Out of the Woods and Onto the Stage

The classic telling of the traditional fairytale “Little Red Riding Hood” is one that has been examined cross-culturally prevalently throughout history. One of the not-so-traditional recounts of this classic fairytale is that of its incorporation into the musical stage adaptation of “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. As a theatre connoisseur, “Into the Woods” has been a central force in my understanding of musical theatre, as it is a very well known play that is highly esteemed.

“Into the Woods” is made up of several fairy tales based upon the Grimm bothers’ retellings and includes the stories of “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Cinderella”, “Rapunzel”, and of course, “Little Red Riding Hood”. Unlike the “Story of the Grandmother” mentioned in The Classic Fairytales, Little Red Riding Hood is not a “… more resourceful trickster than a naive young girl (18)”. For example, in “Into the Woods”, Little Red is coerced by the wolf into straying from the path to her grandmother’s house in order to pick flowers. Her naivety is so stressed in this musical, that the wolf sings of his plan to not only follow her but to later consume not only her but also her grandmother in the song, “Hello, Little Girl.” This song is sung by the character of the wolf while Little Red Riding hood is onstage. Additionally, there are lustful undertones to this particular score, highlighting the more racy tellings of this fairytale.

Like in the Grimm version, after Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are saved from the wolf, a moral is given in the song, “I Know Things Now” which Little Red Riding Hood herself sings. This moral is illustrated in the lyrics:

“And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.”

As can be seen from this single stanza,  many aspects of the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” are present in the musical “Into the Woods”.



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2 responses to “Out of the Woods and Onto the Stage

  1. I love that you talked about “Into the Woods” and the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” that is included in the show!

    I think it is interesting that “Into the Woods” really exaggerates how naïve Little Red is. The same thing happens in other music-versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” that I have seen. I believe it is even easier for the intended audience to see and understand what the moral of the story is if Little Red is made out to be even more vulnerable than the original stories might have portrayed her.

    I also find it interesting that even in this musical, the racy telling of the fairy tale is brought out. I did not realize this until we read the tale for class!

  2. vrosengrant20

    In addition to having the earlier aspects of the Little Red Riding Hood stories during the first act, the character in Into the Wood changes and evolves into someone similar to the more clever and defensive woman in the later versions. Around the middle of the musical, Little Red Riding Hood starts carrying around a knife and threatening others with it in order to protect herself. This is similar to the Thurber version of the character that is not easily fooled and takes her safety seriously, going so far as to kill in order to do so. The evolution and development of the character in the musical reflects the changes in the characters as she becomes “not so easy to fool”. (17)

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