Reflections on Little Red Cap Manuscripts

This was the first time I would be looking at original manuscripts for pretty much any published work. I was half expecting some Hollywood style scriblings of a genius or something….epic. What I found was a lot more human. I was half disappointed and half thankful. I was disappointed because I did not get that cool feeling of “oh I am looking at something awesome worth millions of dollars” but I was glad to see that Duffy is a normal human being. In my scrummaging around in the folders for manuscripts for Little Red Cap I found a nice old brown envelope with a phone number for DHL. It is these little things [just like references in poetry] that remind you that the person is a normal human being which makes the end product all the more remarkable. I did not find lists of words to swap around like others have. I found what I would expect poetry drafts to be. They were fully composed poems that would slightly augment from one version to another to ultimately result in the final product we read….and then…I opened Box 2, Folder 18. What I saw shocked me. I still wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath from the trauma. Duffy had a draft of Little Red-Cap in prose. She basically rewrote Little Red Riding Hood and renamed it Little Red-Cap. I do not know what the purpose of that might have been besides getting over initial writer’s block. Maybe perhaps she was just bored and decided to rewrite the story that led to her being inspired to write the poem. The only difference in the story was the ending. From what I remember I first heard the rendition of Little Red Riding Hood [spoiler alert] where the hunter comes and shoots the wolf and they unlock the trapped grandmother in the closet. Duffy’s version was a bit different. The hunter this time instead of shooting the wolf, takes aim and thinks that the wolf has swallowed the grandmother whole so decides to cut it open. This description of the ending specifically reminded me of “one chop, scrotum to throat.” I have a feeling that it was that specific instant that inspired her poem. I may be completely wrong since I do not know the chronology of these manuscripts. Furthermore there were other manuscripts where I only found one stanza – specifically the one with sexual implications. It seems that Duffy was intrigued by violence and sex [who isn’t?] and used Little Red Riding Hood as the backdrop for her explorations. To find out if this is true, call her.

2 Comments on “Reflections on Little Red Cap Manuscripts”

  1. Brittany Stoudemire says:

    After readeing you post I started to reflect more on the idea of Duffy being an ordinary human with no ‘magical” manuscripts. I also wondered if she thought that people would read her manuscripts and what would they think. If so, then maybe even her manuscripts are well thought out. She could have been selective to what she wanted the public to view so based off if her manuscripts I think it is ok to say that she displays some of the things that we are familiar with seeing as writers, but based off of her manuscripts alone I personally can’t conclude that she is a normal human being.

  2. Brian Croxall says:

    Brittany is right: authors can certainly choose what they let the public see when they sell their collections to libraries. We don’t have any way for sure of knowing to what degree Duffy edited her work for we the viewers.

    That said, she probably would have had less a sense of her being a poet likely to be collected in this way in 1992 than she would have in 1993.