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Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked Ten Moral Tales From The Forest Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (July 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465041256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465041251
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Choosing one of the few fairy tales that does not conclude with a wedding, Catherine Orenstein reinterprets the many versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" by setting the tale against the mores and values of its times. The result is a highly entertaining and interesting conversation about one of our best-known stories.

Starting with the first-known published version, Orenstein points out Charles Perrault's lesson to young girls entering the lascivious and political court of Louis XIV. She traces the story further back to a shockingly playful rendition that includes bzous (werewolves) and cannibalism. In this version, she revives the symbolism that relates to the feminine by pointing out the odd questions of the bzou: "Which path are you taking... the path of needles or the path of pins?" Orenstein also takes a look at more modern versions, including Anne Sexton's poem "Red Riding Hood" and Matthew Bright's film Freeway, taking on, as she examines these and other modern versions of the old tale, the machismo wolf and the Gen-X grrrl.

Though expansive in her research, Orenstein's interpretations are occasionally too simplistic. In "Grandmother's Tale," Riding Hood's cannibalistic meal of her grandmother is reduced to a "symbolic reminder that the old will be reborn in the young." There is nothing mentioned of the talking cat who decries Riding Hood, saying, "She is a slut who eats the flesh and drinks the blood of her granny!" But what Orenstein lacks in depth, she more than makes up for in her encompassing study. In all, 10 tales are examined, as well as a vast historical study of the times they were published. Written with lively prose, Orenstein has produced a book that will spark thought and conversation, encouraging readers to find the wolf, the grandmother, and the little girl within. --Karin Rosman

From Booklist

Once upon a time, Red Riding Hood was a good little girl. When she foolishly strayed from the path in the forest and spoke to strangers, she fell prey to the wicked wolf, but, fortunately, the heroic woodcutter rescued her just in time. Today's versions of the popular fairy tale tell a different story: for example, in the 1996 movie Freeway, the paved-over forest is full of gangs, guns, and wolves, but the teenager is her own savior. And what about that wolf in drag? With wit and insight, Orenstein makes us look again at the old childhood story, how it has changed and what that says about us. From Perrault and the Brothers Grimm to Bruno Bettelheim and Andrea Dworkin, the lively informal narrative surveys the stories and the scholarship in terms of folklore, psychology, feminism, and pornography. It's as reader that Orenstein is most insightful. Never self-righteous, she shows that the story's power lies in the truth that we are all a bit of everything: girl, grandmother, woodcutter, wolf. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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This very interesting book is very well researched and written by the author.
David S. Lickhalter
A fast, engaging, "can't put it down" read, "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked" is smart and funny and sexy and engaging all the way along.
Daniel Weiss
This book puts a unique spin on a common children's fairy tale that many of us grew up with.
Stephanie Manley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Manley VINE VOICE on December 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book puts a unique spin on a common children's fairy tale that many of us grew up with. As she states in the book this story starts out rather baudy and morphs as our morality changes through time. Little Red Riding Hood becomes younger and younger through the years with first starting out as a young woman undressing and crawling into bed with the wolf, until now where the woman singlehandedly defeats the wolf herself.
I like this book because she brings in historical context of this tale. It is amazing how many tales may have originated from the French Court during its heyday. Cinderella, which also started out much differently, Rapunzell, are all noted in this book. I hope the author continues writing about other tales as she did this one. Her style makes it hard to put this one down.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Cherie Priest on July 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This was a fun little ride through one of the more iconic fairy tales - tracing its original publication as a morality fable about high-society sexual escapades and traipsing on down through the twentieth century. Along the way, the book addresses old Bugs Bunny cartoons, Sam the Sham and the Pharohs ("Little Red Riding Hood ... you sure are looking good ... you're everything a big bad wolf could want ...") and Kim Cattrall in the Pepsi commercial where the wolf/woman roles are exaggerated and fused. Lots of good analysis going on here; much of it is fairly obvious, but every now and again the author surprises you with a little moment of, "Huh. I never thought about it that way."
Definitely a fun pop culture read. I might even go so far as to say it's one of the better ones I've gotten my hands on in awhile.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Weiss on July 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Catherine Orenstein has a real hit here. A fast, engaging, "can't put it down" read, "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked" is smart and funny and sexy and engaging all the way along. Her research is deep, the analysis powerful, and she turns a nice phrase too! ("Like a prism that refracts light and delivers the spectrum of the rainbow, 'Little Red Riding Hood' splits and reveals the various elements of human identity"). She uses the story as a window into so many aspects of culture, society and the human psyche. I Loved it!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on August 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Though just reduced to writing within the past three hundred years, little red riding hood existed even earlier as an oral tradition.

Interestingly enough, there's evidence to show that little red riding hood was widely told and retold in both the east and west with both oriental and European versions.

A good scholar, Orenstein faithfully recounts ten versions of the story as it has been retold in the west over the past three hundred years. Though some forms have been more baudy and violent, throughout Orenstein has seen the story as a sort of potential myth of female empowerment.

As one reads this book, one is reminded of the various versions of the flood story as told and retold through the world's religious traditions. Just as each religion took the story and retold it in its own distinctive fashion, each culture and time has taken the little red riding hood story retelling it in its own distinctive fashion.

In this sense, the retellings say more about the culture or individual doing the talking than they do about any intrinsic pedagogic value the story may have in its own right.

Though like many commentators, Orenstein referenced Joseph Campbell when discussing the imponderables of why certain stories seem to have such pan cultural staying power, it should be noted that great strides have taken place in behavioral psychology in the past fifty years since Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces. So, those interested in really learning why certain stories have staying power over others would be wise to consult the works of Pascal Boyer.

For her part though, Orenstein has produced a great book that essentially tells the story by letting the story speak for itself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a layman to the fairy tale culture, I found Catherine Orenstein's book fascinating. She brings the eqique tale, which we all know in detail, to the forefront explaining its cultural and historical context. For instance, the initial yarn was told during Louie IV's courtyard as a warning for young girls to protect their virginity. Its usefulness continues today and is now seen promoting products around the world. Catherine Orenstein makes a powerful case for Red, and other fairy tales, impact on society.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Davis on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
In the best tradition of interdisciplinary studies, this book covers a little bit of everything, first grounded in the well-known fairy tale of `Little Red Riding Hood', which evolved from a cautionary tale for young women in the court of Louis XIV in the 17th C. In this tale (which is revealed later to possibly be based on an even older story featuring the Grandmother - and a plot found in various Western and Eastern cultures), the `wolf' is not an animal to be avoided, but a wolfish man, intent on deflowering and ruining a young woman who is not wise enough to run away. From this point, the tale is discussed as it evolves into the sanitized - yet still remarkably gory - children's story of today. Every character is analyzed, and their transformations by the brothers Grimm to pornography to modern re-telling (the film `Freeway' [1996] is one example) shows how this story still registers in our present world. Orenstein is an entertaining writer, and the visuals included support her points well - the Heinz salad cream advert is a good example of our modern dark humor: it shows the wolf, still in Grandma's clothes (there's a whole chapter on the cross-dressing wolf), stating how "Any food tastes supreme" (177) with this condiment! There's so much material in this book, it's impossible to do it justice in a small review such as this: take my advice, and read this book!
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