In Paul Delarue's recounting of these versions, the girl meets the wolf or, in this case, a "bzou" (werewolf) in the woods, who asks her:
"What road are you taking, the Needles Road or the Pins Road?""The Needles Road," said the little girl."Well I shall take the Pins Road."The little girl enjoyed herself picking up needles. Meanwhile the bzou (werewolf) arrived at her Grandmother's....
Fig 1 (above) Pin detail of 'The Path of Needles or Pins' by Hazel Terry
"There are some variations in the names of the roads.... These absurd roads, which have surprised adults and provoked scholars, delight children, who find their existence in fairyland quite natural." Paul Delarue
The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Jack Zipes says:
"The wolf asks her if she is taking the path of pins or needles. She indicates that she is on her way to becoming a seamstress by taking the path of needles."
In Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked, Catherine Orenstein says:
"She must chose a path of pins or needles -- the tools and symbols that appear in female initiation rites around the world, and particularly in France, where sending a young girl to apprentice with the seamstress for a year or so was, according to one scholar, a bit like sending her to finishing school, and carried a sense of sexual maturation."It is said to be a mark of maturity and responsibility to take the path of needles. Pins were used by children as a quick unskilled 'makegood' rather than taking the time to properly repair clothing by sewing. So the choice of paths is the choice between childhood innocence and maturity.
Fig 1 (above) 'The Path of Needles or Pins' by Hazel Terry
Fig 1,2 Details of The Path of Needles or Pins, Hazel Terry
Fig 3 The Path of Needles or Pins, Hazel Terry
Orenstein C, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, Basic Books, New York, 2002.
Zipes J, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005.