READING ESL: little red riding hood

READING ESL: stories for young readers

The Brothers Grimm collected traditional stories from the forests of central Europe and re-wrote them for the people of the towns and cities to enjoy, too. Hundreds of years later, these stories are still very popular with young readers, but how many modern readers know exactly how frightening the original stories were? Here is my easy reading version of Little Red Riding Hood (Rotkäppchen) taken from a vintage translation I found on the web. Check it out here: vintage story / illustrations.

Little Red Riding Hood

There is a short glossary at the end.

Once upon a time there was a girl who lived near the forest. The girl lived with her mother, and everyone in the village loved her and looked after her. Her grandmother loved her most of all. The girl’s grandmother gave her a red riding hood to wear. The red riding hood was warm and comfortable, and the girl liked to wear it all the time. Everyone loved the girl, and because she always wore her red hood everyone called her Little Red Riding Hood.

One day, Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother was sick. Grandmother lived in the forest. The forest was very dark, and grandmother’s house was far away. Little Red Riding Hood’s mother was worried about grandmother:

“Your grandmother is sick” said mother.

“She is alone, and there is no one to look after her, no one to cook her dinner, and no one to fetch her medicine and keep her company. I am worried about your grandmother” she said.

Little Red Riding Hood’s mother put some things in a basket. She put in some cake and a bottle of grandmother’s favourite medicine. Mother told Red Riding Hood to take the basket to grandmother’s house.

“Hoodkin”, said mother (Hoodkin is mother’s nickname for Little Red Riding Hood). “Hoodkin, you must take this basket to grandmother’s house”.

The road to grandmother’s house is very dangerous. Grandmother lives in the forest, and her house is far away. Everyone else was too busy, and only Little Red Riding Hood could take the basket to grandmother’s house.

Little Red Riding Hood was afraid, and she listened to her mother’s instructions very carefully.

Her mother told her to walk quickly and go straight to grandmother’s house. Little Red Riding Hood was not to stop and play with anyone. If she saw the woodcutter walking home from work in the forest, she was to ask him if he would walk with her to make sure she arrived at grandmother’s house safely.

Mother told her that she must keep on the path when she is walking through the forest. If she stays on the path she will be safe. There are wolves in the forest; big, bad wolves. The wolves stay away from the path, but if a man or a woman or a boy – or a girl walked off the path then the wolves would get them, and no one would ever see them again. Ever!

“You must not leave the path!” said her mother.

Mother did not know that there was a wolf outside the window. The wolf was listening to the story of a sick grandmother, a basket of treats, and a little girl walking through the forest alone. The wolf listened to the story and licked his lips.

Mother gave Red Riding Hood more instructions:

“…and don’t eat too much cake. Don’t peep in grandmother’s cupboard, and don’t make too much noise …”

Mother also put a carrot and an onion in the basket so Red Riding Hood could make some soup for grandmother. The big bad wolf hiding outside heard about the soup and licked his lips again.

The wolf decided to go to the forest to wait for the girl everyone called Little Red Riding Hood and her basket of treats. The wolf knew where grandmother’s house was, and he knew that Little Red Riding Hood could easily leave the path if she was not careful.

Little Red Riding Hood said goodbye to her mother and, holding the basket tightly, walked quickly toward the forest. The forest was dark, and Red Riding Hood was afraid.

Soon, Red Riding Hood noticed the birds flying from tree to tree along the edge of the forest, and butterflies! One cheerful blue butterfly flew by and Red Riding Hood laughed and followed the butterfly into a field at the edge of the forest. There were colourful flowers and Red Riding Hood picked some flowers to give to grandmother.

Little Red Riding Hood had forgotten all about the wolf, but the big, bad wolf had not forgotten about Little Red Riding Hood … or the soup.

Little Red Riding Hood was picking flowers and singing and laughing, and the big, bad wolf was walking slowly behind her. The wolf waited until Red Riding Hood was close to the forest edge before he spoke to her:

“Why, hello little girl” said the wolf “those flowers are very pretty, and so are you”.

The wolf was pretending to be nice. Little Red Riding Hood remembered what her mother said about the wolves in the forest, but this wolf was different. Mother must have meant to be careful of the bad wolves, not the nice wolves like this one.

“Hello Mr Wolf” said Red Riding Hood “I’m picking these flowers for my grandmother; she is sick and I am on my way to visit her”.

Suddenly, Red Riding Hood remembered that she was not to stop and play, but she was to go straight to grandmother’s house. She said goodbye to the wolf and hurried along the path to grandmother’s house, taking her flowers and the basket of treats with her.

The wolf was angry that Little Red Riding Hood hurried on to her grandmother’s house. The wolf knew where grandmother’s house was, so he went quickly through the forest to arrive before Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf was hungry now, and his strong legs took him through the deep, dark forest very quickly.

It was beginning to get dark, and the hungry wolf arrived at grandmother’s house. The door and windows were closed and the house looked empty, but the wolf knew that grandmother was inside; old and sick and alone. The wolf also knew that Little Red Riding Hood was also coming soon. The wolf ran quietly around the house smelling the air while he thought of a plan to eat the basket of treats, grandmother and the girl they called Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf was getting excited and he licked his lips as he smelled Little Red Riding Hood coming closer.

But first he was going to eat grandmother.

Grandmother heard someone outside her door:

“Who is there?” called grandmother.

“It’s me, Little Red Riding Hood” said the wolf.

Grandmother’s door was not locked because she thought that Little Red Riding Hood or her mother would come to visit her, and she didn’t want to get out of bed to open the door. Grandmother knew that the voice outside her door was not Little Red Riding Hood, and now she was afraid.

Grandmother tried to hide underneath her big wooden bed, but the wolf was already in the house and he saw her trying to crawl under the bed. The wolf gave a loud, wild howl and pulled grandmother out from under the bed, and before she could even scream he quickly gobbled up grandmother and swallowed her down in one piece before Little Red Riding Hood arrived.

The wolf would have liked to have enjoyed eating grandmother more slowly, but a tastier meal would arrive soon when Red Riding Hood, and her basket of treats, arrived at grandmother’s house.

The wolf felt tired and heavy with grandmother inside him, but he needed to get ready for Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf put on grandmother’s night cap and got into her bed and lay under the big blanket while he waited for Red Riding Hood to arrive.

Little Red Riding Hood was surprised to see the door to grandmother’s house was open. She went into the house and even though the lights were not yet lit, she saw grandmother lying in her bed, under the big blanket wearing her favourite night cap.

“Hello grandmother” said Little Red Riding Hood.

“Hello my dear” said the wolf “come closer my dear, sit on the bed next to grandmother. Show me what you have in your basket, my dear” said the big, bad wolf.

Little Red Riding Hood was surprised how deep grandmother’s voice had become, but she went and sat on the bed next to the wicked wolf. Little Red Riding Hood didn’t know that grandmother was inside the wolf’s stomach and that it was the wolf, and not grandmother, who was lying in the bed!

“What big ears you have, grandmother” said Red Riding Hood.

“All the better to hear you with, my dear” replied the wolf in his pretend grandmother’s voice.

“What big eyes you have, grandmother” said Red Riding Hood.

“All the better to see you with, my dear” replied the wolf.

“And what a big mouth you have grandmother” said Red Riding Hood.

“All the better to EAT you with” shouted the wolf as he jumped out of grandmother’s bed and tried to catch Little Red Riding Hood.

The wolf was heavy because of grandmother lying inside his stomach, so he was a little bit slower than usual. This gave Little Red Riding Hood the chance to jump off grandmother’s bed and run to the door. But there was nowhere to run. It was getting dark and the wolf would easily catch her in the forest. The wolf would eat Red Riding Hood, and she was afraid – very afraid.

The wolf licked his lips and Little Red Riding Hood screamed.

Although the door was open, Red Riding Hood was afraid to go outside into the dark forest. The wolf had jumped off the bed and was slowly walking toward her. The wolf was licking his lips and making a quiet grrrr-grrrr-growling noise as he prepared to jump at her and eat her. The wolf liked to hear Red Riding Hood screaming. The wolf was going to enjoy eating Red Riding Hood.

When the woodcutter was walking home from work in the forest he saw that no lights had been lit in grandmother’s house, even though it was starting to get dark in the forest. He also noticed that the door was open. Then he heard a scream. A loud, frightened scream.

As the woodcutter ran toward the house he heard another scream. The woodcutter jumped through the open door, swinging his axe and shouting very loudly.

The sound of the woodcutter’s shouts, as he came swinging through the door, made the wolf look away from Little Red Riding Hood’s frightened face. In that instant, the woodcutter swung his axe hard, and cut off the wolf’s head.

The wolf’s dead body fell onto the floor, and his chopped off head rolled under grandmother’s bed. Little Red Riding Hood was still screaming, and she was pointing to the dead wolf’s stomach. It was moving! There was something inside, and it was trying to get out.

“Grandmother! Grandmother!” screamed Red Riding Hood as she pointed to the dead wolf’s stomach. The woodcutter took a sharp knife from his belt and cut open the wolf’s stomach. There was a terrible smell, and a big mess, and then grandmother climbed out shouting and angry, but alive!

Little Red Riding Hood stopped screaming and grandmother stopped shouting. They thanked the woodcutter for killing the wolf and saving them. The woodcutter was very happy that the wolf was dead and nobody was hurt.

Grandmother started to tidy up. The woodcutter took the dead wolf outside, and Red Riding Hood got the wolf’s head out from under the bed with grandmother’s broom and a bucket. Grandmother washed up the mess from the floor. The little house in the forest was soon back to normal, and grandmother invited the woodcutter to stay for tea.

Grandmother took down the big teapot, and Red Riding Hood took the cake and the bottle of medicine out of her basket. Grandmother said she was a very clever girl for not dropping the basket and breaking the medicine bottle. Red Riding Hood also took the colourful forest flowers out of the basket and put them in some water. Grandma put the flowers on the tea table.

The tea was on the table, the lights were lit and the door was locked. Grandma poured some of her medicine for the woodcutter, for the shock, and had another glass herself. Little Red Riding Hood was allowed to have extra cake, because she didn’t break the medicine bottle and she was very brave and didn’t cry when she took out the wolf’s head in the bucket. Everyone was happy.

Everyone was happy in that little house in the forest, but on the other side of the lit room and locked door, the dark forest was still there. Night was still falling, and hungry wolves were still licking their lips and waiting.

Be careful Little Red Riding Hood, be careful.


RIDING HOOD: a special hat to wear when you are riding a horse

HOOD: a loose, soft hat

MEDICINE: something you take from the doctor when you feel ill

NICKNAME: a special name for your friend, not your real name

TREATS; nice delicious things like sweets and cakes

LICKED HIS LIPS: put his tongue on his lips, something you do if you are hungry – or greedy

PEEP: look at something, look quickly

CHEERFUL: something that looks happy and bright

GOBBLED: ate quickly

CRAWL: move forward on your hands and knees

NIGHT CAP: a hat you can wear to bed

GROWLING: the noise an angry dog or tiger makes from its throat

SWINGING: holding the axe and moving his arm round and round so the axe is moving very fast

SWUNG: past tense of swing


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