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Little Red Cap Poem by Carol Ann Duffy

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Little Red Cap Poem for Kids

Poems are the best literature tools to teach students vocabulary and induce creative skills in them. Deciphering the meaning of complex poems is also a skill in itself, which is why we are here with a long and interesting poem, “Little Red Cap.” A rendition of the famous classic poem “The Little Red Riding Hood” that was a children’s favourite, this poem takes the story forward.

Let us read to know what the young girl does in this poem.


About the Poem

“Little Red Cap” by Carol Ann Duffy is the first poem of her collection of poems titled ‘The World’s Wife’ published in 1999. In this poem, Duffy has re-told the popular fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” of the Brothers Grimm version from the point of view of a woman. Through her collection of poems, the poet intends to highlight the injustices against women and the fact that women have long been ignored. Her poems, including the “Little Red Cap”, are witty, feminist, satirical, and complex.


Let’s read this famous poem about a girl embracing her adolescence in the witty words of Carol Duffy.


Little Red Cap Poem 

Little Red Cap and the Wolf

Little Red Cap and the Wolf

At childhood’s end, the houses petered out

Into playing fields, the factory, allotments

Kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men

The silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan

Till you came at last to the edge of the woods

It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf

He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud

In his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw

Red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears

He had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!

In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me

Sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink

My first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry

The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods

Away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place

Lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake

My stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer

Snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes

But got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night

Breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem

I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for

What little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?

Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws

And went in search of a living bird – white dove –

Which flew, straight, from my hands to his open mouth

One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said

Licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back

Of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books

Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head

Warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood

But then I was young – and it took ten years

In the woods to tell that a mushroom

Stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds

Are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf

Howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out

Season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe

To a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon

To see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf

As he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw

The glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones

I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up

Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone


“Little Red Cap” starts with the phrase: "At childhood's end," meaning that this poem takes the journey of the girl in the classic fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, into her adult life. Written in seven stanzas of six lines each, Duffy has kept the lines of the poem of varying lengths, without rhyme and quite complex. 

The speaker narrates the story of Red Cap’s encounter with the wolf in the first person. In the poem, the wolf represents dominating male power and Red Cap represents the transformation of a young girl to adulthood and through her first romantic relationship. 

Duffy has used the original storyline of the classic tale but changed the perspective. Here, the Little Red Cap is not being tricked by the wolf as she has now become wiser; instead, she uses him as guidance. She falls in love with the wolf, who is dominating and violent. The poem then elaborates on their venture into the woods and reveals how the girl realised she was naive and eventually claimed her power back. When Duffy said: "I took an axe to the wolf as he slept, one chop, scrotum to the throat, and saw the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother's bones", she clearly meant that Little Red Cap took her revenge.

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FAQs on Little Red Cap Poem by Carol Ann Duffy

1. How is Little Red Cap related to Carol Ann Duffy?

The poem is a version of Duffy herself. It is inspired by her first relationship, and how a young girl transitioned into adulthood and became a poet. The first verse of the piece sets a geographical background that is based on the landscape of her hometown. In the poem, she is the Little Red Cap and the wolf represents her first love - poet Adrian Henri. Duffy and Henri’s relationship lasted for about 10 years, which is the inspiration for both of their writings.

2. What are the themes covered in this poem?

The poem is coming of age, as “Little Red Cap” describes the experience of the speaker's transition from childhood to adulthood. Other main theme is feminism. Through the subversion of “Little Red Riding Hood”, this poem diverts the reader’s attention to roles of the predator wolf (dominant man) and prey Little Red Cap (women) and aims to challenge the broader societal systems of gender and power.