Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Revisioning Red Riding Hood Around the World by Sandra L. Beckett and the LRRH Genealogy Hullabaloo, Too

Revisioning Red Riding Hood Around the World: An Anthology of International Retellings (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) edited by Sandra L. Beckett was released earlier this month by Wayne State University Press. I received a review copy and was planning to share it this week when the media went all crazy about Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH).

Gypsy wrote a great blog entry about the "newly" discovered genealogy of Little Red Riding Hood that is burning up the media right now. I won't repeat it here but just refer you to her wonderful summary and such at Once Upon a Blog at Grandma, What a Big History You Have! This new scholarship is the work of anthropologists who seldom interact with folklorists and vice versa. (A pity really. On both sides.) Folklorists were obsessed with fairy tale genealogies in the 19th and 20th centuries. In other words, this is a wonderful piece of scholarship but it isn't exactly offering groundbreaking new ideas. The media just wants you to think so, as they so often do.

I'm reminded of the 2012 fairy tale media craze discussed here and here on the blog. Quick summary: 500 LOST FAIRY TALES FOUND! They weren't so lost really although they were relatively forgotten. And I always celebrate when forgotten tales are remembered again. But there are THOUSANDS of tales sitting lost in archives, let me tell you that do NOT exist in any language on the internet at this time. Those particular lost ones had been on the internet in German for years before the media went nuts. I ache for the other ones that are truly buried and unknown to us, hundreds of Beauty and the Beasts, Cinderellas, and Kind and Unkind Girls (and many other tale types) that we even know about since previous scholars have identified them but someone must dig through musty shelves and boxes to find since they have never been formally published at all but only exist in single, raw manuscripts. Hopefully they will be digitized before they are lost forever.

Still, the new articles and theories about LRRH should be read and considered and added to the Little Red Riding Hood scholarship for it is fascinating all the same and builds upon centuries of folklore scholarship, too. And as I read it I imagine Andrew Lang and Joseph Jacobs and many of their contemporaries having a grand old debate over it all. And, to be fair, their debates were more centered over Cinderella and other tales. LRRH didn't seem to capture their imaginations as well as other tales did since not as many variants were known to provide scope for their theories.

Anyway, if you are a fan and/or student of Little Red Riding Hood, Revisioning Red Riding Hood Around the World: An Anthology of International Retellings (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) is a must add to your library. It's excellent. There are versions of LRRH--old and new--found within that I was not familiar with and so I'm sure there will be new ones to you, too. And it is perfect timing to be released during this hullabaloo.

Book description:

Across various time periods, audiences, aesthetics, and cultural landscapes, Little Red Riding Hood is a universal icon, and her story is one of the world's most retold tales. In Revisioning Red Riding Hood Around the World: An Anthology of International Retellings, Sandra L. Beckett presents over fifty notable modern retellings, only two of which have appeared previously in English. The tales include works published in twenty-four countries and sixteen languages, in texts that span more than a century, but with the majority written in the last fifty years. They include retellings for children, adolescents, and adults, as well as crossover works intended for an audience of all ages.

The tales in this volume progress from works that recast the story of Little Red Riding Hood from traditional perspectives through more playful versions to more unconventional approaches. Seven sections are arranged thematically: Cautionary Tales for Modern Riding Hoods, Contemporary Riding Hoods Come of Age, Playing with the Story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Rehabilitating the Wolf, The Wolf's Story, The Wolf Within, and Running with the Wolves. Beckett provides an interpretative introduction to each text and insightful information on its author and/or illustrator. A variety of genres are represented, including fairy tale, short story, novella, novel, poetry, illustrated books, and picture books. More than 90 illustrations, both color plates and black-and-white images, reveal further narrative layers of meaning.

The number and diversity of retellings in Revisioning Red Riding Hood demonstrate the tale's remarkable versatility and its exceptional status in the collective unconscious and in literary culture, even beyond the confines of the Western world. This unique anthology contributes to cross-cultural exchange and facilitates comparative study of the tale for readers interested in fairy-tale studies, cultural studies, and literary history.

About the Author:

Sandra L. Beckett is professor of French at Brock University. She is the author of Red Riding Hood for All Ages: A Fairy-Tale Icon in Cross-Cultural Contexts (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) (Wayne State University Press, 2008), Crossover Picturebooks: A Genre for All Ages, Crossover Fiction: Global and Historical Perspectives, Recycling Red Riding Hood (Children's Literature and Culture), and De grands romanciers écrivent pour les enfants, among others. She has also edited several books, including Beyond Babar: The European Tradition in Children's Literature, Transcending Boundaries: Writing for a Dual Audience of Children and Adults, and Reflections of Change: Children's Literature Since 1945.

I don't have the extensive table of contents to share, but it is viewable on Amazon with the Look Inside the Book feature. Essentially, this collection expands upon Jack Zipes' The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, first published in 1983. So thirty years later we have another anthology that builds upon that one. Both of these books are why you probably won't see a Little Red Riding Hood anthology from SurLaLune. There is no need. It has been done by two experts in the field. If you look closely, this is Beckett's THIRD foray into Little Red Riding Hood.

And while we're here, if you are a Little Red Riding Hood fan and scholar, you should round out your library with Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook edited by Alan Dundes and Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, And The Evolution Of A Fairy Tale by Catherine Orenstein. That'll round out your scholarly library into a nice cohesive wonder. That's not even including all of the many articles about LRRH out there, these are just the six primary books devoted to her.

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