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The Variations in Little Red Riding Hood

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The Variations in Little Red Riding Hood

Fairy tales are under attack in the United States from both right- and left-oriented pressure groups. (Ravitch, 62-96) From the left, the charges include sexism, stereotyping, distortion, and anti-humanism. (Ravitch, 84) From the right, the charges include immorality and objections to the portrayal of violence, death, and the supernatural. In addition, some critics claim that the tales terrify their children. (Ravitch, 76). In The Language Police, Diane Ravitch claims that both groups understand the importance of putting pressure on state textbook adoption committees, and that, as a result of such pressure, most major publishers are simply dropping the tales from the textbooks they sell to schools. (77-78) Thus parents who assume, or would prefer that, their children are reading traditional fairy tales in school may find themselves mistaken.

The seriousness of the question is itself a matter of debate, but the biggest problem with the current debate is that a fairy tale is assumed to be a fairy tale in the sense that Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities is A Tale of Two Cities. Editors do make some changes in Dickens's text, but essentially what Dickens wrote is what he wrote. This is not the case, however, with fairy tales. There are several, perhaps dozens, of different versions of most of the best-know tales. To argue that tale "A" is good or bad, moral or immoral, for children to read is thus comparable to building a house out of straw. One of the central tales in the debate is "Little Red Riding Hood," and Little Red Riding Hood" is assumed to be Little Red Riding Hood. It isn't.

There are apparently dozens of versions of this tale, but the best known are those by Charles Perra...

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.... 28, 2002. ProQuest Direct. Penn. Coll. Lib., Williamsport. 22 August 2004. <http://www.proquest.umi.com/pdqweb>.

Ravitch, Diane. The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.

Tatar, Maria. Off with their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Weldon-Lasiter, Cynthia. Review of Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Fairy Tale. Book Links. 11:4 (Feb/Mar, 2002):11. . ProQuest Direct. Penn. Coll. Kib., Williamsport. 22 August 2004. <http://www.proquest.umi.com/pdqweb>.

Ziolkowski, Jan. M. "A Fairy Tale from before Fairy Tales: Egbert of Liege's 'De puella a lupellis seruata' and the Medieval Background of 'Little Red Riding Hood'." Speculum 67:3 (July 1992): 549-575. JSTOR. Penn. Coll. Kib., Williamsport. 23 July 2004. <http://www.jstor.org>.
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