Red Riding Hood is one of the oldest and best known fairy tales, with some versions dating back to the 14th Century. The best known telling of the story is by the Brothers Grimm, and starts with Red Riding Hood crossing through a forest to visit her grandmother. She is approached by a wolf who asks her where she is going; in her innocence she tells him. He suggests she pick some flowers, and rushes off to the grandmother's house ahead of her. He gobbles up the old lady, then gets into her bed and disguises himself as her. When Red Riding Hood arrives, she does not notice at first; it gradually dawns on as she utters the famous phrases about what big hands, eyes and teeth Granny has. The wolf then eats her too, but luckily a huntsman appears and cuts her and her grandmother out of the sleeping wolf's belly, replacing them with heavy stones. When the wolf awakens, he goes outside to drink from the well; the weight of the stones makes him fall in and he drowns.
There are many variations, of course. In Charles Perrault's story, no huntsman arrives and nobody survives. In older versions, Red Riding Hood escapes through her own wits, rather than with male assistance. The story has been interpreted in a number of ways, from a simple tale of warning about the dangers of predators in the forest, to symbolising the girl's passage into womanhood. Carter uses the tale as the basis for both 'The Werewolf' and 'The Company of Wolves' in this collection.