The Wolf’s Postscript to ‘Little Riding Hood’

Introduction to the Poem

The Wolf’s Postscript to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is a thought-provoking poem by Agha Shahid Ali. This reads like a letter from the wolf to Red Riding Hood, as well as the readers. It has a wonderful opening,

First, grant me my sense of history:
I did it for posterity,
For kindergarten teachers
And a clear moral: (Ali, Web.)

This poem tells us the wolf’s story and his motive for the first time.  He argues, with excellent logic, that he has been a voluntary scapegoat for the edification of society. In this regard, two short stories deserve to be mentioned: “Little Red” by Wendy Wheeler from the anthology Snow White, Blood Red and “Riding the Red” by Nalo Hopkins from the collection Black Swan, White Raven (both the anthologies are edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow). These short pieces take on the traditional fairy tale from a variety of perspectives.

Agha Shahid has personified the wolf, one of the most infamous creatures in a European mythical tale. The poet becomes didactic and assigns the wolf write a postscript to highlight his point of view in the poem. The woodcutter from the story is also re-created to provide an opposite viewpoint of the same story.

In the traditional tale, a little girl with a red hood pays a visit to her sick grandmother. She, on the other hand, encounters a wolf who hurries to her grandmother’s house, devours her, clothes up as her, and waits for the daughter to arrive. She is also devoured by the evil wolf. A passing woodcutter hears the voice and kills the wolf, ripping his body apart to collect the grandmother and her belongings. There are many versions of the same story but all common in the notion that the wolf eats the grandmother and the red hood girl.

Summary of the Poem

The poem is didactic. The poet personifies the wolf, a wicked malevolent character in popular culture. The wolf excuses himself by presenting a different perspective of the old tale. The wolf begins by boasting that he is telling the storey for the sake of future generations. He wants his readers to give him permission to tell them that tiny girls should not speak to strangers. They must also refrain from wandering in quest of exotic flowers. The wolf reveals that if he had met the red hood girl for the first time in the jungle, he would have eaten her up right then and there. He candidly admits that the girl was attractive, but he is not a child molester. He believes he gave the girl enough time to figure out how to avoid being countered by him. Even the wolf claims that he had all the courage needed to defeat the woodcutter but chose to sacrifice himself in order to offer joy and bliss to the children. To see children laugh brings him joy, and these justifications on the wolf’s behalf appear sincere and correct to the readers.

Questions Answers

Q.1: What does the poet mean by the expression grant me my sense of history?
Ans: The wolf in question is regarded as a nasty man-eater and barbarian across popular culture. To drive home a point, the poet employs the wolf as a speaker and a tool to accomplish his goals. The customised wolf attempts to appear genuine and true to readers, and to that end, the wolf boasts that his view of history differs from myths. He explains his understanding of history and the reasons for killing the red hood girl and her grandmother.

Q.2: Why did not the wolf gobble here upright in there in the jungle?
Ans: According to the poet, the reason the wolf did not gabble the red hood girl right there in the Jungle is that he wanted to give the girl enough time to consider the perils that were impending. The rationale also serves as a means of adding legitimacy to the storey. If the wolf had gobbled up the girl in the forest, the rest of the storey would have been meaningless, and the children would not have believed him.

Q.3: How does the wolf justify the ending of the fairy tale?
Ans: The fairy tale concludes with some poetic justice, as the wolf, according to him, sets himself up to be murdered by a woodcutter. The wolf was keen to make children laugh by glancing at the waste coming from his belly with perfect timing. Moreover, the denouement supports the entire storey and reinforces the message that little girls should not stray away in search of flowers or talk to strangers.

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