red riding hood

Boundary language is particularly evident when stories are streamlined by tradition and familiarity into an economical set of events and characters that "click" with the imagination. In some cases, the mechanics of the boundary transformation process seem to be literally incorporated. In the case of the story of Red Riding Hood, the flip of the inside frame that consumes the grandmother, disguises the wolf, and initiates Red Riding Hood's questions follows the rules exactly.

The fairy tale is well known. Red Riding Hood packs a basket of foodstuffs to take to her sick grandmother, who lives deep in the forest. The wolf – a personification of the forest and the boundary – intercepts her along the route and plans a double dinner. Taking a short cut, the wolf arrives before Red Riding Hood and eats the grandmother. Wishing also to ingest the grand-daughter, the wolf disguises himself as the old woman and greets her visitor from bed. As Red Riding Hood begins to suspect something, she questions the wolf about the inexpected qualities of her appearance. With questions patterned such as "What big eyes you have, grandmother," the interrogation proceeds to the wolf's teeth.

The first action in keeping with boundary transformation is the flip of the inside frame. Red Riding Hood, C, is externalized in the process of acquiring a "motility dysfunction" in relation to the wolf's short-cut path. The flip also initiates the "enthymemic" interrogation process whose aim is B-cross, to uncover the wolf's disguise. Red Riding Hood addresses the wolf's scale dysfunctions: "What big ears you have, grandmother." The semblance dysfunction, the wolf's disguise, is revealed through this interrogation process, but Red Riding Hood is eaten for her trouble. A passing woodsman suspects foul play, enters the cottage and cuts open the wolf. Red Riding Hood, the grandmother, and, in some versions of the tale, all past prisoners of the wolf's digestive track, pop out intact.

The remarkable thing about Red Riding Hood is the way the story follows both the logic and sequencing of the bolagram. Immobilization, scale problems, and identification take up the essence of the bolagram's dysfunctions of motility, scale and semblance. The "flip" which initiates the interrogation process, allows the grand-daughter to double her role, to shift from victim to "fictim" or key to the mystery.

The wolf disguised as a grandmother plays the ij role. From this, it's possible to see the themes of dysfunctional motility (grandmother isolated in bed), scale (grandmother and others swallowed whole by the physically smaller wolf), and semblance (disguise function). The ij function's relation to the "Liar's Paradox" is interesting. When Red Riding Hood begins to note a difference in the appearance of her would-be grandmother, something like an interrogation insues, but with the contradiction that, in some sense, the wolf is the grandmother, or at least the grandmother and the wolf occupy the same position in space.

The theme of anamorphy is clearly put in terms of the double disguise. The grandmother is inside the wolf, the wolf is "inside" the grandmother's clothes. The interrogation is the theme of the enthymeme. Red Riding Hood as an audience begins to realize a problematic situation that calls for a systematic inquiry. The "system" is based on the body, ending in the body parts dedicated to ingestion.

The flip of the inside frame leads to questions that form "around the body" of the wolf. The wolf (left hand) secures the grandmother in what must certainly be a kind of 1:1 relationship, and interrogation follows up the wrapping procedure by detailing features of the wolf's imperfect disguise.

Interestingly, the bolagram reveals how the fairy tale hinges on the inside/outside inversion of the wolf-as-poché/vent. Accompanying the inversion is the delivery of the grandmother and others previously consumed by the wolf. The split of Red Riding Hood into powerless victim and inquiring fictim recalls the traditional function of the hero as someone originally or temporarily powerless.

© 2012, Donald Kunze, all rights reserved