The Flexibility of Fairy Tales

The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats

Summary

Once upon a time, there was a household inhabited by a mother goat and her seven goat children. In the same forest, there lived an evil wolf. Now regardless of the fact that this wolf lives near by, the mother goat decides to go out into the woods and leave her children at home warning them to keep the door closed to everyone except for her. Through some trickery, the wolf ends up getting inside the house and gobbles up six of the goat children whole. He misses the seventh one though who is small enough to hide in the clock.

When the mother goat returns, she finds her house a mess and her children gone, all except one. Together the mother goat and the baby goat venture out into the forest and find the wolf fast asleep with the other goats still kicking and moving around in his stomach. Somehow the wolf remains asleep even while the mother goat cuts open his stomach and removes her children while the baby goat fills his stomach back up with rocks. After the mother goat stitches up the wolf’s stomach, the goat family hides and watches. The wolf awakens and goes to the well to get a drink. However, off balance from the stones, he falls into the well and drown. In other versions, the goats push him into the well.

They were so happy that they called their mother, and they all danced for joy around the well.”

Review

The story itself is short, barely four pages long. However, whenever a wolf is involved you can bet that appetite (either physical hunger or sexual desire) is attached to the story.

The Obvious Moral – Obey your parents. This is an obvious moral running throughout Grimm fairy tales that were not meant to entertain children, but to scare them and keep them in line. If the goats had listened to their mother, they would not have been eaten. Of course, this is problematic as the goats do try to respect their mother’s orders. However, they are tricked by the wolf. So can we really blame them?

The Not-So Obvious Moral – Run from gluttony. As briefly mentioned earlier, wolves usually represent some kind of hunger. In this case, the wolf’s own gluttony causes his downfall. He was so hungry that he swallowed the goats whole. By swallowing them whole, the goats remain alive in his stomach which allows the mother goat to rescue them. Furthermore, having eaten too much, the wolf is lured into a deep slumber that also leads to his downfall.

Interestingly, the youngest goat survives the wolf’s attack. Why? Is it because he was smart enough to hide? Or small enough to escape notice? Not sure of the answer. What do you think of today’s selection?