The fairy story depicted me in scarlet, didn’t it? Had me innocent and vulnerable, skipping through the forest with a woven basket – crammed, of course, with enticing home-made goodies – in an act of kindness for Granny.
Wolves and woodsmen, huge eyes, ears and teeth, slippery lupine intellect and frilled mob-caps all came later – when, I like to think, the Brother Grimm (not, let us be honest, a name that inspires much confidence!) felt the truth to be too vast a slice of darkness, wanted to turn the arched and clawing woods of the psyche into something less scary.
And yet…think about it! Please do! Red, the colour in which I have been drawn for so many decades and in millions of books, symbolises danger (bit of a give-away, that, if you ask me!) and sacrifice and blood.
Sacrificial Victim Walking – that was me, according to the scripture as written by Grimm and even Grimmer!
Clearly, neither Jacob nor Wilhelm had ever set eyes upon Granny! No idea what their grandmother was like – some sweet old biddy who whiled away her days knitting and crocheting and lying in bed looking like a cutely withered apple, I assume, since the long nightgown and that ridiculous bed-cap seem to be de rigueur in every version of MY story.
You can’t get the narrator, can you?!
Had they actually been introduced to the foetid old harridan who once laboured to produce my mother (and her twelve siblings), they would have penned a far grimmer tale, if you’ll excuse the pun. Grandbaggage, we called her, because she was forever festooned with carrier bags filled with Lord only knows what – though sileage was a favourite guess judging by the sinus-stripping smell; either that or the old bat was incontinent!
Bless her ripped hessian corsets, the woman certainly had spirit – and the ancient Still to prove it. ‘Whisky’ she called it – as blatant a sin against the Trades Description Act as ever I have been privileged to witness. ‘Purge’ and ‘Coffin-Necessitator’ would have been more apt descriptors, as few survived the experience and any in an interesting condition who took a thimbleful inevitably went into early labour within half an hour.
Fortunately, Granny trebled as the Village Witch, Midwife and Death Visitant.
Where did you think I got the reversible cloak from, eh? Black (raven, if you must know: plethora of the buggers following the ill-fated Battle of Minging Magna) to denote her Status within the Coven and sideline as Psychopomp; red to disguise the bloodbath that attended upon her every cack-handed attempt to part the next generation from its fleshly incubator!
Put it this way, her meddling in the local births made a swift reverse of cloak colours pretty much mandatory – and caused a situation whereby the resident hatch, match and dispatch writers didn’t know whether they were coming or going. Most local felons opted for hanging, so terrified were they of Granny’s Eyes (and the rest of the egregious old besom).
So, you see, my dears, far from being the sort of passive-aggressive little pensioner who would allow herself to be fooled, eaten and then sicked up by a starving wolf, my maternal grandparent would, in a trice, have ripped said moth-eaten creature apart with her bare hands and, knowing her, chewed on the liver raw. Disgusting table manners, she had!
As for the twee wee cottage in the heart of the forest, yeah right…NOT! She wouldn’t have been seen dead in anything like that – or, as she was fond of saying, ‘Couldn’t swing a ****ing baby in yer average wood hovel, innit!’ (NB:Those who assumed she meant ‘cat’ were, I am afraid, DELUDED!)
Got me totally wrong as well, didn’t they?! For starters, no way would I have been traipsing wood-wards with winsome basket and all that malarkey: Mother Dear was a drunken old tart whose only interaction with buns and ovens came about through her annual journey up the duff! Granny loathed sweet things – said they gave her wind! On that front, she spoke not with forked tongue – bloody good thing she wasn’t a smoker, is all I can say, otherwise she’d have been both history and geography simultaneously!
Now, had I been swinging a bucket of best ale or a jereboam of crab-apple wine from my childish hand, that would’ve been far more accurate – but still a remote contingency since my family’s feuds had offspring of their own, and, even on a good ie non-homicidal, day, most members of the tribe were studiously avoiding one another.
Forget the gingham dress, hair in bunches and matching ribbons too. Since bath-time consisted of a quick plunge in the farmer’s trough during sheep-dip season, and Mother’s idea of sartorial finery was a rag that covered one’s erogenous zones, ‘inaccurate’ doesn’t begin to describe the candy-floss treatment my life has received!
I reckon that dear old Jacob and Wilhelm, though damn good at all the wordy stuff, were probably a pair of repressed Germanic old perverts – and brought in all that wolf/cottage/ edible Granny motif because they wouldn’t have recognised a phallic symbol had they become impaled upon it…
But, unlike the Grimms, I know the true value of leading the reader round the Maze of Duplicity and Suspense, and so I shall not reveal the full story of what has become known as ‘Little Red-Riding-Hood’ lest I shock, disgust or disillusion you.
Just remember: Dark tales do not always have happy endings – and, the cloak was black on one side and red on the other!
Oh, and by the way: My name is Cruella. Cruella De Vil…