Editor's note: In the Chinese version of the Red Riding Hood story, three children alone at home outsmart a hungry wolf disguised as their grandmother.
Once, long ago, there was a woman who lived alone in the country with her three children, Shang, Tao, and Paotze. On the day of their grandmother's birthday, the good mother set off to see her, leaving the three children at home.
Before she left, she said, "Be good while I am away, my heart-loving children; I will not return tonight. Remember to close the door at sunset and latch it well."
But an old wolf lived nearby and saw the good mother leave. At dusk, disguised as an old woman, he came up to the house of the children and knocked on the door twice: bang, bang.
Shang, who was the eldest, said through the latched door, "Who is it?"
"My little jewels," said the wolf, "this is your grandmother, your Po Po."
"Po Po!" Shang said. "Our mother has gone to visit you!"
The wolf acted surprised. "To visit me? I have not met her along the way. She must have taken a different route." "Po Po!" Shang said. "How is it that you come so late?" The wolf answered, "The journey is long, my children, and the day is short."
Shang listened through the door. "Po Po," she said, "why is your voice so low?" "Your grandmother has caught a cold, good children, and it is dark and windy out here. Quickly open up, and let your Po Po come in," the cunning wolf said.
Tao and Paotze could not wait. One unlatched the door and the other opened it. They shouted, "Po Po, Po Po, come in!"
At the moment he entered the door, the wolf blew out the candle.
"Po Po," Shang asked, "why did you blow out the candle? The room is now dark."
The wolf did not answer.
Tao and Paotze rushed to their Po Po and wished to be hugged. The old wolf held Tao. "Good child, you are so plump." He embraced Paotze. "Good child, you have grown to be so sweet."
Soon the old wolf pretended to be sleepy. He yawned. "All the chicks are in the coop," he said. "Po Po is sleepy too." When he climbed into the big bed, Paotze climbed in at one end with the wolf, and Shang and Tao climbed in at the other.
But when Shang stretched, she touched the wolf's tail. "Po Po, Po Po, your foot has a bush on it."
"Po Po has brought hemp strings to weave you a basket," the wolf said.
Shang touched grandmother's sharp claws. "Po Po, Po Po, your hand has thorns on it."
"Po Po has brought an awl to make shoes for you," the wolf said.
At once, Shang lit the light and the wolf blew it out again, but Shang had seen the wolf's hairy face.
"Po Po, Po Po," she said, for she was not only the eldest, she was the most clever, "you must be hungry. Have you eaten ginkgo nuts?"
"What is ginkgo?" the wolf asked.
"Ginkgo is soft and tender, like the skin of a baby. One taste and you will live forever," Shang said, "and the nuts grow on the top of the tree just outside the door."
The wolf gave a sigh. "Oh, dear. Po Po is old, her bones have become brittle. No longer can she climb trees."
"Good Po Po, we can pick some for you," Shang said.
The wolf was delighted.
Shang jumped out of bed and Tao and Paotze came with her to the ginkgo tree. There, Shang told her sisters about the wolf and all three climbed up the tall tree.
From Lon Po Po by Ed Young. Text and illustration copyright 1989 by Ed Young. Reprinted by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Pub Date: 12/09/98