Werewolf Fact of the Day

Werewolf Book 2e
ISBN: 9781578593675

What children's classic features a werewolf?

  • The popular nursery tale was first recorded in 1697.
  • It prominently features witch symbolism.
  • It was retold by the Brothers Grimm.
  • It was recently made into a film directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

Red Riding Hood

It is quite likely the reader of this book is very familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood who walks through the deep, dark forest with a basket of goodies for her grandmother. "My, what big teeth you have, Grandma!" is the line that made us shudder as children, for we knew that a wicked wolf had taken Grandma's place under her nightcap and her blankets.

The popular nursery tale was first recorded in Perrault's Petit Chaperon Rouge (1697), which ends with both grandmother and Red Riding Hood being eaten by the wolf. Decades later, the Brothers Grimm retold the story as Rotkappchen (Red Cap) and provided the happier, more familiar ending that incorporated the woodsman who rescues Red Riding Hood and frees the grandmother from the wolf's belly. We know, however, that the tale is much older than the literary version and that it originated far back in the oral tradition of Western Europe.

With what we have learned of the werewolf and Witchcraft traditions of Europe, let us recast the story of Little Red Riding Hood as it might have been told around the fireplace long before it was written down as a nursery tale. Witches were said to put on red caps or hoods before they went riding on their familiars to visit the magic circle deep in the woods where they could pay homage to the Horned God, the Dark Woodsman. As they danced the Witches Round, the Witches would be joined by vampires, werewolves, and other shape-shifting entities, all who wished to summon the Dark Woodsman to receive his blessing.

Therefore, the ancient oral tradition of Little Red Riding Hood could well be the tale of a young initiate who wishes to become a fully accepted member of a Witch cult that meets deep in the forest. She puts on a red hood, places the gifts she brings for sacrifice in her basket, and summons her familiar, a wolf, to bear her to the secret meeting in the dark forest. On the way, she encounters an older Witch, an aged crone, a grandmother figure, who wishes to become a werewolf as a reward for her years of service to the cult. Later, when the Dark Woodsman appears, he grants the crone a magical wolf strap which enables her to transform herself into a wolf whenever she wishes, and he accepts the sacrifice of the young red hooded initiate and receives her as a member in good standing in the coven.

The 1984 film The Company of Wolves presents an interesting mixed-bag of allegory and folklore regarding werewolves. Fairy tales are combined with gore as the classic "Little Red Riding Hood" is recast as an encounter with a lycanthrope, as it was no doubt originally intended. There are several werewolf narratives within other werewolf episodes, many with Freudian implications.

More recently, in 2011, Red Riding Hood was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who first encountered a cinematic werewolf when she directed the first in the Twilight film series. Hardwicke helms this horror film produced by Leonardo DiCaprio from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson.

The medieval village of Daggerhorn has long been savaged by a werewolf. Over the years, the villagers have managed to appease the monster's hunger by offering it a monthly animal sacrifice. But on a month with a blood-red moon, the werewolf ignores its truce with the villagers and kills the older sister of Valerie, a young woman with a red hood and cape. Although Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) mourns her sister, she is frustrated that her plans to runaway with Peter to avoid marrying Henry, the son of a wealthy man to whom her parents are deep in debt, were dashed by the terrible murder. The villagers seek the help of an experienced Witchfinder General, Father Soloman (Gary Oldman), to aid them in hunting down the werewolf and killing it. The Witchfinder warns the village that tracking werewolves is not a simple matter. Since the beast rises in the light of the moon and returns to its human shape by day, the werewolf could be any one of them. As the slaughter of the villagers continues, Valerie comes to realize that her strange connection to the monster makes her both a suspected lycanthrope and a potential victim.

From The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, Second Edition by Brad Steiger, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R) Steiger's homage to the beast within provides meaty facts for the lycanthropic in all of us.

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