WITH which of the northern nations of Europe, Saxons, Franks, Northmen or Normen, the Traditionary Tale of Little Red Riding Hood originated, I have not been able to ascertain. As far as I can learn, the earliest publication of the tale was made by Charles Perrault, a member of the French Academy, and a celebrated literateur of his day. He published this, with some other like fictions in the year 1697, under his son’s name of Perrault d’Armancour. The title was “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge.” From this period there have been countless successive republications. A French edition of Perrault’s Tales of the date of 1698 is in the British Museum, which has the double title of “Contes de ma Mére L’Oye,” and “Histoires on Contes du Temps passé.” When the earliest version appeared in English I know not; and I should be happy to receive any communications on the subject. I have before me not less than five penny editions of a very primitive sort, printed almost on brown paper; with wood cuts that might be taken as blocks belonging to Pfister of the fifteenth century, or any other early wood engravings. The books are without date: but do not look more than fifty years old.
An excerpt from the beginning of the story:
IN a little thatched cottage near the forest in Hampshire, which is called the “New Forest” there lived a hard working, industrious couple. The husband was a faggot maker, and the wife used to spend all her spare time from her household duties in spinning thread, for these good people lived a great many years ago when there were no large towns in which thread was made by steam engines.
The cottager and his wife had only one child, a little daughter, who at the time of this story, was about eight years old. She was a handy little maid, and it was her wish to do every thing she could to assist her mother. She was an early riser, getting up as soon as the sun began to shine, in order to make use of the whole daylight for her work, as the family were obliged to put out their lights when they heard the curfew bell toll. She helped her mother in getting ready her father’s breakfast before he went to his work. After breakfast she was busy in putting every thing tidy and orderly in the house. She would then go on short errands for her mother; sometimes to take her father his meals to him in the forest, when he was too busy to come home; sometimes to inquire after the health of a sick neighbour: sometimes to see her good old grandmother, who lived three miles off near another part of the forest.
When she had done all her errands and whatever else her mother wished, she would then try and learn to spin, and to mend and darn her father’s clothes. When she had time to spare she attended to her garden, out of which she often gathered a few herbs to present to her father for his supper, when he came home from his work hungry and tired. At other times, she was at work making little presents for her playfellows, for she was a kind and thoughtful child. She was always light-hearted and happy, and thoroughly enjoyed a good hearty game of play. All her young friends were very fond of her, and were eager to do any thing to please her.
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