.. A deliciously cynical reading by Dr. Eric Berne, author of the wonderful ‘Games People Play‘ (1964).. And if you think this is a little caustic, you should see what he makes of Cinderella..
“…To a Martian, this story raises interesting questions. He takes it at face value, including the talking wolf, even though he has never met one. But given what happens, he wonders what it is all about and what kind of people it happens to. Here, then, are his thoughts on the matter…”
“One day LRRH’s mother sent her through the woods to bring food to her grandmother, and on the way she met a wolf. What kind of a mother sends a little girl into a forest where there are wolves? Why didn’t her mother do it herself, or go along with LRRH? If grandmother was so helpless, why did mother leave her all by herself in a hut far away? But if LRRH had to go, how come her mother had never warned her never to stop and talk to wolves? The story makes it clear that LRRH had never been told that this was dangerous. No mother could really be that stupid, so it sounds as if her mother didn’t care much what happened to LRRH, or maybe evn wanted to get rid of her. No little girl is that stupid either. How could LRRH look at the wolf’s eyes, ears, hands and teeth and still think it was her grandmother? Why didn’t she get out of there as fast as she could?
Even the grandmother and the hunter aren’t above suspicion. If we now treat the dramatis personae of this story as real people, each with his or her own script, we see how neatly their personalities mesh from a Martian point of view.
!. The mother is evidently trying to lose her daughter ‘accidentally’, or at least she wants to end up saying: ‘Isn’t it awful, you can’t even walk through the park nowadays without some wolf…’ etc.
2. The wolf, instead of eating rabbits and such, is obviously overreaching himself, and he must know that he will come to a bad end that way, so he must want to invite trouble. He evidently read Nietzche or someone similar in his youth (if he can talk and tie on a bonnet, why shouldn’t he be able to read?), and his motto is something like ‘Live dangerously and die gloriously’.
3. Grandmother lives alone and leaves her door unlatched, so she may be hoping for something interesting to happen, something which couldn’t happen if she were living with her folks. Maybe that’s why she didn’t move in with them, or at least live next door. She was probably young enough to be ripe for adventure, since LRRH was still a little girl.
4. The hunter is obviously a rescuer who enjoys working over his vanquished opponents with sweet little maidens to help: quite clearly an adolescent script.
5. LRRH tells the wolf quite explicitly where he can meet her again, and even climbs into bed with him.
The truth of the matter is that everybody in the story is looking for action at almost any price. If the payoff at the end is taken at face value, then the whole thing was a plot to do in the poor wolf by making him think he was outsmarting everybody, using LRRH as bait. In that case, the moral of the story is not that innocent maidens should keep out of forests where there are wolves, but that wolves should keep away from innocent-looking maidens and their grandmothers; in short, a wolf should not walk through the forest alone. This also raises the interesting question of what the mother did after she got rid of LRRH for the day…”