Once upon a time there was a little boy named Joe who lived in the forest with his father. He had a glorious mop of deep red hair and so his father called him Red. His mother had left home soon after he was born because, as his father often told him, she mustn’t have liked the look of him.
He worked very hard to please his father, who was a forest ranger, and therefore out all day, and Red’s tasks included taking food to his grandmother. His father would never go near her cottage because he was sure she had caused his wife to leave. Apparently when the little boy was born her first glimpse of her first grandchild elicited the comment, ‘My, that’s a really ugly baby you’ve got there’.
His wife had left the room sobbing and was never seen again and that was seven years ago.
This particular day, Little Red – he was small for his age – set off for his weekly visit to his Gran. He pulled his bobble hat over his ears buttoned up his coat and filled his rucksack with food for her. She was always very unpleasant to him and never grateful for the food. The meat was always overcooked, the cakes never had enough icing, the vegetables were past their best. So, he was not in a hurry to also hear how weedy and small he was and how unruly and red his hair and how it was a good thing his mother had left him because he was so ugly. He dawdled along the path, listening to the birds and admiring the flowers when he caught sight of a strange butterfly with wings as large as cabbage leaves. Fascinated by its size, he followed its fluttering into the woods until he it disappeared into the dense trees. He turned to go back and realised that he was lost, His father had warned him never to leave the path and he was gripped with fear.
He stood still biting back tears when a large she-wolf appeared from behind a tree licking her lips.
‘I’m so hungry’ she growled ‘I will eat you up’, and she bared her great pointed teeth.
Now, Red may have been plain, thin and small, but he was no fool.
‘Please, please don’t eat me.’ he cried, ‘I’m lost, but if you show me the path I will lead you to my grandmother’s cottage. She is a very meaty lady who sits in her bed all day, growing larger by the day.
‘I don’t need you, the wolf replied ‘I know that cottage. Now I know who lives there I will go there after I have eaten you’
Red thought quickly. ‘She only opens the door to me and I’ve got a special knock. She’s got a terrible temper and keeps an axe near her bed if she gets angry. You need me so you can sneak in.You could just bite one of her arms and get more meat than from the whole of me. I’m very small and thin. Look.’ and he removed his hat and coat and showed the wolf his thin arms.
The wolf looked at Red for a full minute, and then something changed her mind, ‘All right’ she said ‘Follow me to the path then lead me to this fleshy feast. Go quickly, before I change my mind and eat you first.’
When they arrived at the cottage, the door was already open, which was very odd. Red listened outside and heard his father shouting ‘Where’s my son you wicked witch? You’ve forced my wife from me and now you’ve made my little boy disappear.’
His grandmother was screaming with rage.
He stepped inside with the wolf close behind only to see his grandmother with a large axe in her raised arms just about to strike his father in two.
‘Stop, stop’ he shouted ‘I’m here’.
‘Not for long’ cackled Gran as the axe continued to fall ‘I won’t need to ever look at your ugly face again. I’ll just finish this one off first’.
Before Red could move an inch the wolf bounded forward and knocked the old woman over, bashing her head on one of the large brass bedposts and killing her instantly.
Red rushed towards the wolf and flung his arms around her neck crying tears of shock and relief into her deep red fur. These tears did the trick. Before their eyes the she-wolf turned instantly into a beautiful woman with hair that was exactly the same colour as Red’s.
‘You must be my little boy’, she wept. ‘I remember it all now. My mother was a witch. When I told her that I never wanted to see her again after you were born she turned me into a wolf. She was so cruel and jealous when she first saw us both together’.
Then she embraced her husband and whispered ‘We’ll go home now and live happily ever after’
And so they did.