You’ve heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood, right? I mean who hasn’t? Little Red gets sent to deliver a basket of goodies to her dear, sick Grandmother. Along the way she meets the Wolf, who tempts her off her path with flowers and then races to beat her to her destination. Red makes it to her Grandmother’s to find the Wolf instead and is eaten, just as her Grandmother had been. Then they are rescued by the heroic Woodsman, the Wolf is killed, and Grandmother and Little Red live happily ever after. It’s a familiar tale that we have been told since childhood.
What if that version wasn’t the original story though? What if the truth had been twisted and tainted to scare us? What if the facts had been reworked to make the good guy seem bad and the bad guy seem good? What would you say if you heard the truth?
You see, Little Red was a very real young woman. Over the centuries her real name has been lost and she has simply become known as Red due to the crimson cloak she always wore. All the characters that we are familiar with once lived, they just played a very different role than what we have been led to believe. Their story is very different than what you have been told.
In the story we grew up with, we are made to believe that Red is easily distracted, forgetful, and, most of all, weak. She is always nothing more than a child. In truth Red was very strong, focused, and determined. She was extremely kind, unquestionably loyal, fiercely protective, and highly unique. She was the beloved youngest daughter in a family of sons, raised to be delicate but to never break. Her father went against the norm to teach her how to hunt and protect herself alongside her brothers. He taught her to be resourceful but to never be greedy.
She spent her whole youth exploring the woods that surrounded their little village as much as she could. She knew the area better than any other human, even without their maps, markers, and forged trails. If she could help it she never harmed an animal outside of hunting and she always followed the rules that her father had taught her.
During her exploration she had found a giant oak in the heart of the woods that had drawn her to it with the feeling of peace and safety that it provided. Deep within her heart and soul, Red knew that this was where she needed to be. She reached out, placing her hand on the rough bark, and felt her blood sing in response. A feeling of pride, welcome, protection, and power enveloped her and she laughed with it instead of running. Red had never shied away from the spirits in the woods, unlike the villagers who jumped and crossed themselves at simply shadows.
A kindly, elderly looking spirit appeared before her and smiled at the young woman. Red could hear it’s soft spoken voice in her mind. The spirit told Red that she was very pleased with how well the young girl respected the forest, animal and spirit alike. In return, the spirit was going to grant her many gifts to continue being the forest’s protector and to become the protector of the village. Red accepted without hesitation.
After that Red would come to the clearing with the old oak daily and sit amongst its roots for the spirit to teach her. She learned which plants could heal and which could harm, how to identify the forest spirits and how to call on them. She also learned how to feel the flow of energy through the earth and how to interact with and use it when necessary. She taught Red all the secrets of nature and its magic. Red began to affectionately call her Grandmother because she reminded the young woman of her grandmother who had passed away.
One day while sitting at Grandmother’s roots, a pack of wolves came stalking from the trees. They had been drawn by the energy that Grandmother gave off and the strong scent of magic in the air. Red had been expecting them, her skin tingling with the feeling of outsiders and new moving through the forest. Red brought herself to her feet, holding her hunting bow loosely in her hand, and faced the wolves with her head held high. Thanks to Grandmother’s lessons she knew that these were no ordinary wolves. She could see a shimmer of energy that was constantly shifting around them.
The largest of the wolves stepped forward, eyes flashing red quickly as he took in a deep breath, taking in and analyzing the young woman’s scent as he watched her. He could distinguish the telltale scents that made up a human village such as soap, cloth, and metal but also noticed that she smelled much stronger of dirt, herbs, flowers, and magic. In fact she smelled more like an emissary than a villager, but she did not smell of wolf, at least not a wolf like him. Her soft voice made his ears perk as she spoke. He could hear a hidden strength within it.
“Are you passing through or looking to settle?” There was no pretense of them being anything less than intelligent in her question. Her deep amber eyes watched as his head tilted in thought. “Either way, you may hunt these woods if your pack wishes, but I must ask that you not over hunt and that you stay away from the village. Many lives depend on this forest and my neighbors tend to be distrustful of those they do not know.”
The lead wolf took another step forward as his flashed a brighter crimson briefly before his form began to shift and a man stood in his place. He smirked at the slight tinge of pink that crept up into the young woman’s cheeks and the miniscule change in her scent as his naked form was revealed. His frame was broad and tall with well defined muscles from the hard labor and fighting that it took to provide for and defend his pack mates.
“Who are you, little one, to make such requests?” She was younger than him, but not by too much. He mainly used the term to see if he could rile her up. He was pleased to see the slight shift in her spine as she brought herself to full height, but did nothing more than that.
“I am the guardian of these woods and all the dwell in them or near them.” Her voice was strong and steady as she spoke and, as the Wolf listened, so was her heart.
“Then we shall respect your request guardian. We are simply traveling looking for a new home and hoping to catch some rest in the area.”
“Then I hope you find peace and rest while you are here.” She watched wide eyed as he shifted back into his wolf form and lead the pack back into the trees. She had so many questions running through her mind.
Months passed and Red came to know the pack better with each day. She learned that they had been driven from their former home by hunters and were searching for a new place to call their own. She brought clothes and shoes so that they could travel into the village without problems. She hunted with them and took part in their full moon runs. They taught her how to fight with bare hands, weapons, and anything she could reach. They made sure she could defend herself against human and nonhuman alike. The emissary taught her even more about what plants were helpful and harmful to the wolves. With each passing day she grew closer to them, but especially to their Alpha.
The Wolf with the red eyes was drawn to Red, just like she was drawn to him. She confided that she found herself at odds with the place she had called home, with the people that lived there, and he confided that he wasn’t sure how to handle the loss of their home and former Alpha. In their time together they found an anchor in each other. Her gentleness balanced his wildness, her kindness balanced his ferocity. Their protective natures and loyalty to their charges were equally matched. Grandmother smirked at the Wolf and gave her blessing when he eventually asked to court the wild hearted maiden and the whole forest cheered, animals and spirits, when they held a bonding ceremony underneath her branches. They kept their courtship and bonding a secret from her family as the Wolf worked to earn their favor so they could also be married by human laws and customs. Due to this, Red still lived at home, stealing time with her Wolf during the day.
Happiness, however, did not last forever. After two years of peace for Red and the pack strangers came to the village reeking of hate. They were all harsh and demanding of the people of the peaceful village, demanding to know of any strange events, strange people. They said they were hunting down some run away killers that had gone on a massacre in another small town. Though the pack had never caused any harm nor caused any altercations, they were still very new and very strange to the villagers. Instead of wanting to live close to people, they had built homes out in the woods. So the villagers talked about these new strangers living out in the woods that would trade meat and furs for supplies. Red did her best to turn the strangers away from the woods, but it did not work.
One evening Red woke in a panic with her heart pounding and sweat dripping from her skin. Her dream had been nothing but evil laughs, debilitating pain and cold darkness, a sense of losing everything, but it had been enough to send her into terror. The sound of her pack’s howls broke her from the daze her sleep had left her in. She dressed hurriedly, realizing there was running and shouting going on outside her home. When she saw the forest she froze, her legs feeling as if they turned to stone, and realized that the pain and panic her dream had left her feeling were her pack and charges. The forest was burning as far as she could see. The dark sky was lit an eerie orange and smoke was blanketing the village.
She paused only long enough to grab the wooden staff that she kept near the door into her family home, her mind blank of anything but reaching her pack. She ignored the cries of her family as she raced as swiftly as her feet would carry her, her crimson cloak flying out behind her. She did not stop until she heard the sound of laughter and then she hid amongst a rare hedge that wasn’t on fire. The strangers had her pack surrounded, her Wolf separated from them and wrapped in rope that caused his flesh to burn, on his knees with an axe held to his throat. The strangers were laughing, calling them monsters, saying they needed to be wiped out. Their emissary’s body lay cold and dead at another hunter’s feet. Her Wolf’s eyes landed on her hidden in the bushes and he gave the barest shake of his head that went unnoticed by the gloating hunter. He was telling her to stay hidden, to stay safe. Red wanted to argue but there were too many for her to fight alone.
Her gaze landed on the dark line of mountain ash surrounding the rest of the pack and she focused on the pulse of energy she could feel coming from it. She buried her fingers into the dirt at her feet and directed all her energy through the ground and towards the dark ring, willing it to break as she remembered the emissary telling her how it would trap a wolf, but her efforts were in vain. The Hunter pulled the axe back and swung just as she broke the line and the pack sprang free. Red felt her heart shatter but barely registered the scream that left her lips as strong arms wrapped around her slight frame and drug her away from the fight. One of the betas had grabbed her knowing their fallen Alpha would want his mate safe from danger.
The beta went the opposite way of the village with several pack mates joining as they fled, including their new Alpha. The forest they had come to call home burned for days before rain finally snuffed out the flames. The old oak at the center was now silent, blackened, and dead with the bodies of the slain wolves turned half to ash at her roots. Red mourned the loss of her mate, her friends, and her home in silence for months, becoming a shell of the bright young woman she had been.
The pack eventually found a new place to settle and to build themselves a home. The new Alpha, Red’s brother-in-law, took her into his home once they were settled, vowing to protect her and the cub he could scent on her. Even when he took his own mate he kept a place for her. Red stayed with what was left of her family and ended up giving birth to a human girl.
Her daughter grew with the same love of the natural world around her that her mother had. Red and the pack trained her just as Red herself had been trained so that she would be just as strong as her mother. Eventually though, her daughter felt a strong pull to move on and with her family’s blessing did just that. She traveled with caution, taking in the story that spread of Little Red and her Grandmother being eaten by a Wolf. No matter how much she might want to contradict it, she kept her tongue so she could keep her family safe. She was always on the lookout for word of hunters looking for wolves, but she learned much more than what her mother had taught her. She felt the urge to return, the certainty that is was time to take her mother’s place and about that time she met up with a lone wolf and fell in love.
This was the beginning of Red’s line, the truth when the stories continued to spread and help cultivate fear. Her line continued, spreading across the globe. Her descendants joined new packs and also walked the world alone, but each generation was just as strong as the first. Her bloodline became a legend itself amongst those that hunted wolves, a fierce and deadly protector that would do anything to protect the pack they bonded with. The Red was considered an even closer confidant than an Emissary and to have a Red was to be held in high regard. Eventually it came to be believed that Red’s bloodline was extinguished by Hunters in their quest to eradicate the wolves. That is until now…