I. RedRidinghood

RedRidinghood by Donna Leish seemed like a good choice for my first analysis of electronic literature. This is mainly due to one reason: had I encountered this piece in another context, I would probably have regarded it as anything but “literature”.

This modern retelling of the popular fairy tale leads the reader through a video-game-like adventure that offers different ways for the story to unfold. What surprised me was that it felt more like an interactive video than a text. The visuals are reminiscent of comic books and the whole story is set to a variety of upbeat songs – however, the feeling the story leaves you with is anything but “jazzy”. RedRidinghood is a story of violence, about being devoured by your own mind and about passivity and helplessness. The motifs of the well-known fairy tale are cleverly used here: the hood becomes a hoodie, the mother is a vamp-like figure with doubtful intentions and the wolf becomes a very human predator.

Now, this is by no means a new approach to the story. Even in one of the most well-known versions of the tale from the 17th century, Charles Perrault writes “[…] there are real wolves, with hairy pelts and enormous teeth; but also wolves who seem perfectly charming, sweet-natured and obliging, who pursue young girls in the street and pay them the most flattering attentions. Unfortunately, these smooth-tongued, smooth-pelted wolves are the most dangerous beasts of all.” (Carter, Angela, ed. Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Other Classic Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault. New York: Penguin Books, 2008 p. 3)

So, the interpretation of the characters is not the most suprising element of the story. What makes this piece unique, though, is how it conveys the feelings of the protagonist to the reader. In older fairy-tale versions, the characters are flat and just serve to illustrate the obvious moral of the story. In this case, however, we can easily identify with the protagonist and her unfortunate situation. Like Little Red Riding Hood, we are stuck between a variety of choices that all seem unappealing, and like her, we feel lost, trapped and hopeless. This is most obvious at the end of the story. When the protagonist sits on her rapist’s bed and has a gun to her head, we can not do anything to change her fate either and like her, we just have to await the end of her story. This aspect could be seen as a feminist comment on fairy tales and the passivity of the female characters we usually encounter there.

The part of the story that impressed me the most was the diary. I stumbled upon it by accident, clicking random parts of the picture. However, even though it is not the most obvious part of the text, I would think it is almost the most important one. Here, we encounter the deepest and darkest thoughts of the girl and can follow her on her journey – she falls in love with the man who then turns out to be her worst fear. This is depicted in several poems and drawings that go from upbeat to simply disturbing. The “I” and the “You” are not always clear, the voice of predator, victim and reader are shifting, as can be seen here.

I was amazed at how much the form of the text corresponds with the content. The story literally works on many levels, simultaneously playing in different tabs. The dreams, the diary and the main story work like an assembled collage, the motif of an abusive relationship working like a thread through the text. Using a well-known fairy tale as a base for this experimental form seems like a good choice – the reader already has expectations towards the story and is surprised even more once the tale shows its true and admittedly quite dark nature. This text was a good introduction to more image-based texts, showing how words, images and animation can work together to create a multidimensional story.