These paintings are from a series called Wolf Crossing, The Forest where Red Riding Hood and Wolf live in Harmony. They present a revision of the classic tale of Red Riding Hood in which the wolf is used as a metaphor for something evil. In my version Wolf is a hero who rescues the orphaned Red Riding Hood and takes her to live with and be protected by him in the forest of Wolf Crossing. Here are the details of their True Story...
The TRUE STORY of Red Riding Hood and Wolf by Elin Menzies
Red Riding Hood, whose given name was Mandolena, was born in the 14th century to a family who had lived near and loved wolves since time remembered. Their home was at the edge of an ancient forest called Wolf Crossing and their proudest possessions were six silver cups each bearing a separate wolf portrait that had been passed down through generations. Mandolena was born the same day as a handsome pup who was introduced to her by the wolves of Wolf Crossing. He visited and played with Mandolena from the time she could crawl and became her special friend. Those were happy times but when Mandolena was only five years old her parents died from the devastating black plague that ripped through the country destroying whole villages. Mandolena went to live a few miles away with her grandmother and the silver cups were all she brought with her. Her clothing had to be burned because of the plague germs, but her loving grandmother sewed her a white linen dress and a hooded cloak of soft wool that she dyed red with berries from the woods. When Mandolena put it on her grandmother hugged her and said, “My little Red Riding Hood,” and that became Mandolena’s nickname. Two years had passed and Red Riding Hood’s special wolf friend still came to play with her. By this time he had grown big and strong and was considered an adult wolf while Mandolena was only a child of seven. She and her grandmother were doing well until one day an evil woodcutter passed their cottage and through the window spied the silver wolf cups displayed on the fireplace mantle and decided to steal them. He waited until the day he saw them leave the cottage together and set off on the path to town. Once they were out of sight he headed towards their cottage with a big sack. But at the same time Grandmother looked into her shopping basket and said, “Mandolena, I forgot to put in the healing salve I promised to a woman in the village.” “Let’s go back for it, Grandmother,” and with that they turned around. When they reached their home they saw the open door and Grandmother rushed forward to see who was in there. The woodcutter was putting the last silver cup in his sack and when Grandmother tried to grab it he swung the heavy sack, struck her in the head and knocked her to the stone floor. Mandolena screamed and rushed to her grandmother. As she kneeled by her side, the woodcutter removed a hatchet from his belt and raised it to strike Mandolena in the head. Before that could happen a fierce dark wolf bounded through the doorway and with his large jaws grabbed the woodcutter by the neck and shook him until he was unconscious. It was Mandolena’s special friend who had been nearby and heard her scream. Mandolena tried to save her grandmother, but it was clear the woman was dying. Her voice was a whisper but with her last words she managed to say “Mandolena, take the silver cups and go with Wolf. He will protect you until you are grown. I love you little Red Riding Hood.” And that was the beginning of Red Riding Hood’s years of living in the woods of Wolf Crossing with Wolf. That time was very healing for the little orphan girl who had lost not only her mother and father but now her loving grandmother, the last human relative in her life How wonderful it was for her to be with Wolf and his pack, to play in the fields and swim in the lake at Wolf Crossing. Being close to nature enabled Red to enter a spiritual world that is rarely accessed by humans. She learned to leave her body through meditation and was protected by Wolf who stood guard by her side. Wolf was her guardian and parent but also her playmate. They had so much fun together, lying side by side in the golden grasses, swimming in the lake, gathering berries and herbs that Red placed in the sun so they could be dried for winter. It was exciting to climb on Wolf’s back and cling to him as he raced through the forest. Wolf taught Red how to sing the deep throaty songs of the wolves, and she loved howling with the pack to release the deep sorrow she felt for the loss of her human family. All in all it was a wonderful life and Red Riding Hood had the best childhood a girl could have, but as she grew older and bigger, she remembered her grandmother’s words…“Until you are grown. Mandolena felt a pull to the world of humans and knew she must return to that life and teach humans of the goodness and intelligence of wolves. Wolf had taught her to communicate like a wolf and no words were needed when she told him she was leaving Wolf Crossing. Wolf was very sad but knew that he and Little Red Riding Hood would stay connected on a spiritual plane. He was concerned for her and silently asked "How will you live, my friend?" And Red Riding Hood told him her plan. “Wolf, I will sell some of the silver cups and apprentice to learn silver-making and engraving. Someday when the world is a safer place for wolves I will return to Wolf Crossing with a silver cup engraved with your picture.” So off she went and did not return to Wolf Crossing for many years.