A charming hand-coloured version of the classic cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood, dated to 1810.
Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps one of the best known fairy tales. Like most European fairy tales, its origins lie within a vast folk tradition of oral storytelling. No singular author can be credited. The French author Charles Perrault collected these tales together, and published them for the very first time in 1697. Because of this he is generally considered to be the father of the fairy tale genre.
By the early 19th century the tale of Red Riding Hood had been told and retold countless times, producing numerous adaptations. This later version dates from 1810 and was published in Moorfields, London. It is told in the form of a verse poem with alternating unrhymed and rhymed couplets. The clear text, simple language and large colourful illustrations tell us that this chapbook was aimed at young readers.
This story sticks closely to Perrault’s original, and predates the Grimm brothers’ version by two years. In modern versions, we're familiar with the ‘happy ending’, in which Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are heroically saved by a woodcutter. However, in the 19th century stories for children were a lot scarier. In this version the wolf gobbles up the Grandmamma in haste, 'without mustard or bread', as if she were a hunk of cheese! The last scene grimly depicts him doing the same to little Biddy.
Like most fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood has a moral or cautionary tale at its heart. The story revolves around a predator, 'so artful and strong', who pretends to be someone he is not, and a little girl who is too trusting. The moral of the story is that people are not always who they appear to be, and strangers are not to be trusted. Even though Red Riding Hood noticed that her grandmother's arms were covered in fur, and her ears were pointy, she was too trusting of the wolf's cunning words:
'Grandmamma what great arms,
And your ears look so wild;
They are better to cuddle,
and to hear my dear child.'