Storytime with Aunt Madelaine; Little Red Riding Hood and Civil Responsibility
A short story for my little followers who might have lost their way
The air is cold and the rain licks the ground when she wakes. Down, down the hills she can see the great forest below, dark as pitch in the low cloud. Her mother is still asleep by the fire, in her rocking chair. Silently, she packs a basket full of wine and bread (for this is a time before society knew the damages of ethanol on the nervous system) and puts on her red cape.
Outside, she sees a speckled sparrow fluttering above their little house. “Little Red, Little Red, why are you leaving?” The sparrow asks. “It is cold, and dark, and the forest is no place for a little girl.”
“Shh, Miss Sparrow,” Little Red replies. “You will wake my mother. I’m off to see my grandmother in the deep dark woods.”
“But your mother forbid it!” cried the sparrow. “I heard down the chimney. She said she would send your twin brother when he came back from the town.”
“And why should I not go instead of my brother?” said Little Red. “I deserve as much freedom as a boy to travel and explore. Society should not limit my creativity, ambition or autonomy in the name of protecting me, but punish those who seek to break civil liberty and cause me actual bodily harm. Don’t you think, Miss Sparrow?”
Now the sparrow was not a very wise sparrow and did not read much beyond The Daily Express, so she was not sure of all the words Little Red had just said.
“But it is dangerous!” She sang into Little Red’s ear. “Wolves can eat little girls!”
“Wolves,” Little Red replied not too politely, “Are, in our world at least, capable of speech, thought and mental analysis. They should, therefore, like all citizens of the fairy world, engage with civil order and respect my autonomy and statehood as a person who is in no way inclined to be eaten. I demand we hold them to the same moral standards as any other patriot of this fine country.”
“But you only have yourself to blame, if you go into the big dark forest!” fluttered the sparrow.
“I pay my tax, I obey the law, I see that the police deal with gang warfare in the big forest: I have as much right to be there as anyone. I refuse to live in fear. Indeed, it is that perpetuation of ‘girls should not go to certain places’ that creates an environment where doing so is acceptable for many wolves. And frankly, Miss Sparrow, if my brother is capable of living without terror, so should I.”
And with a sweep of her red cape, Little Red marched down the hill, the sheep gazing at her in awe.
A wolf wolfwhistled her as she walked into the trees. “Babeeee!” He said, grabbing his stomach in a hungry motion. “What do you look like under that cape?”
Little Red told him to go forth and multiply, or something to that effect, and marched on. He was so surprised at being spoken to that way he nearly fell off his BMX.
“Did you just disrespect me?” he roared aggressively. “Did you just diss me in front of my brethren?”
“Why are you adopting a faux black-british patois?” Little Red answered coldly. “Does it make you feel bigger to adopt racist stereotypical behaviours associated with aggression?”
The wolf stared. He also read the Daily Express and little else, but he was pretty sure she had just insulted him. “Are you starting a fight, mate?” He said, getting off his BMX and gesturing with his paws. “I will end you, mate. I will END you.”
Little Red sighed. “I’ve got a mobile. I can call the police. There are security cameras to your left, right and up on the corner of the council tree. You’d get at least 4 years and it would definitely be a guilty verdict. Jog on.”
The wolf muttered something rude about how she wasn’t good enough to be eaten anyway and slunk off with his gang of owls, all of whom should probably have been in school.
And so Little Red visited her grandmother, watched some awful daytime TV with her over a gluten-free loaf and discussed how voting for the badgers was a sure sign this country was going down the drain. And then she went home, where her mother was still asleep by the fire having had a terrible hangover the night before.
And that children, is the story of how civil liberty should not be threatened by limiting personal freedoms, but instead promoted and upheld by the legal infrastructure within a system.