PC027: Red Riding-Hood’s Child

By N. K. Jemisin.
Read by Rajan Khanna.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fishnet Magazine.

Once upon a time in a tiny woodland village there lived an orphan boy. As his mother had been less than proper in her ways — she died unwed, known well to several men — the villagers were not kindly-disposed toward the tiny burden she left behind. They were not heartless, however. They reared young Anrin with as much tenderness as a child of low breeding could expect, and they taught him the value of honest labor so that he might repay their kindness before his mother’s ways took root.

By the cusp of manhood — that age when worthier lads began to consider a trade and marriage — Anrin had become a youth of fortitude and peculiar innocence. The villagers kept him at arms’ length from their homes and their hearts, so he chose instead to dwell within an eccentric world of his own making. The horses and pigs snorted greetings when he came to feed them, and he offered solemn, courtly bows in response. When the villagers sent him unarmed into the forest to fetch wood, he went eagerly. Alone amid the dappled shadows he felt less lonely than usual, and the trees’ whispers were never cruel.

Indeed, Anrin’s fascination with the forest was a source of great anxiety to the old woodcutter’s widow who boarded him at nights. She warned him of the dangers: poison mushrooms and hidden pitfalls and choking, stinging ivies. And wolves, of course; always the wolves. “Stay on the path, and stay close to the village,” she cautioned. “The smell of men keeps predators away… most of the time.”

Rated X. Contains sex and wolves.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

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44 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Hyperion said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 4:53 am

    I couldn’t imagine why the story was rated “X” of all things, until it dawned on me that some would go no further than “Gay Wolf Porn!” as their logline, and this way they can’t say they weren’t warned.

    A story’s greatness is the how more than the what, especially when the what riffs on (very probably) the best European fairy tale of all time. I liked the imaginative take on things, the reversal of fortune, both coming and going. N.K. Jemisin is to be applauded, and feted at the nearest late night Taco Bell.

    As to the intro, I noticed Rachel Swirsky is now the Editor and not the Chief Editor. Is this a Neil Armstrong situation, or the cutthroat political world of podcast fiction?

    More seriously, any fan of fairy tales (or anthropology, for that matter) should be REQUIRED to read Bruno Bettelheim’s “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.” Bettelheim is a total Freudian, and his world view is so last century, but that is easily assimilated under the historical understanding of when the book was written. What is so TOTALLY AWESOME is how Bettelheim brings chapter and verse of actual evidence to make his case for the deep multi-layer nature of fairy tales, and nowhere moreso than Little Red Riding Hood. For that chapter alone, you just must read the book. Trust me on this.

    Again, great story!

  2. 2

    Jarilimad said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 5:10 am

    I liked the idea of the story, the concept. The beastial sodomy was a little much though. If you took it out the story would still have the same charm.

    I know that I’m not the first to comment on this, but seriously, all of the Escape Artist podcasts have had sex on the mind recently. I hate to be old fashioned but to quote Garrison Keillor. “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.”

  3. 3

    Red Riding-Hood’s Child up at Podcastle at Epiphany 2.0 said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 8:07 am

    [...] My fantasy erotica story, “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, is up today at Podcastle; download here if you’re interested. A warning, though — this story’s rated X, for good reason. [...]

  4. 4

    Podcastle: Red Riding-Hood’s Child : RajanKhanna.com said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 9:44 am

    [...] It is up now. [...]

  5. 5

    Rachel said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 11:52 am

    “As to the intro, I noticed Rachel Swirsky is now the Editor and not the Chief Editor. Is this a Neil Armstrong situation, or the cutthroat political world of podcast fiction?”

    well, this is mainly two things:

    1) I got bored with saying “chief.”

    2) I initially coined that title when it looked like Steve was appointing several more people to staff than actually ended up on it. No need now.

  6. 6

    brown said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

    despite the gay bestiality – a story well written and told. The tension and sense of anxiety kept my interest. I suppose some of that tension wouldn’t be there if it had been a ‘she’ wolf? Certainly there are females that have predatory inclinations (ie. basic instinct).
    I suppose A little more explanation of the rating would have been a spoiler, but I would have rather gotten my gnashing of teeth done beforehand rather than during. I would have listened in spite of any warnings – I can’t say I regret listening to any of the other stories posted so far – keep up the good work.

  7. 7

    Old Man Parker said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

    Good! I like a grim fairy tale with strange sex, murder, and supernatural creatures. In the old days…really old days… people would think “Vampires, Werewolfs, and Homosexuals” all in the same catagory. This story had a darkness right out of the dark ages.

  8. 8

    Slash-pod at Stodge.org said,

    September 30, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

    [...] has just entered the dangerous realm of slash-fiction with it’s latest production: “Red Riding Hood’s Child“. It’s not just regualr slash… you now the kind where Batman get it on with [...]

  9. 9

    David said,

    October 1, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

    Interesting story, I’ve enjoyed this authors contributions to Escape Pod and I really enjoyed this story. A fascinating variation on a story I loved since my childhood. Keep up the good work.

  10. 10

    Travis said,

    October 1, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

    Great story! It’s wonderful to have homo-erotic imagery portrayed in such an honest manner. It was neither cheesy and over-the-top, nor was it watered down and apologetic. -And it didn’t dominate the entire story. I would still describe this as a story about innocence and the loss thereof, not a gay werewolf story. One thing was definitely missing, though. The story should have gone further and related the eventual confrontation between the Smith and the predator that he had tried to take as his prey.

  11. 11

    WriterDan said,

    October 1, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

    So this was about half of a story. Needed more build-up and tension between the kid and the smith, needed more history on the “werewolves”, and, as mentioned by Travis, it absolutely needed a final confrontation between the boy and the smith. It seemed like the story was about the boy and the smith, in fact, until it ended. Perhaps even some more internal dialogue at the end about the choice that the boy had made and if it was worth it. As is, it seemed like more of an excuse to tell a werewolf sex story with a little kid in it, and not about the main character himself, which will probably turn a lot of people off. (No pun intended)

  12. 12

    LittleLotus said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 10:09 am

    Wow. In some ways I don’t know what to think… homosexual wolves? A smithy with a lust for boys on the verge of manhood and a little old woman protecting his innocence? But that is just what made this story great. This story was well written with 180 degree turns from what I expected, but in a good way. I’m not sure if Little Red would be happy with her son’s choice, but at least he is happy. The reading was done exceptionaly well; I think that is what really kept me listening. Great job and great story! Keep’em comin!

  13. 13

    Norvaljoe said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 10:46 am

    This is dangerous pedophile fantasy. An adult male sexually assualts a pre-adolescent boy. I couldn’t turn off my i-pod fast enough. Presenting it as literature, for those who are not ‘immature of any age’, is irrisponsible.

    For some reason America is obsessed with sex. We have it in our literature, entertainment, and our advertising. We have sexualized our young children in providing them with provacative clothing and teaching them mature attitudes and behaviors. It is no wonder that child sexual assualt and the pedophile menace is increasinly common.

    Graffiti is vandalism because it permenantly mars the view. This story is mental graffiti.

    I tunes missed putting the ‘explcit’ warning on this one….or is that their job?

  14. 14

    Nora said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

    We don’t think as much as we probably should about how conforming to the ways of society– especially when one is marginalized– can be quite as dangerous to us as breaking the rules.

  15. 15

    Rachel said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

    “It is no wonder that child sexual assualt and the pedophile menace is increasinly common.”

    Factually, this is untrue. Just for the record.

    If you want to see the author’s reaction to charges of pedophilia, and mine, you can see them at the message boards.

  16. 16

    phignewton said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 8:38 pm

    I dont think you can judge slash fiction by the same standards as regular short fiction since the only purpose is to slip sexually charged content into normally innocent storylines like… ums… red…. riding…. hood. Hey now wait a moment, wheres the woodsman?! somebody did a gay werewolf version of this story without the woodsman? how verah dare they!

  17. 17

    Chainring said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

    Adolescent boy runs from gay rape by murderous adult and finds himself willingly engaged in adult/adolescent sado-masochistic homosexual bestiality.

    … when attempting to be shocking, there is such a thing as going too far. When overdone, the shocking becomes merely absurd and loses its value.

  18. 18

    Brett said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

    My general opinion of the story was that it was the first half of a story I’d like to read, but didn’t stand up to well by itself. One thing that really kind of bothered and amused me about the story though was that all it took was one look at a werewolf erection and he knew everything to know about sex. I’ll admit I’ve never seen a werewolf erection, but that seemed pretty unbelievable.

  19. 19

    ADerksen said,

    October 3, 2008 @ 8:51 am

    I’m sorry, but I never thought that bestiality could be so banal.

  20. 20

    Mark Ross said,

    October 3, 2008 @ 11:09 am

    I am no prude but, come on… A pedophiliac, Homo-erotic, bestiality fantasy? It’s not sophisticated, high-brow literature – it is complete garbage!

    That story made me throw up a little in the back of my throat.

    What’s next? A rape torture and cannibalistic fantasy complete with ritual defecation? Three little pigs and one cup?

  21. 21

    Nick Mamatas said,

    October 3, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

    What’s next? A rape torture and cannibalistic fantasy complete with ritual defecation? Three little pigs and one cup?

    Dibs!!

  22. 22

    Old Man Parker said,

    October 3, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

    Yeah yeah, we’re all talking about the sex. What about poor old Baba? She’s dead on the ground! Not one word for her. Seem’s we’re more worried about where some one sticks a willy, then where someone sticks a pitch fork.

  23. 23

    Rachel (a different one) said,

    October 4, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    I’ve been meaning to say that I always find the phrase ‘immature listeners of any age’ rather condescending. It seems to imply that if you don’t like or are turned off by the story, you need to grow up. There’s a reason why most people use some variation of ‘mature audiences only’.

  24. 24

    Adam B said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 8:43 am

    This is definatly my favorite Podcastle story so far. No contest. Though there have been quite a few very good ones in the past.

    Still, like some others here before me, I miss the final confrontation between Anrin and the smith.

    As I interpreted the story, the fact that he had grown taller than Baba for instance indicated to me that he would be at least 15 y/o or possibly nearing 18 even and obviously well into his adolescence. Pedophilia is obviously not the case here.

  25. 25

    Jennifer said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 5:49 am

    This story is the first by podcastle that has made me wish to throw my iPod across the room is disgust. This is the worst story Podcastle has put into its feed and if there are anymore of this bent coming up, please put it plainly in the warnings as I will not be listening. This is not good fantasy, but trashy slash fiction masquerading as fantasy.

  26. 26

    otakucode said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 5:56 am

    Hehe, being a pro-sex advocate, I thoroughly enjoyed the amount of rankling I knew this story would cause in the Fiction Podcast Anti-Sex League. Steve mentioned someone complaining about all the sex on Escape Artist podcasts lately and shared a quote about someone asking why there was so much sex in film, someone responding “everyone does it” and she responding “where are all the scenes with people eating soup?” To which I would reply: Open your eyes woman! Where are the scenes with people eating?! Are you serious?! Literature, cinema, and every other sort of fiction is absolutely riddled through with scenes emphasizing eating! Sex is the red-headed stepchild that everyone treats poorly.

    I was glad to see a story that characterized ignorance about sex as a dangerous weakness that unnaturally puts children in situations they don’t understand and sexual awakening as empowerment. Perhaps if someone had talked to the boy about it beforehand, he would have known what the smith was up to and been able to respond to it competently (he might have even gotten to have some fun) instead of rumors being swapped over back fences and his guardian having to give up her life just to avoid telling the kid what the smith really wanted.

    Old Man Parker: You’re completely wrong. In the “dark ages”, there was no such thing as homosexuals. The distinction between “heterosexual” and “homosexual” is entirely a modern western society invention. It has never existed in any other society previously. All other societies distinguish between people who penetrate and people who get penetrated as a matter of social hierarchy. In those societies, the idea that someone would restrict themselves to sexual relations with one gender exclusively was either a bizarre notion or one of no importance. Unless you meant “dark ages” to mean the 1950s…

    Norvaljoe: You need to look up your defintions. Pedophiles are interested in prepubescents. It was made clear in the story that the boy was a pubescent. That puts it out of pedophile territory and into social persecution territory. You seem to be the one obsessed. Sex is a bodily function that everyone, even kids, partakes in. Fetuses have been seen on sonograms to masturbate in the womb. Any parent knows that their kids play with themselves. Pubescents are driven to seek partners, and other people seek them. It’s a product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, and I’d be interested to hear what case you could make to suggest that this evolution has produced a situation that, if followed without opposition, would harm the species?
    And yeah, no, there is no pedophile menace. Do your research. Child abduction, molestation, etc is at an all-time low. You need to quit watching Fox News and basing your opinions on the general feeling you get and start basing them in real observation of the statistics. Crime, in all categories, is reduced drastically from prior decades.

    Mark Ross: There is nothing bizarre about an adolescent being interested in sex. Not even gay sex. Rape, torture, and cannibalism, on the other hand, are very harmful things. it’s pretty disgusting that you would lump together normal human sexuality with those things and says a lot about the society you’ve been raised in.

  27. 27

    Odin said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

    I’ve listened to Escape Pod since episode 1 and naturally subscribed to Pseudopod and Podcastle as each was released. I consider myself to be an average listener with an above average tolerance for stories that I philosophically disagree with. More than tolerate, I often find them of value in a plethora of ways.

    Unfortunately, I can not say the same of RRHC.

    I am not going to debate the merits of the story so others can tear them apart or adhere to them as a banner of some sort.

    One thing I see/hear in our modern society is people trying to censor everything or argue others into seeing the world from their point of view. Instead I believe that I have the power to see/hear what I choose and when something becomes abhorrent to me, I have the power to turn it off.

    That said, I can’t say I’ve experienced enough of the kind of fantasy I enjoy on PodCastle, and to much that I didn’t (for one reason or the other). Rather than try to censor what is presented, or argue others into seeing the world from my point of view, I choose to remove you from my podcatcher. And no, I’m not encouraging anyone else to follow anyone’s example. Think for yourself and do what you choose.

    Peace!

  28. 28

    PK said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

    So it isn’t enough that I already just read a whole Anne Rice novel filled with loving depictions of buttsecks without lube…

  29. 29

    Bingorage said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

    What I found fascinating was the idea of sex being part of the transmission of the werewolf virus/curse, in concert with the bite.
    The penetrating bite of the vampire, werewolf -or even the zombie- is a blatantly sexual metaphor. The thing that seems to be irking some listeners is that the metaphor’s sexual realisation is not their particular cup of tea.

  30. 30

    Blaine Boy said,

    October 9, 2008 @ 12:57 am

    If I may say so…that was a tad…disturbing. This is the first time that a Podcastle piece has ever made my skin crawl. I agree the the sex could probably been left out of it in order for there to be a nice enough story. I really didn’t need that mental image. It’ll take me weeks to scrub it from my brain chemicals. Still, nice enough story…just…blech!

    Yours ever faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  31. 31

    Audita Sum said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 9:15 am

    I find it difficult to disassociate slash fiction from amateurness, but I guess this story was okay. Not for me, though. Bestiality is creepy.

  32. 32

    Audita Sum said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 9:16 am

    No, but seriously, the fangirlish idealization of male homosexuality is what bothers me about slash. And yeah. Just thought I’d add that.

  33. 33

    Appomattoxco said,

    October 13, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

    I thought the story skipped a few steps. The transition between being uncomfortable around the smith and turned on by the wolf was too fast.

    The only reason the sexuallity of it felt icky to me was that I wasn’t sure if the wolf ended up dead in this version of Red’s tale. I half thought the wolf was his dad durring most of the story.

  34. 34

    The_Wombat said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

    This was an amazing story. My favorite Podcastle ever. The symmetry between this and the usual red riding hood stories was stunning, especially the inverted symmetries, and the sex was hot. Best Podcastle Ever.

  35. 35

    valjean24601 said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

    I wonder if this story would have been any different if the protaginist was a girl. The fact that he is male seems to have been added to draw the reader’s attention, so it could have been done without.

  36. 36

    grossedout said,

    October 29, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

    Great idea and concept. The gay sex was just fraggin gross. Leave it vague, we’d of gotten the idea.

  37. 37

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Welcome to Nojojojo, The Angry Black Woman, and Karnythia said,

    December 10, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

    [...] I don’t have the plaesure of knowing Karnythia, but I’ve met both Nojojojo and The Angry Black Woman in our circles as science fiction writers, and have had the pleasure of purchasing work from both of them for the world’s first audio fantasy magazine, PodCastle. You can listen to Nojojojo’s smart story, “Red Riding Hood’s Child,” here. [...]

  38. 38

    oldfiddler said,

    June 6, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

    Recently discovered PodCastle, have just started digging around archived stories, happened across this one and must comment:

    Lots of stories out there about sexual awakening (which is how I understood the essential nature of RRHC)… but precious few in which that awakening is
    a) homosexual,
    b) positive for the awakener (did I just make up that word?),
    c) when the gay awakener achieves personal power.

    IMHO, much of the disgust (and misinterpretation as pedophilia) expressed in the posts over the sexuality in the story are evidence of the deeply ingrained homophobia in this culture… and perhaps a bit of fear of a gay persona that does not adopt the self-loathing This Culture (aka Blacksmith) vigorously seeks to instill in its gay children.

  39. 39

    Compliments Graciously Welcomed and Accepted at Epiphany 2.0 said,

    June 12, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

    [...] to put this in context, the story in question, “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, got a very strong reaction from listeners when it went up on PodCastle. A lot of the responses, I [...]

  40. 40

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Review: Soulless, book one of the Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger (Orbit, 2009) said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

    [...] here are some successful examples: Octavia Butler’s Fledgling (vampire), N. K. Jemisin’s “Red Riding Hood’s Child” (werewolf), Benjamin Rosenbaum’s “The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale” (urban fantasy), [...]

  41. 41

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Review of N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Orbit Books, 2010) said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    [...] stories. As the editor of PodCastle, I’ve had the pleasure of running two of them: “Red-Riding Hood’s Child,” which divided the audience very strongly into camps of love and hate, and “The [...]

  42. 42

    a debut review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms « Penguin Girl said,

    December 20, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    [...] first became aware of N. K. Jemison through this Pod Castle Episode PC027: Red Riding-Hood’s Child (warning: Rated X. Contains sex and wolves.) I was intrigued. I have a soft spot for this sort of [...]

  43. 43

    Sinners, Saints… Available at Podcastle! | Epiphany 2.0 said,

    April 27, 2011 @ 8:33 am

    [...] think of this as a modern fairy tale. Fairy tales hint at the real horrors of reality — like sexual violence and murder, poverty and child neglect, and worse — while also providing solutions. And if those solutions are simplified for the [...]

  44. 44

    Lessons Learned | Nicolette Jinks said,

    November 16, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

    [...] in the archives.  This included some stories I was not entirely comfortable with, including Red Riding-Hood’s Child, which was frankly a little odd for me at the time as it involves not only werewolves and sex, but [...]

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