Along with the Bible and Shakespeare, Grimms' fairy tales rank among the best selling literature of the Western world. And Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps the best known story of the Grimms brothers' collection. What accounts for such popularity? Like all of the Grimms' fairy tales, the characters in this story led us to discover the treasures in our own souls.
Philosophies, artistic styles, and religious conventions change with thim, but this tale has endured for centuries. In our modern age, with our emphasis on science and technology, a wolf speaking and eating the old grandma and Red Riding Hood seem to be drawn from the depths of a remote and superstitious past. More sensitive souls such as Goethe, Rudolf Steiner, C. G. Jung, and Bruno Bettlelheim, however, have all recognized that true fairy tales are not merely arbitrary fantasies or folk imaginations. They were aware that deep meaning shines through all genuine fairy tales.
The great German poet, Novalis, once said that fairy tales "are prophetic, idealistic, and inevitable, all in one.... I believe that in a fairy tale I can best express my mood of soul. Everything is a fairy tale." Fairy tales should be told to children with out explanation. Children relate quite naturally with the inner significance of the story. They absorb the language of the imaginations and feel connected with it in a truly intimate way. Any interpretation is unnecessary and would be quite a mistake. Emotionally involved with a given tale, the young child's imagination should not be disturbed; it is always intrusive to make conscious what a child wishes to keep preconscious.
For teachers and parents, however, it is always worthwhile to become conscious of the soul and spiritual qualities behind the story. In this way, tales can be told or read to children with much more conviction and charm. One will see that such tales are not fantastic or beautiful and poetic lies but express the great soul wisdom of the heart that knows more than the head will admit.
In his insightful commentary, Andrew Flaxman helps us understand the deeper meaning behind this story and fairy tales in general. Patricia DeLisa brings us a beautifully illustrated and important contribution to the literature of fairy tales.
ANDREW FLAXMAN graduated cum laude from Princeton in 1957 and earned a master's degree in business at Rutgers. After a successful career as an investment banker and stockbroker, he became convinced that our economic life, based upon increasing selfishness, egotism, and lack of self-knowledge, was bringing our civilization to disaster. For the past few decades he has been a publisher of self-educational products, a seminar organizer, and a teacher of emotionally disturbed adolescents. Andy is a fundraiser and the Bell Pond Books editor for children's books.
PATRICIA DELISA makes her home as an artist with her husband and three children on Long Island, New York, just a few miles from the vast beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. From this place in the world she also designs a line of infants' and childrens' clothing and operates a design business with her sister, using the rich arts inspired by anthroposophy to steward beauty into the world.