There are many interpretations of the classic fairy tale, many of them sexual. Four are listed below.
“Little Red Riding Hood” may be a very old tale story traceable to wolf-clan traditions. The tale includes all the details of the myth: the red garment, the offering of food to a grandmother in the deep woods, a grandmother who wore a wolf skin, and the cannibalistic motif of devouring and resurrection.
The story’s original victim would not have been the red-clad Virgin but the hunter, as Lord of the Hunt.
Other early interpretors saw the tale as a solar myth, with the wolf (the terror of the night) swallowing the sun (Little Red Riding Hood).
There is a social-class element in the later stories. Zipes suggests that the red cap (chaperon) signified the village girl’s nonconformity, in that such caps were worn by the aristocracy and middle classes, not the peasantry. Thus, she is a more rebellious and individualistic girl – the kind that could easily be drawn into trouble by her natural inclinations. In 17th-century ideology, she is a potential witch, and her nature is confirmed by her pact with the diabolical wolf.
Numerous subsequent versions connect this to the seduction of bourgeois women by aristocratic men. As tales are retold by men (i.e., Perrault), of course the woman is the one who has sinned and must be punished, so she is eaten (obvious sexual imagery) by the wolf; insofar as her individualism has led her into trouble, she must be safely eliminated by death.
With the Grimms, the idea of justice has changed and she can be resurrected as a reformed, more obedient girl, the woodcutter/policeman having destroyed the seducing wolf.
One of the more common interpretations refers to a classic warning against becoming a “working girl.” This builds off the fundamental “young girl in the woods” stereotype. The red cloak was also a classic signal of a prostitute in 17th century France. A Colombian charity recently used this theme in a poster campaign that showed various fairy tale characters reduced to child labour, including Red Riding Hood as a child prostitute
Red Riding Hood has also been seen as a parable of sexual maturity. In this interpretation, the red cloak symbolizes the menstrual cycle and the entry into puberty, braving the “dark forest” of womanhood. Or the cloak could symbolize the hymen (earlier versions of the tale generally don’t state that the cloak is red–the word “red” in the title may refer to the girl’s hair color or a nickname). In this case, the wolf threatens the girl’s virginity. The anthropomorphic wolf symbolizes a man, who could be a lover, seducer or sexual predator.
When Little Red matures, she gives up her cloak, deciding she doesn’t need it anymore. This can be viewed as deciding to no longer hide from the wolf (representing her own sexuality), or as the literal giving up of the cloak of the hymen, i.e. her virginity.