Celebrate Wilhelm Grimm’s Birthday AND the Chinese New Year with a Chinese Picture Book Version of “Little Red Riding Hood” Times Three!
Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China
By Ed Young
February 24th just happens to be the birth date of one of the two Grimm brothers, Wilhelm, the youngest of the two brothers. Jacob and Wilhelm have regaled generations of children with their tales, some pretty grim, but then fairy tales seem to allow children to face and overcome unspoken fears in the safety of the reader’s arms. From the first edition of stories published in 1812 holding some 86 stories, there were seven editions of their stories in all, with a total of 211 stories in the seventh edition.
I’m sure that some will be very familiar to readers, such as The Elves and the Shoemaker, Little Red Cap (otherwise know as Little Red-Riding Hood), Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin. Others less well known, would include Mother Hulda (please find and read this one), King Thrushbeard, The Seven Ravens,and The Wedding of Mrs. Fox.
In addition to being the birthday of Wilhelm Grimm, it’s also the Chinese New Year, which began on January 22, 2023.
The Chinese calendar works on a 12-year cycle with each year defined by one of a dozen animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
2022 was the year of the tiger with the year 2023 ushered in as the year of the rabbit which, according to Virginia Wong, to those born in the year of the rabbit, they may have lots of of good chances for promotions, good jobs, friends and money too.
Traditionally, this Chinese Lunar New Year is a time of celebration with family reunions, fireworks and parades.
So, it seemed appropriate as we near the birthday of Wilhem Grimm, and during the celebration of the Chinese New Year, to dovetail this Chinese version of Wilhelm’s Little Red Cap with a Chinese take on one of his best known tales about never underestimating the power of a young girl…or, in this case…three!
This 1989 Caldecott Award winning Chinese version of the tale of Little Red Riding Hood comes from an ancient oral tradition that may be over a thousand years old.
The story of the small girl eluding a “big bad wolf” crosses cultural lines with this red-hooded and cape-cloaked gamine in either the Charles Perrault’s French take or the German Grimm Brothers version of the simple red cap look of a young woman walking though the woods to a sick grandmother to deliver food.
Here, Ed Young who grew up in Shanghai, brings his Eastern sensibilities to his own translation and telling of his unique take on this familiar fairy tale. His art style employs a type of Chinese panel art perfectly complimented by the watercolor pastels that provide a perfect framing of the story.
Living in the countryside of northern China with a mother who has gone to visit granny, three daughters named Shang, Tao and Paotze must combine both brains and brawn to outwit a clever wolf posing as the faraway granny come to visit them!
Alerted by the odd low voice, thorny hands, bushy feet, and hairy face of this wolf in granny’s clothing, they devise a battle plan. Trust me, this is a wolf who is both slow on the uptake and outmatched by three Red Riding Hoods who were not born yesterday. Hint: a rope and hoisted basket are crucial in his defeat and demise!
Interest in fairy tales is evidently growing in the popular culture with the increased following of such series as Once Upon a Time where fairy tale characters awaken from an evil curse in modern times. Each is prodded to remember who they truly are by a small boy that just happens to be the grandson of Snow White. Alas for the evil witch, now the town mayor and his adopted mother, the boy is in possession of a book with each fairy tale character’s true story which, when read, will jog their memories. Plot twists abound and it’s fun to see how the fairy tale characters interact with one another and in flashbacks their pasts intertwine with future selves. Even a movie version of Red Riding Hood by the director of the famous Twilight series, updates this timeless tale.
Please enjoy reading Ed Young’s Caldecott Award winning take on the story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf with your children. It’s both fresh and fun. Final score: Girls:3 Wolf:0.