[This is a guest post by Krisztina Szűcs*, about her project on violence and abuse in the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale]
The Grimm’s Fairy Tales were always a little creepy. Not your happy kind of, peace filled, rainbow colored bedtime stories that will put children to sleep. And when it comes to the very first unedited publication of the tales, it turns out these fairy tales were even more violent than we can imagine.
The Little Red Riding Hood is a pretty old fairy tale, it’s origins can be traced back to the 10th century. It was created to teach little girls not to listen to strangers even if they seem amicable. A number of versions existed through Europe and it’s possible that it has roots with a similar asian fable where the wolf is replaced by a tiger.
Everyone is familiar with the Grimm version which is is pretty frightful on its own. The wolf eats the grandma and the little girl. The hunter shoots the beast, cuts its stomach open, but in the end everyone is happy and alive (well, except for the big bad wolf, presumably). But what about the other story lines?
There is a great collection of these stories by D. L. Ashliman. He researched and translated several variations and shared them among many other folk and fairy tales. When I found his website I read every version of this tale and was shocked to discover that each one is more horrific than the next. These variations of the tale differ from the Grimm version in several ways but not so much to make it difficult to compare them.
In some stories the wolf is replaced by an ogre. The child carries different types of food in her basket. She notices other strange body parts on her fake grandmother. Sometimes the wolf makes her drink her own grandmother’s blood and consume her flesh. Throwing her clothes into the fire and making her get into the bed with him are real parts of the story. And in the majority of these cases neither the girl nor her grandmother survives. As it turns out, the Grimm version is quite child-friendly after all.
While I was reading these stories I was thinking: how could I visualize these differences? It was not evident due to the nature of the data (being a narrative), so I designed a structure for it.
I copied the recurring events of the tale into a table and assigned a value to each one based on how scary I found them in each version of the story. This ‘scary factor’ was a value between 0 and 4. With 0 being not scary at all and 4 being very brutal.
When I was done with the table, I started to visualize the differences.
The very first sketches were resembling some kind of a route.
It’s a story, so a timeline or a flowchart would be appropriate.
I tested different visuals. In these versions the story unfolds as the routes are hitting the different parts in circles.
Then one of my sketches turned into this small line that looked like it was surrounded by trees. It was still more like an illustration but it had potential to became a visualization. The trees could represent a positive or negative element depending on which side they stood and I could assign a number to the height of a tree.
In the end, I opted to use basic geometric forms to represent the trees instead of hand drawn illustrative style.
This is the first sketch and the final version of the legend. In the upper half reside the elements of the story that are similar to the Grimm version. The differences went into the lower half. The height of the triangles represents the ‘scary factor’.
Carrying a cake is not scary at all, but say, cannibalizing your own grandmother very much is.
The first color palette used green and grey triangles, so I could keep the forest look.
At this point the project was interactive. You could switch between the storylines and the triangles representing the selected story took on the color red.
The text looked too small on screen so I changed the format and turned it into a big scrollable webpage.
After developing the web version I realised that the interactivity doesn’t add much to the experience. It worked, but felt a little pointless. I assigned a color to each story line, and turned it into a poster.
By following the dotted line you encounter elements of the story as they occur in the text of the various versions of the story.
You can download the high-res version here.
*Krisztina Szűcs is a Budapest-based Data Visualization Designer coming from the field of Graphic Design. She works in the international freelance market and became known for her project Spotlight on Profitability. To see more works from Krisztina visit her website.