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Sunday, October 2, 2011

LRRH (Ladle rat rotten hut vs little red riding hood)

The Little Girl and the Wolf

Story tellers may: 
  • shorten the story
  • tell it in a different style of language
  • leave out the bloodthirsty bits
  • shift the setting/timeline
  • change the characters behaviour 

The story-telling needs a textual time background
  • Once upon a time/ Long time ago....
  • One day she set out....
  • Then, ...//After that ...
  • afterwards, // Later on
  • When somebody did sth, ...
  • Suddenly ...
  • As time went by, 
  • ... lived happily ever after.
Here you will find some variations to our fab fairy fable. 'Nuff said!
1. The latest I read, Roal Dahl's Perverting Rhymes chapter 5 (listen -or read- to it here, in the Poetry archive). He made up the classic tale. The wolf enters the grandmother's house and devours her before putting on her clothes in order to eat Little Red Riding Hood next. Riding Hood is not disturbed however, and calmly acts: 
"The small girl smiles/Her eyelid flickers/She whips a pistol from her knickers/She aims it at the creature's head and BANG! BANG! BANG! she shoots him ... dead.") 

2. LRRH by James Thurber (1939)One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.)

Although I prefer the short "streetwise" version I read somewhere, some decades ago. Later on, I learned it was really just an earthy extrapolation of a retelling by famed humorist James Thurber glued above. Here is the "urban" version ending:
"Aha! Little Red Riding Hood!" cried the Wolf, happening upon the girl in the woods. "Now I'm going to take off your little red cape, lift up your little red skirt, pull down your little red underwear and burst your little brains out!" [We used to speak more direct language.]"Oh no you're not, Mr. Wolf!" the smirking Red Riding Hood replied, slowly pulling a gun out of her basket and pointing it at the wolf. "You're going to eat me - just like it says in the book!"

for a Politically correct version, read here)

Ladle Rat Rotten Hut  (click to Listen)
and the dangers of Spanglish intonation..
The story of Little Red Riding Hood as you've never heard it told before. Sit back and enjoy this story as told by master story teller, Paul Lantz in a way that will captivate kids from 2 to 102.
Once upon a time there was a girl who lived with her mother in a little cottage...
Since I know the story my brain almost automatically interprets the "nonsense words" as the "correct" ones - at points it just sounds like a very strange accent of English. But if you try....
Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage,... 

The History of Ladle Rat Rotten Hut
As printed in The Next Whole Earth Catalog (circa 1980)

"Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" is often attributed to Anonymous, but it was actually written by H. L. Chase. He was a professor of French at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, retired in 1965, and now is living in Cincinnati. He is in his eighties. I talked to him by phone about the story of the story.
"I wrote it about 1940. It was going to be part of a little article I was writing. It was in the days of rationing during the war and I thought about what would happen if we had to ration language. If our vocabulary were cut in half, we'd have to get along with other words. Consequently, I thought I'd see how you'd get along with the other half. I've never written that article, but I've always thought of doing it.
"I taught French, and I used the story in my class to show the importance of intonation in learning a foreign language. You see, if you take these English words and put them in columns like a spelling book and just read them, they have no meaning. However, if you read them with the proper intonation, the meaning appears for certain people. For other people the meaning never does appear.
"I never submitted it to anybody, but it got spread some way or other. It's one of those things that got completely out of control. I showed it to a few friends and to a book salesman who came to see me. He liked the thing because it had to do with words. I think I may have given him a copy, and he must have given it to someone else. It first appeared in print in the Merriam Company's magazine Word Study. I think it got in Stars and Stripes (U.S. Army newspaper) because I heard from people in Baghdad, Sweden, all over the world. Sports Illustrated found it in another publication and gave me $1000 for it. Arthur Godfrey found it in Sports Illustrated, and he broadcast it and very generously told any readers that wanted a copy they could have one by sending me postage. To my surprise, I mailed about five thousand of them. After that episode, Prentice Hall asked me to write a series of stories for a book, which I did. (Anguish Languish was published by Prentice Hall in 1955.)
"The book sold fairly well for that sort of thing. It went through four printings I think, maybe 14,000 copies total.
"It's used now a good deal in textbooks to demonstrate the phonetic structures of English. The book has been used by some psychologist to determine the ability of people to understand sound, to study the limit of distortion that can be comprehended. That varies from person to person.
"People who like it best are language people, teachers, lawyers, and doctors. That's almost all the people who are interested in it. And children, strange to say. I've had a lot of letters from them."
I asked him if it bothered him that it is often printed without his name. He said, "Well, it doesn't bother me, but it's just that if I had a cent for every Xerox copy, I'd be much better off because I know it's been copied by the thousands."
The book, Anguish Languish, is out of print and very hard to find. Chase himself only has one copy. Dover or somebody should reprint it.
-Anne Herbert

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