Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm’s “Little Red Cap”

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ONCE there was a dear little girl whom everyone loved. Her grandmother loved her most of all and didn’t know what to give the child next. Once she gave her a little red velvet cap, which was so becoming to her that she wanted to wear anything else, and that was why everyone called her Little Red Cap. One day her mother said, “Look, Little Red Cap, here’s a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to grandmother. She is sick and weak, and they will make her feel better. You’d better start now before it is gets too hot; walk properly like a good little girl and don’t leave the path or you will fall down and break the bottle and there won’t be anything for grandmother. And when you get to her house, don’t forget to say good morning, and don’t go looking in all the corners.”

“I’ll do everything right,” Little Red Cap promised her mother. Her grandmother lived in the wood, half an hour’s walk from the village. No sooner had Little Red Cap set foot in the wood than she met the wolf. But Little Red Cap didn’t what a wicked beast he was, so she wasn’t afraid of him.

“Good morning, Little Red Cap,” he said.

“Thank you kindly, wolf.”

“Where are you going so early, Little Red Cap?”

“To my grandmother’s.”

“And what’s that you’ve got under your apron?”

“Cake and wine. We baked yesterday and want my grandmother, who’s sick and weak, to have something nice that will make her feel better.”

“Where does your grandmother live, Little Red Cap?”

“In the wood, fifteen or twenty minutes’ walk from here, under the three oak trees. That’s where the house is. It had hazel hedges around it. You must know the place.”

“How young and tender she is!” thought the wolf. “Why, she’ll be even tastier than the old woman. Maybe if I’m crafty enough I can get them both.” So, after walking along for a short while beside Little Red Cap, he said, “Little Red Cap, open your eyes. What lovely flowers! Why don’t you look around you? I don’t believe you even hear how sweetly the birds are singing. It’s so gay out here in the wood, yet you trudge as solemnly as if you were going to school.”

Little Red Cap looked up, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing this way and that between the trees and the beautiful flowers all around her, she thought, “Grandmother will be pleased if I bring her a bunch of nice fresh flowers. It’s so early now that I am sure to be there in plenty of time.” And when she had picked one, she thought there must be a more beautiful one farther on, so she went deeper and deeper into the wood. As for the wolf, he went straight to grandmother’s house and knocked at the door.

“Who’s there?”

“Little Red Cap, bringing cake and wine. Open the door.”

“Just raise the latch,” cried the grandmother, “I’m too weak to get out of bed.” The wolf raised the latch and the door swung open. Without saying a single word, he went straight to grandmother’s bed and gobbled her up. Then he put on her clothes and her nightcap, lay down in the bed, and drew the curtains.

Meanwhile Little Red Cap had been running about picking flowers, and when she had as many as she could carry she remembered her grandmother and started off again. She was surprised to find the front door open, and when she stepped into the house she had such a strange feeling that she said to herself, “My goodness, I’m usually so glad to see grandmother. Why am I so frightened today?” “Good morning,” she cried out, but there was no answer. Then she went up to the bed and opened the curtains. The grandmother had her cap pulled way down over her face, and looked very strange.

“Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!”

“The better to hear you with.”

“Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!”

“The better to see you with.”

“Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!”

“The better to grab you with.”

“But, grandmother, what a dreadful mouth you have!”

“The better to eat you with.”

And no sooner had the wolf spoken than he bounded off the bed and gobbled up poor Little Red Cap.

When the wolf had stilled his hunger, he got back into bed, fell asleep and began to snore very, very loudly. A hunter was just passing, and he thought: “How the old woman is snoring! I’d better go and see what’s wrong.” So he stepped into the house and went over to the bed and saw the wolf was in it. “You old sinner!” she said, “I’ve found you at last. It’s been a long time.” He leveled his musket and was just about to fire when it occurred to him that the wolf may have swallowed the grandmother and that there might still be a chance of saving her. So instead of firing, he took a pair of scissors and started cutting the sleeping wolf’s belly open. After two snips, he saw the little red cap, after another few snips the little girl jumped out, crying: “Oh, I’ve been so afraid! It was so dark inside the wolf” And the old grandmother came out, and she too was alive, though she could hardly breathe. Little Red Cap ran outside and brought big stones, and they filled the wolf’s belly with them. When he woke up, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that his legs wouldn’t carry him and he fell dead.

All three were happy; the hunter skinned the wolf and went home with the skin, the grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine Little Red Cap had brought her and soon got well; and as for Little Red Cap, she said to herself “Never again will I leave the path and run into the wood when my mother tells me not to.”

 

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