When the years had passed and Little Red Riding Hood had grown into a young woman she came to know the secrets of the forest. Sadly, and through the course of time, her grandmother had passed away and Little Red Riding Hood still lived with her mother in the small cottage away from the woods. In the village where her cottage stood lived a young man named Finn who would come to call on Little Red Riding Hood. Together they walked through town and were admired by the townspeople as a beautiful and likely pair.
The woodsman who had saved Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother from the wolf years ago, still lived nearby and had spent the years counseling and tutoring the lovely young woman. He looked after her as if she were his own daughter.
One day Little Red Riding Hood said to the woodsman, “Oh how I can’t wait for the day to marry Finn! For he said he loves me and will take care of me forever.”
The woodsman frowned. Seeing his furrowed brow, Little Red Riding Hood exclaimed, “Surely you like Finn, dear woodsman! Why do you wear such a dark countenance?”
“My dear young lady, I am sure of Finn’s love for you as your love for him. But before you marry you must learn how to take care of yourself. There will be pockets of time when Finn will be elsewhere, working for the good of his wife and family, and therefore you cannot marry until you learn to fend for yourself.”
Little Red Riding Hood paused with contemplation. And before she could reply, the woodsman continued, “The true test of your strength will come when you can defend yourself from the wolf that lurks in the forest. I am certain you remember the wolf from when you were a small child. He had devoured you and your grandmother before I tore him open and saved both of you!”
Little Red Riding Hood shuddered as she remembered the dark place within the wolf’s body.
“But you killed that wolf,” she said in dismay.
“I did,” said the woodsman. “But when there is one wolf, there are always many, and many there will always be.”
When they parted ways Little Red Riding Hood walked into the forest, careful to not stray beyond the boundaries the woodsman had showed her. The bright sunshine gleamed from the cloudless sky, casting shadows through the trees and brightening the greenness of the lush forest. But all was lost on her. Little Red Riding Hood was in such deep contemplation that she did not even notice the sweet little wrens perched on the limb of a nearby tree or the rabbits huddled together beneath a dark fern.
“Why so distressed?” asked Old Owl, distracting her from her thoughts. Old Own was resting in her usual tree, in the very spot when years ago she had foreseen the wolf’s treachery and had called for the woodsman.
Little Red Riding explained her conversation with the woodsman and then added, “Who knows if I will ever be able to defend myself from the wolf? And what does it matter? Finn and I will never enter the forest, and we will live content in a house in the village.”
Old Owl was silent for a moment. “My child,” said she, “one never knows the unforeseen. It is always best to know your strengths and use them well. Conquering the wolf is not merely a test of physical strength, but also strong will. After all, he is a cunning creature who relies on many senses.”
Little Red Riding Hood knew that what Old Owl said was true, and with great resolve she went to find the woodsman to tell him so.
For weeks the two would wake at dawn and meet at the edge of the forest. “In order to kill the wolf you must know where he lives as well as he does. But there is a certain part of the forest you must never walk passed alone. You will know you have gone too far when you can no longer hear the banter of the animals and the chirping of the birds. For there is evil in the depths of the forest, and the animals will never go there. It is there that you will find the wolf.” Once again Little Red Riding Hood shuddered with fright.
Every day Little Red Riding and the woodsmen walked into a clearing in the forest. And every day she put her red cape and hood aside so that she might move more freely with the sword and fighting stick the woodsman showed her how to use.
There were times at the end of the day when she did not want to wear the red cape and hood at all, but knew they were the tokens of her mother’s affection from when she was a small child; through the years the kind woman had sewn her daughter many red capes and hoods, never changing the color or style, but simply the size so that it would fit the young girl fashionably.
As the months passed Little Red Riding Hood surprised herself with her speed as she dashed through town to run an errand or her strength as she carried more than two days’ worth of food home from the market. Even her senses were sharper when she was in the woods, sensing the size of any creature near or far.
One windy day Little Red Riding Hood was walking through town to run the usual errands for her mother. She looked up and saw the grayness of the sky and the dark clouds shadowing the village. “Oh my,” she said to herself, “I must hurry before it begins to rain.” Just as she said this, a strong wind came and undid the red bonnet beneath her hood, tossing it so far that it started to dance with the wind. Little Red Riding Hood ran to catch it, but the wind’s dance made it nearly impossible even for her agility. It flew to the edge of the forest, and just as she leaped to reach for it, a large bird she had never before seen swooped it up with its beak and flew into the forest.
Little Red Riding Hood ran into the woods, jumping through thickets, trying to follow the bird that flew swiftly ahead with her red bonnet in its beak. She ran mightily, ignoring the squawking of the wrens, the gentle scolding of the rabbits, the loud hooting of Old Owl. She ran passed the clearing where she would go with the woodsman until finally she could no longer see the large bird. It had vanished entirely.
The sky rumbled darkly and the trees surrounding her where so tall that they covered what bit of light could come through from the sky. The air was still and nothing around her moved. For the first time Little Red Riding Hood felt she was in the midst of evil.
“So glad you could come,” she heard. The voice was deep. It sounded pleased. She did not move from her where she stood.
“I am glad also,” she replied, trying to keep her voice from shaking. Still nothing around her stirred.
Although she could not hear, the animals of the forest were calling out in great consternation. The woodsman came to them; he knew something was terribly wrong.
Old Owl quieted the animals and looked at the woodsman with deep sorrow. “She is in great danger,” she said.
The woodsman began running through the forest with all his will. Every so often he would stop and listen although he knew where he should go.
“Perhaps you should show yourself,” said Little Red Riding Hood.
She heard the deep, dark voice laugh amusedly. “Perhaps I will,” it said, and out jumped the wolf himself, grinning ear to ear, his teeth gnashing at her.
Little Red Riding Hood grabbed for her sword, but then remembered she did not have it with her, or her fighting stick. The wolf pounced on her and pinned her to ground.
The woodsman could hear the rustling and knew his fears were being realized, but he kept running with what strength he had left.
Little Red Riding Hood twisted and writhed until she pushed her way from beneath the wolf. As she ran the wolf tried to grab her, but only tore off her red hood and cape. She found the heaviest branch she could lift and with all her might hit the wolf until he fell to the floor. She stood over the large creature and as he was about to rise she hit him again with the branch. He fell again to the floor.
By the time the woodsman came upon the dreaded scene what he beheld was beyond his most fantastic imagination: there stood a young woman, her arms raised in the air clutching a massive object and beating down with it a poor grunting thing that could barely move. The sky had tore open and was raining thickly upon the victor and the foolish thing that dared cross her path.
Years later and after Red Riding Hood and Finn were married, they would have two children, one boy and one girl, and Finn would tell them the story of how their mother had killed the evil wolf of the dark forest.
Memewar – December 2010