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Little Red Riding Hood

This is the most popular fairy tale in the West. A really ancient story with a lesson for innocent girls. The accent is not perfectly standard, but it's British.

One bright summer’s morning, a wood-cutter set off from his house on the edge of the forest. In the house, a little girl watched her mother preparing food, which she packed carefully into a basket. The little girl was called Little Red Riding Hood, as she always wore a red cape with a hood, that her clever mother had made for her.

When the basket was finished, Red Riding Hood’s mother called her and said, "here’s a basket of freshly baked cakes and bread which I want you to take to your grand-mother, who is not being well. Take care as you go through the woods, stick to the path and don’t stop to talk to strangers on the way. And when you’ve seen grand-mother, hurry back and let me know how she is". "Yes mama", said Red Riding Hood, and went on her way.

She began to wind her way through the wood, where she’d been many times before with her father wood-cutter. The birds and the small animals that lived in the wood followed her, but they were not afraid of her. After a while she stopped to pick some flowers, thinking that they would make a nice present for her grand-mother. Then she saw some prettier flowers among the trees, away from the forest path. She became so excited at finding prettier and prettier flowers that she quite forgot her mother’s advice to stick to the path and didn’t even notice when all the little animals scurried away. So when a shadow fell across her path, she was quite surprised to see a tall stranger standing next to her.

"Good morning, my child", he said. He was a big bad wolf. But Red Riding Hood didn’t know this and answered politely, "Good morning, sir". "Tell me, my dear", said the wolf, "where are you off to on this fine day?". "I’m off to visit my grand-mother, who lives in the woods", said Red Riding Hood, "but I fear I have lost my way". "Mmm, and what do you have in your basket?", inquired the wolf. "Oh, freshly baked cakes and bread for grand-mother", said Riding Hood. "And your grand-mother, does she live alone?", asked the wolf. "Oh yes, quite alone", said the little girl.

The wolf looked at the basket and licked his lips, for he was very hungry. But he thought, "If I can wait a while, I might make an even better meal", so he said, "well, now, allow me to lead you back to the path so that you can continue on your way". "Thank you", said Red Riding Hood, as he led her back to the path.

"Now, does your grand-mother live far from here?", asked the wolf. "Not very far", said Red Riding Hood, "In the little cottage, by the old mill, and she keeps the door on the latch so I can easily enter". "Oh, splendid, splendid", cried the wolf, licking his lips and swishing his tail. "Off you go then, give my best wishes to your grand-mother, and I hope she tastes, I, I mean, I mean, FEELS better". "Thank you kindly", said Little Red Riding Hood. And she waved good-bye as she went down the path towards her grand-mother’s cottage.

Now, the wicked wolf knew the woods well, and ran off using a short-cut that brought him to the cottage long before Red Riding Hood. He peered in at the window to see if the old woman was really alone. And then, he knocked on the door.

"Who is there?". "Eh, it is me, Red Riding Hood, with some food from mama", said the wolf. "Lift up the latch and come in, my deer", said the old lady. The wolf opened the door and leaped towards the bed. The old lady was so frightened she fainted clean away. The wolf was about to eat her there and then, but his sharp ears picked up the sound of Red Riding Hood approaching through the woods. So he quickly bundled the old lady into a closet, rest himself into a nice gown and cap and jumped into bed. Red Riding Hood approached the cottage and knocked on the door.

"Who is there?", cried the wolf, pretending to be the old lady". "It is Red Riding Hood, with some food for you from mama", said the little girl. "Lift up the latch and come in", said the wolf, snuggling down under the bed clothes. Red Riding Hood opened the door and peered in. It was not very light in the cottage but could just see the old lady’s night cap lying on the pillow. "I hope you’re feeling better", said Red Riding Hood as she approached the bed.

The wolf did not answer, but his eyes gleamed. "Why! What big eyes you have!", said Red Riding Hood. "All the better to see you with", said the wolf. Then, Red Riding Hood noticed the strange shape of grand-mother’s night cap and said, "What big ears you have, grand-mother!". "All the better to hear you with", said the wolf, and the bed clothes slipped down to show his big snout. "My goodness! What big teeth you have!", cried Red Riding Hood in alarm. "All the better to eat you with!", said the wolf.

Suddenly, the door bust opened and there stood the wood-cutter with his axe. The wolf glared at the wood-cutter, but he knew that he stood no chance against that mighty axe, so he leapt through the window and he ran for his life, never to be seen again. Red Riding Hood was so frightened she was crying and trembling. Her father put down his axe to comfort her. Then he heard a noise from the closet. The wood-cutter opened the door, and there was poor frightened grand-mother, wrapped in a shawl.

After they comforted her, they put her back into bed and gave her the cakes and bread, to which she felt much better. Then Red Riding Hood and her father left the cottage and made their way home, safely, but from that day on, Red Riding Hood took care not to stray from the path and learned to be on her guard with smooth talking strangers.

SUMMER’S MORNING= We can use the Saxon genitive (‘s) to express possession with people and, like here, with time expressions.

SET OFF= Started to go to a place.

RIDING HOOD= A cloak with a hood which used to be the usual outfit for women when they rode a horse a long time ago (that’s why it is called "riding" hood). See pictures of: a hood / a riding hood.

IS NOT BEING WELL= The verb "to be" is not usually used in the continuous form (we say "I am Spanish", not "I am being Spanish"). But when we refer to the way we are behaving at this moment, we use the continuous form:
- Oh, come on! You are being stupid. (behaviour)
In this story they use it to talk about how the grandmother feels (health). That use of the continuous form of "to be" is very formal and unusual.

STICK TO A PLACE= Not to move away from that place.

WIND= Pronounced /waɪnd/. To move around in a circular way or (like here) to walk through a winding path (a path with lots of curves, not straight). Don't confuse with the word "wind" /wɪnd/, moving air.

SCURRY= To run quickly with short steps. For instance, insects scurry when they run away.

I’M OFF TO...= I’m going to...

THE WOODS= The forest.

I FEAR I HAVE LOST MY WAY= I’m afraid I’m lost.

..., FOR HE WAS VERY HUNGRY= Because he was very hungry. In some situations we can use FOR instead of BECAUSE, and it’s a bit more informal.

COTTAGE= A traditional British country house. See picture: cottage.

LATCH= A fastening, as for a door or gate, typically consisting of a bar that fits into a notch or slot and is lifted from either side by a lever or string. See picture. If you keep the door on the latch, you have it unlocked and you can open it by lifting the latch. In this story, the latch is outside.

SPLENDID= Fantastic, wonderful (very formal).

WICKED= Malicious, bad, evil.

A SHORT-CUT= A way which is shorter than the usual route.

PEER= To look intently, searchingly, or with difficulty.

LEAP= Jump. Irregular verb: leap-lept-lept. (also leap-leaped-leaped)

SHE FAINTED CLEAN AWAY= If you do something clean away, you do it completely, intensely (it’s emphatic).

GOWN and CAP= Old-fashioned bed clothes. Look at a picture of a night gown and a picture of a night cap.

SNUGGLE= To curl up closely or comfortably; nestle.

GLEAM= To emit a quick flash of light.

SNOUT= The projecting nose, jaws, or anterior facial part of an animal's head. See picture.

MY GOODNESS= An expression of surprise. It is an euphemistic expression to avoid saying "My God!", which some people consider rude or even blasphemous.

BUST OPEN= Opened suddenly, like in an explosion.

WOOD-CUTTER= A person who earns his life by cutting trees and selling the wood.

AXE= Pronounced /æks/. A tool for cutting wood. See a picture of an axe.

GLARE= To stare fixedly and angrily.

HE STOOD NO CHANCE AGAINST X= He had no opportunity to win over X.

MIGHTY= Powerful.

HE RAN FOR HIS LIFE= He ran away to save his life.

CLOSET (AmE)= Wardrobe (BrE). A kind of cupboard for clothes.

WRAPPED= Covered with paper or cloth.

SHAWL= A square or oblong piece of cloth worn as a covering for the head, neck, and shoulders. See a picture of a shawl. Pronounced /ʃɔ:l/.

FROM THAT DAY ON= From that moment (and forever).

TO BE ON YOUR GUARD= To pay attention to any possible danger.

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