Saturday, February 15, 2014

The origins of the Red Riding Hood/Cap

You may be aware that the iconic Red Riding Hood was not usually associated with the tale until Charles Perrault's version. In fact, I had previously written that there were NO instances of a red hood before Perrault, as I had read, but Once Upon a Blog's fascinating post on the latest research into the history of the tale found one instance that did include a red hood (an 11th century poem in which a little girl is wearing a red baptismal robe and escapes a wolves' den by befriending the cubs.) But fast forward to other French folktales where a girl outwits a wolf, none of which had distinctive head coverings. Then Perrault's Little Red wore not a hood, but a French cap called a chaperon. Some historical background:
"Perrault used the word chaperon, which was a small stylish cap worn by women of the aristocracy and middle classes in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since clothing was codified and strictly enforced under Louis XIV, it was customary for middle-class women to wear cloth caps, whereas aristocratic ladies wore velvet. Bright colors were preferred, especially red, and the skull cap was generally ornamental. For a village girl, in Perrault's story, to wear a red chaperon signified that she was individualistic and perhaps nonconformist."*

We today read that and probably think positively about the words "individualistic" and "nonconformist," but to Perrault such things were warning signs. His Little Red started the trend of becoming less self-reliable and more helpless and in need of male rescue. However that's a whole other discussion-I just found the facts interesting, hope you do too!

*Text from The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack Zipes
**Image from here, a site that gives more information about the French chaperon if you're interested. Artist was not credited as far as I could tell, please correct me if I'm wrong-

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