Once upon a time there was a sweet little girl. Everyone liked her, but most of all her grandmother, who did not know what to give the child next. Once she gave her a little cap made of red velvet. Because it suited her so well, and she wanted to wear it all the time, she came to be known as Little Red Cap.
Grandmother was sick and weak, but refused to give up the old ways, preferring to live deep in the forest. Every week, when Little Red Cap brought a basket of goods from the village, grandmother would say, "I don’t want your store-bought goods. The collective can feed me."
"Then why are you so sick, grandmother?" Little Red Cap would reply.
"The harvest wasn’t so good," grandmother would say. "But here in the forest every man works for every other, and everyone earns an equal share. One of these days, my dear Little Red Cap, I’ll give you the greatest gift a person can receive."
Little Red Cap wondered why men of the collective didn’t work as hard as the men in the village, but she remembered her father’s instructions and did not offend the grandmother who loved her.
One day her father said, "Come Little Red Cap, are you ready for your weekly trip? Mind your manners, and give grandmother my greetings. Behave yourself on the way, and do not leave the path, or you might fall down and break the bottle of wine, and then there will be none for your grandmother."
"I’ll do everything just right," Little Red Cap said. "But tell me, father, what is the greatest gift a person can receive?"
Father sighed. "Just tell me if grandmother gives you any more gifts."
Little Red Cap left her father’s smithy, waved to the neighbors at the bakery, and wished she had time for a plum streusel. But she knew her grandmother was expecting her, so she walked quickly and marveled at how many people were shopping in the village. As she neared the edge of town, a large group of men came out of the forest carrying pitchforks, torches, and signs.
"Direct action gets the goods!" one sign said. "Abolition of the wage system!" declared another.
"Which side are you on!?" one of the men shouted.
Little Red Cap wisely said nothing, but waited until the mob had gone past and continued her journey to grandmother’s house.
As she entered the woods, a wolf approached her. She was not afraid, because father always made sure her pistol was loaded, and in good working order, before sending her to grandmother’s house. She felt the weight of it in the basket, and made ready to draw, but the wolf kept his distance.
"Good day to you, Little Red Cap. Are you armed?"
"Thank you, wolf. Of course I am."
"Where are you going so early, Little Red Cap?"
"To grandmother’s."
"And what are you carrying in your basket?"
"Grandmother is sick and weak, and I am taking her some food and wine. Father bought the provisions before the shopping rush today, and they should give my grandmother strength."
"Little Red Cap, just where does your grandmother live?"
"Her house is good quarter hour from here, but since you’re a wolf of the forest I’m sure you already know."
"You’re as smart as you look," said the wolf. "I do know where she lives: under the three large oak trees, near the hedge of hazel bushes." He also knew the plan had gone awry, so he thought to himself, "This sweet young thing is a tasty bite for me. She will taste even better than the old woman. If I’m sly enough, I can catch them both."
The wolf turned and ran toward grandmother’s house, shouting over his shoulder, "What is the greatest gift a person can receive?"
The wolf was gone before Little Red Cap could answer. She hurried after him along the trail, passed the union hall where the remains of the sign-making party were strewn about – paint brushes and empty beer bottles littered the forest – until she finally arrived at grandmother’s house.
The front door was open. She walked into the parlor, and everything looked so strange that she thought, "Why am I so afraid? I usually like it at grandmother’s."
Pulling the pistol from her basket, she went to the bed and pulled back the curtains. Grandmother was lying there with her cap pulled down over her face and looking very strange.
"Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"
"All the better to hear you with."
"Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"
"All the better to see you with."
"Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"
"All the better to grab you with!"
"Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!"
"All the better to eat you with!"
The wolf had scarcely finished speaking when he threw the covers back and made to jump out of the bed.
"Stop right there, Mr. Wolf!" cried Little Red Cap, aiming the pistol at the wolf’s head. "Tell me what the greatest gift is, or I will kill you."
"Don’t shoot, Little Red Cap! It was your grandmother’s idea! She wanted to give you the gift of the proletariat – the loss of your chains. Workers of all countries, unite!"
With that, the wolf jumped from the bed. Little Red Cap fired, and the wolf was dead before he hit the floor.
A hunter who was passing by heard the shot and came into the house. "Good shot, girl! I’ve been hunting that wolf for a long time. But where is your grandmother?"
"I think the wolf ate her," said Little Red Cap. "Look at his belly."
The hunter took his knife and gutted the wolf. Grandmother fell out onto the floor.
"Oh, I was so frightened! It was so dark in the wolf’s body, and I could hardly breathe! Thank you for saving me!"
Just then, the mob from the union hall appeared. "Come out of the house, grandmother!" the leader shouted. "Your son the blacksmith foiled our plan to take over the village. Was the wolf able to capture Little Red Cap?"
The hunter dragged the wolf’s carcass to the door. "The wolf is dead. Little Red Cap killed him."
"Oops," said the union leader.
Little Red Cap took a torch and threw it into grandmother’s house. "You’re coming to live with us in the village."
Freed from the oppression of the collective, grandmother lived in the village to a ripe old age, healthy until the day she died.
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