How was Little Red Riding Hood born
In Italy, wolves did not disdain children. Even if a few centuries ago.

A classic representation of the wolf that threatens the safety of Little Red Riding Hood.
A classic representation of the wolf that threatens the safety of Little Red Riding Hood.

Wolves are returning to Italy and from an ecological point of view this is good news. But there are still those who are afraid of this animal. How did the story of the bad wolf come about? Fables and old stories have their real origin. From real events, because once the wolf really ate children or at least he tried. Mario Comencino went hunting for wolves in the historical archives of northern Italy and discovered that the attacks on human beings, both small and large, in the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries in Lombardy, part of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino, were 379 and the victims 562. He tells it in great detail in a book, Man and the Anthropophagous Beast. History of the wolf in northern Italy from the 15th to the 19th century, Unicopli editions.

Man, what a treat! The man is not part of the prey of the wolf and these aggressions are explained with important environmental alterations, essentially the anthropization of the territory, the increase of the rural human population, the disappearance of wild herbivores. In this context the wolves, and more often the wolves with the little ones to feed, were forced to fall back on domestic animals. So they threw themselves towards the sheep and a child is lying between their paws. Which has the right weight to be dragged away and has neither hooves nor defense weapons. Given that the choice of prey, for these animals, is partly a learned activity, some wolves have taken taste and become anthropophagous. There are not many cases, but they have deeply affected what we would now call public opinion.

(News updated March 14, 2003)