Friday, February 17

Red Riding Hood and an Alternate Ending

When last we left our heroine, she was about to judo-chop the wolf. Be honest—how many of you thought Hoodwinked was a valid rewrite? In that case, what starts as an awkwardly perky musical ends as a well-intentioned crime scene investigation. For fuzzy animals. Who love good health and happy endings. 

Moving right along...

How we—any author—rewrite a story like "Red Riding Hood" begins with perspective. Yes, it will end with an ending. Somewhere, out there. But first the question of the writer's preconceptions and understandings must be examined. 

A child who reads the story may come away thinking, "Wolves are bad. I shouldn't talk to strangers." A young woman who reads the story may come away thinking, "Wolves are bad. Where can I get one?" A grown woman who reads the story may come away thinking, "Wolves are bad. No child should even know they exist."

Unwholesome possibilities, to be sure. 

But a child who wants to rewrite the story will want characters like an interfering woodsman, a caring grandmother—someone to step in and FIX the story. If little Red is a girl in trouble, then she is a girl who needs to be rescued. Grown-ups should care enough about children to look out for them, right?   

Many modern retakes of the story involve, like the satire link last time, a girl who saves herself. Red knows karate, or brews her own pepper spray, or ties up the wolf and sells him for thirty pieces of silver. The "I don't need YOUR help" mentality makes for a very one-sided story, and will have a profound impact on what kind of options are available for an ending. 

I will not be discussing people who want to side with the wolf. That falls under the category of dark fantasy. It's not inconceivable to change the story to defend his point of view, it's just not something I want to encourage. Or, frankly, have time and space to do the argument justice. Maybe later.

In its purest, simplest form, this story is told from an omniscient point of view. This means that the reader sees what’s going on in every scene and is privy to the actions and thoughts of all characters. To choose a side—whether it is young Red or the wicked Wolf—is to shift the point of view. And in so changing how the story is seen, the author changes all possible outcomes. Before picking sides with the little girl, Grandma could have become the hero. Once the author decides to favor the child, though, the story must have an ending that satisfies the needs of the chosen character.

All this is not to say that bad creatures never star in fairy tales. I can think of several fairy tales that deal with people falling into blackest witchcraft and never coming out. But they don’t give the reader anything new to think about. And they don’t feed an author’s soul the way that a properly magical story should. Filling you with possibility, and imagination, and the fantastic union of shared imagination.

Which is why some authors keep coming back to the wolf and his red-caped prey. “Surely there must be a way to resolve this story in a matter that feeds me...”

And surely there is. But that’s a story for another day...

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