The symbol for all who have been abused in the name of love

Photo by lucas mendes on Unsplash

Skipping along the path of life, Little Red whistled with the birds and inhaled the fragrance of wildflowers. She’d been warned not to dally, but she couldn’t help but stop to pick some wildflowers. When she found a patch of Huckleberries, she stopped to fill her basket. Little Red thought Grandmother would enjoy them. As the shadows fell, she lost track of time and didn’t notice the wolf watching from behind a large tree.

It was nearly dark by the time she knocked on Grandmother’s door. A quivery voice called for her to come inside. For just a moment, Little Red felt a flutter in her gut. Something seemed off, but she’d always trusted grandmother.

When she unlatched the door, she was surprised to see Grandmother lying in bed. She quickly put the flowers in water and rushed to Grandmother’s side.
Grandmother’s eyes usually twinkled with love, but today they seemed hard and cold. A cold chill passed over as she wondered what had happened.

“Oh, Grandmother, what sad eyes you have!” 

Then she noticed Grandmother seemed to be hiding something.

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

“Yes, my darling, can you get into the bed and warm me up?”

Little Red was not opposed to snuggling with her grandmother, but she noticed a slight twitch when she grabbed the corner of the quilt and discovered a wolf’s tail.

She 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 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’ll never know.”

Little Red screamed, hoping a woodsman she had passed would hear her.

The wolf snarled.  “Do you really believe your voice is strong enough to be heard?”

Desperate to save her life, she noticed Grandmother’s freshly starched sheets and got an idea.

“I have to pee, and I will ruin the sheets if I get on the bed right now. Can I go to the outhouse first?”

The Wolf laughed. “You think I’m such a fool to let you out of my sight? Here, I will tie this string to your finger. If you pull too hard, I’ll know you’re trying to escape, and I will catch you.”

Little Red did a little dance as if she was serious, and the wolf tied a string to her finger while she rushed to the outhouse. As soon as she was out of sight, she untied the string and slipped it onto the outhouse latch, before running for her life.

There are many endings to the story of Little Red told 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. This version is one of the most ancient.

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, because she rescued herself.

Here are some lessons we can learn from Little Red—

1 People You Know Might 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 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 out what it was until she was trapped. 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 is 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 own worth. She protects 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 take away her voice. She has told the world what he’s done, and he has no power over her.

5 Enjoy Your Life

Don’t let the narcissist steal your joy. 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.