ONCE upon a time there was a dear
little girl who was loved by every one who looked at her, but most of
all by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have
given to the child. Once she gave her a little cap of red velvet, which
suited her so well that she would never wear anything else; so she was
always called "Little Red-Cap."
One day her mother said to her, "Come,
Little Red-Cap, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine; take them
to your grandmother, she is ill and weak, and they will do her good. Set
out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly
and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle, and
then your grandmother will get nothing; and when you go into her room,
don't forget to say, 'Good-morning,' and don't peep into every corner
before you do it."
"I will take great care," said Little Red-Cap
to her mother, and gave her hand on it.
The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from
the village, and just as Little Red-Cap entered the wood, a wolf met her.
Red-Cap did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all
afraid of him.
"Good-day, Little Red-Cap," said he.
"Thank you kindly, wolf."
"Whither away so early, Little Red-Cap?"
"To my grandmother's."
"What have you got in your apron?"
"Cake and wine; yesterday was baking-day, so poor
sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger."
"Where does your grandmother live, Little Red-Cap?"
"A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood;
her house stands under the three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just
below; you surely must know it," replied Little Red-Cap.
The wolf thought to himself, "What a tender young
creature! what a nice plump mouthful -- she will be better to eat than
the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both." So he walked
for a short time by the side of Little Red-Cap, and then he said, "See
Little Red-Cap, how pretty the flowers are about here -- why do you not
look round? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little
birds are singing; you walk gravely along as if you were going to school,
while everything else out here in the wood is merry."
Little Red-Cap raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams
dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere,
she thought, "Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay; that would
please her too. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there
in good time;" and so she ran from the path into the wood to look
for flowers. And whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw
a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and
deeper into the wood.
Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother's house
and knocked at the door.
"Who is there?"
"Little Red-Cap," replied the wolf. "She
is bringing cake and wine; open the door."
"Lift the latch," called out the grandmother,
"I am too weak, and cannot get up."
The wolf lifted the latch, the door flew open, and without
saying a word he went straight to the grandmother's bed, and devoured
her. Then he put on her clothes, dressed himself in her cap, laid himself
in bed and drew the curtains.
Little Red-Cap, however, had been running about picking
flowers, and when she had gathered so many that she could carry no more,
she remembered her grandmother, and set out on the way to her.
She was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open,
and when she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that she
said to herself, "Oh dear! how uneasy I feel to-day, and at other
times I like being with grandmother so much." She called out, "Good
morning," but received no answer; so she went to the bed and drew
back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with her cap pulled far over
her face, and looking very strange.
"Oh! grandmother," she said, "what big
ears you have!"
"The better to hear you with, my child," was
"But, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"
"The better to see you with, my dear."
"But, grandmother, what large hands you have!"
"The better to hug you with."
"Oh! but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth
"The better to eat you with!"
And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound
he was out of bed and swallowed up Red-Cap.
When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again
in the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The huntsman was
just passing the house, and thought to himself, "How the old woman
is snoring! I must just see if she wants anything." So he went into
the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was lying
in it. "Do I find thee here, thou old sinner!" said he. "I
have long sought thee!" Then just as he was going to fire at him,
it occurred to him that the wolf might have devoured the grandmother,
and that she might still be saved, so he did not fire, but took a pair
of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When
he had made two snips, he saw the little Red-Cap shining, and then he
made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying, "Ah,
how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf;" and
after that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely able
to breathe. Red-Cap, however, quickly fetched great stones with which
they filled the wolf's body, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away,
but the stones were so heavy that he fell down at once, and fell dead.
Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the
wolf's skin and went home with it; the grandmother ate the cake and drank
the wine which Red-Cap had brought, and revived, but Red-Cap thought to
herself, "As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path,
to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so."
It is also related that once when Red-Cap was again
taking cakes to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried
to entice her from the path. Red-Cap, however, was on her guard, and went
straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother that she had met
the wolf, and that he had said "good-morning" to her, but with
such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public
road she was certain he would have eaten her up. "Well," said
the grandmother, "we will shut the door, that he may not come in."
Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried, "Open the door, grandmother,
I am little Red-Cap, and am fetching you some cakes." But they did
not speak, or open the door, so the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round
the house, and at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait until Red-Cap
went home in the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in
the darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts. In front
of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the child, "Take
the pail, Red-Cap; I made some sausages yesterday, so carry the water
in which I boiled them to the trough." Red-Cap carried until the
great trough was quite full. Then the smell of the sausages reached the
wolf, and he sniffed and peeped down, and at last stretched out his neck
so far that he could no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and
slipped down from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned.
But Red-Cap went joyously home, and never did anything to harm any one.
From the Maine district. See Perrault's Chaperon
Rouge, whence Tieck's charming elaboration in the Romantic
Poems. In a Swedish popular song (Folkviser, 3. 68, 69) Jungfrun
i Blaskagen (Black Forest) is a kindred story. A girl is to go across
the country to a wake. Her way leads through a dark forest, where the
grey wolf meets her. "Ah dear wolf," says she, "do not
bite me, and I will give thee my shift sewn with silk." "Thy
shift sewn with silk is not what I want, I will have thy young life and
blood!" So she offers her silver shoes, and then her golden crown,
but all was in vain. In her trouble she climbs up a high oak tree, but
the wolf undermines the root. In her terrible anguish the girl utters
a piercing cry. Her lover hears it, saddles his horse, and rides with
the swiftness of a bird, but when he arrives at the spot, the oak is lying
uprooted, and all that remains of the girl is one bleeding arm.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household
Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884.