This is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood I wrote for my public relations class from the wolf’s perspective. Enjoy!
-Allyson (the wicked child)
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful wolf named Wolfgang. He lived deep in the far-away forest where the foothills shimmered with emerald blades of grass while babbling brooks twinkled and twisted through the valleys. The far-away forest was a place of magic. Animals who came to live in its depths received the curious power of human speech. With better communication, animals came to know one-another as friends and lived entirely on the life-sustaining blue moonberries that appeared on low-hanging branches after the strange mist swept through the forest each night. It was this strange mist that held the ancient magic that gave speech and stopped the animals from fighting or succumbing to their baser instincts.
Most of the time.
Wolfgang loved his power of speech and was fascinated by the human species that took this magic for granted. He talked to the crows in the morning. They flew high above the trees and often journeyed to the pockets of human settlements located throughout the magic forest. The crows would perch on their windowsills and tilt their wise heads to learn what these curious creatures were up to. These humans were a strange folk. It was a common understanding among the gifted animals not to speak or approach humans if they could help it. They were a violent species that hunted the animals for their flesh.
“I’m telling you, Wolfgang, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie! Imagine my horror pecking at crumbs only to see Seamus simmering in the pot. Seamus! The poor fella,” said Thames. He ruffled his black feathers in disgust.
At noon, Wolfgang ate blue moonberries with the gray possum Jalena who spent her days curled sleepily in a log. Jalena kept one eye open in case a stray human wandered by on the forest path.
“I saw a woodcutter collecting firewood by my log yesterday,” said Jalena. “He had the sharpest axe you’ve ever seen. He didn’t see me hiding in my log and felled the blade two inches in front of my nose! Lopped the tips of my whiskers clean off!”
Jalena smoothed her long whiskers which were looking quite asymmetrical.
“It was all I could do not to shout at him. I hissed loudly to alert him of my presence, so terribly frightened was I, and he let loose with a stream of nasty words. Didn’t even apologize–can you imagine? I hardly escaped with my life and the brute chopped my home into bits,” moaned Jalena.
In the evening, Wolfgang stopped by the rabbit den. The fat little rabbits traveled in groups of four or five and always spoke in unison. If he had to be honest, Wolfgang found this habit to be a little annoying but their vast network of underground highways was an invaluable source of human news.
“We saw a little girl in a red riding hood with her mother by the sunflowers today. Ugliest human child we’ve ever seen. She’s clearly a winter palette but insists on autumnal tones. It totally washed her out. They were picking bunches of sunflowers to bring to her sick grandmother tomorrow morning. Her grandmother better exchange that red riding hood for a cool toned blue or she might drop dead from the sight,” said the rabbits Ralph, Roderick, Ryan and Randy, hollering over each other to relay the gossip.
As the magic night mist rolled in, Wolfgang settled into his soft bed of moss. He plucked a blue moonberry from a low-hanging branch and placed it on his tongue. His curiosity for the human species was insatiable.
Were they really as terrible as his friends described? How could such beings born with the magic of speech fall victim to such violence? They killed animals for their flesh, destroyed Jalena’s home and seemed terribly rude. Wolfgang couldn’t tell an autumnal palette from a winter one but was sure that to violate the rules of dress was an awful crime. He wanted to meet these humans for himself.
His mother had always taught him to stay away from the humans. A regular wolf, he imagined, was a frightening sight but a wolf with the power to talk would be downright alarming for the simple mind of the human. He’d have to be careful, he thought, and speak to a small one who couldn’t harm him.
He thought of the woodcutter’s sharp axe, shuddered, and rolled over into his bed of soft moss to fall asleep.
The rising sun gently woke Wolfgang from his slumber. He yawned and looked about. The low hanging branch was bursting with blue moonberries of which he gladly ate his fill. When his hunger subsided, Wolfgang trotted into the valley to find his human.
He took up station by a dense cluster of evergreen trees with a clear sight line through a crack in the branches. This is where the rabbits told him they saw a girl in a red riding hood yesterday. There were the sunflowers, now trampled and wilted and if he squinted at the pale morning sky he could just barely see the smoke of a far-away chimney. That must be where the humans den, he thought.
Wolfgang waited. In time, a small girl with a red riding hood came skipping along. As she skipped, she kicked pebbles that sent small animals scurrying and trampled the delicate white flowers that grew along the forest floor. She carried a large basket bursting with sunflowers in one arm and clutched a fat rabbit in the other. She paused, shoved the rabbit into her basket and slammed down the wicker lid.
“You’ll make a fine soup for grandmother tonight!” she called into the basket. Wolfgang heard the small creature scurrying inside with fright.
Alarmed, the wolf gathered his strength and stepped onto the path.
“Oh!” Little Red Riding Hood froze upon seeing the large gray wolf.
“Hello there, little human,” Wolfgang shifted awkwardly on his feet. He eyed the basket, which was jumping about on Red Riding Hood’s arm from the rabbit trying to escape.
“You talk!” Red Riding Hood shouted, surprised.
“Some days better than others,” the wolf said. “What do you have there?” he asked, eyeing the basket.
“I’m bringing a basket of sunflowers to my sick grandmother who lives in the forest,” Red Riding Hood said.
“Is that all?” Wolfgang asked.
“I also have a fat juicy rabbit to carve up for supper!” Red Riding Hood said.
The basket rattled violently.
“I don’t think he liked that much,” Wolfgang said.
“Oh, but I do!” Red Riding Hood said. “Fat and juicy, cooked in a stew is exactly where all rabbits belong.” The ugly child slapped at a yellow butterfly that landed on her arm and continued to skip down the path.
Wolfgang watched the red hood bob away, bewildered. Three rabbits emerged from a nearby log.
“Why were you speaking to that horrible creature!” they called.
“I see what you mean about warm tones washing her out,” Wolfgang said. His brain clicked as he noticed the missing fourth rabbit. “Hey–where’s…?”
“That horrible beast is going to kill Roderick!” the rabbits wailed.
The blood drained from Wolfgang’s face.
“Please, do something!” they cried.
Wolfgang’s brain whirled. He charged in hot pursuit of the red-hooded kidnapper. He needed a plan.
No crows flew by grandmother’s cottage. No foxes ate blue moonberries from the low-hanging branches surrounding her yard. No squirrels climbed the great trees that dwarfed the little home.
The risk was too great. A stuffed black bear greeted visitors by the gate, one paw raised and his face frozen in eternal fear. A deer head was mounted above the mailbox. Adding insult to injury, grandmother hung knitted Christmas ornaments from his antlers. Wolfgang’s skin prickled as he surveyed the carnage.
Wolves run faster than little girls so Wolfgang managed to beat Red Riding Hood to grandmother’s house in good time. He peered in a window to see a wolf pelt spread across the wooden floor and smoked meat hanging from the rafter. He was sure he had the right place.
Wolfgang tested the front door. It was unlocked. He crept inside. He had never been in a human den before. He poked his head into the kitchen. A pile of bones simmered in a pot of water on the stove. No doubt it was in preparation to cook Roderick tonight!
The wolf saw a narrow flight of stairs. Grandmother must be upstairs, he thought. He tested his weight on the bottom step. It creaked.
“Is that you my dear?” the old woman called from upstairs.
Wolfgang froze. Manipulating his voice into the high falsetto of the petulant child, he called, “Why yes, grandmother! Just a minute! Stay there!”
“Oh no, my dear, I’m coming down. The stew needs three hours to bubble so we must kill the rabbit right away,” grandmother responded.
Wolfgang heard footsteps approach the landing. He looked wildly around the kitchen. He saw a cast iron skillet, grabbed it, then hid in the corner emulating the taxidermied pose of the ill-fated black bear in the garden.
Grandmother stepped into the kitchen. She wore a bright orange hunting vest. Her white hair was twisted in a bun beneath a red cap with white lettering. Wolfgang thought the warm tones didn’t suit her complexion either.
“Red?” grandmother called. She locked eyes with Wolfgang.
Acting quickly, Wolfgang burst forth brandishing the iron skillet. He knocked into the old woman and the two fell to the floor in a heap. Grandmother drew a hunting knife from her breast pocket but before she could wield it, Wolfgang knocked her unconscious with the skillet. He looked up just in time to see Red Riding Hood at the front gate.
Working quickly, he stuffed grandmother into a broom closet and locked it. He heard Red’s heavy boots on the front steps. No time to escape, Wolfgang rushed upstairs.
Grandmother’s bedroom had soft pink walls, a soft pink bedspread, and a plush pink carpet that sank under the wolf’s feet. Wolfgang swung his head around desperately looking for a place to hide among the stuffed squirrels and taxidermied field mice that cluttered available surfaces. The wooden wardrobe displaying a quilt in the corner was far too small. The space under the bed was better, but his long bushy tail would poke out.
Wolfgang snapped his gaze upward and locked eyes with a wolf. Or rather, his eyes met the glassy stare of his fellow beast. The taxidermies animal was mounted to a plaque on the wall. Its mouth was open wide in a grin, ready to swallow him whole. On its head were perched several bonnets grandmother must wear to bed.
Wolfgang had an idea.
“Grandmother! Are you there? It’s me, Red! I have a fat juicy rabbit to carve up for supper!”
“Up here!” cried the wolf in a high falsetto.
Red Riding Hoods heavy black boots pounded up the stairs, no doubt leaving a trail of mud.
“Hiya, Gran!” she said, swinging the frightened basket.
“Hello, my dear,” responded the wolf.
Wolfgang was laying in grandmother’s bed, dressed in a bonnet and nightgown. He had her soft pink quilt pulled up to his chin. On his nose perched a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles.
“Why grandmother, you look like shit!” Red Riding Hood said.
“Oh yes my dear, I’m at death’s door,” Wolfgang coughed dramatically. “Just leave the basket there and be on your way before you catch death too. I don’t suppose your mother had you vaccinated,” he said. The rabbits told him this was a terrible thing some parents did that spread their dirty children’s preventable diseases.
Red Riding Hood ignored the order, instead leaning closer to get a better look.
“Why grandmother, don’t you suppose its time to wax your eyebrows?” Red Riding Hood said.
“Don’t you suppose its time to mix up your wardrobe, my dear? Listen to your grandmother, warm tones make you look sallow.” Wolfgang responded.
Red Riding Hood ignored the insult. She took another step forward.
“Why grandmother, you’re getting awfully large.”
“And you’re awfully rude, my dear,” the wolf responded, hurt.
Wolfgang heard a noise at the gate. He stole a glance out the window beside grandmother’s bed. The woodcutter was at the front gate. His young, tanned and well-muscled arms strained to drag an enormous wolf carcass through the narrow opening of the fence.
“Why grandmother, your boyfriend is home!” Red exclaimed. She noticed the woodcutter’s burden. She looked at her grandmother. She looked back at the carcass. She looked up at the wolf head mounted on the wall.
“Hey, wait a minute! You’re not my grandmother, you’re a wolf!” cried Red Riding Hood. She let out a scream.
The woodcutter, hearing her cry, dropped the wolf carcass and sprang into action. Wolfgang scrambled out of bed and snatched Red’s basket, which she had flung to the floor. He tore down the stairs, flew out the back door and hopped clear over the gate as the woodcutter came charging into the kitchen.
The rabbits relayed stories in the following week about a wolf who terrorized a local human family by swallowing the matriarch whole and then masqueraded in her clothes to capture her granddaughter for dessert. The girl had been saved, in the nick of time, by a handsome young woodcutter who dragged the child half-swallowed from the wolf’s throat. The woodcutter then used his sharp axe to cut the terrified grandmother free from the wolf’s distended belly. Both the girl and her grandmother were unharmed and had the lifeless body of the wolf as proof of their ordeal.
The family was using their experience as a lobbying chip to the local government to relax hunting laws. The rabbits also mentioned that the granddaughter wore the most awful shade of red.
The rabbit Roderick kept away from the gossip. He had learned, along with Wolfgang, that humans are apt to use their magic of communication to embellish the truth for personal gain.