By Kifah Jayyousi
The wolf was about the jump through the window when suddenly a small red figure emerged from the thicket. Heading toward the house was a little girl dressed in a red coat with a hood, walking merrily and singing:
… Little Red Riding Hood
…You sure are looking good
… You’re everything a big, bad wolf would want…
“There’s no respect for wolves anymore,” the wolf thought to himself as he wondered why the girl was dressed in a coat and hood on a bright summer day. She was carrying a basket as she knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” asked an older voice inside.
“It is me, Grandma, Little Red Riding Hood!” said the girl as she entered the house. “I brought you some apples,” she continued, placing the basket on the bed next to the woman.
“Thank you, my Dear, you are looking beautiful today,” said the old lady while working on her needlework. “I am almost done with your sweater,” she added.
“Grandma, what good is a sweater if I can’t wear it?” said the girl sadly.
“Oh my! I am sorry, I forgot,” said her grandmother in a passionate voice, extending her hand to the girl.
“I’ve been wearing this red coat and hood ever since I remember. I don’t even know what my hair looks like,” said the girl as she rested her head on her grandmother’s shoulder.
“I am sorry, Little Red Riding Hood. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” said the grandmother embracing her.
“And what about my name?! Why don’t I have a normal name like everyone else?” asked the girl in a faint voice.
“Well, Sweetie, it’s like my name, Grandma,” said the woman, avoiding eye contact with the girl.
“Grandma, you know what I am talking about. I am not even growing. Years pass and I am still a little girl, while all my friends left, married and even have their own kids,” said the girl bursting into tears. Silence filled the room except for the crying girl as her grandmother ran out of words.
“And I thought this was going to be an easy dinner,” the wolf said to himself, pushing his ears closer under the window sill.
“My child, Little Red Riding Hood, you have really grown, and I thought you would never ask these questions,” said the grandmother patting the girl’s back.
“Please tell me the truth, Grandma. Why is this happening to me?” said the girl wiping her tears and looking seriously at the woman. The wolf was tempted to jump on them, but something kept him still. He listened attentively as the grandmother hesitated a little before she spoke.
“Sweetie, Little Red Riding Hood, what I am about to tell you is a secret I tried to hide for years for your own good.”
“A secret? What secret?” the girl asked anxiously.
“Little Red Riding Hood is not your real name,” whispered her grandmother.
“What’s my real name, then, Grandma?”
“I wish I knew, Sweetie. I wish I knew,” the woman said in a sad tone.
“You don’t know! Who would, then?” said the girl, staring at her grandmother who looked around the room nervously before she spoke in a whisper.
“Twenty years ago, you along with Mom and Dad and your twin sister were riding in the forest in the royal carriage.”
“My twin sister! Royal carriage!” exclaimed the girl.
“Yes, Sweetie, you have a twin sister and your father was the King of this land,” sighed her grandmother.
“Where’s he now? Where’s Mom and my sister?” she asked, breathing fast.
“Your father was a just king, but an evil wizard cast a spell on him that tore apart your family so no one would recognize you.”
“How did that happen?” asked the girl in disbelief.
“After your dad chased the evil wizard out of the kingdom, he took you and the family in a royal entourage to the forest when everyone disappeared,” sighed the grandmother.
“Yes, and you were the only one who came out of the forest, but you were dressed in a red coat with a hood. I was the only one who recognized you, but no one could remember your name.”
“You all forgot my name?” said the girl in a depressed voice.
“The evil wizard made everyone forget the royal family, and he became king. Everyone called you Little Red Riding Hood because you were riding a mule when you came out of the forest,” said the grandmother, wiping her eyes.
“So that’s why I am not growing. The wizard wanted to make sure we would never reclaim the throne,” said the girl angrily.
“Thank God I am not human. Injustice is not in my vocabulary; even the work “evil” doesn’t fit me. I am a predator by instinct. I kill to eat and stay alive, not to spread mischief,” contemplated the wolf as if he was an old, wise man. “People describe me as evil or vicious, and chase me away from their villages, while at the same time they spread havoc and injustice among themselves,” the wolf continued musing under the window.
“Grandma, what about Dad, Mom and my sister?” asked the girl.
“The wizard locked them up in a castle, all under an evil spell, and only you can bring them back,” said her grandmother.
“Me?! What can I do?”
“You must find the castle in the forest, then the spell will go away,” she answered.
At this point, the wolf leapt through the window, startling the grandmother. She screamed as the wolf with its big mouth wide open stepped toward them. Little Red Riding Hood grabbed the basket and stood between the wolf and her grandma. Without fear, the girl threw the basket at the wolf. The wolf froze for a minute, unable to attack.
“Stop, you evil wolf,” cried Grandma.
“There you go again, calling a poor hungry wolf evil,” replied the wolf. “After all I heard, wolves are angles compared to humans. At least the only thing we worry about is food.”
The girl felt a little safer as the wolf sat on the floor. She was puzzled as to why the wolf was backing off. She turned to him and said, “What good is it to kill a grandmother and a little girl?! That would be shameful!”
“Shameful? That’s what wolves do. I guess you don’t expect me to cook pasta and chowder soup for dinner, “ replied the wolf sarcastically.
“Wouldn’t it be more delicious to have a farm full of sheep?” she said..
“Farm of sheep? What are you talking about?” wondered the wolf.
“If you help me find my family, my dad will reward you with a farm full of sheep,” Little Red Riding Hood answered.
“Well, what guarantee does this evil wolf have?” he asked sarcastically.
“This is a win-win proposition. If you don’t get the farm, you still have both of us to ear,” said the girl convincingly.
The wolf seemed excited. After all, sheep is more delicious than an old grandma, he reasoned to himself. “Sounds good! Where do we start?” he asked.
“We must find a hidden castle in the forest first,” said the grandmother.
“I know of a stone castle deep in the woods. I can lead you there, but I warn you. No tricks!” threatened the wolf as he headed toward the window. “I’ll meet you outside,” he added as he jumped out. The girl helped her grandma out of the bed. They took a few things for the trip and headed out the door.
The three walked into the thicket as darkness fell. Somehow the girl felt safe walking alongside the wolf who was now protecting them to get his prize. Around midnight, as they cleared one mountaintop, they could see a distinct stone tower rising above the trees in the distance.
“That’s it,” said the wolf as he headed down hill. As they came close to the tower, a huge stone castle was barely visible in the heavy foliage. Suddenly they heard a cry in the forest.
“Help me, please, over here by the tower,” said a soft female voice. They turned and saw a small figure peeking from the only window atop.
“Who are you? Are you OK?” said Little Red Riding Hood.
“My name is Punzell, and I am locked in this tower,” said the figure.
“Punzell? What kind of name is that?” wondered the wolf.
“We must help her, Grandma,” said LRRH. She turned to the wolf.
“We have no time for this. We have to find your dad, so I can get my farm,” said the wolf, heading away from the tower.
“LRRH, you know Punzell may know something that can help us,” said the grandmother.
“You’re right, we must save her,” said LRRH, calling the wolf back.
“Hey, Putzell, or whatever you name is, before we help you, tell us – have you seen a king around here?” asked the wolf.
“King?! What King? I’ve seen no King and the only people I’ve seen are the guards,” said Punzell.
“See, I told you, we are wasting our time here,” concluded the wolf.
“No, wait,” said Grandma. “Dear Punzell, where’s your mom and dad?” There was dead silence for a minute before Punzell answered.
“Dad? Mom? I have none. I was always Punzell without a family.”
“See, I told you you’re talking to a retard,” said the wolf.
“No, wait, Wolf,” said LRRH. “Punzell doesn’t know because she is under a spell just like me.”
“You’re right, LRRH, Punzell may be your twin sister. We must save her and remove the spell,” said the grandmother anxiously. “Let’s find a strong rope,” she added.
The wolf reluctantly collected forest branches to make a strong rope and brought them to Little Red Riding Hood and her grandma who made a long leafy rope.
“Punzell, we have the rope, but how are we going to throw it to you so far up in the tower,” said LRRH in despair.
“Wait!” said Punzell. “The only thing I have is my long hair. I can drop it and you can tie the rope to its end.”
“Great! Now we are into hair dressing,” said the wolf sarcastically as Punzell lowered her long hair out the window. Her long, silky black hair flowed like a water fountain on the tower stones, reaching the ground. “Awooo, this Punzell is truly under a spell. No one has such long dark hair,” the wolf added as LRRH tied the rope to it and cried to Punzell, “Go ahead, take it up.”
Punzell pulled the rope up the tower, tied it to a metal ring inside the room, and carefully descending down the tower wall.
“Be careful, Punzell!” called the grandmother.
“Please keep that wolf away!” cried Punzell
“See what I mean? I just saved this girl and she still thinks I am an evil being,” said the wolf. “Humans will always be humans.”
“Don’t take it too seriously,” said LRRH. “She is understandably scared of you. That’s an advantage, don’t you think?”
“I guess you’re right. This fear keeps you humans away from our territory,” responded the wolf. “This fear keeps us both free and at peace. Otherwise you would’ve enslaved us,” he continued as Punzell reached the ground and Grandma warmly embraced her. The grandmother was sure she was LRRH’s twin sister, but they must remove the spell first to find out. Dawn was breaking slowly, and they all felt exhausted.
“We must move fast before the guards discover my escape,” said Punzell.
“We can’t leave before we find Mom and Dad,” responded LRRH.
“How do you suppose we are going to overcome the castle guards?” asked the wolf, looking around nervously.
“If we distract them, then we can slip inside the castle unnoticed,” said LRRH.
“Oh yeah, and who will do that?” said the wolf.
“You will, of course. You are quick and strong,” said Little Red Riding Hood.
“Me?!” Who told you I was the suicidal type?! Look, I already have my three-course dinner right here. Why the risk?”
“Have some principles! We’ve already made a deal,” said the grandmother.
“Principles?! Look who’s talking! You humans never quit,” said the wolf.
“Look, wolf, we are almost there! You are only one castle gate away from a beautiful farm,” said LRRH, trying to convince the wolf. “Just imagine, no more chasing after food! Early retirement!”
“I have to admit you have tempted me,” the wolf replied. “Go ahead and take cover behind this bush.” He pointed to the shrubs by the gate. The wolf treaded cautiously towards the gate and started howling.
They heard noise behind the walls as the guards collected themselves and rode out after the fleeing wolf. As they disappeared into the woods, Grandma and the girls ran inside, and by the time they reached the courtyard, the wolf was right behind them.
“Wow, that was a great maneuver,” said Punzell with a smile.
“Don’t underestimate my talents. I left those guys running in circles,” said the wolf laughing. “OK, we don’t have much time. Let’s search the castle,” he added as they entered the main building into the lobby. There was a staircase leading to the upper floor. Suddenly, they heard the guards coming back, so they ran upstairs, searching room by room until they entered the last room where they found a woman sleeping. Despite their presence, the woman seemed in a deep sleep.
“Oh, my daughter!” cried the grandmother as she approached the bed. “Sleeping Beauty is your mom, girls,” she said. “She has been asleep for twenty years,” she continued, weeping silently.
“Is this what you brought me here for? So there is no king,” said the wolf in an angry voice, his sharp teeth showing and mouth dripping with hungry saliva. The grandmother stood between the wolf and the girls, but the wolf jumped on the bed as the door opened and the guards barged in. They approached with their swords and armor when suddenly they stopped, put down their weapons and bowed in respect toward the bed. They said in unison, “Your royal Highness.”
The girls and their grandmother looked at the bed and saw a man fully dressed like a king as the woman was waking up. The wolf had disappeared.
“Maryann, Sara, my daughters!” cried the woman in bed, pointing toward LRRH and Punzell. At this point, both girls turned into two beautiful women dressed like princesses. They both had blond hair. The spell had disappeared and they ran toward their parents, recognizing their father, the king.
“Grandma, I no longer have the red hood,” Maryann said with happiness. “I have my name back too!”
“Me too, Grandma,” said Sara.
“Thank God, and who would believe that the wolf all along was your dad, the king,” their grandmother said, laughing while the king and queen looked puzzled. They told them about the evil wizard and the spell he put on the royal family.
The King ordered the guards to prepare for the trip back to the kingdom as the royal carriage reappeared outside in the courtyard. The royal entourage rode through the village, and many joined them on the trip back to the palace. The evil wizard fled, but he was caught and the king ordered him locked up in the stone tower.
“For twenty years I was a wolf, and I almost ate my daughters, but I have to admit that I had a bigger appetite for my mother-in-law!” said the King, laughing.
Copyright © 2013 Kifah Jayyousi
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