The Little Red Gospel as Eucatastrophe

The Folio Society is an elegant celebration of quality, meticulous book publication. Rich editions of great books - glued bindings appropriately elicit the publisher's anathema - is a weakness of mine, and so any product of the Society is a rare, almost intoxicating indulgence.

The most recent Folio magazine arrived today. In the opening pages Kate Bernheimer discusses her five favorite fairy tales, and she begins with Little Red Riding Hood. Hear her ruminate:

"My first 'Little Red Riding Hood' was The Golden Book version. Its cherubic, technicolor heroine is sent off by her mother to visit her grandmother with 'a pat of butter and a bottle of grape juice'. This girl looks a bit stupid - or at least mindless, illustrated in a 'baby-girl' way that is sort of repellent to me today. After Little Red Riding Hood talks to the wolf despite her mother's admonition not to address any strangers, the wolf kills and disrobes the girl's granny (the story doesn't mention this last point, but as he dresses in the grandmother's clothes after eating her, we must presume that this is the case). When the cherubic child arrives at the cottage, they perform their call-and-response and then he eats her, perhaps fully clothed as this is how she emerges when a woodsman arrives to kill the wolf and remove the child and granny. The granny is, oddly, fully clothed too - whole, alive and unbloodied.

Did the wolf have an extra dress in his belly? Or did the granny undress the wolf after his death and put her own clothing back on? This sort of logical fissure is one of the aesthetic techniques of fairy tales that I love most. In this volume's eucatastrophe, the woodsman, the girl and her granny enjoy a nice glass of grape juice together."

The wolf devours the lamb. Or does he, ultimately? The lamb lives, the wolf dies, the Woodsman delivers. Resurrection from the depths of the beast. All defying logic, a logical fissure. Naked, consumed, and then fully clothed, yet mysteriously so, as with indestructible garments. And then they fellowship. With the fruit of the vine. A eucatastrophe indeed.