#26 “Little Red Cap”

Analysis and Commentary

by Lois E. Wilkins, PhD, APRN


The choice of the word “Little” in the title, “Little Red Cap” (Little Red Cap), refers to size, age,  and is also a reference to innocence (naive consciousness) and youth. 

“Red” designates a color, representative of a fourth stage of the alchemical process.  In addition, it is symbolic of blood, danger, the energy of the life force, and heat. Psychoanalytically, it is associated with sexuality, passion, and sin.  From depth psychology, red is a stage of individuation where destiny has both been recognized and actualized. 

“Cap” (found in Hartman’s literal translation, footnote 1) is also recognized in other French and German translations, with the words, “le petit chaperon rouge” and “Rotkäppchen,” indicating a small head covering, not a hood or a hooded cape.  The significance of a Cap, “crown” (recognition), when contrasted with a hooded cape/cloak (hiding or being hidden), is inferred by careful analysis of our title.  Note that a Cap, in this tale, is used more for recognition, rather than for function.  A literal translation of this title could be:  a young innocent, full-of-life-force passion, with a crown of recognition.  From this title, we are unaware of the gender. 

The Initial Paragraph

In the first paragraph, we are introduced to “a sweet little maid” loved by everyone who looked upon her but most loved by her grandmother.  Her grandmother was [obsessed] as “she could not stop thinking what all she should give the child.”  One of the gifts she made and gave to her was a little cap of red velvet, which the little maid wanted to wear all the time, so much so, that she was known simply as “Little Red Cap.”  The significance of such a gift will direct the movement of our tale.

Little Red Cap’s mother one day tells her that her grandmother is sick and weak, and she gives Little Red Cap a piece of cake and a bottle of wine to take to grandmother in order to “revive her”.  The grandmother lives in the forest and therefore, her mother gives Little Red Cap the following instructions,  “Off with you before it gets hot, and when you are on your way, walk nicely and properly and don’t get off the path, otherwise you will fall and break the glass [bottle] and your grandmother will not get anything.  And, when you enter her living room do not forget to say ‘Good morning’ and do not go peeking into every corner.”  With these instructions, awareness of the mother’s knowledge of her daughter’s precocious and curious nature enters into the tale.

Therefore, in this first paragraph, we are introduced to the Little Maid (Little Red Cap), her mother, and her mother’s mother, Little Red Cap’s grandmother.  We are immersed in the maternal archetype.  There is not any representation of the masculine, no father or father figure, so we know the movement of the tale will be from the feminine toward relationship with the masculine.  In terms of time, we know this is morning, the time for new beginnings, “before the sun gets too hot.” We find the color red in this paragraph, through the velvet fabric of the red cap. We also see the masculine number three, finding representation in the trinity of the Grandmother/mother/child, another indication that the masculine will emerge in our tale.

The mother is aware of the needs and desires of both her mother and her daughter—the grandmother’s energies of decline and the need to be revived and Little Red Cap’s need to have her energies focused and contained.  This awareness of the need for focus and containment of Little Red Cap’s energies results in the mother’s instructions of “…walk nicely and properly and don’t get off the path, otherwise…you will fall and break the glass [bottle]…and your grandmother will get nothing.”  Furthermore, the mother promotes the use of Little Red Cap’s voice by her command that she say, “good morning” when she enters the grandmother’s living room and by censoring the use of her sight (curiosity), with the instruction to not, “…go peeking into every corner.” These admonishments encourage the development of responsive manners (maturing of spontaneous, instinctual reactions to the world/environment) now to be tempered with the use of cautious judgment.

Dramatis Personae 

The Grandmother, in the role of wise crone, carries the energies of the magical witch (power and strength).  Since it is morning in the grandmother’s living room, it brings an awareness that new beginning(s) will occur in the public domain (forest/woods).  See Hartman’s footnote 3, living room, indicating that this also is a public space. The red cap, made of velvet, and given to the young maid by her grandmother (crone), moved her from the role of an innocent child to the precocious role of one to be recognized as carrying power and wealth beyond her years.  This precociousness was perhaps compounded by the lack of a father figure, which is further explored later in this analysis.

The Mother of Little Red Cap and the daughter of the grandmother is described as being in the position of knowing both what is needed by her mother and her daughter.  She is in the medial space, that in-between space psychologically, as the bridge between two realities and in more modern terminology, “sandwiched” between the past and the future generations.  In the first paragraph, the directives given to Little Red Cap include awareness of the use of sight (“don’t go peeking into every corner”), voice (say “good morning”), and timing (before it gets too “hot”).  

Little Red Cap, the maiden, is introduced as “a sweet little maid whom everyone loved who even looked at her.”  From this description, it is inferred that she possesses beauty as recognized in her culture, and that she is innocent.  Her beauty is externally recognized.  An element of shadow emerges from the use of the term “maid”.  In Hartman’s footnote 2,  “maid—Dirne, an archaic form for girl or lass. In contemporary German, though, the word is used for a prostitute or street-walker.”  This may be where the Freudian analysis of this story has taken a very different focus from my  analysis of the tale. As our illustrator, Donna Dennis, notes in her comments, leaving behind innocence is necessary in order to fully embrace life.  In the beginning of our tale, Little Red Cap, as a maiden, reminds us of the still-sleepy, yet heart-centered energies of innocence.  It is important to note that our tale provides no evidence of playmates, either other children or creatures of the woods/forest.  Recognition of Little Red Cap’s lack of playfulness is an alert to her inability to experience childhood, having been given the crown of maturity too soon.

Missing from the first paragraph is a father or father-figure or any other representation of the masculine. Without an apparent father figure, the child’s ability to be playful is repressed. Too often, the fatherless child is forced into pseudo-maturity. A serious, no-nonsense persona is often worn by such a child.    The child, in order to play, must feel safe.  Providing aspects of safety and security is a role for the father to provide for his children. With the feminine trinity, represented by the grandmother/mother/child, aspects from the multi-cultural awareness of healing the generations, both past and into the future, are present. We can now imagine that aspects of the masculine will appear for the healing balance in the archetype of the feminine as the trinity representation brings forth the numerology of the number three (3), the first masculine number.

Characters and Symbolism of Images Found in the Tale

Historically, Cake (sustenance) is thought to be easily enchanted and can convey both positive and negative psychic energy. Because they carry spells, cakes became associated with rites of passage such as christenings, birthdays, and weddings. In this tale, the cake carried by Little Red Cap to her grandmother would have been “enchanted” with the intensions of her mother, with healing energies.  In this tale, cake is recognized as an earth element.

Wine (red wine = passion) is sacred to the Greek god Dionysus, the Roman god Bacchus, and the three major Egyptian deities Osiris, Horus, and Isis. Regarded as the “blood of the vine,” wine is thought to contain a living spiritual presence that encourages harmony with nature and divine love. The royal cupbearer was always considered one of the most important members of the medieval court, and wine became part of the sacraments of many religions. Nearly every monastery or mission ever built had its own vineyard that produced wine for the spiritual use of its members. In this tale, the connection with the Christian ritual of communion, the body and the blood, is inferred as having healing properties. Here, wine carries the element of fire.

The Bottle in our tale holds the wine prepared by the mother, infused with the energies of strength and healing.  As a symbol, the bottle can be representative of trapped feelings and/or the need to release the spirit and is also seen as a phallic symbol, which is yet another example of the feminine carrying the symbolic energy of the masculine.  The bottle also represents the alchemical vessel of containment for transformations facilitated by heat.

With Living Room, some word play is needed here to understand the Grimms’ use of the term “Living Room.”  As such, it is a room for living, not dying.  It is a public room, whereas the other rooms of the house are more private for sleeping, cooking, etc.  Little Red Cap’s mother admonishes her, “don’t go peeking into every corner” of her grandmother’s living room in an attempt to reign in Little Red Cap’s known curiosity.  In other words, Little Red Cap’s mother is aware of her precocious tendencies, hence, the admonishment.

The Path in the Woods/Forest provides direction for destiny to manifest. The woods/forest represents the unconscious in its wild, unpredictable, uncultivated nature. In analytical psychology, the forest represents femininity, an unexplored realm full of the unknown. It stands for the unconscious and its mysteries. The forest holds a great connection with the symbolism of the mother, as it is a place where life thrives. It functions as a symbol of going into the unconscious aspects of ourselves to make them conscious. This entry into the dark, unknown parts of ourselves is common in most fairy tales and is represented by enchanted forests, fierce animals, deep oceans, deserts, wildernesses, and wastelands, among others.  In our tale, Little Red Cap enters into the woods/forest at the request of her mother in service of her grandmother’s needs.  This journey into Little Red Cap’s unconscious provides the necessary lessons for her evolution and for promoting and sustaining the multi-dimensionality of the archetype of the feminine. 

Wolf #1 provides lessons related to trust, i.e., “wolf in sheep’s [grandmother’s] clothing.” By putting on the clothing of the grandmother, gender issues re-emerge from our title, as the title does not designate gender, leaving it ambiguous.  In this early portion of the tale, we have an adolescent cross-dressing/transgender wolf. Adolescence is a time in the psychological and biological evolution of exploring sexuality/gender roles. Later in the tale, an old grey wolf appears. This interpretation of sexual confusion is no more of a stretch, in the analysis of our tale, than the more feminist or Freudian views of seduction, rape, and pregnancy that have often been assigned to other versions of this tale. 

In our tale, Little Red Cap recognizes the wolf that she encounters along the path.  She returns his greeting to her, “Thank you kindly, Wolf”.  This greeting contradicts the often-used admonishment in other analyses of versions of this tale, “Don’t talk to strangers.”  In our tale, this wolf is not a stranger.  The wolf’s questioning of Little Red Cap and her innocent responses show the reader a degree of her ignorance/innocence:

“Where are you off to so early…?”  Wolf #1 asks.
Her reply, “to grandmother’s.”

Again, he asks, “What are you carrying under your apron?” 
Her response, “Cake and wine.  We baked yesterday, and weak, sick, grandmother should benefit [from it] and get stronger.”  

Next, he asks, “Where does your grandmother live…?”
Little Red Cap’s reply, “A quarter of an hour farther in the woods.  Her house stands under the three, large oak trees, and below it are the nut hedges [hazelnuts, see Hartman’s footnote 6] as you probably already know,…”

Once again, from our tale, we are aware that she knows more about this Wolf than she could possibly know of a stranger.

Hazelnuts are known to symbolize wisdom in many forms.  The Celtic myth concerns nine (9) hazelnut trees, dropping their fruit into the waters for the salmon to feed upon and obtain knowledge of everything in the world. In Greek mythology, Hermes, a messenger god was said to carry a staff made from a Hazel tree which aided his travels through the realms of both spirts and humans.  Mercury (Roman mythology) is often depicted with a Hazel staff providing him with great wisdom. In our tale, Little Red Cap indicates further knowledge of this wolf when she states, “… as you probably know,” when she refers to the Hazelnut hedges and the three (3) large oak trees at her grandmother’s house.

The Oak Tree is a symbol of strength, morale, resistance and knowledge. Throughout history, it is connected to powerful gods, as in Greek mythology it was a symbol of Zeus.  In our tale, it is a masculine element of support for the richly feminine nature of the forest.  That Little Red Cap’s grandmother has the support of three (3) of these large trees is noteworthy, as we know of the need for the feminine in order to have the balance provided by the masculine.

The grandmother/mother/daughter trinity of the Feminine, the sacred feminine, is an ancient symbol continually cycling through the three stages of womanhood. It is a powerful symbol of birth, growth, death and renewal.  In addition, this trinity of the feminine gives rise to the numerology of the number three (3), which is the number assigned to the masculine.  Therefore, contained within this feminine trinity is the recognition of the influence of the masculine.  This awareness can be seen in the genetic representation of the female, as with two XX’s, contrasted by the male with one X and one Y, or XY.  The X contains the Y within it.  The Y is forever in search of completion.  Psychologically, this completion is accomplished through the anima, the energy of the feminine, to be found within each man.

Flowers symbolize springtime, happiness, wealth, abundance, fortune, prosperity, hospitality, joyfulness, beauty, and purity.  In our tale, we are told of Little Red Cap’s self-absorption when this wolf admonishes her, “…Look at the beautiful flowers growing about. Why don’t you look around?  I believe, you don’t even hear the birds sweetly singing.  You are walking absorbed in yourself…”  The tale then progresses with Little Red Cap opening her eyes [she is no longer asleep] and seeing the sunlight in the woods, as if for the first time.  Opening her eyes indicates a newly evolved aspect of her consciousness now available to her. In addition, she sees all the beautiful flowers and, deciding to pick a bouquet for her grandmother, she quickly moves off the designated path, moving deeper and deeper into the woods (unconscious). 

The flowers also bring in the recognition of Little Red Cap’s return to a childhood innocence that was taken from her by being “crowned” too early in her life by her grandmother.  Flowers are a great symbolic representation of The [Alchemical] Axiom of Maria Prophetissa, “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth:”  The seed (1)—earth, planted in the ground; the stem (2)—air, movement toward the heavens, opposites of heaven and earth uniting; the leaf (3)—fire, via the process of photosyntheses, which requires the light from the sun; and the blossom/flower (4) returning to seed (1)—water, required for germination.

Her departure from the designated path shows an aspect of newly expressed rebellion in Little Red Cap, as she has found direction from within herself and not only from her mother.  This departure not only gives Wolf #1 more than ample time to get to grandmother’s house—once there, he swallows up the grandmother, after which, he “puts on her cloths on, puts on her bonnet, lays himself in her bed, and pulls the curtains to,”—but it also provides time to get into grandmother’s bed.

The Bed is symbolically a place of vulnerability. As such in our tale, it reveals the cross-dressing/gender confusion dynamic of the adolescent Wolf #1. By pulling the curtains together, he conceals not only his cross dressing gender confusion, but also the reality that he has gobbled up her grandmother.  Little Red Cap, in her determination to find grandmother, pulls back the curtains, revealing both of Wolf #1’s secrets.  Having made such a discovery, she now finds herself in harm’s way, and is gobbled-up.

By not assigning gender to Little Red Cap in our fairy tale’s title, it signifies both the potential for gender confusion and the alchemical opus of the hermaphrodite—the balanced, integrated, masculine and feminine.  Psychologically, this is the ultimate result of individuation. Spiritually, it is the experience of an opportunity for co-creation.  Writing this analysis in the 21st century provides more of a view from the portal of the contrarian.  Historically, through the study of indigenous cultures, the contrarian title was assigned to those people who did not find solace in their birth gender assignment.  This confusion often emerges in the pre-pubescent and early years of puberty when the biological hormones are in flux.  Shamans are often identified by this trait of being able to represent both genders.  Further evidence of how Wolf #1 is a shaman/healer/trickster follows later in this analysis.

The Hunter makes his appearance in our tale to save the grandmother and Little Red Cap.   The hunter archetype is one of an instinctual quest to know aspects of the self found in the rich environments of the unconscious. Therefore, he also carries a trinity of a bumbling/sacred/mean-spirited focus for his intensions. The significance of a hunter in any story is in relationship to a quest, a hunting for something.  In fact, the Hunter in our tale has been hunting for this Wolf,  “…you old sinner…I have hunted you a long time.”  It was the sound of his snoring that alerted the Hunter that something might be wrong (sacred, with his sensitivity to potential danger) with the grandmother.  As the wolf was asleep, the Hunter was able to use the scissors (usurping the mean-spirited impulse to shoot him with his rifle) to cut him open, revealing not only the grandmother but Little Red Cap as well.  As the until-now-absent father (bumbling without conscious intention), almost as a dumbling, he appears at exactly the right time to save both Little Red Cap and her grandmother.   [The dumbling in fairy tales is often the son of a king who, in spite of himself, gets the prize, seemingly by accident.]

It is not a surprise to find a hunter in the woods as the forest is a place for hunting. In our tale, the three (3) maiden/mother/grandmother have all been in search of masculine representations to balance with their feminine natures.  As the father figure, the Hunter moves into action by cutting open the wolf and releasing the grandmother and Little Red Cap from the body of Wolf #1. 

Scissors are a tool used for separating, opening/entry, in general, an ambiguous symbol, as they refer to cutting a life thread, and also represent the union of spiritual and physical. In our tale, the scissors function both to open the wolf so the now transformed (having been gestated in the body of the wolf, a masculine symbol) grandmother and Little Red Cap emerge at another stage of consciousness. Also, the scissors assist the Hunter in obtaining the pelt of the wolf.  

Stones are often used to symbolize the passage from one life to the next. They are believed to carry spirit energy as in Germany, the spirit of the dead remains in the tombstone, while many African beliefs hold to the idea that stones carry the spirit of an ancestor.  As a symbol of the divine, they mark the many struggles to overcome and perspectives to be gained. Many myths, fables, and stories use rocks as symbols of the obstacles characters must overcome to complete their quest. There is a mesmerizing quality that stones have of taking on both cold and heat.  In our tale, stones were put inside the wolf once the grandmother and Little Red Cap were removed from his body.  It can be said that he was weighed down with the spirts that were captured in the stones.  As his ability to overcome any further obstacles was now gone, he collapsed with the weight of those stones and died.

Velvet has historically been a rich, expensive fabric made on special looms, most often from silk. The fabric is plain on the back, thick and soft on the front and, as such, it has symbolized power and wealth, not unlike Wolf #1’s pelt. The grandmother’s use of velvet fabric to make the cap for her granddaughter indicates assignment of richness, power, and strength beyond the grasp of such a young maid.  After his long pursuit of the “old sinner,” the Hunter’s booty of the wolf’s pelt provides the masculine with the appropriate assignment of richness, power, and strength.

The Red Velvet Cap she gives to her granddaughter can be viewed as a crown, which forces Little Red Cap into precociousness,  thereby usurping her childhood.  Such an adornment set her apart from others her age, which is an example from alchemy of the  “reddening coming too fast.” Psychologically, when childhood is interrupted by living out of a false persona of pseudo-maturity, it can alienate the child from others. This painted-bird phenomena, where others in the flock recognize the difference in the one painted, can cause severe alienation and even death, as often the other birds will attack and kill the painted one.  There is a time for the “reddening” to occur, a time that won’t set the person on a collision course with the collective, as in the above reference to the painted bird.  Little Red Cap’s velvet cap has set her on a potential collision course.

The Resurrection of both the maid and her grandmother, when they come out of the body of Wolf #1, announces a new level of awareness for both of them.  This new awareness (consciousness) is apparent in how they both deal in the encounter with Wolf #2.   This new awareness can provide Little Red Cap with the energies she will need to “fit in” to her community, rather than stand dangerously alone and apart from them.

Wolf #2 is a grey wolf, indicating that he is an older wolf. His encounter with Little Red Cap shows a maturing in how he relates to Little Red Cap and grandmother with more patience than Wolf #1. In addition, the evolution in consciousness of both Little Red Cap and the grandmother is validated by how they relate to the wolf with more maturity—Little Red Cap, by noting the look in his eyes that made her fearful and grandmother, by using her available resources (sausage water) and making a plan for Wolf #2’s demise.  She and her grandmother are able to plot against the grey wolf and provide safety for themselves by bringing about the death of this wolf. 

The Sausages are the bait used by Little Red Cap and her grandmother in luring the grey wolf to his death. Sausages and hot dogs carry the power of the meat and herbs out of which they are made, although sausages of all types represent zestful, male energy (fire).  The fiery male energy is now available to the grandmother and Little Red Cap, an indication of integration of the masculine and feminine within each of them. In our tale, the cooking of the sausages is another example of the maturation of the masculine—moving from raw to cooked.

The Stone Trough, remembering the symbolism of stone, functions as a container for both spirit and water and, much like the glass bottle, it also represents the alchemical vessel of containment for transformations facilitated by heat.  In our tale, the heat of cooking the sausages, as well as the heat of angry passion, allows this stone trough to be the final resting place for Wolf #2.

Water is a primary component in cooking, as well as in most alchemical transformations. Our tale explains how grandmother had used water in the cooking of the sausages the day before Little Red Cap’s visit, so it is now available for another use. When water or tea is allowed to sit in the sun for 4-6 hours, it is considered psychically discharged or “balanced.”  Knowing this water had been sitting for more than a day lets us know that it is psychically discharged and balanced, yet another indication of the new balance now within the grandmother and Little Red Cap.

In this tale, the Senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell are each present.  Sight is evident, when by opening her eyes, Little Red Cap perceives the woods/forest as if seeing it for the first time when Little Red Cap approaches her grandmother’s bed and sees the big ears, eyes, hands, and mouth, of Wolf #1 and, later, when she sees the fear-producing look in the eyes of Wolf #2, the grey wolf.  Touch, is demonstrated when Little Red Cap is  picking the flowers, when Wolf #1 grabs both the grandmother and Little Red Cap in order to gobble them up, when Little Red Cap fetches the stones to put inside of the wolf, and when the Hunter draws off the wolf’s pelt.  Taste is indicated when the mother provides the cake and wine for Little Red Cap to take to the grandmother and when Wolf #1 reflects on the tastiness of Little Red Cap in contrast to the flavor of the grandmother. Hearing is exhibited when Little Red Cap hears the birds in the woods/forest, as if for the first time. Another example of hearing occurs when the Hunter, hearing the snoring, becomes concerned enough to investigate the wellbeing of the grandmother. In addition to the numerous conversations heard throughout the tale, it is the knocking on grandmother’s door that announces the presence of each of the wolves.  Smell is implied by the flowers, cake and wine, but most importantly, by the fragrance in the water that cooked the sausages.  

In the beginning of our tale, there is an evolution—with the opening of Little Red Cap’s eyes—that makes manifest all five senses.  As our tale progresses, after the gestation in Wolf #1’s body, a Sixth Sense becomes available to both the grandmother and Little Red Cap.  The grandmother was able to intuit the intention of the grey wolf, and Little Red Cap was able to discern the bad/mean look in his eyes that caused her to be both cautious and fearful.  Both of these are examples of the ability to trust and rely on intuition.  Little Red Cap’s trust was out of ignorance at the beginning of our tale in following the instructions of Wolf #1 to leave the path.  By the end of our tale, trust with intuition, shows the benefit of the evolution of maturing consciousness in Little Red Cap. 

The Numerology of the Fairy Tale

Number 1, as the number for destiny, is evident first in our title, as Little Red Cap refers to a singular character.  We then find, in our opening paragraph, a little girl who has been given a red cap by her grandmother, so we know the focus of the destiny journey will be hers.  

The grandmother/mother/daughter trinity of the feminine, the Hunter and the two wolves trinity of the masculine and the opposites of the masculine and the feminine represent the Number 2.  The number 2 is a feminine number.

Number 3 appears in the dual trinities of grandmother/mother/daughter and the Hunter and the two wolves.  The number 3 is a  masculine number.

Number 4 is recognized from the wholeness of the elements water, fire, air, and earth, reflecting the balanced environment in which our tale takes place.  In our tale, there are various subtle references to the four elements of wholeness.  Here are just a few: air is recognized from speech, snoring, and breath; water, from the sausage water that Wolf #2 drowns in; earth, from the cake and the woods/forest; and fire, from the emotion of obsessed passion the grandmother feels for her granddaughter, from the fire cooking the cake and the sausages, and from the angry passion necessary to cause the demise of  Wolf #2.

Numerological significance is given to the Time references in the second paragraph of our tale, when Little Red Cap is describing the distance in time from her village to grandmothers house: 15 minutes = 1+5 = 6, and 30 minutes = 3+0 = 3, bringing the number (6+3 = 9) assigned to this tale as the Number 9.  The number 9 is indicative of the completion of a cycle.  In addition, it is the number for those who accomplish the divine will and is also a symbol of wisdom and intuition. Remember, from the earlier mention of the Celtic myth, there were nine (9) Hazelnut trees surrounding the waters where the salmon would gain all wisdom from the nuts falling into the water.

The Colors in the Fairy Tale

The dominant color for this tale is Red. Some of the associations for the color “red” are the root chakra, life force, anger, and passion.  A colloquial expression often used, “waving a red flag in front of a bull,” gives rise to the awareness of how an elegant cap of red sets apart our protagonist, Little Red Cap.  The wine moved our color, red, toward a deeper dimension representing the necessary healing enchantments provided by the mother and needed by the grandmother.

At the direction of Wolf #1, “Little Red Cap, look at the beautiful flowers growing about.  Why don’t you look around?” As we will see in the alchemical description that follows, Wolf #1 is catalytic in bringing a Rainbow of Colors worthy of Little Red Cap’s awakening perceptions.

Of interest to me, is that Wolf #2 brings the color Grey.  We know from its designated color that it is an older wolf.   However, from a psychological interpretation of this dynamic found in the color grey in the tale, a forecast of the movement in consciousness for Little Red Cap and her grandmother exists by indicating the evolution from the black-and-white into a more multidimensional world view.

The Alchemical Process

As we enter into the alchemical treatment of this fairy tale, we do so with the awkward knowledge of the “reddening coming too fast” for Little Red Cap.  An alchemical adage warned practitioners of that art against the “reddening coming too fast.” This is much like the warning from Eastern traditions, of kundalini rising too fast, which can cause, among other things, a psychotic episode in some individuals.  From our opening paragraph, we enter into an awareness that our protagonist, Little Red Cap, by the action of her grandmother giving her the velvet cap (a crown), was at risk of this experience of pseudo-maturity (precociousness, even psychosis).  The reader, now being cognizant of this adage, when reflecting upon the need for caution, understands how the lessons that are provided for our protagonist must occur.  It was her mother’s intuition and wisdom that put her on the divine journey of her destiny, circumventing further expression of her handicap (being crowned too soon).

This tale provides an impressive window into the alchemical process and, therefore, the individuation process in relationship to the integration of the masculine (animus) and the feminine (anima).  As the feminine is represented  through the maiden/mother/crone trinity, we have known from the very first paragraph that the pursuit of the masculine was a direction in our tale.  We know from the alchemical text, The Secret of the Golden Flower, that the animus originates in the eyes.  Wolf #1 assisted Little Red Cap in the experience of opening her eyes, which is an example of an aspect of her masculine (animus) energies becoming more available through her emerging consciousness.  The wolf was so starved for his valid experience of the feminine (anima) that he literally put on the clothing of the grandmother and lustfully gobbled up both the grandmother and Little Red Cap, taking them into his abdomen/body.  Unmistakably, the hermaphroditic alchemical stage is seen here. 

Little Red Cap’s mother promotes a new beginning for Little Red Cap on the morning she instructs her to participate in her grandmother’s healing and, thereby, sets out on a journey that will provide an opportunity for her to move away from living out of her precocious handicap.  It is morning when her mother gives Little Red Cap this challenge.  An hour is a representation of wholeness, so the time references that come up in that paragraph are about a fresh start, a new beginning.  

Although, not yet consciously aware of the intricacies of her destiny’s journey, Little Red Cap shares deep wisdom in relationship to the timing of this day’s journey.  This is known to us from her recognition of grandmother’s house being 30 minutes into the woods from the village and when she encounters Wolf #1, she knows she has another 15 minutes to go.

Nigredo (black): This first stage provides for the recognition of shadow presences, archetypal and complex representations, as well as projections. The mother is the medial place holder between the sick grandmother and the “painted-bird handicap” of our protagonist, Little Red Cap.  In her insistence that Little Red Cap get on her way before it gets too hot, the mother is showing her awareness that Little Red Cap will not evolve if she continues living out of the inflated space of being crowned too soon (Little Red Cap’s handicap).

Albedo (white): This second stage provides opportunities for communication between the masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) aspects of the psyche. From our tale, it is known that both the feminine maiden/mother/crone and the masculine bumbling/mean-spirited/sacred hunter and two wolves are in search of relationship/dialogue with each other. 

Citrinitas (yellow):  This third alchemical stage recognizes the role of the journey. This requires finding relatedness with the outer world and experiencing issues of transference and countertransference, as both provide opportunities for developing evolving consciousness in relationship with the Self.   Little Red Cap’s ability to relate to the masculine is witnessed with the Wolf #1 in the woods/forest, and at grandmother’s house, as well as with the Hunter, as she assists with the elimination of Wolf #1 by bringing the stones.  Later recognition of a fear-producing spirit in Wolf #2 that she did not see in Wolf #1, along with her collaboration with her grandmother in bringing about the demise of Wolf #2, indicate her evolving consciousness.

Rubedo (red):  This fourth alchemical stage honors the results of the first three processes. In our tale, the catalytic instructions from the mother brought about the destiny journey not only for Little Red Cap but, also, for the trinity of the feminine. From the quest, both for the masculine seeking the relationship with the feminine to the feminine in search of the masculine, the journey of destiny has occurred. Remembering the alchemical adage warning practitioners of alchemy against the “reddening coming too fast,” it is now evident with the evolution of her consciousness that Little Red Cap has now earned her crown.

Spirituality in the Fairy Tale

The overall spiritual theme for this tale is that of Resurrection, as the Christian ritual of communion, representing the body and the blood, can be compared to the cake and wine being brought to the grandmother. In the Christian myth, Christ has the Disciples eating the bread and drinking the wine, with the knowledge that through his death, he would be born into another dimension (consciousness).  Similarly, in our tale, the feminine is reborn into another level of consciousness. The re-birth of both Little Red Cap and her grandmother, as they are reborn out of the body of Wolf #1 by the Hunter’s use of scissors, brings about a new awareness (evolution of consciousness).  Both the wisdom and the innocence of the feminine archetype needed to be co-mingled in the body of the masculine, represented by Wolf #1, thereby allowing deep influence of the other and providing the opportunity to participate in Co-creation.  Alchemically, Wolf #1 functioned as a vessel. This union of the opposites of wisdom and ignorance was necessary for an evolution of consciousness within the feminine.  Once again, in our tale, the awareness of the opportunity for Co-creation with the Divine manifests through the evolution of consciousness.  With the cycle completed (9), an aspect of the combined destinies of Little Red Cap, the mother, and the grandmother (maiden/mother/crone),  has been fulfilled.

© 2019 Lois E. Wilkins, PhD, APRN