Jack Zipes has collected 31 versions of the story Little Red Riding Hood for this book, dated from 1697 to 1979, his collection includes plays, poems and stories. Zipes introduces each story with an essay that examines the themes of the story, mainly sexuality and the role of women, and sets a cultural context for the variations that arose over the years. The study is based on the premise that literary fairy tales were consciously cultivated and employed in 17th-century France to reinforce the regulation of sexuality in modern Europe and that the discourse on manners and gender roles in fairy tales has contributed more to the creation of our present-day social norms that we realize.
According to Zipes, fairy tales “serve a meaningful social function, not just for compensation but for revelation: the worlds projected by the best of our fairy tales reveal the gaps between truth and falsehood in our immediate society.”
I believe the key point of the article is to enlighten people on the metaphorical foundations of the folk tale “Little Red Riding Hood”, and to explain how interpretive framework from historical and ideological discourses can alter our understanding on the hidden warnings and agendas within fairy tales.
Zipes considers that the genre is as relevant to contemporary culture as it was for pre-literate society, especially in terms of gender politics and identity construction. If we consider the context these fairytales were created, we can see that Zipes theories of cultural evolution are valid and justified. The omnipresence of these tales in popular culture emphasises its continued relevance on an individual and social level.
Jack Zipes applies a socio-historical model for analysing the development and significance of the tales, Zipes writes from a Marxist standpoint, he argues that fairy tales embody the shifting cultural codes of history and, as such, they can be interpreted as records of social production.
Initially Zipes article seems confusing as he entwines his own thought process along with others which in turn makes it seem as though he is condoning certain ideologies about women and how they present themselves, but after reading the article several times it is evident that those are not his words or thoughts but rather his way of explaining the impact of the folk tale in this current day and age. While Zipes argument is not clear and concise on initial reading after the third or fourth time we can begin to clear up most of the confusion.
Zipes’ conclusion helps us understand his argument as he clearly and concisely explains that it may take us “another two hundred years for us to undo all the lessons Red Riding Hood and the wolf were forced to learn” thus explaining that the past society’s restrictive notions of sex and nature, obedience and discipline are primitive and could never be properly understood by today’s society, which is why these hidden warnings and agendas are altered to suit today’s issues and morals. Essentially the story of Red Riding Hood has metaphorical warnings; these warnings have transcended through space and time upon its initial creation to today’s twentieth century fox productions.