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”.