An Australian author living in Norway

The Big Bad Wolf

In this story and in Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf is vanquished and his victims are rescued; he is so greedy that he swallows them whole, and they need only wait in the dark of his belly for someone to come and rescue them. Red Riding Hood is saved by her grandmother and the huntsman, and the kids are saved by their mother. In both stories, the wolf has his stomach sliced open while he sleeps off his meal, releasing his victims alive and well. And in both stories the victims bodies are replaced with heavy stones and the wolves’ stomachs are sewn back up, unbeknownst to the sleeping wolf. Red Riding Hood’s attacker is thirsty when he wakes up, and, weighed down with the heavy stones in his belly, falls into a well and drowns. The wolf who swallowed the seven kids simply collapses and dies on awakening. You almost feel sorry for the poor guy… almost.

Aside from the Grimm tales, a ravenous wolf character appears in the original story of The Three Little Pigs (from English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs), the Russian tale Peter and the Wolf, and several of Aesop’s fables, the best known of which is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In many of the stories, the wolf is a trickster, luring his victims from their paths, or convincing them to open the door and let him in. Bearing in mind that these tales were often used by generations past as moralistic tales intended to teach as well as entertain, it’s not difficult to imagine that the wolf could in fact be a simple metaphor warning against potentially dangerous strangers, intending to harm, rob or even kill villagers and travelers. In the pilot episode of Grimm, I was reminded of the character of Mr Harvey of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones – the same type of predator, and certainly a monster worthy of the worst kind of nightmares.

However, according to Wikipedia:

Folklorists and cultural anthropologists such as P. Saintyves and Edward Burnett Tylor saw Little Red Riding Hood in terms of solar myths and other naturally occurring cycles, stating that the wolf represents the night swallowing the sun, and the variations in which Little Red Riding Hood is cut out of the wolf’s belly represent the dawn. In this interpretation, there is a connection between the wolf of this tale and Skoll or Fenris, the wolf in Norse mythology that will swallow the sun at Ragnarök.”

It seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but then, I’m no cultural anthropologist. In any case, I doubt the writers of Grimm were going for this interpretation. At the end of the episode the Postman/Wolfman was killed and reverted back to his human form, but there were no stones sewed into his belly, nor did he drown or fall down a well. While I would like to have seen more than the tenuous link between the original tale and this modern interpretation, I’m interested to watch more and see how the TV show stacks up against the original tales, and whether or not the writers will take us off the beaten track of famous tales, and explore some of the lesser known ones.


  1. Michelle L. Johnson

    I haven’t seen Grimm yet either, though I have been intrigued by its existence since it started.
    I always find it interesting when people take old stories and put new twists on them and this is no exception.
    How funny that the wolf’s belly (originally) was sliced open, that the victims were alive and well, and that they sewed him together again without him even waking.
    And AFTER the grisly slicing of which TV’s “Dexter” would surely approve, he dies in a well.
    Boy did they ever have a twisted sense of humor! But then, that is what I love about it.
    Great post, Zoe. I look forward to more!

  2. Master L


    As a child, I used to own a vinyl record of this tale. I’m having the hardest time trying to find it. It included a song which titled “sweep sweep sweep the floor.” Would you happen to have any idea as to where to find it? I know this is VERY random…

    The album had to be from either the 50’s or 60’s…

    Thanks so much!

    • Zoë

      I wish I could help, but I don’t know that record, sorry! I, too, had many fairy tales on vinyl as a kid, but I don’t remember this one. You might consider doing a Google image search for “Red Riding Hood record”. That turned up a lot of album cover images – one of them might jog your memory. Good luck with your search!

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