July 01, 2022

#08-220: The Big Bad Wolf

The Big Bad Wolf with Little Red Riding Hood

Note: The wolf is a common villain in Eurasian folk tales. Here are three.

Get Ready: Why do you think wolves were so popular in the stories of pre-modern people?

We have previously discussed the story of "Peter and the Wolf," in which a brave Russian boy deflects an attack by a vicious wolf. In fact, wolves--as apex predators--have been the bad guy from Russia all the way across the Eurasian continent to England.

Here are three stories we know well. The earliest is the story attributed to Aesop, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," in which a shepherd boy pranks the people of his village by claiming to see a wolf--but he's lying. In the end, a real wolf eats the boy, proving that liars lose their credibility, and that wolves are ferocious.

Another well-known wolf story was first seen before the 17th century in France and Germany. "Little Red Riding Hood" is on her way to her grandmother's house when she meets a wolf who wants to eat her. He reaches Granny's house first--and eats her! He then dons Granny's clothes and waits for Red to arrive.

The clever girl notes something strange about the old lady's deep voice, big eyes and hands, and at last her mouth, to which the wolf replies, "The better to eat you with!" The earliest version ends right after the wolf eats the girl; later ones introduce a woodcutter or hunter who cuts open the wolf and brings out Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.

The last of our wolf tales appeared in 19th century England and involves three little pigs. Their mother had sent them out to make their way in the world, and each one built himself a house: the first built a house of straw, the second one of sticks, and the third one of bricks.

A wolf came along. As he approached each house, he said, "Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

Each pig would reply, "No, not by the hairs on my chinny chin chin."

And the wolf told each, "Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."

He was easily able to blow down the first pig's house of straw, and quickly ate him up. The house of sticks required a bit more blowing, but he finally devoured that pig, too. But the brick house stood firm. After trying several tricks, the wolf came down the house's chimney, but fell into a pot of water on the fire, and was boiled to death.

Beware the big bad wolf!


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. apex predators
  2. attributed
  3. chimney
  4. credibility
  5. deflects
  6. devoured
  7. dons
  8. Eurasian
  9. pranks
  10. straw

  1. animals at the top of the food chain
  2. a structure for removing smoke from a fireplace
  3. plays tricks on
  4. ate
  5. said to be written by
  6. including Europe and Asia
  7. turns aside
  8. trustworthiness; quality of being believed
  9. the dried stalks of grain
  10. puts on, as clothes

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for July 1, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. e; 3. b; 4. h; 5. g; 6. d; 7. j; 8. f; 9. c; 10. i