Study Guide > Red Riding Hood

Folktale Theatre

"Red Hiding Hood" is a story from the national touring production "Act!vated Heroes" (currently touring). This page is for teachers to use to extend the learning experience after your school assembly.

On this page: Cast of Characters| Synopsis | Language Arts | Science | Social Studies | Fine Arts

Relevant core curriculm and national arts standards listed by grade level.

Cast of Characters:

Granny scolding Wolf

Woodsman, Lou Pine the Wolf (Dennis)
Red Riding Hood, Granny (Kimberly)

Forest Animals (guest stars)

Synopsis

As Red Riding Hood is skipping along with a basket of cookies for her grandmother, she bumps into a Woodsman. He warns her to watch out for a bad wolf and gives her a whistle to blow in case of an emergency. If he hears it he promises to come running. Red continues on her way, encountering a bunch of forest animals dancing and playing (played by students from your school). They are frightened away by the Wolf. But the Wolf convinces Red that he is not a bad wolf. Red tells him she is on her way to her grandmother's house. The Wolf talks Red into getting some flowers to bring to her grandmother. While she is picking flowers the Wolf gets to Granny's house, seizes her and puts her in the closet. However, while the Wolf is putting on his disguise, Granny manages to escape and run away to safety. When Red arrives, the Wolf pretends to be her grandmother. After delivering the classic "What big ears you have. What big eyes you have. What a big nose you have. What big teeth you have." lines; Red discovers the truth and blows the 911 whistle. By the time the Woodsman arrives, his heroic services are no longer needed as Red has managed to defeat the Wolf through her own resourcefulness. It turns out the Wolf does not like whistles.

Background

She's been called by many names, including Little Red Cap, Blanchette, and Little Golden Hood. But she's best known as Little Red Riding Hood, so that's the name we give her. Her story, familiar all over the world, apparently started many centuries ago in Asia: there's a Chinese equivalent called Grand Aunt Tiger, and another one called Lin Po Po or Lon Po Po (Forest Grandmother).

In some of the older versions, the girl is stalked by an ogre or demon or other supernatural being. But sometime during the Middle Ages, after the tale made its way to Europe, the bad guy became a wolf. Which isn't surprising, since rural folk have always had a certain dread of wolves. Wolves kill livestock and a few rabid specimens have been known to attack humans. And word got around, even before Twitter, so wolves ended up with a bad rap they mostly didn't deserve – you can see it in such stories as The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Three Little Pigs, and Peter and the Wolf. In some Medieval tellings, the wolf became a werewolf, preserving the supernatural element.

But the main character still was not called Red Riding Hood, for a very simple reason – she hadn't adopted her colorful wardrobe yet. Her red hood/ cape and her name were given to her in 1697 by French writer Charles Perrault, the first to publish the story in what was to become a very popular rendition. Perhaps even more popular was that published in Germany by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

Both Perrault and Grimm served it up as a moralistic fable about the dangers of listening to a smooth-talking stranger, and the importance of heeding the advice to "stay on the path" – a detail added by the Grimms. More traditional versions, however, were less preachy, and focused more on the girl's courage as she entered into maturity. In these versions, she escaped the danger on her own, without the help of a male rescuer – or alternatively, with the aid of women who were washing clothes at the river, over which they stretched a sheet she could use as a bridge; but when the wolf later tried the same thing, they let it go and he drowned. Still another variant has the wolf trying to eat Red, but his mouth is burned by the cape, which is enchanted.

In those versions where she is rescued by a man, sometimes he is a Woodsman and sometimes he is a hunter who is already tracking the wolf. Sometimes he intervenes as the wolf is about to eat Red, and sometimes he rescues her from the wolf's stomach after he's already eaten her. Sometimes the Grandmother is also in that rather cramped wolf tummy, and sometimes she's merely been locked in the closet. The Act!vated version goes with the latter (less violent) treatment of Granny, and returns Red to her former self-reliance – with the support of the friendly Woodsman.

Psychologists and literary scholars have long debated, discussed and analyzed the proper interpretation(s) of this tale. For one thing, it seems to be an allegory about conquering fear and danger (defeating the beast) while coming of age (traveling to Grandmother's place). But some also see it as possibly representing broader cycles in nature: the red hood may symbolize the sun, which is swallowed by night, and then reborn from its belly; or spring, which is similarly rescued from winter.

Whatever meaning you choose to draw from it, it's undeniably one of the world's best-loved tales. It has inspired books, poems, plays, songs, paintings and films – many of which keep making it fresh and interesting. It's certain to continue entrancing children and adults everywhere for many generations to come.

Language Arts

Vocabulary:

Woodsman: a person living or working in the woods, especially a forester, hunter, or woodcutter.

Lumberjack: a person who fells trees, cuts them into logs, or transports them to a sawmill

Cunning: clever, tricky

Green: as a slang word, meaning someone has not gained much wisdom yet

Mortified: ashamed

Kilometer: a distance of a little over half a mile –3280 feet.

Natural Selection: a scientific term for how animals with certain traits – like wolves with big ears – are more likely to survive and pass those traits on to their offspring

Contacts: contact lenses, a substitute for eyeglasses

Chic: "sheek" -- popular or trendy

Wordplay

1. Because the wolf is a clever fellow who is out to trick Red, he speaks with a great many puns or words used deceptively. Even the name he gives for himself – Lou Pine – is a play on lupine, meaning wolf-like. How many other examples can you name?

  • "Hood" refers to her hood, or the popular slang term for neighborhood.
  • "Neck of the woods" is another popular expression, but he has his eye on her neck.
  • "bilateral quadruped" is merely a scientific term for a four-legged animal; but the Wolf uses it in such as way as to suggest it's an expression of shock or sadness.
  • "grim" can mean The Brothers Grimm, who told a version of this story
  • "I was sleeping so I didn't know" is his attempt to cover up blurting out "I'm used to sleeping in the snow."
  • "color deaf" is a play on colorblind, and is his attempt to cover up another mistake

2. There are also certain popular expressions and figures of speech that are used in our production. The Woodsman, being a very straightforward and helpful fellow, tends to use figures of speech in a very literal manner. How many of these expressions can you recall from the show?

(I had a screw loose; my head wasn't on straight; I flew off the handle; I've lost my head; I'm seeing red; toss my cookies; I'm a bit green; you don't say; you are what you eat.)

3. When Red jumbles up the name to call the Woodsman (Coodwutter, cudwooter, jumberlack), she is doing what is called spoonerism, from William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) a British professor who supposedly did it frequently, whether by accident or deliberately, to keep his students entertained and attentive. (In fact, most of the spoonerisms attributed to him were actually created by his students.) Some spoonerisms are quite funny, because switching the beginnings of words around creates new words that are quite different from what is expected. (Some people believe the word butterfly to have started as a spoonerism for flutterby, but that's probably not true.) Here are some fun spoonerisms to try:

  • Toe nails (no tails)
  • Jelly beans (belly jeans)
  • Fall through the cracks (crawl through the fax)
  • Flat battery (bat flattery)
  • Funny bone (bunny phone)
  • Stamp dealer (damp stealer)
  • Pack of lies (lack of pies)
  • Take a shower (shake a tower)
  • Cozy nook (nosy cook)

Story Variations

Like many other folk tales, Red Riding Hood has many different versions told in many different countries. Read the Chinese version in its retelling by Isabelle Chang or Ed Young. How are they like the European version? How are they different? How would the story be different if it took place in a desert country? In a crowded city? In the Old West? On another planet? Try creating and acting out different versions of the story by making different combinations of story elements. You might try drawing from a hat to decide among the following options:

  1. Does Red wear a hood? A cape? A jacket? A cap? Something else?
  2. Does she meet a Woodsman? A hunter? A forest ranger? Somebody else?
  3. Does the wolf eat granny? Does he lock her in the closet? Does she run away?
  4. Does the wolf eat Red? Does she fight him off? Does he try to eat her, but get burned by an enchanted cape/hood/jacket, etc?
  5. Does the Woodsman/ hunter, etc. rescue her? Do women doing laundry at the river help defeat the wolf?
  6. Is the wolf killed? Is he merely frightened away? Does he apologize for his behavior and promise to be good?

398 Library Hunt

Red gives granny's address as 398 apartment 2 Dewey Lane. On your next library visit have the students hunt for j398.2 to discover for themselves what books are kept there. (folktales)

Related Reading

  • Red Riding Hood, by James Marshall
  • Little Red Riding Hood, by Candice Ransom
  • Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale (Stories to Go!), by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  • Little Red Cowboy Hat, by Susan Lowell
  • The Wolf’s Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood, by Toby Forward
  • Lon Po Po by Ed Young

Compare and Contrast

Listen to one of the audio stories listed below. Discuss the differences and similarities between the version you listened to and the one you saw on stage. How is listening to a story different from seeing one performed on stage? What do the actors do when they are playing several characters to distinguish them each other?

Red Riding Hood Podcast direct download: Red_Riding_Hood.mp3 (story begins at 5:35 and is 5 minutes long) Recorded 8/2011

Lin Po Po is often called the Chinese Red Riding Hood, as it features a wolf masquerading as a grandmother. But it also bears similarities to other popular European tales, notably The Three Little Pigs. Podcast direct download: Lin_Po_Po.mp3 (story begins at 5:45 and is 9 minutes long) Recorded 9/2006

Story Extenders

Write a newspaper article (or draw a series of pictures) that tells what happened when Little Red set out to bring her Grandmama a basket of goodies. (REWORD THIS)

Science

  1. Is the wolf good or bad? Have the students come up with a list other examples of wolves in folktales. Are they good or bad? Most wolves have a bad reputation in folklore. Why is this?
  2. In nature are wolves bad?

Wolves like all animals play an important role in the ecosystem. Wolves prey primarily on large ungulates, hoofed mammals such as deer, elk and moose. By preying on the most vulnerable (diseased, young, old, weak or injured) individuals, wolves help keep prey populations healthier and more vigorous. Predation by wolves also regulates ungulate distribution and group size, which impact overall native biodiversity. When deer and elk become too abundant for their habitat, for example, they overgraze vegetation, leading to habitat degradation and potentially damaging effects on other native wildlife.

Social Studies

911 and Safety

What else could Red have done when she got to Granny's house and realized she was in danger? (For instance: seeking help from a neighbor, calling 911 or other emergency measures.)

Geography:

  1. The story originally comes from France. Find France on the globe or Google Maps.
  2. Draw a map of the setting on paper or with chalk on the playground. Mark the spot where Red met the Woodsman and where she met the Wolf and (other animals). How do you get from Red Riding Hood's home to Grandma's house? Show two routes through the forest on your map. A short cut and a long winding path. Which one did the Wolf take? What did Red see along the path she took? Be sure to add Granny's address (398 Dewey Lane Apt #2).

Fine Arts

Wolf Mask

The wolf mask that you see on stage is made from fabric, felt and fun foam. The frame is made from plastic canvas (the kind that is commonly used for yarn projects) which has been cut into strips (about 3" wide). This photo lets you look inside to see how it is made. The mask is custom made to fit the actor. The artist began by wrapping strips of plastic canvas around the performer's head to form a base. Strips also went over the top to hold it in place. Then strips were added to form the shape of the wolf's head. Grey fabric was used to cover the frame work. The teeth are cut out of white fun foam and stitched into place. The artist used pictures of real wolves for reference but added eyes that are slightly askew and other touches to give the Wolf a comical, less intimidating appearance.

Older students can experiment with making 3D animal masks like the one used in the show. Younger students can make masks using fun foam, paper plates or paper bags.

Little Red Riding Hood Printable Pack by Play 2 Learn with Sarah

Act!vated on Pinterest

More educational resources and links on our Pinterest Board: Resources for Red Riding Hood