Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, by Catherine Orenstein – An in-depth analysis of a fairly simple fairy tale, focusing largely on how it changed over time. Some analysts have placed a lot of influence on the red hood, but there are quite similar tales that are likely older and don’t specify the color of the girl’s headgear. They also have the wolf tricking the girl into lying in bed with him and eating the flesh of her dead grandmother. Even in Charles Perrault’s time and earlier, the wolf was portrayed as a sexual predator as well as a literal one, with “wolves” being used as a term for seductive men. The Brothers Grimm had the first known version with the wolf cross-dressing and being cut open by a woodsman, which has led to later interpreters emphasizing how this could be viewed as his becoming feminine. After all, the woodsman basically performs a Caesarean section on him. French versions from the time of witch hysteria made the villain a werewolf. Orenstein also looks at modern takes on the tale, including advertising and animation. It’s become more common for Red and even her grandmother to become more active in defeating the wolf, and for the girl (often now portrayed as older) to use her sexuality to become a seducer herself.
There was, however, no mention of Little Red Hood, the Taiwanese bootleg game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I also feel like I should mention that, in the epilogue, Orenstein mentions a puppet that my grandmother had. It has four faces, those of Red, her grandmother, the wolf, and the wolf in grandma’s clothing.
Fables: Farewell, by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham – I’ve now read this entire series, but none of the spin-off titles. I might get to them someday, but they’re not the highest priority for me just now. This volume wraps up the conflict between Snow White and Rose Red, as well as the stand-off of Flycatcher and Snow’s heartless ex-husband Prince Brandish. It’s largely told in flashback form from the perspective of one of Snow’s children with Bigby Wolf, now grown. The mundane world has begun to notice the Fables, leading to King Cole opening a magic school and Pinocchio being elected President of the United States (despite not being born in the country, I guess). It raises loose ends of its own, and leaves open a lot of what happened between the end of the main series and the time when the cubs are grown up, but nothing can ever be completely resolved. I began reading this series largely for the Oz content, but I quite enjoyed the rest of it as well.
The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame – I hadn’t yet read this short story written by the same guy as The Wind in the Willows, so I decided it would be a good idea to do so. It’s the pretty charming tale of how a young boy makes peace between a dragon who doesn’t want to fight and the famous St. George. He tends to show up a lot in dragon-related fiction. I haven’t seen the Disney animated short based on the story, but I do intend to do so. I think it’s actually considered the first combination animation and live action film, although I don’t believe there’s any interaction between the two styles.
Monster, by A. Lee Martinez – The premise of this novel is that there’s an organization specifically to hunt down and capture mythological creatures. Several of them make such cryptids show up in the story, including a few yetis, a sphinx, an Inuit walrus dog, and a hydra. The main protagonist is the titular Monster, a color-changing man working for the containment agency, who is pretty normal despite his powers and chosen profession. Oh, and he has a demon girlfriend and a trans-dimensional paper gnome as a sidekick. When he meets Judy Hines, a grocery store employee who somehow attracts a lot of strange creatures, the two of them have to reluctantly team up to save the entire universe from a parasitic being who takes the form of an old lady with a lot of cats. Like the other books by Martinez that I’ve read, it’s bizarrely amusing.