Literature The Folklore Issue

Poem: Black Riding Hood

This poem gives the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood a colloquial, contemporary twist. There is a nursery rhyme that is common in the Gulf region about a crying girl named Salwa that was hit by her mother. In this poem, it is swapped with Laila, the Arab name for Little Red Riding Hood.

By Amna Alharmoodi

The song goes: Laila ya Laila

Why are you crying? 

This time her mother didn’t hit her,

She opened her mouth and began her horror tale:

Once upon a time 

and time and time again 

Laila went out of the house 

To the outside world filled with men

Her mother warned her to stay inside 

That leaving was dangerous 

She warned her of men in the shadows 

Hungry eyes, loud voices, dark skin

They hunt girls like you for a living

So Laila, oh Laila, please stay hidden 

She needed to go to deliver a present 

Laila left the house and didn’t listen 

They are monsters Laila, not like us

They don’t fear Allah these Indians*

They don’t fear Allah these Indians

They don’t fear Allah these Indians

In the store was the assistant 

He sold her the basket of goodies 

And said, “please shop with us again!”

She left the store with a smile 

But that is not where the night ends

In her car, Laila thought she was safe 

Parked next to a street lamp that was broken 

The parking lot was empty

Only a few steps until she releases a tornado of breaths

They came out of the shadows 

A smile, a hello, “can we be your friends?”

She looked down and ignored them 

But men have egos, and they liked to win

The voices increased to four, no five, six 

She reached her door, but she was cornered in 

Laila turned around to face the wolves 

Their faces weren’t dark like her mother said

Each had a different skin tone, eyes and noses

She put on a brave face and lifted her chin

They laughed in her face and used their hands 

To rip away her black shaila that did not offer protection 

So, Laila ya Laila, why are you crying? 

It’s because this will happen time and time again

Turns out Mama was wrong 

Monsters aren’t necessarily dark-skinned Indians 

They had Arab noses, red hair and blue eyes

We feared a skin color, when it can be anyone 

Once upon a time, today and tomorrow 

Little girls and women in hoods must beware of all men

      all men



*Unfortunately, in the Gulf, “Indians” is an ignorant label used to refer to all South Asians or brown individuals.

Amna Alharmoodi is an Emirati writer passionate about writing the hidden Emirati stories. She won second place in Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) Annual Creativity Award in 2019 for her short story “Transit”, which she co-wrote. She has been published in the NYU Abu Dhabi literary magazine, Airport Road, the NYU literary journal, Brio and the Paris-based literary magazine Postscript. 

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