Plotting the roots of Red

A recent article for Live Science analyzes the evolution of Little Red Riding Hood from its 1st century roots to its modern place in children's literature. The article follows the work of Durham University anthropologist Jamie Tehrani whose paper The Phylogeny of Little Red Riding Hood was published in the journal Plos One.

For his research, "Tehrani looked at 58 variants of the story, focusing on 72 plot variables, such as the number and gender of the protagonists, the ending, and the type of animal or monster that becomes the villain." He then used phylogenetic models to compare similarities, and plotted an evolutionary tree for the story.

From the article:

Tehrani discovered that Little Red Riding Hood seems to have descended from the more ancient story The Wolf and the Kids — but so did African versions that independently evolved to look like Little Red Riding Hood.

"This exemplifies a process biologists call convergent evolution, in which species independently evolve similar adaptations," Tehrani explained in a statement. "The fact that Little Red Riding Hood 'evolved twice' from the same starting point suggests it holds a powerful appeal that attracts our imaginations."