Path of Pins
“Path of Pins is a visual re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, revolving around adolescence and the ever-changing representation of female characters in folklore.
In one of the earliest spoken versions of the fairytale, which later inspired Charles Perrault to write his ‘Petit Chaperon Rouge’, the wolf asks the unnamed heroine: “Which path will you take?”, to which she responds by choosing the path of pins, the careless and fleeting one – as opposed to the path of needles, the irreversible way of the wolf.
This decision of the pins reflect two interesting aspects: On a personal level, by refusing to follow the prescribed path, the heroine decides to stay a child and favours the state innumerable possibilities. Exploring what lies beyond, she leads us deep into the forest.
On an abstract level, this metaphor of pins and needles relates to how fairy tales are being treated: Like a butterfly collector, Perrault kills the living, ever-evolving oral tale, to present it to the reader in a pose he artificially forced upon it: He coerces the heroine into the corset of his ideologies. Compared to the early variants of the narrative, where the heroine tricks the wolf, Perrault reduces her to a naive girl guilty of her own violation.
The fairy tale questions authorship: Every form of retelling or reenactment embeds former versions of it, repeats it, alters it, so it will never be original – no authorship can be claimed over it. The fairy tale gives birth to itself.
Therefore I work with my friends, my family, my own body. It is a dreamlike state, where logic does not apply anymore and time works differently. The preconscious mind draws connections, develops a narrative I wasn’t aware of and finds analogies between this universe and reality, stitching these worlds together.
The tale develops, slowly, growing with each iteration, like a living creature.”
“Fairy tales have a centuries-old history and can be found in all cultures. Although today often only a single version of a fairy-tale type is popular, there are actually usually hundreds of variations. Through the process of storytelling and re-telling, they continue to develop, consolidate and absorb cultural and political developments.”
“My practice builds on this aspect of retelling, using the fluid character of the fairy tale to develop new variations and narrative structures. In collaboration with my protagonists, a personal narrative is created. The story thus becomes a transitional object: An inner world is projected into the forest. Through this outward-everting, an experiential and shared space is made possible. Here the protagonist can meet and experience themselves and each other through the act of playing in the double sense of the word: as the childlike engagement in a game as well as the acting a part.”
The concept behind the Small House Gallery iteration of PATH OF PINS:
“The images are printed on textile, hanging on the wall and from the ceiling, adapting to the architecture of the dollhouse. They create a labyrinth-like forest of pictures.
“In a way, it becomes a transitional space itself: like a theatre stage, it creates the space for an illusion, happening both in the setting and in the mind of the actors and viewers. It is a portal between the inside and the outside world.”
Nadja Ellinger is a visual artist interested in the oral tale as a way to explore new narratives offside the path. She was born in 1993 in a small medieval village in the middle of Germany. Spending most time in the forest and books she fell in love with fairy tales, folklore and storytelling. After completing her bachelor’s degree in photography at the University of Applied Science in Munich, she studied for her MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London from 2018 to 2020.
Nadja’s work was exhibited and published in the UK, US, Italy, Germany, and France. She worked on commissions by clients such as Vogue USA and NR Magazine and held her first solo show with her project “But amermaidd has no tears” in Munich, Germany. In 2020 she was one of the finalists for Camera Work in Ravenna, Italy, and exhibited at Voies-Off in Arles, the Ginnel Foto Festival, and the ‘Other Identity’ Biennal in Genova, among others.
For more on Nadja Ellinger’s work, see her artist website and IG account:
An accessible ‘reading room’ of sorts, co-compiled by the artist and curator, around the retellings (and the pretellings?) of this ancient fairytale, its subject matters and psycho-symbolisms…
- Book: The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood – Jack Zipes – a study of 31 versions of Red Riding Hood from the 17th to 19th centuries as collected and analysed by the author/editor – apparently the 2nd edition is better than the first, with an additional 7 versions and more cultural/historical context.
- Book: Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman – (Dr) Clarissa Pinkola Estés; New York: Ballantine (1992)
- Aurelia: Art and Literature through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale – Carol Mavor; Reaktion (2016)
- Short story: The Company of Wolves – Angela Carter; in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (first published 1979 by Gollancz) (a free online version can be accessed here, without having to sign up for any memberships, in this embedded link here: https://www.napavalley.edu/ [shortened here for formatting purposes] [accessed 30/06/2021]
- Web article: Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” as Folktale Variation (Literary Analysis) at website https://owlcation.com/humanities/Angela-Carters-The-Company-of-Wolves-as-Folktale-Variation [accessed 30/06/2021]
- Film: The Company of Wolves (1984) – Dir: Neil Jordan; Screenplay: Angela Carter; Dur: 1h 35min; Rated: R, Prods: ITC/Palace Pictures – watch the official trailer on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARC93pDUGbQ
- Artwork: ‘Rapture’ (2001) by Kiki Smith (bronze sculpture of a nude fully-grown woman calmly stepping out from the belly of a wolf’s carcass (look it up on your search engine of choice)
- See also, artwork: ‘Born’ (2002) by the same artist, Kiki Smith, portrayed with the same matter-of-fact, wisely self-assured serenity on the face of the nude prone adult female figure in the super-surreal scenario…
- Web article: Little Red Riding Hood: The Path of Needles or the Path of Pins by Terri Windling at Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor site: https://www.terriwindling.com/folklore/red-riding-hood.html [accessed 30/06/2021] originally written for JoMA (Journal of Mythic Arts, 1997 to 2008) published as a blog by Endicott Studios
- MA Thesis with a good bibliography: From Cap to Cloak: The Evolution of “Little Red Riding Hood” from Oral Tale to Film – Tina-Louise Reid (Submitted to the graduate degree program in Film and Media Studies and the Graduate Faculty of the University of Kansas in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, April 2012) https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/10673/Reid_ku_0099M_12050_DATA_1.pdf [accessed 30/06/2021]
- Poem: The Path of Pins, The Path of Needles – KT Bryski, Pub: Lightspeed Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, Issue 115, Dec 2019 – read the poem at https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-path-of-pins-the-path-of-needles/ [accessed 30/06/2021]
- Poetry reading: Little Red Riding Hood/Companion, read by its author MK Chavez for The Academy of American Poets in 2018 for their Poem-a-Day initiative, uploaded to soundcloud. Here, the link is embedded on a page with the words of the poem itself. https://poets.org/poem/little-red-riding-hoodcompanion [accessed 30/06/2021]
Artworks List (selective)
Brüderchen, 2019 Hahnemühle Fine Art Photo Rag 110 x 165 cm
A nice bouquet of flowers, 2019 Economy Blend 90gsm 107 x 150 cm
Untitled, 2020 Soft Velvet 107 x 150 cm
Lure, 2019 Soft Velvet 120 x 180 cm
Creeper, 2019 Hahnemühle Fine Art Photo Rag 125 x 175 cm
Henkersmädel, 2019 Satin 125 x 175 cm
The Watcher, 2019 Hahnemühle Fine Art Photo Rag 125 x 175 cm
In my own hands, 2019 Economy Cotton 136gsm 125 x 175 cm
The root, 2019 Chiffon 60gsm 120 x 180 cm
Apostem, 2020 Satin 125 x 175 cm
Bene, 2019 Soft Velvet 125 x 175 cm