“But Grandma, what big teeth you have!” Little Red Riding Hood’s line is as famous as the person she is addressing. The fairytale wolf undoubtedly has what we would refer to nowadays as “identity issues”. But don’t worry – the villain has changed his ways and he’s not nearly as bad as the Brothers Grimm made him out. The cunning wolf who once devoured both the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood is actually quite shy and avoids people whenever he can. If you want to meet him in Little Red Riding Hood’s home town, you’ll have to go to the wolf enclosure at Wildpark Knüll, where you can also see lynx and badgers. The heroine of this fairytale is easier to track down: Little Red Riding Hood country lies to the south of Kassel between Schwalm and the Knüll mountain range. It is a gently undulating landscape of meadows and forests, in which Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm once came across this gruesome yet lovely story and transformed it into the world-renowned fairytale. The main character’s name is thought to be derived from the headdress worn as part of the traditional Schwalm costume. The hood reflected family status and wealth, while the colour red was reserved for unmarried women.
The people of this region haven’t forgotten their old costume or its most famous wearer. It’s not just during Little Red Riding Hood Week, which takes place in different towns and villages within the region in August every year; you can also admire the elaborate costumes during parades, fairs and other village festivals. The costumes themselves take hours to prepare and require the assistance of other people. Little Red Riding Hood’s forest walk, the beautiful Snow White and Cinderella’s tears: The towns, villages and landscapes of North Hessen provide the ideal backdrop for a fantastical journey into a fairytale reality – and not just during festivals and public holidays. Gentle rolling hills, mighty castles, romantic palaces, dark forests and quaint timber-framed villages continue to inspire and enchant visitors just as they once inspired the Brothers Grimm. Whether you choose to drive down the German “Fairytale Road” (“Märchenstraße”), walk through the diverse nature on one of our hiking trails or cycle with your partner along one of our well-developed cycle routes, echoes of the wonderful fairytale world will await you at every turn.
Countless hidden gems tell tales of the myths and legends that were rescued from obscurity by the famous brothers, including the Sleeping Beauty castle of Sababurg, the Mother Hulda pond on the Hohen Meißner mountain in Werratal and the Reinhardswald with its old gnarled oaks taken straight from a magical forest. It’s no wonder the Grimms looked back at their research in this region as the best and most productive time of their lives. Some visitors have followed their path. The region has captivated and inspired its guests for centuries. It’s no coincidence that the younger Grimm brother, Ludwig Emil, founded the first ever European artists’ colony in the village of Willingshausen in 1824. The village continues to attract artists and art lovers in the 21st century. Village life may have changed since the days of the Grimm brothers, but the gently rolling landscape and the lighting on the River Schwalm continue to fascinate sculptors and artists to this day. And, with a little imagination, the next fairytale character is never far away.