Definitions

Big Bad Wolf

Big Bad Wolf

The Big Bad Wolf is a term used to describe a fictional wolf who appears in several precautionary folkloric stories, including some of Aesop's Fables and Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Interpretations

In both Little Red Riding Hood, and The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, the theme of the ravening wolf and of the creature released unharmed from its belly is reflected in the Russian tale Peter and the Wolf, but its general theme of restoration is at least as old as Jonah and the whale. The Theme also appears in the story of the life of Saint Margaret, where the saint emerges unharmed from the belly of a dragon.

The dialog between the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood has its analogies to the Norse Þrymskviða from the Elder Edda; the giant Þrymr had stolen Mjölner, Thor's hammer, and demanded Freyja as his bride for its return. Instead, the gods dressed Thor as a bride and sent him. When the giants note Thor's unladylike eyes, eating, and drinking, Loki explains them as Freyja not having slept, or eaten, or drunk, out of longing for the wedding.

Folklorists and cultural anthropologists such as P. Saintyves and Edward Burnett Tylor saw Little Red Riding Hood in terms of solar myths and other naturally-occurring cycles, stating that the wolf represents the night swallowing the sun, and the variations in which Little Red Riding Hood is cut out of the wolf's belly represent the dawn. In this interpretation, there is a connection between the wolf of this tale and Skoll or Fenris, the wolf in Norse mythology that will swallow the sun at Ragnarök.

Ethologist Dr. Valerius Geist of the University of Calgary Alberta wrote that fables on the Big Bad Wolf were likely based on very real events and were not a case of ignorant superstition, contrary to what is claimed by some wolf advocates. Little Red Riding Hood, he argues, served as a valid warning to parents and children not to enter wolf infested forests and to be on the look out for such. Wolves were an occasional, but widespread threat at the time of the story's genesis, and the society of the day did what they could to keep the minimising the danger, even though controlling wolves was very costly and rarely successful. Even then it was known that wolves did thrive in wilderness settings, and, consequently, that destroying wilderness by turning it into meadows, cultivated fields, orchards, villages and towns robbed the wolf of living space. Wolves and wilderness were treated both as enemies of humanity in that area and time span.

Folkloric appearances

Aesop's Fables

Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Big Bad Wolf in Popular Culture

In the 20th and 21st centuries, many works of fiction have been created including the Big Bad Wolf as a character, differing slightly from his incarnation in the folk tales. Of note are the incarnations of the wolf inspired by Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood cartoon, and Disney's "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" song.

Several recent interpretations of the Big Bad Wolf show him as being a character with relatively good intentions, mostly considered "Bad" due to a misunderstanding. These include, but are not limited to, appearances in the films Shrek, Hoodwinked, and The 10th Kingdom; and the comic book series Fables.

Gallery

References

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