Lycanthropy legends go all the back to antiquity. Every culture has a story, from King Lycan of Greece to the wild were-cats of Japan, people have been using lycanthropes to explain away some of the more monsterous aspects of human behavior.
So imagine my cool meter going off when the history channel pointed out the Little Red Riding Hood is a werewolf cautionary tale. Honestly, I had to think about it (I even pulled out the book). Let's analyze shall we?
First Red (Little Red Riding Hood) is sent to her grandmother's house and decides to take a short cut through the woods (a big no, no in medieval times--never go through the woods alone).
Then the wolf finds her and wants to eat her, but not in public (not wanting to reveal his bestial nature), so he approaches her and she naively tells the wolf where she is going.(Never talk to strangers kids.)
The wolf suggests Red goes and pick some flowers for Grandma (What grandma doesn't want flowers from her grandkid) and she does. In the meantime, the wolf goes to grandma's house and swallows granny whole (Grandma: the other red meat).
Red gets to grandma's house. She notices Grandma's strange appearance, comments on it, but doesn't run (Rule #1 for avoiding old school horror beasts: CARDIO). Instead, she's swallowed whole.
Queue the hunter (Can you say Van Helsing types or even Buffy type). He cuts into the wolf, kills it and rescues Grandma and Red. They all live happily ever after. Yay!
So where's the werewolf part? Its in the fact that the cross-dressing wolf can talk and be understood by humans.
The story also conveys medieval ideology. During the dark ages, the woods represented danger and a place full of devils. So the lesson was stay out of the woods and in the safety of the village kids, or a werewolf might eat you. Especially in a time when people genuinely believed that werewolves were real and would tear you from limb to limb.
Anyway, thanks for staying tuned for this interesting analysis of Little Red Riding Hood. Now back to your regularly scheduled internet.