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Little Red Cap


Rotkäppchen [Little Red Cap]


by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

as retold by Mr. Muliebris

Once upon a time there was a sweet young woman. Everyone who saw her liked her, but most of all her grandmother, who did not know what to give the girl next. Once she gave her a little cap made of red velvet. Because it suited her so well, and she wanted to wear it all the time, she came to be known as Little Red Cap.      One day her mother said to her, "Come Little Red Cap. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is sick and weak, and they will do her well. Mind your manners and give her my greetings. Behave yourself on the way, and do not leave the path, or you might fall down and break the glass, and then there will be nothing for your grandmother. And when you enter her parlour, don't forget to say 'Good morning,' and don't peer into all the corners first."      "I'll do everything just right," said Little Red Cap, shaking her mother's hand.      The grandmother lived out in the woods, a half hour from the village. When Little Red Cap entered the woods a woodsman she did not know came up to her. He was wearing a fine sheepskin coat. She looked down at her shoes and did not see that he stared at her in a wicked manner. She did not know what a beast he was, and was not afraid of him.      "Good day to you, Little Red Cap."      "Thank you, woodsman."      "Where are you going so early, Little Red Cap?"      "To grandmother's."      "And what are you carrying under your apron?"      "Grandmother is sick and weak, and I am taking her some cake and wine. We baked yesterday, and they should be good for her and give her strength."      "Little Red Cap, just where does your grandmother live?"      "Her house is good quarter hour from here in the woods, under the three large oak trees. There's a hedge of hazel bushes there. You must know the place," said Little Red Cap.      The woodsman thought to himself, "Now this sweet young thing is a tasty bit of skirt. You will have your wicked way with her after you rob the old woman. You must be sly, and you can catch them both." He walked along a little while with Little Red Cap, then he said, "Little Red Cap, just look at the beautiful flowers that are all around us. Why don't you go and take a look? And I don't believe you can hear how beautifully the birds are singing on the path. You are walking along as though you were on your way to school. It is very beautiful in the woods."      Little Red Cap opened her eyes and when she saw the sunbeams dancing to and fro through the trees and how the ground was covered with beautiful flowers, she thought, "If I take a fresh bouquet to grandmother, she will be very pleased. Anyway, it is still early, and I'll be home on time." And she ran off the path into the woods looking for flowers. Each time she picked one she thought that she could see an even more beautiful one a little way off, and she ran after it, going further and further into the woods.      The woodsman ran straight to the grandmother's house and knocked on the door.      "Who's there?"      "Little Red Cap. I'm bringing you some cake and wine. Open the door."      "Just press the latch," called out the grandmother. "I'm too weak to get up."      The woodsman pressed the latch, and the door opened. He stepped inside, went straight to the grandmother's bed, put a rag in her mouth, tied her up and stuffed her in a cupboard. Then he took off his sheepskin coat, put on her clothes, put her cap on his head, got into her bed and pulled the curtains shut.      Little Red Cap had run after the flowers. After she had gathered so many that she could not carry any more, she remembered her grandmother. Just then a she-wolf stepped out of the dark woods carrying a knife in its muzzle. Little Red Cap fell to the ground in fear. The she-wolf dropped the knife on the ground and spoke. "Do not be afraid of me, Little Red Cap. My prey consists of deer, boar and moose. The monster is the woodsman who chops down the forest and takes advantage of young women. This knife belongs to him, my dear. I found it in his nearby camp. Take it with you when you visit your grandmother and be careful." With that, the she-wolf loped back into the forest. Trembling, Little Red Cap picked up the knife, and then continued on her way to her house.      Little Red Cap found, to her surprise, that the door of her grandmother's house was open. She walked into the parlour, and everything looked so strange that she thought, "Oh, my God, why am I so afraid? I usually like it at grandmother's." She called out, "Good morning!" but received no answer. Then she went to the bed and pulled back the curtains. Grandmother was lying there with her cap pulled down over her face and looking very strange.      "Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"      "All the better to hear you with."      "Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"      "All the better to see you with."      "Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"      "All the better to grab you with!"      "Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!"      "All the better to kiss you with!"      The woodsman had scarcely finished speaking when he jumped from the bed with a single leap and chased Little Red Cap out into the forest. He ripped off Little Red Cap's apron and dress. Pulling at his breeches, he shouted, "Oh, Little Red Cap, look what a big -- " but before he could finish, Little Red Cap pulled out the knife she had been carrying. The woodsman laughed and lunged at her again, but cut open his hand. Again he grabbed at her, leaving a bruise and a bloody hand print upon her body, but this time the knife pierced his heart and he fell down dead. Little Red Cap ran back into grandmother's house and climbed into the bed. She began to cry very loudly.      The she-wolf was just passing by. She saw the woodsman lying there. "So here I find you, you old sinner," she said. "I have been hunting for you a long time." It occurred to her that the woodsman might have harmed the grandmother and Little Red Cap but that both might still might be rescued. She thought, "The young woman is crying so loudly. You had better see if something is wrong with her." The she-wolf stepped into the parlour.      She found grandmother inside the cupboard and used her big teeth to cut grandmother's bonds. Grandmother thanked the she-wolf with a hug. "Oh, I was so frightened! It was so dark inside the cupboard!" And then Little Red Cap came out from under the covers alive, but hardly able to breathe because of her ordeal. She saw that it was the she-wolf and thanked her for the knife.      The three of them were happy. The she-wolf ate the woodsman. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine that Little Red Cap had brought. Little Red Cap put on the woodsman's warm sheepskin coat. And Little Red Cap told everyone she knew about the woodsman's wicked ways, so that other sweet young women -- and wicked woodsmen -- would learn from the story. THE END

Composite image. Original photograph: Canon 5D Mark III in manual mode, mixed natural and artificial light, 1/125 sec, aperture f/8.0, ISO 100, 85mm.  With thanks to model Elilith, producer Dan Hostettler (Prague).

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