Sometime last year I began to have recurring dreams of walking on forested pathways, wandering off the large path onto smaller, hidden paths. And in most of the dreams, I was wearing this hood.
I couldn’t stop thinking of the dream, and I am a believer in following obsessions, so: I read every academic article I could find about the tale of Little Red; I checked out every illustrated children’s book of the story and put myself to sleep pouring over the artists’ varied visions; and while I was doing all of that, I knit the hood (pattern info follows). The hood is cozy and warm, and when I wear it, I feel as if I’m walking in a faerie tale.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes believes that the wolf in the story of Little Red is The Predator—that thing which lures all of us, at some point, away from our highest path and truest self. For her, we learn to avoid this Wolf as part of our maturation. I love Clarissa, but my reading of this tale is different.
When the wolf lures Red off the trail, he sets her a task—something to occupy her time so that he can pad over to the grandmother’s house and eat her up. The task is picking wildflowers. Now, instead of just a boring basket of muffins for her grandmother, Red will show up with a basket full of wild beauty that she gathered herself from the forest—treasures not found on the well-traveled path. She will find her own way through the woods. And when she arrives? Yes, she will be eaten by the wolf, as her grandmother was before her. But it turns out that they are perfectly well. They are swallowed whole by the wild and emerge exhilarated. They place the flowers on the table and feast with a wonderful new hunger. And the wolf? In some stories the hunter who hacks him open to rescue Red and Grandma stitches stones into his belly and throws him into the pond. But we shouldn’t worry about the wild wolf—he’ll be just fine.
I am positive that at the end of the tale, when Red promises her wise elder grandmother that from now on she will “stay on the path,” it is with a wink and a nudge between them. The Grandmother has known for some time, and Red is just learning: Who wants an everyday path void of danger when you can have beasts and shadows and secret flowers?
It’s a New Year (and, as I write, a New Moon). I wish you wild days and crooked trails. I wish you unexpected visits from the wild wolf of your imagination.
My beautiful hood is based on the Dragon Watcher’s Hood by Stephanie Dosen of Tiny Owl Knits. There are bells attached at the ends to keep you from accidentally sneaking up on an unsuspecting dragon, which is of course not recommended. The pattern is available on Ravelry, or better still, it resides among a bouquet of other dreamy patterns in Dosen’s enchanted Woodland Knits. In this book, knitting becomes a way to connect with the magic of wild places. Love it. I departed from the recommended yarn to use Ushya, a textured merino with a tiny touch of polyester (2%) to make it extra-soft and non-itchy.