This week’s published piece is “Riding the Red,” an updated fairy tale by Nalo Hopkinson. A Jamaican-Canadian speculative fiction author, her works include Brown Girl in the Ring, Sister Mine (my personal favorite!), and numerous collections she edited and curated (including Tesseracts Nine). This piece originally appeared in Black Swan, White Raven, “a modern book of adult fairytales,” and is included in Hopkinson’s collection Skin Folk. She’s also worked as an instructor at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop and at University of California, Riverside.
“Riding the Red” is about a grandmother trying to teach her granddaughter about the ways of the world through a fairytale, much to her daughter’s chagrin. She reminisces about her younger days, in which she was caught by “wolfie,” saved by the woodsman, and eventually forgot all of that to marry a nice man and settle down. The last line leaves us with a mysterious knock at the door.
- What’s this about? What is “riding the red?” What is the wolfie? Is it an actual wolf?
- What differences surprised you from the Red Riding Hood story we all know? How does Hopkinson use these twists in the fairytale to make her point?
- How does the conversational voice/structure of the piece succeed in the retelling of a well-known fairytale? What are some lines that seem particularly grandmotherly – or not? Is she a reliable narrator?
- There is no dialogue in this piece. It takes place entirely inside the narrator’s mind and memory. Does this work? Can you have a story without the appearance of other characters?