The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to oral versions originating from various countries and more than likely preceding the 17th century. Several versions exist and some are significantly different from the currently better known version. For example La finta nonna (The False Grandmother), an early Italian version has the young girl using her own cunning to beat the wolf in the end. It has been noted that she does so with no help from any male or older female figure. The later added woodcutter would limit the girl to a relatively passive role. This has led to criticisms that the story was changed to keep women "in their place", needing the help of a physically superior man such as the woodcutter to save them.
In any case the earliest known printed version was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge and had its origins in 17th Century French folklore. It was included in the collection Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mere l'Oye - 1697) by Charles Perrault. As the title implies this version is both more sinister and containing a more overt moralistic message than the later ones. The story had as its subject an "attractive, well bred young lady", a village girl of the country being deceived into giving a wolf she encountered the information he needed to successfully find her grandmother's house and eat the old woman while at the same time avoiding being noticed by woodcutters working in the nearby forest. Then he proceeds in laying a trap for the Red Riding Hood. The later ends up eaten by the wolf and there the story ends. The wolf emerges the victor of the encounter and there is no happy ending.
Charles proceeded in explaining the 'moral' at the end so that no doubt is left to his intended meaning of the story : -
This widely known version is about a girl who travels through the woods to deliver food to her grandmother. The girl is approached by a wolf on the way, who eventually tricks her, and eats her and her grandmother. A woodcutter however comes to the rescue and cuts the wolf open. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerge unharmed. It is notably tamer than the older ones which contained darker themes. Modern scholars and audiences have often dismissed it as a mere watered down version of the older story.