Red, p.1Liesl Shurtliff
ALSO BY LIESL SHURTLIFF
THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN
THE TRUE STORY OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2016 by Liesl Shurtliff
Cover art copyright © 2016 by Jim Madsen
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Shurtliff, Liesl.
Title: Red : the true story of Red Riding Hood / Liesl Shurtliff.
Description: First edition. | New York : Alfred A. Knopf,  | Summary: “Followed by a wolf, a huntsman, and a porridge-sampling nuisance called Goldie, Red embarks on a quest to find a magical cure for her ailing grandmother.” —Provided by publisher
Identifiers: LCCN 2015022144 | ISBN 978-0-385-75583-2 (trade) | ISBN 978-0-385-75584-9 (lib. bdg.) | ISBN 978-0-385-75585-6 (ebook)
Subjects: | CYAC: Fairy tales. | Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. | Characters in literature—Fiction. | Witches—Fiction. | Wolves—Fiction. | Grandmothers—Fiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations.
Classification: LCC PZ8.S34525 Red 2016 | DDC [Fic]—dc23
eBook ISBN 9780385755856
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
Also by Liesl Shurtliff
Chapter One: Magical Mistakes
Chapter Two: The Path in the Woods
Chapter Three: Wolf Granny
Chapter Four: A Red Gift
Chapter Five: Curious Cure-All
Chapter Six: Nosy Girl with Golden Curls
Chapter Seven: By the Beard
Chapter Eight: Your Heart’s Desire
Chapter Nine: Wolf in the Woods
Chapter Ten: Goldie’s Wishes
Chapter Eleven: A Bend in the River
Chapter Twelve: Well, Wine, and Witch
Chapter Thirteen: Missing Memories
Chapter Fourteen: Come
Chapter Fifteen: Swimming with Sprites
Chapter Sixteen: Granny Wolf
Chapter Seventeen: Dwarf Caverns
Chapter Eighteen: Too Hot, Too Cold, Juuuuust Right
Chapter Nineteen: Roses Are Red, Gargoyles Are True
Chapter Twenty: The Beast’s Feast
Chapter Twenty-one: Prankster Palace
Chapter Twenty-two: Beastly Destiny
Chapter Twenty-three: The Beauty in the Mirror
Chapter Twenty-four: Where the Heart Is
Chapter Twenty-five: A Red Spell
Chapter Twenty-six: The Fate of Granny
Epilogue: On and On and On
In loving memory of my grandmother Ann Cardall Robbins Bunting, who was gorgeous. And hilarious. I miss you.
The first time I tried my hand at magic, I grew roses out of my nose. This was not my intention. I meant to grow flowers out of the ground, like any normal person would. But I’ve never been normal, and magic is unpredictable, finicky, and dangerous, especially in the wrong hands.
Granny had taught me magic from the cradle. Some grandmothers shower their grandbabies with cuddles and kisses and gumdrops. I got enchantments and spells and potions. Granny knew spells to conjure rain and wind, charms to make things grow or shrink, and enchantments of disguise and trickery. She could brew a potion to clear your mind or clear your stuffy nose. She had elixirs for toothaches, bellyaches, and heartaches, and a special balm for bottom itch. There was no end to the wonders of magic.
There was also no end to the troubles.
When I was five years old, I wanted to grow red roses for Granny’s birthday. Roses, because her name is Rose, and red, because my name is Red. They would be the perfect gift. I knew I could do it. I had seen Granny grow fat orange pumpkins and juicy red berries straight out of the ground with just a wave of her hands and a few words.
I chose my own words with care.
Red Rose Charm
Sprout and blossom, red, red rose
Let your fragrance fill my nose
I felt the tingle of the magic in my fingertips. I gave a flourish of the arm, a flick of the hand, just as Granny did, but nothing happened. I tried again. I spoke louder, flourished grander, and…
A red rose exploded out of my right nostril.
I tried to rub the rose off, but that only made me sneeze, and another rose shot out of my left nostril.
Granny could not stop laughing. You might even say she cackled.
“Granny! Do some-ding!” I sobbed through the roses. I expected her to wave her hands and make the roses disappear. Instead, she ripped them right out of my nose.
“Aaaaouch!” I screamed.
“Thank you for the roses,” said Granny, placing them in a vase on her table. “We can call them booger blossoms.”
“Achoo!” I replied.
Granny laughed for a full five minutes.
I sneezed for five hours.
I’ll admit, it was sort of funny, even if it did hurt worse than pixie bites. But I worried that this might be an omen—that the magic was somehow wrong inside me.
After the booger blossoms, I decided to stick to practical magic, such as a drying spell. I’d seen Granny do this countless times: just a snap of her fingers and she’d have dripping laundry dry in minutes.
But when I snapped my fingers, no wind came. Just fire. Yes, fire, as in flames. Flaming skirts and blouses and undergarments. In less than a minute, they were cinders and ash.
“Well, they’re certainly dry,” said Granny.
When I was six, I had a friend named Gertie. We were only allowed to play at her house with constant supervision from her mother, Helga. Helga was always worried. She worried Gertie would fall in a well or off a cliff. She worried Gertie would choke on her morning mush. She worried trolls would come in the night and carry Gertie away for their supper. This worrying became problematic when I wanted to take Gertie into The Woods to play.
“Mother says I’ll be eaten by wolves,” Gertie said.
“You won’t,” I said. “I’ve never been eaten by wolves, and I play in The Woods all the time.”
“Don’t you ever get lost? Mother is always afraid I’ll lose my way.”
“I’m never lost. I have a magic path.” Gertie’s eyes got as big as apples. Magic was rare, and my path was something special. It only appeared when I wanted it to, and it led me wherever I wanted to go in The Woods. Surely this would entice Gertie to come with me, but it didn’t. She stepped away from me. Her eyes grew wary.
“Mother says magic is dangerous.”
“My path isn’t dangerous,” I said with indignation. “Granny made it to keep me safe. She made it grow right out of the ground after a bear attacked me and I almost died.” I thought this would impress her. The possibility of death was always exciting, and
“Mother says your granny is a witch,” said Gertie.
Of course Granny was a witch. I knew that, but Gertie said it like it was a bad thing. Desperation took hold of me. I really wanted to play with Gertie in The Woods. So I did the only sensible thing I could think of. I cast the Worrywart Spell on Gertie’s mother.
Worry’s a wart upon your chin
It spreads and grows from deep within
Make the wart shrink day by day
Send your worries far away
Unfortunately, the spell did nothing to cure Helga’s worries. Instead, she grew a wart on her chin. The wart grew steadily bigger, day by day, until Granny was summoned to remedy my mistake. Needless to say, I wasn’t allowed to play with Gertie anymore—or anyone else—for, in addition to being a worrywart, Helga was also the village gossip. The news spread all over The Mountain.
“She’s a witch,” Helga told the villagers, “just like her grandmother.” She seemed to forget it was Granny who had cured her.
Gertie stopped talking to me, and no one else would even look at me. The magic in me grew hot and sticky. It coated my throat. It stung my eyes. I wished I could swallow it down and make it disappear.
“Don’t worry, Red,” Granny told me. “We all make mistakes. When I was your age, I tried to summon a rabbit to be my pet, and instead I called a bear to the door!”
“No!” I cried. “How did you survive?”
“The bear was actually quite nice. My sister married him.”
“She married a bear?”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. He wasn’t really a bear. He was a prince under a spell.”
This did nothing to alleviate my concerns. I didn’t want to marry a bear or a prince.
“All the magic I do is bad,” I said.
“Nonsense, child,” said Granny. “They’re only mistakes. It takes a hundred miles of mistakes before you arrive at your own true magic.”
“But what if my mistakes are too big?”
“No such thing, dear,” said Granny.
But she was wrong. I went on trying spells and charms and potions, and I went on making mistakes. Big ones. Small ones. Deadly ones.
My last mistake was worse than warts, fire, or roses out the nose.
I was seven years old, and Granny and I were in The Woods. It was early spring, so the trees were just budding. Granny thought I could help them grow.
Root in the earth
Sprout above ground
Swell in the sun
Spread all around
“What if I burn down The Woods?” I asked, trembling. Fire seemed to be the only magic I had a knack for.
“Don’t be afraid, Red,” said Granny. She pointed to a tree branch above us, a large one that dipped low enough that I could see the little branches and buds shooting out of it. “Focus on that branch. Feel its energy and the energy inside you. They are connected. See if you can make its leaves grow. Growing is the best kind of magic.”
Yes, I loved it when Granny made things grow. She could grow juicy strawberries and fat pumpkins, spicy herbs and fragrant blossoms. Roses. Granny was particularly good with roses.
I focused on the magic inside me. I felt it swirling in my belly, like a bubbling pot of soup ready to spill over. I felt it flow through my arms and to the edges of my fingertips. Then I let the magic pour out of me and flow toward the tree. The buds on the branch swelled and started to unfurl. Nothing exploded. Nothing caught fire.
“I’m doing it!” I said.
“Good!” said Granny. “Keep going!”
Buds kept swelling, leaves unfurling, until the branch was full of green and pink. Then the branch itself started to grow. It got thicker and longer.
“Slow it down now,” said Granny. “Pull that magic back inside.”
But I couldn’t. The magic bubbled and spilled out of me faster than I could control it. The branch swelled and extended, too big and heavy for the tree. It sagged and creaked.
Everything happened at once.
The branch snapped. Granny pushed me out of the way. As I tumbled to the ground, so did the branch. There was a scream and a crash. When I looked up, Granny was on the ground, trapped under the branch.
Her eyes were closed and she was still.
“Granny?” I raced to her. I shook her shoulder, but she didn’t wake. There was blood on her face, a trickle of red that seeped into the lines on her cheek. My heart pounded in my chest. I tried to pull the branch off her, but it was too big and I was too small.
I ran out of The Woods, tears blurring my vision so I could barely see my path. When I reached home, I burst through the door, sobbing.
“She’s dead! I killed her! I killed Granny!”
Papa ran into The Woods. Mama held me in her arms as I curled into a ball and trembled like a sapling in a thunderstorm. I cried and cried. In my mind, I could see Granny, eyes closed, still as stone, and the blood on her face bright red. It was a message.
You did this, Red. You killed your granny.
Mama could not calm me.
When Papa returned, he got down low and whispered to me. “She’s all right, Red. Just a few scratches and a hurt foot. She’s just fine.” I started crying anew, flooded with relief and sorrow. She was alive, but still I had hurt her. It was my fault.
Granny’s foot never quite healed after that. She had to use a cane, and she hobbled like an old lady—like a witch. I hated to see it, but it reminded me every day of what I had done, what I was. Granny may have been a witch, but she was a good witch. Her magic made things live and grow. My magic made them bleed and die. It didn’t matter if this was mile ninety-nine of my hundred miles of mistakes, I couldn’t journey one step farther.
I would never do magic again.
The Path in The Woods
“Goodbye, Red! Take care of Granny!” Papa called as he smacked the reins on the mule.
I watched my parents bounce down The Mountain with a wagonload of logs to sell in The Valley, The Queen’s City, Yonder, and Beyond, leaving me to stay with Granny.
“And stay on your path!” called Mama.
“I always do,” I said, though she couldn’t hear me. I waved one last goodbye before my parents disappeared around a bend, leaving only a trail of dust. They wouldn’t be back for at least a week, perhaps two, which left Granny and me all alone in The Woods.
I was thrilled by the thought.
I heaved up my basket, full of fresh bread, salted pork, and a pot of honey. Granny didn’t need any of it, but Mama insisted on sending something besides just me, as though I were a burden and Granny required compensation to take care of me.
I stepped into The Woods, and immediately the earth beneath me trembled. The leaves rustled and spread apart. The tree roots sank into the ground, and stones rose up out of the dirt, creating a path—my path—stretching straight into The Woods toward Granny’s house.
I drank in the smell of pine and ripening earth. It was late summer, but there was a hint of spice in the air, foretelling autumn. The chatter of squirrels and birds and the buzz of insects all harmonized to compose a wild, rustic tune.
A crow landed on a branch near my head and made an off-key squawk, a complaint that he was hungry but couldn’t find any mice.
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?” I said. “I don’t have a magnificent beak like you, nor wings to fly.”
He squawked in annoyance and flew away.
I can understand most creatures in The Woods—their chatter, their cries for food and shelter, or a mate. They don’t have words, not like humans, but the meanings of their sounds and movements ripple through me. It’s almost like a smell. Anyone can smell onions or basil and know exactly what it is, without words or sight. That’s how it feels when the animals speak. They make a sound, and I know what it means. Granny says this is part of my magic. I say i
I came to the tree that marked the way to my honey hive. It leaned ever so slightly to the left, as if it were pointing the way. But today I passed it by. Granny was waiting, and I was eager to see her. I switched my cumbersome basket to the other arm and kept walking. I listened to the quarreling squirrels, the busy birds, and the munching rabbits, until they suddenly became quiet. A fawn leapt between the trees and galloped away. A flock of quail erupted from the brush and scattered in fear.
To my right, a shadow moved. Something big and powerful. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. I stopped and listened. Something shifted on my left, and then the creature emerged through the trees, just a few feet from my path. He dipped his head, acknowledging me.
“Hello, wolf,” I said. “Come to steal a pig?”
I’d seen this one a lot lately. He was big and black and, strangely, all alone. Last week one of Granny’s pigs went missing, and I suspected it was this wolf who’d taken it.
He stepped closer, his big paw on the edge of my path.
The wolf looked up at me with big green eyes. He whined a little, like a pitiful pup.
Come, he said. He wanted me to let him come onto my path.
“Do I look like a fool to you?” I said. “You have very big teeth. Too big for my path.”
The wolf whined a little more. I almost felt sorry for him.
“You’re a wily one, aren’t you?” I pulled out a chunk of salted pork and tossed it. The wolf caught the meat between his jaws and devoured it. “Well, what do you say?”
The wolf did not thank me. He never did, though I’d given him plenty of food in the past, offerings meant to keep him away from Granny’s pigs and chickens.
Red by Liesl Shurtliff / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes