, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 175–185

Absent Mother and the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood


DOI: 10.1007/s11061-017-9518-8

Cite this article as:
Arnds, P. Neophilologus (2017) 101: 175. doi:10.1007/s11061-017-9518-8


Focusing on Little Red Riding Hood my article examines the cultural and biopolitical links between the absent mother and her evil doppelgänger/counterpart, the wolf. As a figure that was demonised from the middle ages on and referred to undesirables abandoned by the community, specifically in the Germanic context, the wolf is caught between fruition and perdition, between nurturing and devouring, reflecting the dual archetype of the mother, the good one and the bad one. Drawing on the homo sacer as the individual cursed and expelled by the community (Agamben), the essay discusses what the initiation rite in the folktale has to do with the early medieval expulsion of culprits known in Germanic Northern Europe as the vargr as both ‘wolf’ and ‘outlaw’. What are the structural and metaphorical links between the three women and the wolf, and can we detect the mother’s untold story in this constellation?


Absent mother Wolf Homo sacer Witch Initiation Rape 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity College DublinDublinIreland

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