Charles Perrault the Little Red Riding Hood is a fairy tale that touches on the cultural and historical context of the time. The story analysed by writing elites focuses on a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood who was asked by her mother to bring a loaf and butter to her ailing grandmother. Once she reaches the forest, she encounters a wolf that tricks her and goes to her grandmother’s house and eats her. The little girl enters her grandmother’s house where the wolf sets a trap for her and it ends up eating her, as well. This fairy tale brings out the social, political and historical context of the time by depicting a dangerous world.
The story influenced and accepted the culture of the time where young girls were perceived innocent as well as perfect. During Perrault’s time, the value of a young woman who retained her virginity mattered a lot in the society. The society expected women to remain innocent and take care of themselves until the time of marriage. In this way, virginity was a valuable tool for women and its preservation was equally important. The safeguarding of women’s sexuality was important such that girls were often raised in convents. The law of the time required men to have connection with women only in marriage and cases of rape/violation of a woman were punishable even by death. In the ancient society, young women were warned of dangers of unprincipled suitors and they had to be keen to avoid them. In this fairy tale, Perrault shows that the young woman was deprived of her virginity and innocent by the wolf. The wolf represents a predatory male whom women should be wary of in order to remain safe.
The story shows the difference between the safe village world and the dangers roaming in the forest. At the time of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, the jungles remained dangerous for people even those in the army. There was a risk of getting hurt or harmed by dangerous bandits or murderers. There were beliefs of mythical dangers in the forests such as evil spirits or witches that lurked in the thick woods. In this way, the village was presumed a safe place for all people to safeguard from evil. The village remained safe because it was protected by guards and watchmen unlike the dark forests that remained dangerous. Perrault shows that the evil wolf roams the forests and people have to be wary of such places.
It is apparent that the fairy tale also accepts the politics of the time that is portrayed by a dominant male. The authority of the male in politics was common in the middle ages while women were rarely accepted in political arenas. The men were responsible for taking the leadership of the society and giving direction to others. The wolf in the story represents a dominant male that offers direction to the little girl. The wolf tells Little Red Riding Hood that he wishes to visit the grandmother and demands that they each follow a different path. This indication shows that dominance and leadership remain in the hands of the men. It is also apparent that, in politics, people used tricks and seductive words to capture the hearts of the electorate. In the ancient times, the use of attractive and seductive words that appeased the people allowed many leaders to rise to power. The wolf in the story becomes seductive and manipulative to get what he needs from the grandmother and the Little Red Riding Hood. He easily sways them by changing his voice to suit the situation and conditions of the time.
The cultural function of the fairy tale is to warn women and young girls of the dangers they expose themselves to while communicating with strangers. The young women in the society are vulnerable to the deception of greedy male predators. There were cases of rape and violation of women and the text warns women not to trust strangers in order to avoid such occurrences. The political function of the narrative is to enlighten about the male dominance. It creates awareness that the leaders use deceptive strategies to win support and, therefore, it would be important for people to gauge them before following them. The tale hopes to show the society that focusing on leaders’ policies and track record is more important than listening to the attractive words they use. For instance, the wolf in the story shows a leader who uses sweet words to capture the attention of people but destroys them in the end.
The reception of Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood has changed over time with recent critiques citing transformation of womanhood. The original story was warning girls of dangerous men in the society while later versions signify the conversion of a girl from childhood to womanhood. The changes indicate that the narrative portrays how sexual attractiveness of women has enhanced and women are like sex objects for men. The girl experiences her first sexual encounter and matures into a woman who is desirable to men. In essence, the story indicates that the society values the beauty of a woman while the men see women as sexual objects to be desired. Women in modern society strive to preserve their beauty to become desirable to men compared to the olden days. Additionally, today the tale shows that children such as young girls mature faster compared to the olden days. The young girls are able to experience male attention early in life compared to the olden days when women were married and experienced sexual encounters at a mature age.