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Fables and Fairy Tales. 0027: Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Wicked Wolf

Author: Perrault, Charles
Title: Little Red Riding Hood, and the wicked wolf
Cat. Number: 0027
Date: No date, but 1807-50
1st Edition: Perrault first published 'Little Red Riding Hood' as one of his Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697; they were first translated into English, as Histories, or tales of past times, in 1729
Pub. Place: Alnwick
Publisher: W. Davison
Price: One halfpenny
Pages: 1 vol., 8pp.
Size: 12.5 x 7.5 cm
Illustrations: Frontispiece plus 4 further cuts

Images of all pages of this book

Page 002 of item 0027

Introductory essay

The Hockliffe Collection possesses two short chapbook version of Little Red Riding Hood, one published by William Davison of Alnwick (0027), the other by J. Kendrew of York. There are two copies of Kendrew's edition of The Entertaining Story of Little Red Riding Hood in the Collection (0028 and 0029). They are identical apart from their covers.

Little Red Riding Hood was the first of the tales in Charles Perrault's celebrated collection of fairy tales Histoires, ou contes du temps passé which first appeared in France in 1697 and in Britain in 1729. Like many of the fairy tales from this period, it was reprinted a number of times during the remainder of the eighteenth century, but only began to achieve its classic status in the early nineteenth century. Then theatrical versions appeared, such as Red Riding Hood; or, The Wolf Robber, a 'Dramatic Farce' by Charles Dibdin (1803), and new editions were published in both prose and verse, notably a collaboration by Benjamin Tabart and John Harris (1808), who had both done so much to rehabilitate the fairy story after a period in which it had been condemned as immoral and frivolous. From then on the tale was frequently republished in various forms, often as a chapbook, as in the case of these examples from the Hockliffe Collection. Sometimes a different denouement from that used by Perrault was appended to the tale, in which the heroine lived and the wolf died. Equally often, the tale retained the original, rather gruesome ending. That is the case in these editions, although the moral Perrault appended to his tale - about the danger of young girls trusting anyone, for wolves appear in all sorts of guises - is repeated, in paraphrased form, only in Kendrew's edition (0028, p.17). Otherwise these versions are remarkably true to Perrault's original, as the retention of apparently minor details from the first English edition illustrates. Little Red Riding Hood still takes a little pot of butter to her grandmother, as she had done since 1729, and the gaffer wolf is still forced to use its rather elaborate charade to eat Red Riding Hood because faggot-gatherers are working nearby when it first encounters her. Perhaps more remarkably for a work published in the mid-nineteenth century, Red Riding Hood is still enjoined by the wolf to 'take off your clothes, and come into bed to me', a phrase emphasising the sexual overtones of the story which have attracted so much modern scholarly attention.

Both Kendrew's and Davison's editions combine the fairy story with elements of didacticism. The frontispiece of Kendrew's chapbook urges readers to learn to read and write and to say their prayers if they wish to be rewarded with cakes. A battledore-style alphabet follows on the next page to help readers earn their cakes. But fully half of Kendrew's text is taken up with simple, to-the-point moral tales. First comes a version of Aesop's crying-wolf fable called 'Tom Thumb's Story'. It has been updated to a contemporary farm, so that the protagonist is eventually savaged not by a wolf, but by a bull, a more familiar creature to the book's likely readers. Second is 'The Naughty Boy's Reward' which enjoins children, through the story of the unfortunate son of a menagerie keeper, to obey their parents. And this is followed by 'Honesty is the best Policy', set in the orchard of a kindly old lady who allows all children to eat her fruit except those who sneak in and steal it before the appointed time.

Kendrew's chapbook ends with the famous poem 'My Mother', by Anne Taylor. Anne, and her sister Jane, though only 22 and 21 respectively, had been responsible for most of the Original Poems, For Infant Minds, the anthology of new verse from which this poem was taken (the Hockliffe Collection has several copies: 0851-0854). Original Poems quickly established itself as the most successful volume of children's verse since Isaac Watt's Divine Songs, first published almost a century before in 1715. 'My Mother' was probably based on William Cowper's similarly structured poem, 'To Mary' (1793), which, according to Margery Moon (Children's Books of Mary (Belson) Elliott, 'Introduction'), had inspired numerous imitations. 'My Mother' had appeared in the first of the two volumes of Original Poems in 1804 (the second appeared in 1805). It immediately became astonishingly popular in its own right, sometimes printed on its own but more often gaining inclusion in chapbooks such as this. E. V. Lucas, the editor of a centenary edition in 1903, thought 'My Mother' 'the best known English poem'. Like most of the rest of the Taylors' output, 'My Mother' was essentially a moral tale in verse, although in fact the mother of the poem, who breast-feeds, sings lullabies, dresses the child's dolls and kisses the child's little injuries better, seems far removed from the strict, pious mothers who lecture (or even hector) their children in so many moral tales in prose.

Davison's text is only a quarter of the length of Kendrew's (and retailed at half its price) and so has room for only a little didactic material to accompany the tale. What is added is a short zoological lecture on the wolf which appears on the last page. Though the primary purpose of this insert may have been to fill up space in the volume, it is also testament to the publisher's awareness that books designed purely for entertainment, rather than instruction, were still not wholly respectable, and that sales could be enhanced for a 'multi-purpose' book. Such dashes of didacticism were not an unusual addition to a work of fiction. Books might add a little geographical instruction to a story, for instance, by explaining where the places were that the protagonists had visited (e.g. The Adventures of Thomas Two-Shoes (0105), p.63). Such secular pedagogy probably fulfilled the same function as the moral had in Perrault's original - giving an amusing tale an ostentatiously 'useful' purpose in the hope of cushioning its reception.

For a version of Little Red Riding Hood that has almost no connection with Perrault's story see Little Red Riding Hood; or, Some Account of Sally Evans (0114I in the Hockliffe Collection) published by the Religious Tract Society not later than 1833. Little Red Riding Hood does die at the end of this tale, but only of a sudden illness, for no wolf has ever entered the story. Like Goody Two-Shoes or Jack the Giant Killer, she had become such an emblematic figure in children's literature that she could appear in a totally new context and for very different purposes - here to prove the importance of dutiful and industrious behaviour and religious faith.

It is impossible to determine with any certainty the dates of these two editions. William Davison was in business in Alnwick from 1803, and started printing in c.1807-8. He kept on until the 1850s, specialising in children's books. (See Hunt 1975: 29, and Isaac 1968.) James Kendrew started printing in York sometime between 1801 and 1803 according to his bibliographer, Roger Davis (Davis 1988: 12). Though Davis has been able, using watermarks and other internal evidence, to establish the publication dates of some of Kendrew's books for children, he can only conclude that the rest, including Little Red Riding Hood, were published sometime between c.1815 and James Kendrew's death in January 1841 (Davis 1988: 43). When Kendrew died he was a fairly rich man. In his will he left £765 in addition to the business, which suggests that provincial printing was reasonably remunerative (Davis 1988: 15). Diversification was necessary to survive, though. When Kendrew's son took over the firm, he listed book-selling, provision of stationery and book-binding as equal or greater parts of the operation.

However, cheap chapbooks for children were what the firm was famous for. As Davis' bibliography shows, Kendrew senior specialised in half-penny books of 16 pages, penny books of 24 pages, and 32-page books, also sold for a penny, such as those in the Hockliffe Collection (as listed on the outside back cover). For these, a single sheet was printed in one impression, with the wood-engravings set alongside the text. It was then folded to make a 32 page book which was stitched together in one gathering (the stitching can just be made out in the centre-fold of 0028). The outside pages were left unprinted because a cover was then pasted on to the outside of the book. This was made of 'sugar paper' (so-called because it was often used by grocers to hold sugar), and could be any one of a variety of colours. Not only would this cover be more decorative and durable, but it would conceal and protect the stitching used in the book-binding. Also, new outside covers could later be printed and pasted onto unsold stock so as make it appear a new edition (which is doubtlessly also why publication dates were not listed on these books).

The two versions of Kendrew's Little Red Riding Hood in the Hockliffe Collection have very different outside covers. One set acts as a title-page and an advertisement for Kendrew's series of penny books (0028: front and back)); the other bears some apparently miscellaneous verses and vignettes (0029: front and back). As Davis points out, this was standard practice for Kendrew, as was the format of the chapbooks. As in the Hockliffe Collection editions, the inside front cover (p.2) was always a frontispiece accompanied by a few lines of verse, not always germane to the particular book, and sometimes clearly directed at adults rather than children. The opposite page, p.3, was always the title-page, and its verso, p.4, generally displayed alphabets. Then the main narrative began, and if it did not fill the remaining 27 pages of the book, additional material of various sorts was added, often with little or no connection to what had gone before.

Kendrew also used his wood-engraving blocks fairly promiscuously, using illustrations to one narrative in many other publications. Davis suggests that Kendrew had a stock of about 500 wood blocks available to him at the time of his death (Davis 1988: 72). Many of these, Davis suspects, were plagiarised from other books, sometimes so well that it is difficult to be absolutely certain that the original blocks themselves were not sold on to Kendrew and used by him. Most often copied was the work of Thomas Bewick, the foremost wood-engraver of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His images of animals and birds which first appeared in the famous A General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and A History of British Birds (1797-1804) were especially targeted, probably because they could be pressed into service to illustrate almost any story. Davis demonstrates that all the illustrations but one for Kendrew's Little Red Riding Hood were direct copies from A New Year's Gift, printed by Bewick's collaborator, T. Saint, in Newcastle in 1777 (Davis 1988: 68-69). For these to be in circulation, even if only as copies, in the 1820s or '30s is indicative of the continuity in children's literature over the quarter of a century of so on either side of 1800.

For other books in the Hockliffe Collection published by Kendrew of York see, amongst others:
1. The History of Giles Gingerbread, A Little Boy, Who lived upon Learning (0240)
2. Mrs. Lovechild's Golden Present for all good little boys and girls (0685)
3. The Silver Penny for the Amusement and Instruction of good children (0702)

For another book by Davison of Alnwick in the Hockliffe Collection see 0714.

For more on Little Red Riding Hood see Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde, Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Red Riding Hood, Maria Tatar, Off With Their Heads! and the Opies' Classic Fairy Tales, pp.119-25.

Moon, Marjorie, The Children's Books of Mary (Belson) Elliott blending Sound Christian Principles with Cheerful Culitvation. A Bibliography, Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1987

Hunt, C. J., The Book Trade in Northumberland and Durham to 1860, Newcastle, 1975

Isaac, Peter C. G., William Davison of Alnwick, pharmacist and printer 1781-1858, Oxford University Press, 1968

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Warner, Marina, From the Beast to the Blonde. On Fairy Tales and their Tellers, 1994, rpt. London: Vintage, 1995

Zipes, Jack, The Trials and Tribulations of Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in a Socio-Historical Context, London, 1983; rpt. 1993

Tatar, Maria, Off With Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood, Princeton, NJ, 1992

Opie, Peter and Iona, The Classic Fairy Tales, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974, rpt. London, 1980