And the Wolf ate the Little Red Riding Hood

August 26, 2009


Fairy tale gone horribly wrong...

I like fairy tales. What I like even more are reinterpretations of fairy tales, usually in a form of reversing the childish moral values. There’s something strangely attractive about that feel of ‘tainted innocence’, where the initial expectation of sugar-coated innocence is overturned by confronting something more real and cruel; “wolf only gets killed in the stories that humans tell” (Jin-Roh). Here are few memorable examples from some of my favourite anime titles.


And the wolf ate the Little Red Riding Hood (Jin-Roh)

We are not born a wolf or Riding Hood. We become one by who or what we associate with, and the path we choose to take. Fuse can not escape who he is as part of the Wolf Brigade, and Kei can’t undo her past involvement with the wrong crowds. Once a wolf, And once you’ve wandered off to the forest and meet the wolf, there is no farmer to save your skin. Kind of differs from the original version of the Little Red Riding Hood, where the girl is saved even though she disobeys her grandmother and wanders off into the forest.



Because I make my own story. It isn't decided by anyone else. (Princess Tutu)

How joyful was it to watch the little bird grow to become a beautiful swan in The Ugly Duckling? But what if the bird was born a duck? Is our self-worth and destiny really determined by fate or other circumstances beyond our control? And yet, despite having lost her pendant and magical powers, Tutu danced to her last strength. She saved the life of a person she cared for even if it meant she would never become a human again. Even as a duck, her ballet at that moment had more magical power and looked more beautiful than any dance she performed wearing her swan costume, because the power and beauty came from her uncompromising passion and determination, not a simply granted magic.


Your children won't be coming back. You broke your promise. [Boogiepop Phantom

Your children won't be coming back. You broke your promise. (Boogiepop Phantom)

We all had dreams. To become a talented pianist for example. But the reality isn’t that easy. As you grow up, you forget what’s important to you. You convince yourself that you are happy with what you are doing. You break the promise with the child inside you, betray what’s truly important to you. Poom Poom offers you a balloon. Like Pied the piper from Hamelin, he takes your childish phantoms away, along with all your hope and dreams. How many adults of our world today do you think still have their child phantoms with them?


terra e

Peter Pan imagery from Terra E was a real tearjerker ;_;

Obligatory mention of Utena

Obligatory mention of Utena. Interesting subversion of archetypal roles the characters play in the story like in Princess Tutu, although Utena is bit more complex and ambiguous.

Not exactly a fairy tale, but Angel's Egg has an interesting take on Noah's Ark.

Not exactly a fairy tale, but Angel's Egg has an interesting take on Noah's Ark: dove never came back, and men turned to stones from waiting. Blind faith was the architect of their demise.

Of course, as usual, feel free to share any other interesting element of fairy tales you’ve seen in anime.


14 Responses to “And the Wolf ate the Little Red Riding Hood”

  1. Hmmm, not exactly a fairy tale but Vendredi gives us this gem from Bakemonogatari:

  2. Kim Says:

    Well you know I think the real fairy tales could be pretty dark themselves. At least darker than the ones we are used to from Disney.

    But yes I also love a darker re-visioning of old fairy tales (and I enjoy all the ones you mention here that I have seen). Although I am not sure if it is based on any traditional fairytale one of my favorite live action movies is Pan’s Labyrinth because of its dark undertones.

  3. animekritik Says:

    Tokyo Akazukin comes to mind. Here Red Riding Hood is trying to find the Wolf that will eat her…

  4. gaguri Says:


    I’m sure it will mean more when I actually watch Bakemonogatari, haha. Until then, thanks for the heads up.


    I’m not very familiar with darker original fairy tales, as they are mostly designed to be simple and ends with that sugar-coated touch (since kids are going to read them), which is why I guess I love darker revisions that are more intended for adults.

    And I LOVE Pan’s Labyrinth! I just did a quick google search and what do you know, it’s an original dark fairy tale! I suppose in that sense, Kaiba is a darker original sci-fi fairy tale too?…


    That sounds pretty screwed up x_X. I wonder if there’s any sexual innuendos, of her wanting to be violated, etc.

  5. rifraf Says:

    Speaking of the original fairy tales, I believe that the earliest written version [Perrault’s] ended with the Wolf eating Red Riding Hood and that in some of the oral versions before Perrault involved tricking RRH into consuming her own grandmother.

  6. Owen S Says:

    No, gaguri, Tokyo Akazukin is pretty Freudian, I forgot what it really was (pretty incoherent) but it had something to do with Red Riding Hood’s son wanting to bang her in the end I think!

  7. ETERNAL Says:

    This reminds me of why I loved Jin-Roh. It always adds a dramatic punch when a story uses a familiar tale from history, but fairy tales always make things more intense when they’re tainted.

  8. Kiri Says:

    The Alice in Wonderland references in Spirited Away always made me happy (the design of the two old witches — ie, the Duchess, and the giant baby). Miyazaki’s work in general always has a very fairy tale-like atmosphere anyway, and I’m sure there are many specifically Japanese fairy tales he takes inspiration from that I don’t recognize.

  9. gaguri Says:


    hmm. As the girl also eats her grandmother and is eaten by the wolf, maybe Jin-Roh copied this original version of Perrault’s? Although in Jin-Roh there is that part about the girl rubbing her clothes of Iron to go outside, which has some sexual connotations.

    @Owen S

    I’ll try staying away from it then @_@


    Yea don’t you just love that tainted touch? I wonder though, how different the film would have been if Oshii did direct the movie, instead of just writing it.


    I guess there are bounds to be fairy tale elements in Miyazaki’s works (considering his audience and themes). But of course, I prefer the way Miyazaki handle his stories than, say, how Disney treats Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Mermaid, etc etc, which to me feels more mature and darker.

  10. vendredi Says:

    What’s fascinating about the use of Red Riding Hood in Jin-roh is that the version used is a great deal closer to the original version of the story, as Kim notes above.

    In many of the oldest versions of modern fairytales, there is no happy ending – Red is eaten by the Wolf, Bluebeard ends up murdering his newest wife like all the rest, and so on and so forth. In this original format they are in a sense morality stories – the moral of the story for Red Riding Hood is that “don’t go out alone in the woods or you’ll get eaten” (or other such similar themes).

    Happy endings are introduced into these stories to make them more suitable for entertainment; hence, the Disney versions. Yet at the same time the “happy” versions of the story have become so commonplace that they are rather trite, simplified, or cliche – thus, the stories go back to their darker roots, but this time to continue being entertaining, rather than teaching a lesson. It’s an interesting twist.

  11. gaguri Says:

    Yea, unfortunately I think most average people not really into literature (like me) see most fairy tales as being originally very childish. Like you say, it’s great that titles like Jin-Roh are returning to its darker origins, but also becoming more than just moral stories, because this time we have intriguing and engaging plot, as well as characters with more shades of grey than typically white/black characters in an allegory.

  12. Larina Says:


  13. Pikachuxx Says:

    Well a lot of fairy tales are darker in their original forms, like Sleeping Beauty (she was raped, not kissed), and Snow White had some freaky things too as did other originals.

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