Little Red Riding Hood – 10th-17th Century

by Charles Perrault, Brothers Grimm and many others



This is hard to prove, but the point is too cute to omit. What do you see here?

Is that a little red snowcat driving up Mt. Hood? It’s a little red, riding Hood! Look! Even the man inside the Spryte snowcat is wearing a red hood.

Like all the buried children’s story references, I don’t think we’re meant to read too parabolistically (to invent a word) into this. The story of Little Red Riding Hood has many iterations, some where Red gets eaten, some where the grandmother lives, some where the wolf gets hacked up by an axe, some where the wolf’s belly is slit open and filled with rocks. But the story wouldn’t be the same story if a little girl in a red outfit wasn’t going to check on her older loved one when a predator disguised themselves as that loved one makes an attempt on her life. And concerned as Hallorann is, he’s younger than no one in this story. But if we dispense with that detail, the rest is fairly apt. Hallorann gets the sense that someone he cares about is not doing well, where they’re living, out in wild seclusion. On his way there, a magazine likely talking about bulls and bears sits beside him (Jack is a minotaur figure, so that would be like the wolf stalking/encountering Red en route to granny’s–though, of course, Jack will also pretend to be the Big Bad Wolf in a few minutes), not to mention the cartoon about the bulldog, or the radio referencing the closure of Wolf Creek and Red Mountain while he drives past the crushed red beetle, while two red-capped fellas scurry about.

Also on his way there, Jack transforms from a man who just took his first drink in five miserable months into a full-fledged Little Pig eater. In other words, the Big Bad Wolf/Minotaur had not arrived/blossomed until well into Hallorann’s rescue mission. Perhaps this is why film Danny never reaches out to Hallorann the way book Danny does, because Hallorann has to arrive as naively as Little Red Riding Hood.

The story’s deepest origin may go all the way back to Greco-Roman times, where there were a number of tales concerning women being raped and murdered by wolf-type characters. The most striking of all the striking details around this is the fact that in several stories the girl’s name was Pyrrha (meaning “fire”), and one of the Four Lesson Key Birds is the Pyrrhula Vulgaris (the common (flame-breasted) bullfinch). That’s the bird correlating to Ullman in the Abbey Road Tour, and if any figure in the Abbey Road Tour would be most contextually linked to Hallorann (Yoko Ono), it would be Ullman (John Ono Lennon).

The story also has a close cousin in the other Grimm story The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats, which is seen as a kind of bridge between Red Riding Hood and the The Three Little Pigs. In that story, the wolf must improve his motherly guise on several return missions to trick the young “kids” into letting him in, so he can eat them. This eventually works (sort of like how room 237 makes Danny think Wendy’s inside, after throwing the Grady twins at him a few times?), and the wolf eats all but the littlest, who’s able to hide. When mother returns, she and the littlest cut open the sleeping wolf’s belly, free the other six, and load the wolf up with stones so that, when it goes to drink at the river, it’ll get carried away, sink and drown. So, first, I’m wondering if Kubrick saw an inversion between this story and Snow White, since it’s Snow who’s approached several times, and finally tricked, then saved in part by her seven dwarf friends (fruit is also an element of the Taiwanese story Grandaunt Tiger (considered similar to Red Riding Hood), about a girl who uses the trick of feeding the assailing tiger fruit to extend her life, then switching the fruit with boiling oil). Also, Jack’s slow, hollering collapse in the labyrinth is not unlike the stone-bellied wolf drowning in the river.

And speaking of Jack’s death, this could explain the need to show Jack’s frozen death mask not later that night, but in the cool light of day. Some analyses of the fable see it as a story about the rotation of night (the wolf/death) and day (Red/verdancy), which makes it a story of rebirth. Which could tie to Jack’s photographic resurrection. These analyses also tie to the Norse legend of Sköll/Fenrir devouring the personified Sun at Ragnarok. As discussed in the mirrorform analysis, there’s good reason to suspect the day name placards (TUESDAY, THURSDAY, MONDAY, etc.) were invoked to infuse the story with Norse deities and their relationship to each other. TUESDAY being the day most closely connected to the Fenrir business. Though Danny would seem to correlate to both TUESDAY and the final, unnamed Thursday, since Tyr and Thor, Odin’s sons, who these days are named for, are both son figures. Hallorann is also introduced on a Tuesday (Oct. 30th 1979; CLOSING DAY), brought back on a Wednesday, and dies on a Thursday.

The Aarne-Thompson system lists it as ATU 333, which I don’t think has especial significance to the fable, but it made me think about how almost everything to do with Hallorann comes in threes. When we first meet him, we get three scenes: meeting him in the Gold Room, the tour of the Kitchen, and then the shining talk with Danny. His next scene, which happens to be the middle scene of the movie, is the most singular instance with Hallorann, where everything is more about symmetry and twos (two shots of him in bed, two shots of the TV, two nudes, two album collections, two nightstands, a room full of rough symmetry).

But the rest of his story is pre-Overlook story is in threes. Three calls from Miami, all shot the same way.

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Three travelling sequences, all shot in roughly the same way.

Only his finale seems to defy this, showing the cabin’s-eye-view first, followed by a broken shot of the cat crossing the exterior, then Hallorann’s on foot approach, followed by his slow walk to doom. That’s five shots total. I suspect this was an unavoidable consequence of the finale being what it is.

There’s also his phone call with Durkin, but I like to think of that as his third successful phone call (his first one to the Overlook gets blocked).

Perhaps the seeming mix up of the (cabin’s eye, vehicle movement, Hallorann profile) shots in his final approach was meant to foreshadow, not to mention his leftward movements, was meant to suggest that Hallorann’s finale wouldn’t be like the rest of his Red Riding Hood story.

Last thing: I just wanted to capture the fact that the earliest versions of the fable did sometimes involve cannibalism, which might be another holdover from the Great Famine. I don’t know.

Next literary reference: Outdoor Life