Lessons From Little Red Riding Hood

Skipping along the path of life,
Little Red’s heart was full of joy
as she whistled with the birds and
inhaled the fragrance of the wildflowers
on the way to her grandmother’s house. 

Her mother had warned her not to dally,
but it was such a glorious day
she couldn’t help but stop to pick some wildflowers. 

Photo by Enis Yavuz on Unsplash
Photo by Enis Yavuz on Unsplash

When she found a patch of Huckleberries, she stopped to fill her basket. It takes time to pick berries but all Little Red thought about was how excited Grandmother would be to enjoy them. As the shadows fell around her, Little Red lost track of time. She didn’t see the wolf watching her behind a large tree and she had no idea of the tragedy about to befall her.

It was almost dark by the time Little Red skipped up to Grandmother’s door and knocked. A quivery voice called for her to come inside. For just a moment Little Red felt a flutter in her stomach. Something seemed a little different, but she was caught off guard because she trusted grandmother and she was eager to share her surprise.

When she unlatched the door and entered, she was surprised to see Grandmother lying in bed. She had not realized she was unwell. Little Red quickly put the flowers in water and rushed to Grandmother’s side.

“Oh Grandmother, what sad eyes you have!”

This was true, Grandmother’s eyes always twinkled with love toward her but today they seemed hard and cold. A cold chill passed over Little Red’s back as she wondered what had happened to her precious grandmother’s spirit.

Then she noticed that Grandmother seemed to be hiding something.

“Oh Grandmother, what strange gloves you are wearing? Are you cold?”

“Yes, my darling, I can’t get warm. Can you get in bed with me to warm me up?”

Little Red was not opposed to snuggling with her grandmother so she thought nothing of pulling back the covers, but it was at that moment she noticed a slight twitch. She grabbed the corner of the quilt and when she pulled it back she discovered the tail of a wolf and gasped.

The wolf laughed. “I see my surprise is over, now hop into the bed so I can eat you like I ate your grandmother.”

Little Red thought for a moment as she tried to stall.

“They won’t let you live when they find out. Please think about this and let me go.”

The wolf laughed fiendishly. “No, my darling, they may never know.”

Little Red screamed as loud as she could.

The wolf laughed again.  “Do you really think your voice is that strong and anyone can hear you?”

Little Red was desperate to save her life, but she was running out of ideas.

She looked at Grandmother’s freshly starched sheets and an idea came to her.

“I have to pee. If I get on the bed right now I will go all over you and the sheets. Can I just run to the outhouse first?”

The Wolf laughed again. “You think I am a fool to let you go out of my sight? Here, I know, I will tie this string to your finger and if you pull too hard, I will know you are trying to escape me and I shall catch you. This might be fun.”

Little Red did a little dance as if she was serious, so the wolf tied a string to her finger and she headed to the outhouse. As soon as she got out of the wolf’s sight, she untied the string from her finger and slipped it onto the outhouse latch, then she ran for her life.

There are many endings to the story of Little Red throughout history and across cultures. Some say she was rescued by the woodsman. Others say she and grandmother were both eaten by the wolf but survived after his stomach was cut open.

My favorite version of the story is based on one of the most ancient versions of this tale which dates back centuries. I love this quaint version of Little Red because she didn’t suffer as a victim, nor did she require a prince or woodsman to rescue her-–she rescued herself. You and I can rescue ourselves too.

Here are some lessons we can learn from Little Red Riding Hood–

1. People You Know Can Be Dangerous
Little Red thought Grandma’s house was safe and so did we. Little Red is the symbol of all who were used and abused in the home and church in the name of love. It was a shock to find ourselves lied to and abused by the very people who were supposed to love and protect us. Nothing is more sinister than believing we are loved and safe only to be ravaged by a wolf in the fold. Nothing is more damaging to the psyche than abuse in the name of love. This is the experience of many who have been abused by narcissistic parents and leaders in the church.

2. It’s Not Your Fault
Like Little Red, we had no control over what our abusers did to us. As we grow wiser, we discover what they did was never about us, but about them. Our abusers have lied, then they claim it never happened. They accuse us of making things up–which is code for they don’t want anyone else to know what they did so they are trying to discredit us and if they could, some would bury us in the woods. No matter how much we love them, we’ll never be able to fix them. This is where we learn to accept the things we cannot change.

3. Trust Your Gut

Something in Little Red’s gut felt wrong, but in her innocence, she couldn’t figure it out what it was until it was too late. How many times do we find ourselves caught off guard only to look back and remember we had a premonition? Learn to trust your gut. If something feels wrong, your senses are warning you. Listen to your body.

4. Use Your Power
Little Red Riding Hood is a both a feminist and a survivor. She didn’t wait to get rescued by a prince but took matters into her own hands. She outsmarts the Wolf by thinking quickly on her feet. She is a survivor who rescues herself because she knows her boundaries and refuses to be a victim.

The wolf might be howling in anger because he’s been locked up or he might threaten to stalk Little Red again, but he can’t shut up her voice. She has told the world what he’s done and now he has no power over her.

5. Keep Enjoying Life
Life is about choices and we can choose to live better lives after narcissistic abuse. We can find safe people to help us enjoy the journey. We can walk away from the drama and enjoy our lives. This is how we change the things we can.

Those flowers Little Red was picking along the path of life are still fragrant. The huckleberries still taste just as sweet. The bluebird of happiness is still singing. The sun still shines as warm as ever and the woods are beautiful and full of mystery. Love is in the air, so take the time to enjoy life and imagine the possibilities, but always remember to trust your gut.