“I was the wolf that hunted in the night. The beast that tore your love in twine. The creature you cursed and made into this! Of human skin and human bone! Adorned in that accursed red cloak to take your place! To wander the land doing your job! Oh don’t you just love to see me suffer… But... No matter... There will come a time where I will return.. and on that day you shall pay for what you did to me. Did to my beautiful pelt! Fine! I shall play your game Little Red, but we play on my terms. Mark my words you little witch, once this curse it broken... *chuckles darkly* My big eyes… All the better to see you die with... My big ears… All the better to hear you scream with... My big teeth... Will be all the better to eat you with…”
Amongst all the storybooks and fairy tales, there is one most familiar to us all. The story of Red Riding Hood, a timeless tale of a little girl, a sick grandmother, a wolf, and a woodsman. However, let us look at this from a different perspective, with a different ending.
Once upon a time, there was a wolf. Clever and charming, but it was never enough to catch a meal. Even the smallest of rabbits eluding his grasp, and the eldest of deer could throw him off. No, he was never closer to catching a meal as he was to sprouting wings, for either seemed to be an impossibility. Until one day, that is.
“Good day, Little Red.” Came the growling voice of the wolf as he greeted her by the edge of the forest. Though she did not fear him, for she had never been in the presence of such darkness and desperation.
“Thank you kindly, Wolf.” Red responded, but she paid little attention to him. Focused solely on the task at hand.
“Why are you out so early?” Inquired the wolf, staring down at her with big hungry eyes. His stomach growling, urging him to devour the little girl.
“To my grandmothers for she is sick and this wine and cake will do well to make her better.” Red replied, lifting up the basket she carried in her arms.
So? There was an easy meal elsewhere? A sick old woman might not be much, but it could be possible to perhaps get both? So the clever wolf would devise a plan to distract the girl as he walked with her some time more.
“Where does your grandmother live, Little Red?” It was an innocent question, was it not? Luckily for the wolf, Red seemed to think so.
“A while further down the road, under big oak trees.” She seemed to be pleased with that answer, almost proud she could recall the place in which her grandmother lived. Perfect.
“You walk as though you do not enjoy your travels. Would you not look up to see the flowers? To hear the birds?” The wolf bared his teeth, grinning as Red came to a halt, taking in the area around herself.
“I suppose… Grandmother would be quite pleased with a nosegay, and I’ll have made good time…” She began to trail off as she left the path, wandering deeper into the woods as she began to pick and gather flowers. One after the next, deeper and deeper into the forest.
The wolf ran along the overgrown road, laughing all the while at how trusting the girl had been. How innocent and ignorant human children were! He was soon upon the house, without hesitation nor second thought. Unbarring the door with his snarling snout and descending upon the frail sick woman, devouring her in a fast greedy snap of his jaws. Happening too fast for a single drop of blood to even hit the floor..
“Grandmother? Are you well?” The door left ajar as the child entered, peering across at the wolf whom lay in the bed. The blankets pulled up over the furry body and a cap loosely plopped a top his head. She got no response from the imposter, and so she approached. Climbing onto the bed to join her ‘grandmother’.
“I have brought you cake and wine to make you well, and flowers from the path.” And Red held out the basket, to which the wolf reached out to grasp the goods from her hand. However, he instead then tried to grab her, snapping his jaws as he tried to eat her before she could escape. But he was too late!
Little Red had felt the threat and the intent in the air, and was alert. When the wolf snapped his jaws, the basket was shoved into his mouth and his teeth were stuck in the woven wood slats. Red fled from the house, and down the path. The wolf, too heavy with the weight of the old woman in his gut, could not pursue her. His attempts left him panting on the doorstep of the home, exhausted.
However, it was not long till Red was running back, woodsman on her heels with axe raised. The wolf, attempting to flee! But before he could make it to the treeline, the blade of the axe sinking down into his back. The wolf slain! Or… Was he? As the woodsman and Little Red went into the house to search for the grandmother, the wolf slowly dragged himself up from the ground. Growling lowly as he retreats away in pain, without a trace he was ever there save for the small puddle of blood he left behind.
It was many years before he saw Red again, and she knew it to be him by the scar upon his shoulder! When they came to meet each other’s gaze, the wolf would laugh darkly.
“Good day, Red.” The wolf greeted her, baring his teeth. “Have you come for me?”
There is no response from the woman he had once known to be a girl, she was so much smaller back then. So much more fragile and innocent. She glared at him from behind the hood, some small trinkets, odds and ends about the red cloak she now wore. An unsettling air about her.
“Oh dear! Someone’s angry. Are you giving me the silent treatment there?” The wolf chuckled and began to stalk closer to her, baring his teeth as he growled. Had he not been like he had? Maybe he would have heard the footsteps behind him.
His eyes went wide as his body fell heavily to the ground, the same axe that had struck him then taking the wolf down. It hurt. It hurt a lot. His lungs felt heavy as he gazed up with a dull agonizing look, casting his eyes on Little Red. Breath coming and going with foam. Vision fading. There is a harsh kick to his jaw and his head snaps back before slumping to the ground, body limp.
‘Where am I..?’
‘It’s so dark.. and cold…’
There was a blinding light and the wolf recoiled, growling as he squinted and blinked. Shielding his eyes with his… Hand..? He turned them over, flexing his fingers and then to his toes. Sitting bare in the dirt, his head pounding as he forces his eyes to adjust to the light. Towering over him, with a wicked smile, was Red. He skittered back and bared his teeth, growling before he is forced to the ground with just the flick of her wrist. Hands gripping around a black collar that kept him pinned in place.
“What is this!” He barked and snarled, red eyes narrowing as he dug his heels into the mossy ground. Her response was a soft chuckle.
“You thought I wouldn’t remember you? That you were just so clever? You could escape me?” Red began to laugh and walked towards him. “Oh no. You belong to me now.” He stared on, his lips parted as he tried to worm free. Snarling and scared.
“I have a job for you. If you so wish to be free of me forever. You will listen.” And so he did, listening to what she would have of him. Of what will happen once he is free. All he would have to do is take her place, deliver the baskets.
“You will be the new Red. That is your name now.” With a blink, he was wearing the cloak and some pants and boots. So he did. He took the baskets where she asked, forcing him to travel far and wide without rest. The wolf under her spell, cursed to do her bidding till he finished his job… Or died.