and full red lips that always seemed to be wrapped around a cherry popsicle (understandable because popsicles were a terrific way to stay cool during the day). These features had a way of drawing men of all ages to her. On those rare occasions when I was not traveling the land and gathering facts, and was able to participate in young Red’s life, I spent the time I could have used tutoring her on the ways of the world with my superior storytelling, fighting off all her would be suitors. “Red, cover your face. Don’t you see what your doing to these men?” I’d quip before turning to drooling imbecile in front of us. “Do you have a clue as to how old she is?” I’d shout, shooing him away. And poor Red, she was oblivious to such things, sweet and innocent she giggled, waving at the men from behind red fabric shielding everything but her eyes.
One day, I was in Italy of all places, gathering tidbits about the way pasta was made, when one of my sources back home, got word to me that Red’s grandmother had become deathly ill. Being too far away and unable to do anything about it myself, I sent word back to Red’s mother, reporting on the dire state of affairs, and this being one of those crises that families go through from time to time, she jumped into action, doing the one thing that was sure to make Grandmother feel better. She got to baking cake. Lesser informed people would have prescribed aggressive chemotherapy for her Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma, but those of us who know things – we take the time to find the answers unlike a pair of brothers I am acquainted with – know that the only fool proof way to cure Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma is with wine and cake. So Red’s beloved mother sped around the kitchen mixing flour and eggs, whipping cream into frosting and baking her heart out for Grandmother. Red, listened to music and texted boys, as is the custom for girls her age, to always be listening to music and on her phone, updating her status and posting selfies, some where she made the most adorable face, pursing her lips as if they were the bill of a duck. I called it my special little girl’s special duckface. In other selfies she stuck out her tongue as if she was about to lick icing off an out stretched middle finger. I don’t need to tell you how cute and innocent she looked.
I have it on good authority that as soon as the cakes were out of the oven, even before they had time to cool, Red’s mother had already wrapped them and put them in a basket with a good bottle of red wine. “Take these to your Grandmother at once!”
Following the path through the woods, Red noticed lots of beautiful flowers along the way, and even though Grandmother was in agony, weeks away from death as the cancer consumed her, Red, who frequently forgot to take her Adderall, predisposing her to go off on tangents making her susceptible to errors of judgment, like she was always accidently walking into the men’s restrooms not paying attention to the signs, seemingly getting lost in there for hours, coming out with a red glow of embarrassment on her face. She was such a klutz, let me tell you, frequently dropping things, like one time she dropped a whole basket of french-fries in my lap, and how we laughed as we picked them up one at a time, Red dipping them in ketchup, licking the condensed tomatoes around her lips. I felt so close to her in those days. She was even younger and more innocent than she is now. She had a quality about her where she seemed oblivious to everything that was happening, as if she were a cloud floating on boat made of clouds traveling down a winding lazy river. So, no, it doesn’t surprise me in the least to hear from my spies that Red stopped to pick every flower on the way to Grandmother’s cottage, bending over, wiggling her bum as if she were waving to someone she knew was hiding in the bushes. (before you start to think about it, because I know how you gentlemen listening to me spin this tale think, get your mind out of the gutters and stop picturing that little girl’s rear, stop imaging her tight red skirt riding up her legs, that has no place in these kinds of stories – maybe those Grimm brothers will use that kind of sultry trick, maybe even I have too, from time to time, (judicially of course) – need I remind you that this story is about my niece.)
Bent over, her behind waving in the warm summer breeze of the forest, plucking a daisy out of the ground, and sniffing it, Red felt something cold and sharp tap her shoulder. “Excuse me, Little Red Riding Hood” a soft voice, in a strange accent came from behind. Red turned around to see a tall hairy wolf in front of her, saliva dripping out of the corner of his mouth.
“Sup.” red responded, inexplicably materializing from between her out-reaching bosom a completely frozen cherry popsicle and placed it on her tiny pink tongue.
“Well, Red, if I may call you Red,” The Wolf started.
Pulling a popsicle out of her mouth, a bead of cherry juice rolling from her chin, Red asked, “Where are you from? You sound like Hugh Jackman swallowed the voice box of Woody Allen.”
“Oh, I am not from these parts. You are probably picking up on my accent, but… I believe Hugh Jackman is Australian and I am Welsh”
“What-evs, The Wolf. I have to get going? My grandmother is deathly ill; she has Dodgers Nympho Omaha. If I don’t get her these things right away I may lose her.”
Kicking the dirt the wolf put his hands in his non-existent pockets. He spoke to the ground and said, “Aww, Red. It’s dangerous out here for a little girl like you, is all. I just wanted to walk with you to make sure you were safe.”
With her back already turned and Red on her way down the path, she didn’t hear The Wolf speak, and him not being a run-of-the-mill type of wolf, he followed alongside her, just off in the woods and out of sight, ready to jump in and save her, if other, less trustworthy wolves happened upon her. I have it on good authority from my sources that he was salivating as he watched my innocent little niece suck on her long, red popsicle. It was a very hot day, and clearly the wolf needed some relief, only a cold beverage or ice cream could provide. I myself have often watched Red enjoy a popsicle or lick around soft serve ice cream in a cone. Seeing the innocence of a little girl at play like that brings more joy to my… heart, than I can even begin to describe, which really tells you something, because my expertise in describing things is world renown.
My sources also tell me at some point, The Wolf ran on ahead seeking permission from Grandmother to begin courtship with Red, something The Wolf never thought he would want, because up to that point in his life, he had never seen a girl so alluring to make him want to be any different than the wolf he had worked so hard to become. Knocking on the door The Wolf called out, “Grandmother, it is The Wolf. I must speak with you as this pertains to matters of the heart, and as you know, such matters cannot lay idle, even for just a moment.”
“I am sorry, The Wolf,” she called back, her voice cracking which lead to a violent coughing outburst.
“Grandmother, are you OK?” The wolf called back, but the only answer he got was more coughing. “I would never violate the sanctity of a person’s home,” he announced to the door. “I am not like other wolves who use their huffing and puffing for home invasions, so forgive me for what I am about to do, for you sound like you are in much distress, and me, as a leader of WOLF (The Wolf Oblation of Love Fraternity), I must do all I can to show the world that we wolves are not the dangers that society has made us out to be. Just because we have the fangs of a predator does not mean we CANNOT have the hearts of a saint.” Waving his paw at the cottage with a fury The Wolf yelled out, “I shall enter you.”
Backing away from the door, The Wolf snarled like his ancestor wolves did before a kill. Digging his claws into the dirt, he charged forward and lowered his shoulder, ready to burst through , sending wood flying in every direction, but just as he was about to make contact a voice called out, so faintly he almost missed it amongst the adrenaline surging through his wolf veins. “Mr. The Wolf! The door is unlocked.”
Panting, with saliva dripping out his mouth the wolf turned the nob and entered the quaint little cottage. On the far side of the room, Grandmother, lay in a hospital bed that hospice brought by, an I.V. pumping medicine into her body. Grandmother squinted her eyes and tried to focus. I have it on good authority that her eyesight was atrocious, so it is doubtful she would have been able to see The Wolf’s narrowed bloodshot eyes, but it is undeniable that creatures all across the animal kingdom give off an energy, much like the way an antelope senses a lion stalking through the tall grass on the planes of Africa, where I have witnessed such things for myself in my many travels, searching for the best stories in all the lands. So it isn’t all surprising what Grandmother said next, “Hello, The Wolf. Have you come to kill me?”
“No, Grandmother. I have come to ask if I may call upon your granddaughter.”
Grandmother’s head sunk down to her chest, tears begun to roll out. “Grandmother, I apologize if I have caused you distress. I only wish to say that I find Little Red Riding Hood alluring, and would very much like to be able to advance a friendship with here, with the hopes we might one day form a sacred union.”
“It’s not that, The Wolf. I am very ill and I am in so much pain. I hoped you had come to eat me.”
“Oh no, Grandmother. You must not give up. There is always hope. A cure could be on its way even as we speak.”
“The Wolf, you are so very kind, nothing like your ancestors who huffed and puffed. Truth be told, I didn’t care much for the pigs in those days either. I have lived a rich full life, and even if you promised me that a cure would be here soon, I don’t want to bear one more moment of this pain.”
The wolf gently walked closer to Grandmother, his sharp fierce fangs coming into her focus. But that isn’t what Grandmother noticed. Many people of her generation grew up hating wolves. They were taught that wolves are dangerous and unsafe. They were taught that wolves only wanted to push their wolf agenda of ripping into soft meaty flesh with their long rigid fangs. Grandmother had a good heart, but even those with good hearts can be taught to hate, and for a long time that’s what she did. But with a heart like Grandmother had, it was only a matter of time before she loved wolves, and not just The Wolf, but all wolves, whether they were proud of who they are or still lurking in the shadows.
“Don’t you distress,” Grandmother said, noticing a tear falling from The Wolf’s eye. “It is my time and you’d be doing me a kindness.”
The Wolf extended his paw and Grandmother reached out to meet him, wrapping her fingers against the soft, and still somehow coarse skin. “It’s OK, The Wolf. I consent to you eating me.” Everything inside of him said not to do it but when Grandmother strained to say, “Please,” The Wolf looked into her sweet cataract filled eyes, he knew what he had to do.
Some hours later, Little Red Riding Hood arrived, not even noticing the front door was open, as she was often oblivious to such things, as you well know by now.
Sauntering in swinging her basket around, her hijab wrapped tight around her face, Red saw The Wolf, lurching over the corpse of Grandmother, his teeth bloodied, crimson droplets plummeting from his wolf lips onto his boorish chest fur.
“Sup, The Wolf.”
The Wolf fell to his knees, and covered his tear-soaked eyes with his paws, ashamed of the embarrassment he had brought himself. The leader of WOLF resorting to his primal self – the makings of an international scandal, I don’t have to tell you – realizing that not only had he set himself back after years of therapy and self-help books, but he had set back the progress of all wolfkind. He knew that Grandmother was universally loved, across all the lands, and that his crimes (even if they came from a place of love) would assuredly be seen as more homicidal rage from a creature designed for such atrocities. And what of the little girl he loved? How could he ever hope to court her as he digested her beloved Grandmother?
“Oh, Little Red Riding Hood, please forgive me. I did not want to commit such an act. But your grandmother begged me to do it. If you had seen the pain she was in you would understand. I know you came in earnest with a cure, but she told me she couldn’t stand it another moment.”
Peering into the basket she had been carrying all the way from her home, Red said, slurring her words a bit, “Don’t sweat it, The Wolf. Not sure what happened to it, but it seems like I misplaced the cake and wine.”
Outside The Huntsman was walking by and heard the sobs of The Wolf, thinking they were the strange snores of Grandmother. “Everyone across the land knows that Grandmother has fallen ill. Those sounds are very peculiar. I will investigate,” The Huntsman said to his ax. You see, in those days, huntsman spent many months alone in the wilderness away from the comforts of home, having little to no contact with other humans. Sure, they had run-ins with the creatures of the forest but that was a poor substitute for interacting with your own kind, and as a result, huntsmen often developed a distinct relationship with their ax, giving it the name of a woman, usually the most beautiful woman they had ever known, and holding the ax close to their chest during the long cold nights.
Bursting into the cottage, sunlight peering through gaps in the tall trees, rays of sun reflected off of metallic green leaves, beaming over The Huntsman’s shoulder, glistening off the blade of his ax. “Grandmother, I have come to check on- What is the meaning of all this?”
Red turned to see The Huntsman, with his thick furry forearms, flexing as his grip tightened around the ax handle. The top four buttons of his heavy red flannel shirt were undone, revealing a coat of blonde fur flowing out from beneath his undershirt, lustrous from the sweat of that days tree chopping. His mustache was like that of a bristled brush used to scrub floors by servants. His eyes were a powder blue as his pupils zeroed in on the sobbing wolf kneeling by Grandmother’s motionless body.
“Damn!” Red said, probably in awe of The Huntsman’s giant ax.
Looking up from his sorrows, The Wolf said, “Hello The Huntsman, good to see you again.”
“What is the meaning of this, The Wolf?” Creatures of the forest (The Huntsman being included in this) have a special camaraderie that is difficult for creatures not of the forest to understand. Special relationships form out of necessity in order to survive the harsh and lonely woods. Many cold nights The Huntsman and The Wolf spent talking as they sat by a fire, The Wolf musing about his work with WOLF, and his personal triumphs in becoming a more open and proud of who he was. And the huntsman talked about his dreams of one day saving enough money so he can retire to a cottage in a village not far from the forest, where he and his ax, (and if god willing a young lady) could ride out the frigid nights together. These kinds of talks are what breed the closeness of the woodland creatures, so it probably comes as no surprise to you that after the fire had exhausted all its fuel, and there was no more wood to be had, The Wolf and The Huntsman spent the hours before dawn huddled together, using each other’s warmth to ride out the chill.
Red licked her lips, wishing she had another Popsicle to suck on. The closer The Huntsman got to her the warmer she felt.
“This isn’t like you The Wolf!”
Red, looking at the blood of her Grandmother dripping on the floor, The Wolf on his knees, and The Huntsman’s broad shoulders built like a grand piano, quickly covered her eyes with both hands and wept, “It’s so awful, The Huntsman. I came to bring Grandmother wine and cake, because as you’ve probably heard, she was deathly ill. When I arrived I found the Wolf Standing over her body, covered in her blood. He fell to his knees and wept in happiness when he saw me, for Grandmother was too old and stale for his tastes. ‘Alas’ he said ‘Now I shall have a proper meal.’”
His paws falling by his side, The Wolf said, “What the fuckity-fuck?”\
Just then, Red removed her hands from her face, and peered out from under her hijab, allowing The Huntsman to look upon her for the first time. Like many men of the woods The Huntsman had heard of Red, usually in reference to her innocence and childlike beauty. But he had never before witnessed it himself, and I don’t need to tell you, seeing is believing (words I live by). He dropped his ax, thudding hard against the oak floor before stepping closer to Red, her eyes growing dark, licking her lips, hungry for more Popsicles.
“The Huntsman, you know me. You know the wolf I have become. You and I have spent so many nights together. You can’t possibly believe her, can you?”
Tripping over Red’s pouty lip The Huntsman said, “I don’t know wolf. You can get a haircut and trim your nails; put on a nice suit and shiny new shoes, but at the end of the day, deep down you are still a wolf and will always be one.”
“That’s right, The Huntsman,” Red’s eyes watering up. “What will I do now that my beloved Grandmother is gone, murdered at the hands of the most vile creature know in all the land. Oh how I hate The Wolf. I wish he was dead. How will I ever get justice for my dear sweet Grandmother?”
A single tear rolled out form Little Red Riding Hood’s eye. The Huntsman watched as it trickled down her soft pale cheek, innocent as fresh snow, bile filling his veins, his breathing growing feverous, without removing his gaze from the little girl, he charged towards The Wolf, who threw up his paws and stuttered, but was unable get out any coherent words before The Huntsman’s hands were firmly wrapped around his wolf throat, shaking him like a mangy dog, as his eyes bulged out of their sockets and his tale went erect. Red’s attention stayed fixed on the commotion, her heart raced, palms grew sweaty. She began to touch her neck with one hand, perhaps to try and have empathy for the dying wolf. Her other hand reached across her body, and covered her lap, pressing into herself, perhaps subconsciously seeking protection from the violence she witnessed.
“It’s time you answer for your sins, The Wolf,” The Huntsman shouted. “You are an unnatural beast, an aberration created by God, who challenged you to be something more. He challenged you to be more than a wolf. But now that you have shown you can’t control your urges, that you will never be able to change what you are, you must answer for all your sins. You make me sick, The Wolf. How could I have allowed myself to be seduced by your companionship?”
Long after The Wolf’s tail fell limp, The Huntsman continued to scream and grunt, wringing the wolf’s neck, his lifeless body flopping around like salmon caught in a net.
Unable to look away, Red pressed her hand harder against her lap, perhaps needing comfort, like the feeling of a good hug.
When the Huntsman had unleashed all his bile onto his old companion, he dropped him to the floor, laying in a pool of Grandmother’s blood. Standing up he cleared his throat and spat on The Wolf, “I will never be fooled again by your kind again.”
Turning to Little Red Riding Hood, The Huntsman approached her slowly, covered in the foul stench of The Wolf’s dying breaths. Gently, he removed the hijab from Red’s head, both of them, holding their breath, “You are safe now, Red. I am here to protect you from all the dangers in the forest, including the treacherous wolves.”
“Thank you The Huntsman, you are so brave and kind and noble.”
Sweeping her off her feet, the Huntsman carried young Little Red Riding Hood away, as she nestled her lips into his sandpaper neck. I won’t tell you what happened after because there are so many other stories to tell and so many that have already been written. If you want to know what became of Red and The Huntsman I call upon you to dig through all the facts and interview all the witnesses. Find informants near and far, high and low; stay true to the craft of storytelling because it is the most noble of all the professions, answering a special calling that creates a maniacal obsession with passing down a history of what has happened, so that those who are fortunate enough to hear our words, may learn from the accumulation of wisdom shared and compounded into over a hundred lifetimes, trusting that we don’t miss anything, and only speak truth.