Why do wonder tales endure?
Is the harsh world of the Grimms more than a reflection of the past?
Does children's literature, in books and movies, bring the mysteries of the past into the present?
Can childhood stories open the doors of the mind to the present -- and the future?
The illustration of Little Red Riding Hood is by Hermann Vogel
When Jack Zipes wrote The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood (1993), he used the continued reappearance of the tales to provide a detailed social history of Red Riding Hood and to explore questions regarding the relationship of the tales to western culture, sexism, and politics.
Zipes included versions of the tale by 35 authors, beginning with Perrault in the 17th century and culminating with Sally Moller Gearhart's "remarkable tale", Roja and Leopold, published in 1990.
Noting the rise in versions of the tale that deal with sexuality, violence, empowerment and gender, he writes, "I believe the issue of rape and violence in our society has taken on immense proportions. It is because rape and violence are at the core of Little Red Riding Hood that it is the most widespread and notorious fairy tale in the Western world if not the entire world...It is not by chance that most new and experimental versions since 1983 have been written by women and are feminist. The confrontations and situations that women experience in our society have compelled them to reflect upon the initial encounter between wolf and girl, that they may have heard, read, or seen as children."
When Caren Orenstein published her well received book in 2002, it stimulated renewed interest and offered fresh insights into the wonder tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Here is an excerpt from an article, Dances With Wolves, that she wrote for Ms magazine to introduce readers to her book...
"Mae West, who mined the rich symbolic terrain of fairy tales, once famously quipped, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
These days the social and sexual messages of fairy tales are no secret. Feminists in particular have long recognized that fairy tales socialize boys and especially girls, presenting them with lessons that must be absorbed to reach adulthood.
But what exactly are those lessons? We tend to think of fairy tales as timeless and universal, but in fact they express our collective truths even as those truths shift over time and place.
Take the story of Little Red Riding Hood, for example — a tale we all know well, though not as well as we think.
Once upon a time, “Little Red Riding Hood” was a seduction tale..."
It's a feminist writer's dream because it plays around with gender roles...",
The above excerpt is from an excellent review of the book by Margaret Gunning in January Magazine .
The illustration is by Walter Crane.
Thought Provoking Presentations On Red Riding Hood
Here is a link to Catherine Orenstein and Maria Tatar in a spirited presentation/discussion of Orenstien's Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked at the Cambridge/WGBH Forum.
The Company of Wolves
The movie begins in the present, but quickly enters the dreams of an adolescent girl. She dreams many variations on the same theme: That men may turn out to be wolves, and that little girls should never, ever, stray from the path through the woods...
“Is not this world an illusion? And yet it fools everybody.” ― Angela Carter
Southeastern Guide Dogs offers people with good eyesight a unique opportunity to raise their awareness and understanding. After first receiving background information from a trainer, participants have the experience of walking blindfolded and being led by one of their trained guide dogs. This is one of several programs they run to raise awareness.
Here is a description from their website of their wonderful work:
"Founded in 1982, we employ the latest in canine development and behavior research to create and nurture partnerships between visually impaired individuals and extraordinary guide dogs. We serve more than 400 graduates across the U.S. and continue to place more than 100 dogs each year into careers benefitting people with visual impairments, and veterans...We provide all of our services free of charge and receive no government funding."
Southeastern Guide Dogs Have Received a PDF Grant
A Planet Dog Foundation Grant (PDF) of $5000 was awarded for the Paws for Patriots program conducted by Southeastern Guide Dogs. This program trains dogs specifically to work with veterans with visual impairment and/or PTSD. Approximately 100 dogs are trained and placed each year
Here's a link to their website: Southeastern Guide Dogs
"World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their futures: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories.
World Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 100 countries and reaches over 31 million people online.
The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media and special thanks to Scholastic, our official 2015 World Read Aloud Day sponsor."
The photo was taken in Dhaka Bangladesh on World Read Aloud Day, 2015.
This link will take you on a wonderful 2 1/2 minute journey among the LitWorld children.
Little Red Riding Hood--Variations, Spinoffs, Bifurcations
Little Red Riding Hood has been a source, an inspiration, for countless variations...from children's illustrated stories, to digital games, and from humor to music..
Whatever Happened to the Big Bad Wolf?...Here are excerpts from Pamela Paul's NY Times article discussing four illustrated books for young children wherein the wolf is no longer dangerous...
"Once upon a time, the Big Bad Wolf was a mighty fearsome fellow. In the folkloric tales of Aesop and the Grimms, he terrorized small children and other helpless critters. He blew down houses in Disney’s “Three Little Pigs,” and in “The Three Little Wolves,” a somewhat sinister Silly Symphony cartoon from 1936, after the Nazi ascent to power, he is saddled with a German accent...Perhaps he was due for a makeover. Four new picture books this year brush aside his surly past and sweeten him up for warmer and fuzzier tales, while still retaining a bit of bite..."
Woolfe - The Red Hood Diaries...From the world of digital games, we have Woolfe the electronic age version of Little Red Riding Hood created by Wim Wouters. Here is a fearless young woman with great physical prowess, seeking revenge from Woolfe, the cruel and powerful business tycoon. The action takes place amidst exceptional graphics rendering a complex 19th century fantasy European city.
"She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.)"
The top illustration is by Liz Pichon. The cartoon is by James Thurber. The photo at the bottom is of Cathy Davis.
Red Riding Hood in Hollywood
The critics had negative reactions to Hollywoodd's last attempt to reinvent Little Red Riding Hood. Here is an excerpt from the caustic review by Mary Pols in Time Magazine. She entitled her review, Red Riding Hood: My, What a Ridiculous Plot You Have! "...A sexed-up, dumbed-down cross between the children's fairy tale and 'The Wolfman,' 'Red Riding Hood' is mostly a snack for tweens between meals of 'Twilight'...Was Red Riding Hood masterminded by a cadre of particularly silly eleven year-olds undergoing withdrawal from Twilight? That's the only excuse for a movie this dopey."
Here is another scathing review, this one by Roger Ebert
Red Riding Hood
"Of the classics of world literature crying out to be filmed as a sexual fantasy for teenage girls, surely "Red Riding Hood" is far down on the list. Here's a movie that cross-pollinates the "Twilight" formula with a werewolf and adds a girl who always wears a red hooded cape, although I don't recall her doing any riding. It's easy to imagine a story conference in which they said: Hey! Let's switch the vampires with a werewolf and recycle the theme of a virgin attracted to a handsome but dangerous hunk, only let's get two hunks!..."Red Riding Hood" has the added inconvenience of being dreadfully serious about a plot so preposterous, it demands to be filmed by Monty Python..."
There was plenty of space for people to settle and grow things. Many of the places where people lived were very beautiful. There were clear lakes and cool streams with lots of fish. There were fields and woods with game to hunt. And there were rolling hills and open plains with plants growing everywhere. Many people settled in these places of abundance and prospered.
Born Without a Tail: the Making of an Animal Advocate
Here is a heartfelt review of C.A. Wulff's memoir, Born Without a Tail, by Cherry Ophelia, that really gives an excellent sense of the reader's experience when visiting Wulff's world. Bob Tarte wrote a foreword in this revised and updated 2015 version of the book.
Not so with C.A. Wulff's Born Without A Tail. Wulff tells the story of her real pets and their real lives and deaths for a real reason—to remember her special dog, Dillon (who is still alive in the afterword!), and to introduce readers to the realities of life as a pet rescuer. I was more than happy to laugh and cry with Wulff and her partner, Dalene, as they learn of dogs and cats they can’t turn away, visit an animal communicator for eerily accurate readings on each animal, and hunker down to keep their multi-species family together through life’s many bumps and turns. I finished Born Without A Tail in two evenings, and I’m sure it will be a rereading favorite for years to come.
Winter Fun With Dogs...Many smiles for dog lovers in this compilation montage of dogs in the snow: SnowFrolic
The illustration from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is by Stella McCarty
Extending the Limits
Alexandra Alter, in the NY Times, wrote a recent article entitled: Bedtime Reading, Written by a Robot Just for You. Here are excerpts from her article regarding an innovative use of technology that provides customized books for young readers and those learning to read. The links provide examples and more information.
"What if you could use technology to fashion a story for each young reader and create a more sophisticated children’s book? Mr. Sharabi consulted two friends, a writer and a technologist, and they decided to try it themselves.
They came up with a story about a child who has forgotten his or her name and goes on a journey to find it, encountering creatures and characters that provide clues. A boy named Sam, for example, will meet a squid, an aardvark and a mermaid, who each present him with a letter of the alphabet....
They tested the name Andrew first. It worked. Nearly four years later, their company, Lost My Name, has created illustrated books based on more than 150,000 names. More than a million copies of “The Little Boy/Girl Who Lost His/Her Name” have sold in 160 countries this year, including around 370,000 in the United States. “It’s an old-fashioned book, but with a lot of technology behind it,” said Mr. Sharabi, a 42-year-old former marketing consultant."
If you click on the image it will become clear. If you follow the links you will find information about a second book, based on similar technology, "The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home." It sounds intriguing.
Here is a link to a You Tube video, about a little boy, that explains Lost My Name books in a clear fashion: I Lost My Name
Here is a You Tube video about a little girl that also explains it all: Amber lost her name
Here is a link to read all of this article: NY Times
Here is a link to the Lost My Name website: Name
The Mysterious Human Canine Bond
“I consider myself a facilitator…if my dog could drive, she would not need me. Rose seems to enjoy seeing people multiple times and developing a relationship with the people… She is a working dog by nature and she just loves these jobs. I am constantly amazed at the doors that Rose opens…she goes to places I could never get without her…reaches beyond my reach, touches a person deeper than my touch. The restless or agitated patient who is calmed by Rose’s touch...the child in the classroom who won’t settle down and get to work but when Rose sits by them, they quiet right down and the hyperactivity seems to dissipate. The child getting excited about reading to Rose every week; they wouldn’t do that for me, but they do it for Rose. Lying with a dying patient who will smile, close their eyes and stroke her with a peacefulness that is so precious…I know I could not enter that person’s space without Rose…it really is all about occupying part of someone else’s space for just a short time be it in a school, home or hospital...”
“No matter who you are or why you do pet therapy, it is the dog that opens the door…doors that would otherwise be closed to a well meaning human…doors that are sometimes closed to family, friends, care givers and staff of facilities. There is something very special about these canine creatures and they have been saving and comforting humans for thousands of years. It is their touch or look that gives people that inner peace when their world is shrinking or spinning so fast they have lost control. When doors begin the final closing, there is that one last smile, nod, a hand that reaches for a dog that allows some of them to say good bye and close their eyes in peace.”
Sunbear Squad is a leading source for information and guidance in dog rescue and care. Here is an excerpt from their site about Sunbear -- the original inspiration for all the good work they do...
Who was Sunbear?...He was a young dog who died tragically of neglect in an empty townhouse in 2002 even though there were neighbors on both sides. Sunbear's highly-publicized case had a huge effect on humane laws in West Virginia, and his story inspires thousands worldwide to help save animals in distress today.Read his true story here.
We have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the books.
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more.
Planet Of The Dogs is now available in digital format at
Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash? -- Robert Brault