NABOKV-L post 0026751, Wed, 30 Dec 2015 19:53:58 -0200

Red Riding Hood revisited: Kassel's "the Woodsman" and VN's
Xmas vacations mean new computer games and, more rarely now, books. For my younger grandchildren I chose a modern version of “The Little Red Riding Hood” in delicately cutout silhouettes.* Charles Kinbote’s mockery of Freud, as reported by him thru Erich Fromm’s interpretation of the child’s red cap, always bothered and amused me at the same time [The little cap of red velvet in the German version of Little Red Riding Hood is a symbol of menstruation…Do those clowns really believe what they teach?] **. I think the author returned to his critical mood about the red-capped child making a convolute allusion to it (should it be in fact an allusion, not something new)#: “On her twelfth birthday, July 21, 1884, the child had stopped biting her fingernails (but not her toenails) in a grand act of will (as her quitting cigarettes was to be, twenty years later). True, one could list some compensations — such as a blessed lapse into delicious sin at Christmas, when Culex chateaubriandi Brown does not fly. A new and conclusive resolution was taken on New Year’s Eve after Mlle Larivière had threatened to smear poor Ada’s fingertips with French mustard and tie green, yellow, orange, red, pink riding hoods of wool around them (the yellow index was a trouvaille). Ada or Ardor, I, ch 17.

Today I came across an article by Rosângela Fachel de Medeiros in which she attempts to articulate image and literature, using movies and novels, in her article “The Woodcutter, a Review of Little Red Riding Hood,” ( <> - Crítica Cultural,Volume 6 ▪ Número 1 jan./jun. 2011).

She briefly presents her “Freudian” arguments, including Fromm’s interpretation, as regards Perrault’s and Grimm’s stories and even references V.Nabokov’s Lolita. I thought that her article was worth mentioning here, in spite of its not being translated into the English, also because of the list of movies and bibliographical information she adds.

Abstract: “This paper, in the tradition of comparative interdisciplinary studies, analyses the film The Woodsman as a re-reading and recreating of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, analyzing the inter-textual dialogue that establishes with the two most famous versions of the children's story, by Charles Perrault and by the Grimm Brothers. The investigation of these crossovers focus on the issue of pedophilia that is openly treated in the movie and symbolically in the tales. With this purpose it is also approached the Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, emblematic work in the treatment of the subject, that configures itself as a point of confluence for the narratives analyzed and it brings to the discussion another work of children's literature, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.”

Besides The Woodsman (2004), she names other movies related to pedophilia: L’ombre du doute, 1993; The Terror Inside, 1996; Bastard out of Carolina, 1996; No Child of Mine, 1996; Sleepers, 1996; Happiness, 1998; Dogme 1, Festen, 1998; The War Zone, 1999; Monsoon Wedding, 2001, L.I.E., 2001; Any and Isabelle, 2001; The Unsaid, 2001; Mystic River – 2003; La mala educación, 2004; Mysterious Skin, 2004 and the documentary Capturing the Friedmans 2004, by Andrew Jarecki, and the more recent ones Hardy Candy, 2005; Anklaget, 2005; Litlle Girl, 2006 and Hounddog, 2007. Bibliographical indications related to The Woodsman are: FECHTER, Steve; KASSEL, Nicole. The Woodsman – script. 2002. Disponível em: Acesso em: 20 mar. 2007; KASSEL, Nicole. “Making a monster”. Evening Standard, Londres. 3 fev, 2005 ( KEMP, Philip. “The Woodsman, Nicole Kassell's study of a convicted paedophile, lets us empathise without special pleading or sensationalism”. Sight &Sound (bfi) 2005, <> .

She notes that in the majority of the movies that deal with the theme of “pedophilia” the narrative develops from the standpoint of the victims and from the consequences of the abuse endured by the children, with the exception of Tood Solondz’ “Happiness” (1998) in which the pedophile is one of the protagonists while a step further occurs in Nicole Kassel’s The Woodsman because the pedophile Walter, interpreted by Kevin Bacon, is not only one of the protagonists but he is presented through his human dilemmas, his family and love conflicts, thus becoming a multifaceted character with nuances that extend beyond his crime and his desire. Kassel planned to present the man hidden behind the monster, having been inspired by another movie, “Dead Man Walking” (1995), by Tim Robins, since she believes that this kind of approach reproduces a real setting of how these characters fit into our society and live among us. “The Woodsman” emphasizes heterosexual pedophilia and focuses on the life and suffering of the pedophile, not of its victim: Walter isn’t only a villain but equally a victim of the pressure of his desire. Walter may even awaken pity and empathy in the audience, something that has never been presented before, although V.Nabokov’s “Lolita” (1955) is a precursor of this kind of thematic treatment. This novel is a first-person narration by a confessed pedophile, Humbert Humbert, desperately in love of his victim Lolita and who, with great irony, provokes oscillations in his reader’s emotions, going from rejection and sympathy, condemnation and pardoning. In “TheWoodsman” Walter’s conflict introduce a duality that may be encountered in Nabokov’s “Lolita” in the guise of Humbert Humbert’s “symmetrical” persecutor, Clare Quilty, a writer like HH. Actually Humbert is interested in teasing out from history a lineage of pedophile writers, such as Virgil, Dante, Petrarch and, through them, he reveals his condition as…a writer: “You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs — the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate — the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power. “Lolita”, 1/5. Other authors are added to his illustrious club, like Edgar Allan Poe: “ Virginia was not quite fourteen when Harry Edgar possessed her. He gave her lessons in algebra. Je m'imagine cela. They spent their honeymoon at Petersburg, Fla. "Monsieur Poe-poe," as that boy in one of Monsieur Humbert Humbert's classes in Paris called the poet-poet. “Lolita, 1/10.

The reference to algebra brings to mind another writer who was also fond of little girls, Lewis Carroll. Carroll was a math teacher and gained their pupil’s family’s trust. He was able to photograph Alice Liddell whose name inspired him to his famous Alice character and the book "Alice in Wonderland” (1865), a book which V.Nabokov himself translated into the Russian and that he often cites in his novels. The intercrossing of references is also found in the movie “The Woodsman”, when Lucas inquires if Walter believes in “fairy tales” and he mentions Carroll’s Alice. Later on his hallucinations acquire the mood and tonality of Carroll’s photographs in the movie. It is worth reminded our reader that Alice’s White Rabbit is, in many ways, similar to the Wolf in the Red Riding-Hood by a poem he reads to Alice about “secret love.”. Kassel’s movie gains from her employ of V.Nabokov’s web of intertextual references, provoking authors and their words into dialogue. One of the examples, obtained already from VN’s novel, is the description of HH’s first love Annabel Leigh, like Poe’s muse in “Annabel.”

Rosângela’s long paragraphs about Grimm’s and Perrault’s stories with their hidden allusion to little girls and their entry into puberty as represented by the red color of passion and womanhood (thus, menstruation), in spite of their informative and precise commentaries, will not be translated here (sorry!) but it is interesting to mention that long before the “school of Freudians” interpreted the “read cap,” for the author, the sexual innuendoes and moral warnings to audacious little girls about the dangerous “big bad wolves” are already found in the fairy-tales as collected and re-narrated by the French and the German writers.


* - Then I added to them a few Brazilian songs, among which there was a malicious rendering of an oversexed big bad wolf waiting to attack young girls in swim suits [Cf. Wilson Simonal, Lobo Bobo, 1969: or].

**Pale Fire, Line 929: Freud

In my mind’s eye I see again the poet literally collapsing on his lawn, beating the grass with his fist, and shaking and howling with laughter, and myself, Dr. Kinbote, a torrent of tears streaming down my beard, as I try to read coherently certain tidbits from a book I had filched from a classroom: a learned work on psychoanalysis, used in American colleges, repeat, used in American colleges. Alas, I find only two items preserved in my notebook:

By picking the nose in spite of all commands to the contrary, or when a youth is all the time sticking his finger through his buttonhole... the analytic teacher knows that the appetite of the lustful one knows no limit in his phantasies. (Quoted by Prof. C. from Dr. Oskar Pfister, The Psychoanalytical Method, 1917, N.Y., p. 79)

The little cap of red velvet in the German version of Little Red Riding Hood is a symbol of menstruation.

(Quoted by Prof. C. from Erich Fromm, The Forgotten Language, 1951, N.Y., p. 240.)

Do those clowns really believe what they teach?

# - Brian Boyd, in Ada Online, offers a very thorough coverage for these lines (as usual): <> 106.02: French mustard: Chauvinist Mlle Larivière would naturally consider no other kind.

<> 106.02-03: green, yellow, orange, red, pink riding hoods: Jay Alan Edelnant, “Nabokov’s Black Rainbow: An Analysis of the Rhetorical Function of the Color Imagery in Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle” (unpub. doctoral diss., Northwestern University, 1979), p. 84, notes that this sequence implies “green thumb” and “pinkie.” MOTIF: <> rainbow.

<> 106.02-04: yellow . . . yellow index was a trouvaille: Darkbloom: “a trouvaille: a felicitous find”: from the use of yellow paper for indexes (of businesses in telephone books, etc.) and, frequently, of yellow paint for index signs for streets and buildings. Cf. 247.25-26: “That ‘leavesdropper’ is a splendid trouvaille, girl.”

<> 106.03: red, pink riding hoods: MOTIF: <> fairy tale.

A New Year’s Eve posting deserves another information about Ada, also by Brian Boyd:

“Van recalls dining at a restaurant with Ada “on New Year’s Eve, 1893, in other words on 31 December 1893. But according to the novel’s very precise calendar, Van and Ada do not meet between 5 February 1893 and 11 October 1905. Now we could deduce from this that Van has either fantasized this dinner with Ada, perhaps in desperate consolation, or that he has deliberately suppressed some of his time with Ada to exaggerate, for effect, the bleakness of their separation. Or we could simiply decide that Nabokov made a natural error: he meant the day before New Year’s Day 1893 and should have written “on New Year’s Eve, 1892.” Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: A Casebook, edited by Ellen Pifer. Chapter on Nabokov’s Fallibility, p. 61 (“Even Homais Nods”: Nabokov’s Fallibility; or, How to Revise Lolita, by Brian Boyd)

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