What to do with a Big Bad Wolf 12:00-13:00

Apparently the talk didn’t go too badly – it certainly was well attended by many admired colleagues from admin and teaching/research teams as well as some amazing visitors.
Here are the principal ideas, anyway:

There are multiple versions of the story of Red Riding Hood, from the “original” (which isn’t original at all), complete with Woodcutter and everyone (sometimes even the Wolf) living happily ever after. This story is very effectively explored in Jack Zipes’ The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood.
What if she isn’t little?
What if the wolf isn’t a wolf?
And why does this story have such an appeal?
I cited Zipes (2012:21) “A simple, imaginative oral tale containing magical and miraculous elements…related to the belief systems, values, rites and experiences of pagan peoples,” and suggested that the story has a strong, if obscured, ritual element to it, and maybe this has links to the kind of woodland initiation rituals in W Africa: it could be the story of a rite.
Red Riding Hood can therefore be read as a risk story with ritual elements way beyond the immediate, with a population of marginalised and dangerous characters.
In the tangled roots of this forest (“Stumble trip, stumble trip”) there are wolfshead-men, witches, the only half-forgotten memories of sacrifice, and the never-to-be-forgotten lesson that

I hope this makes sense. The “Jack Zipes’ schtick” is appropriately acknowledged (see reading, below) but I wish I could have said more about:

  • The wargus and the homo sacer
  • Liminality and the medieval settlement
  • Paganism and the Wild Man.

Too many ideas to cram into a lightweight lunchtime.

Cosgrove, D. (1982). Social formation and symbolic landscape. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.
Forth, G (2007) Images of the Wildman Inside and Outside. Folklore Vol 118 (December 2007): 261–281
Jarvis, P (2009) Play, narrative and learning in education: A biocultural perspective. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2: 66-76
Rosendale, S. (2002). The Greening of Literary Scholarship: literature, theory and the environment. Iowa, University of Iowa Press.
Zipes, J. (2012) The irresistible fairy tale: the cultural and social history of a genre. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press
Zipes, J. (1983) The trials and tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: versions of the tale in sociocultural context. London: Heinemann

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1 Response to What to do with a Big Bad Wolf 12:00-13:00

  1. Avatar Katey says:

    Really wanted to come and listen today. Circumstance has definitely robbed me of the opportunity. Ear to the ground for the next chance.


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