My song today is ‘Little Red Riding Hood'. This 1966 song performed by ‘Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’. It was the group's second top-10 hit, reaching Number 2 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart in August 1966. Outside the US, it peaked at Number 2 on the Canadian RPM magazine charts. It was certified gold by the RIAA on August 11, 1966.
The song is built around Charles Perrault's fairy tale ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, adapted by ending before the grandmother makes her entrance, and explicitly using the ambiguity of modern English between wolf, (the carnivore), and wolf, (a man with concealed sexual intentions). The effect, whether intentional or incidental, is to strip away the fairy tale's metaphorical device and present the relationship between the two characters without literary pretence.
When this song was first released, I had just returned from Canada, having spent two years there. However, despite being 78 in a few weeks’ time (53 years after the record’s release), until last month, I had never heard of either the song or the group that recorded it.
I remember being first told the story as a child at First School, and I also remember being scared out my wits with it also, something that would never be allowed to take place in a classroom today. In fact, I would not be surprised if it isn’t one of those stories which are on the educational list of banned books in today’s politically correct age.
The fairy story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ has been written in many variations over the centuries; each with a different slant and ending from that of the version by Brothers Grimm. To me, the story always held duel overtones in which Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, would have had a field day analysing. Freud would have certainly allied his interpretation of the story to a particular legend that was recounted by Pausanias.
Pausanias was a Greek traveller and geographer of the second century AD. He lived in the time of the Roman emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius and is more remembered for his superb ‘Description of Greece’. The story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ displays many similarities to stories from classical Greece and Rome. Scholar Graham Anderson has compared the story to a local legend that was recounted by Pausanias. In the legend described by Pausanias, a virgin girl is offered up to a malevolent spirit annually. The malevolent spirit is dressed in the skin of a wolf, who then proceeds to violate the girl. Then, one year, the boxer Euthymos comes along and slays the evil spirit and marries the girl who was due to be offered up as a sacrifice.
When I first heard the song I sing today, I was reminded of the legend told by the Greek traveller Pausanias. Have a nice day, and whatever you do, don’t go down to the woods today!
Love and peace Bill x