Fairy Tales 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Into the Woods

I must say, when it comes to Sondheim's musical, I'm a bit torn as to whether or not it counts as a fairy tale. My immediate reaction is that yes, it counts because of the instinctual "well why wouldn't it be if it includes all the fairy tale characters that I know?" but the more I analyze it, the more I realize that Sondheim had a bit of a different message. I don't think that Sondheim in any way wanted to mock or degrade fairy tales; instead, I think that he used famous fairy tales as a way to spark our imagination and to capture the intrigue of the audience. In successfully doing so, Sondheim is able to tweak the stories however he wants, even to the extremes that they really don't look like fairy tales anymore. The characters interact with the narrator; the songs and stories have violent breaks and pauses as the characters realize what's going on (almost as though from a third person perspective); the characters are modernized through sarcasm and speech. It's almost surprising that the audience doesn't get angry with Sondheim for so drastically changing what the audience has always believed to be a fairy tale. Even though I am typically one to get upset or at least surprised when tradition is broken, I too felll into Sondheim's lure. He was able to convince me through a balance of tradition and modernism that his characters are simply just modern day people encountering their own fairy tales (even through acknowledging the absurdities as absurd). No, I don't think that Sondheim would be able to convince an audience that the stories were true in reality, but he makes such an impressive argument for them that it seems hard to completely disregard the stories or characters. 


  1. I really liked the point you made about there being a balance of tradition and modernism. I also agree with you that he isn't mocking or degrading fairy tales. His poking fun and exaggeration of the fairy tales is light hearted and calls upon our common knowledge of these popular stories, like you said it captures the intrigue of the audience.

  2. I understand the dilemma here. The first thing I thought about after reading your post was the word charming. Sondheim's musical is charming. His allure does intrigue and makes it hard to contest any of the liberties he has taken with the fairy tale genre. Ironically, the first thing I think of when I hear charming is Prince Charming. So just as you have suggested it is hard not to view this as a fairy tale when all of the fairy tale characters are present even if they are having self reflective and modern moments.