Little Red Riding-Hood - for the 21st Century

in busy •  5 months ago

Little Red Riding-Hood - for the 21st Century

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Charles Perrault wrote an addition to the story.

The Moral

From this short story easy we discern
What conduct all young people ought to learn.

Sounds fair. Throughout history the older generations despair of the following generation, their attitude, their new ways. I wonder what that generation would think of the teens of today?

But above all, young, growing misses fair,
Whose orient rosy blooms begin t'appear:

I think this guy is talking about breasts, but I have a filthy mind sometimes.

Who, beauties in the fragrant spring of age,
With pretty airs young hearts are apt t'engage.

Goes without saying. Teens will be teens and their pubescent bodies yearn for attention of the opposite sex (or even the same sex, I don't judge).

Ill do they listen to all sorts of tongues,
Since some inchant and lure like Syrens' songs.

The saying: Flattery will get you nowhere is wrong. In the right circumstances, flattery will get you everywhere!

No wonder therefore 'tis, if over-power'd,
So many of them has the Wolf devour'd.

Here's where it gets interesting. I take this as the Wolf being seduction, temptation - in other words, sex.

The Wolf, I say, for Wolves too sure there are
Of every sort, and every character.

It takes all sorts and each to their own. One Lothario may get what he wants by flattery and another by flexing his muscles. Yet another could woo a girl by making her laugh.

Some of them mild and gentle-humour'd be,
Of noise and gall, and rancour wholly free;

Some are good humoured, amusing, vivacious.

Who tame, familiar, full of complaisance
Ogle and leer, languish, cajole and glance;

Keeping their distance, watching from afar.

With luring tongues, and language wond'rous sweet,
Follow young ladies as they walk the street,

Persuading the ladies that his intention is honourable..

Ev'n to their very houses, nay, bedside,
And, artful, tho' their true designs they hide;

...Until he gets to his goal.

Yet ah! these simpering Wolves! Who does not see
Most dangerous of Wolves indeed they be?

Dangerous indeed.

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Here's my version of the story.

“Fredericka!” Fredericka’s mother stood at the door to her cottage, wiping her hands on a cloth.

From the edge of the woods, a young girl ran towards her, a grin on her face. “Yes, mother?”

“I have an errand for you. Granny isn’t coming to visit this week, she’s not well, so would you like to visit her instead?”

The girl’s grin brightened. A chance for adventure, the first time visiting Granny alone. She nodded, enthusiasm shone in her smile and her mother sighed. “You’re growing up so fast.”

Freddie looked up at her mother and grinned. “I am. I can climb trees that were out of my reach last spring.”

“You shouldn’t be climbing trees, it’s not ladylike.”

Freddie looked down at her feet. “I know, but I won’t be able to do the fun things when I grow up. I’ll have to be responsible and work hard taking care of my family. Like you do, Mother.”

Freddie’s mother touched her fingers to her throat. She sighed again, a more melancholy sound than before.

“You’re right. Go on, climb the trees, play hide and seek with your friends. You don’t have many summers left to be a child. Take this basket to Granny. Don’t stop on the way. Don’t talk to strangers and go right to her house.”

Freddie took the basket and nodded in a solemn, reassuring manner. “I promise.”

She placed the basket down on the ground and ran indoors. “I need my coat, it’s still cold deep in the woods, spring doesn’t reach there for another few weeks.” She returned with her new red cape buttoned at her throat.

“Well remembered. Granny will appreciate seeing you in the gift she bought for you.”

Freddie nodded again. “That’s what I thought. It may be the last chance to wear it now spring is here.”

She waved at her mother and skipped off down the path into the woods. The road to Granny’s house went around the outskirts of the wood and was fine if travelling by cart, but Freddie didn’t have a cart. The woodland path saved at least an hour and that would give her time to pick some spring flowers to cheer up Granny.

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Freddie took in the wondrous sights and sounds the woodlands offered. Chicks cheeping in their nests, squirrels scampering from branch to branch and a host of woodland creatures that came out only when she’d passed their hiding place. Freddie spent half the time walking backwards, watching for the creatures.

She stopped dead still by a tree and concentrated. A doe stood on alert. Freddie looked her in the eye and they held each other’s gaze for a moment. The doe bowed her head, keeping her eyes trained on the little girl. Freddie bowed her head in a slow nod and moved back from the tree. She looked down amongst the ferns and undergrowth and saw the reason for the doe’s concern.

Freddie gasped in delight at the sight of the twin fauns. An unusual enough occurrence, the birth of twins; to see such siblings was a rare treat indeed.

Freddie walked past the fauns and the doe followed her progress until she deemed the human was far enough away from her babies for safety.

Freddie looked back and saw the flicker of white as the doe took her babies deeper into the woods.

She skip-turned and bashed into another person. Freddie stepped back, alarmed and apologetic. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

The other person, a tall, lean man laughed in good humour. “That’s all right, no harm done.”

Freddie smiled, turned her eyes downward and stepped away from the man. He held a long firearm and she glanced at it as though frightened. “A good day to you, sir.”

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“Don’t run off. Where are you going?”

“To my grandmother’s house, she’s expecting me.” Freddie looked up through the boughs of the trees to check how long she’d been dallying in the woods. “I must be off, I don’t want to worry her.”

“At least tell me your name.” He caught hold of her arm as she passed. The other hand held the firearm tight.

Freddie laughed and shook his hand from her arm. “My name is Freddie.”

“Freddie with the red hood. I’ll remember you.”

“And I’ll remember you, Musket Man. Goodbye.” Freddie laughed again, but the laughter sounded hollow in her ears. She didn’t like that man, not one little bit.

Freddie ran all the way to her grandmother’s house. When she arrived, out of breath and frightened, her fear spiked again. Granny’s house stood empty. The door was unlocked as always, but the little cottage didn’t feel right. Freddie had never been there when no one was home.

“Granny?” Freddie stepped into the cottage. She held onto the door and she leaned forward to see as far into the house as she could.

“Granny!” Freddie backed out of the door and closed it. She looked up and down the deserted street, not knowing where to go for help.

“Freddie?” A voice called from around the side of the cottage.

Freddie spun to the sound, the red cape swirling around her. “Granny! I was so worried.”

“I can see that, child. What on earth is wrong?”

“I couldn’t find you and there’s a man in the woods. He frightened me.”

“I think I know which man you mean. He’s been sniffing around this village for a few days. There’s been some trouble, he moved on.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“Nothing to worry you about, Freddie, dear. Come inside and you can show me the goodies your mother sent for me.” Granny guided Freddie into the cottage and she closed the door behind them.

Freddie hung up her cape and smoothed it out so it didn’t hang in creases.

Granny watched and smiled at her granddaughter. “I’m so pleased you like the cape I had made for you.”

“I do, I love it. It’s warm and snuggly and it will fit me next winter too.” Freddie sat down at the rickety little table and took the basket from the floor. She sat it on her lap and pulled back the cloth covering the goodies.

“Mother sent bread, freshly baked this morning. Feel it, it’s still warm and it smells wonderful.” Freddie handed the loaf to her grandmother who closed her eyes as she inhaled the wondrous aroma from the bread.

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“It does smell good.”

Freddie nodded. “And the butter, smell that too, churned this morning while the bread was baking. Mother got up while it was still dark to start making this. She thought you were coming to visit. Then she got word that you were ill.”

Freddie’s grandmother took Freddie’s hands in both of hers. “I’m not ill, sweetness. I’m perfectly well, but as I said, there’s been some trouble in the village and I need to ask you to help me deal with it.”

“Is it the man I met?”

“Yes. He stole some children, a couple of little girls, twins. You remember Selma and Sylvia?” Her voice cracked and tears sprang to her eyes.

“As I was coming to your house, I saw twin fauns and their mother looked at me. Have they found the girls yet?”

“No, but I don’t think it will be so very long before they do.”

“We must keep away, we don’t want to influence them. I certainly don’t want to end up being driven out of the village.”

Granny touched Freddie’s hand again.
“You were always a special kind of girl, just like your mother.”

“And she’s just like her mother. That’s how she knew you weren’t coming to visit, isn’t it? You told her.”

Granny studied her granddaughter. “Wise beyond your years and more adept at your craft than I was at your age. It comes naturally to you. Now, what did you pick from the woods on your way here?” Granny reached for the basket but Freddie pulled it out of her reach.

“Patience is a virtue. I’ll show you what Mother sent first.”

Freddie took out a bundle of dried herbs. “Lavender to help you sleep better. Sage to ward off unwanted visitors.” Freddie stood and went to the door. She opened it and hung a bundle of the sage on a hook on the door. She tapped the horseshoe three times with her fingertips, then kissed her fingers. She went back to the table where her grandmother waited.

“I picked arnica flowers.” Freddie placed a bunch of flowers wrapped in brown paper on the table.

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“Where did you get those? They don’t flower for weeks yet.” Granny picked up the bunch of yellow flowers, careful not to touch them with bare skin.

Freddie placed another bunch of flowers on the table, also wrapped with brown paper. “I didn’t have to go down to the stream to get these, either.”

“Wolfsbane. Freddie what are you up to, child?”

“I don’t know. I saw the flowers and I picked them. The ones that cause harm to bare skin, I wrapped in brown paper and kept them away from everything else in the basket. I need to make an infusion. Is the pot on the boil?” She went into the back area of the cottage.

The fire under the pot began to blaze when Freddie went to check and she smiled. Freddie opened the back door and rapped three times on the upright without the hinges. She touched the horseshoe hanging on the door three times and kissed her fingers again.

“I have balm of Gilead in the basket. Could you make a sachet for Selma and Sylvia’s mother? It will help heal her broken heart.” Freddie returned from the kitchen with a teapot of hot water.

“I will not be able to give it to her until after…”

Freddie glanced up from her work. Her brow creased in a frown of sympathy. “They were lovely girls.”

Grandmother placed a handkerchief to her face and wailed. “I could have stopped him. I knew as soon as I saw him that he was up to no good. He has an evil air about him.”

“Grandmother.” Freddie stood and went around the table to place her hands upon the old woman’s shoulders to comfort her. “You couldn’t put yourself in danger that way. The man is a soldier and where there is one, there are usually more, close by. If word got about that you had accused him, people would want to know how you knew. Then the next step would be to accuse you of wrongdoing and by blaming another, a stranger, you were protecting yourself. I see how it could have happened. I see it all too clearly.”

Granny bowed her head. “Your gift is stronger than mine and your mother’s. I can see what has passed, she can see what is happening and you, you can see what is to come.

“Worse than that, Granny. I can also see what would have been. It is not always a gift.”

Granny nodded. “What’s to be done?”

Freddie closed her eyes and concentrated. She saw her mother feeding the chickens in the yard.

“I don’t have much time. I have to get back. Will you make the sachet?”

“Yes.”

Freddie made infusions with the flowers and ingredients from Granny’s cupboards. The liquid cooled under her hands and she poured it into a jug. She put the stopper into the top of the jug, placed the jug into the basket and covered it over with the cloth.
“I must go, Granny, I have a long way to run and the day is growing old.”

“Here, keep this close to you.” Granny placed a small golden bead in Freddie’s hand.

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“Be well, Grandmother.” Freddie waved and went on her way.

“Hello Fredericka. I’m sorry to see your grandmother is ill.”

Freddie turned and smiled at one of her grandmother’s neighbours.
“Thank you, Widow Holt, she is still feeling weak, but my mother’s bread should help her to feel better.”

“You’re a good girl. I remember your mother. Give her my best regards, won’t you?”

“I will and I thank you. Good day to you, Widow Holt.” Freddie skipped off toward the woods. When she was out of sight, she dropped the pretence of carefree abandon and ran as fast as she could go.

Clasping the basket tight so she didn’t lose her precious cargo, Freddie ran like the wind. Her young heart and lungs, strengthened by fear and knowledge of what could happen if she was late, she didn’t stop to draw breath until she was almost home and could see her mother’s cottage.

The man stood at the garden gate and Freddie stopped running when she saw him.

Freddie’s mother came out of the house, the pockets in her apron bulged with hen feed. She scattered feed to the hens and didn’t notice the man until he spoke.

“Good day to you.”
He stood at the gate, leaning on the gatepost.

“Good day to you.”

Freddie traced her steps back into the woods and went around the back of the house. She clambered over the woodpile and went into the cottage by the back door.
She placed the jug of her special infusion on the table and waited for her mother to finish feeding the hens.

From the vision Freddie witnessed earlier, she knew that the man would ask for a drink and Freddie’s mother would oblige him and fetch him something.

“Take the jug out to him, mother.” Freddie pointed to the jug. “Fill his flask and bid him good day. Tell him there is a tavern a mile along the road and let him go.”

Without a word, she took the jug and did exactly as Freddie said.

She passed the jug to the man and he filled his flask.
“Where’s your daughter?”

“My daughter is at her granny’s house. How did you know I had a daughter, sir?”
Freddie’s mother took the empty jug from the man.

“I saw her earlier in the woods. She was watching birds and chasing butterflies. She wears a red hood. Little Freddie Riding Hood.”

“That sounds like my daughter, yes.”
She smiled and put the stopper back into the jug.

“Is she coming back tonight?”

“My husband is fetching her on his way back from the fields. There is trouble in the village and he was asked to help find two children. A cart came by this morning, to fetch as many men as could be spared.”

The man looked over his shoulder into the woods. Something large moved on the path, whipping branches, and it sounded like the woman’s husband could well be returning.

“A good day to you, mistress. I thank you kindly for the drink and the directions to the tavern. A soldier’s throat gets parched after days of walking.”

“Good day to you, sir and you’re welcome for the drink.”

Days later, Freddie ran into the house, her eyes wide in fright.

“What is it Fredericka? What’s wrong?”

“Mother. Soldiers.”
Freddie could only grasp her mother’s apron and point.

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Freddie stood behind her mother and listened to the conversation taking place.

“Have you seen any lone soldiers in the area of late, madam?”

“Yes, there has been one. A few days ago. He asked for a drink and went on his way.”
She pointed in the direction the man had taken.

The soldiers moved on and the one that had spoken to her mother winked at Freddie.

“Is there anything to be concerned about, sir?”

The soldier turned back and removed his hat.
“It is bad business, madam. Two girls went missing a week ago.”

“Yes, my daughter played with the girls when we visited my mother in the village.”

He nodded.
“They were found.” He paused and looked at Freddie. His lips pursed and he took a deep breath. “They were murdered. The man that is believed to have committed the murders was one of my men, a deserter. We have been trying to find him. I only hope we can find him before he commits more of these crimes.”

A cry went up from up ahead. “Sir! We’ve found a body.”

The soldier tipped his hat at Freddie and her mother and moved out of earshot.

After a short conversation, the soldier returned. “It would appear there is no further reason for you to be alarmed. The man has been found dead. He was gored to death by a stag, it would appear.”

Freddie tugged on her mother’s apron.
“Mother, what does ‘gored to death’ mean?”

The soldier coughed once, made his apologies and left Freddie and her mother alone.

“The father of those twin fauns did that.”
Freddie placed her hand in her mother’s and they went indoors.

“The poisonous infusion I gave him didn’t help.”
Freddie's mother squeezed her hand.

“No, it didn’t. He became disoriented and confused. He would have died anyway, but I think being gored to death has a symmetry about it. After what he did to my friends, it’s what he deserved.”

“Freddie, you do worry me, sometimes.”

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I like your version much better! I will follow you now.

Oh, YES! Love it.