Friday, March 18, 2011

Red Riding Hood for All Ages by Sandra L. Beckett

Red Riding Hood for All Ages: A Fairy-tale Icon in Cross-cultural Contexts (Fairy-Tale Studies)

This is an edited repost of my original post about this book from last November. It seemed a shame to leave it out of this week's nonfiction about LRRH collection of posts.

Red Riding Hood for All Ages by Sandra L. Beckett is today's highlighted book from Wayne State University Press's Fairy Tale Series.  I mentioned this book earlier this year, but didn't have it in hand to say much about it.  Now I do, thanks to a review copy. 

First, here's the official publisher description:

Red Riding Hood for All Ages investigates the modern recasting of one of the world’s most beloved and frequently told tales. Author Sandra L. Beckett examines an international selection of contemporary fiction for children, adolescents, and adults to find a wide range of narrative and interpretive perspectives in the tale and its revisions. Beckett shows how authors and illustrators from around the globe have renewed the age-old tale in a range of multilayered, sophisticated, and complex textual and visual Red Riding Hood narratives.

With a child protagonist who confronts grown-up issues of sexuality, violence, and death, the Red Riding Hood story appeals to readers of all age groups and is often presented in crossover texts that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. Beckett presents a wide selection of retellings, many of which have been never translated into English. Texts come from a variety of countries in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia and date from the early twentieth to the twenty-first century. This wealth of stories and illustrations is organized thematically into sections that consider Little Red Riding Hood alternately as a cautionary tale, an initiation story, a story focused on the wolf, a tale inspired by the wolf within, and a story of an unconventional girl who runs with wolves.

This volume provides a global survey of Red Riding Hood’s story in contemporary culture, proving that the character is omnipresent in modern literature and that the universal appeal of her story knows no age boundaries. Red Riding Hood for All Ages will be of interest to scholars of folklore, gender studies, and literature, as well as librarians, educators, parents, and all those interested in the many interpretations of the Red Riding Hood tale.
And then let me say quite simply that if you are interested in Little Red Riding Hood, this is a must.  Beckett discusses more variants than I quite frankly realized existed.  Most of them are modern interpretations--the majority produced since 1970--so some of the same territory as appears in previous articles and books about LRRH materials appears here, but Beckett references it--her bibliography is quite extensive and helpful--and puts an academic and highly readable text in your hands.  This would be a dream for anyone writing a paper on LRRH, too. I picked it up to browse but the text kept grabbing me as I read more and more.

Here's the table of contents although this one isn't as informative as most, it quickly gives a summary of the different approaches one can take to such a popular and complex tale:

Chapter 1: Cautionary Tales for Modern Riding Hoods
Chapter 2: Comtemporary Riding Hoods Come of Age
Chapter 3: The Wolf's Story
Chapter 4: The Wolf Within
Chapter 5: Running With the Wolves
There are also several pages of color plates, many of images I have never seen before and may I say that is unusual and be believed?  I've been collecting fairy tale images for over twelve years now.  It's always rewarding to find so many I was unaware of. 

The usual suspects such as The Company of Wolves and Disney are represented here but so are many relatively unknown versions, over 130 according to another reviewer and my perusal of the index.  I have to sit down with this book and glean interpretations for the SurLaLune site lists someday soon.  I hope.  When I'm not busy editing books.  (Anyone have a cloning device?  I need three or four of me...) 

Overall, what I appreciated the most was the offering of extensive multiple interpretations of the this iconic fairy tale.  It resonates with so many--it's a top tale on SurLaLune, #3 in traffic--and has so many applications and scope for imagination. I am happy to read a book that explores those intricacies with deft prose and examples.

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