Into the Words

Southeast LibraryStaff Picks

Into the Words

When stories and songs collide

Hollywood has finally produced a film version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's wonderful Into the Woods. Since it's Sondheim, and since it's Disney, and since these are fairy tales, here are some thoughts and attendant library resources to add to your appreciation of these stories and songs.

Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim's lyrics are famously intricate and dense, so it is worth revisiting them and getting some insight into them. In our collection of scores, you can find the libretto and music for Into the Woods and catch the delights of Sondheim's wordplay.

Even better, you can read his own account and analysis of his process in his Look, I Made a Hat. Not only does this book include lyrics to songs which were cut but songs from an earlier attempt at a film version by Jim Henson which might have starred Robin Williams, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Cher as the witch!

Into old stories

The story of Into the Woods is a blend of elements from a few iconic fairy tales, so it's useful to delve in to these old, enduring stories... where they come from and why they matter to us. Ironically, as Sondheim points out, most of the famous Walt Disney versions of the fairy tales are based on the French writer Charles Perreault who tended to give the tales happy endings (the "Disney Version"), but Into the Woods is based in the good old Brothers Grimm whose versions were, well, more grim.

The most recent verson of the Grimm versions is a telling by Phillip Pullman, a current author of gripping tales whose mind is on these fairy stories. We also have downloadable versions available on our website. 

Universal themes

One of the reasons that fairy tales are so enduring is that they touch on universal human themes and subjects. Likewise, the characters in Into the Woods each go on great adventures of personal growth and interpersonal conflict. If seeing the movie inspires you (or scares you) into some self-exploration, the library has books on many of the show's themes:
taking risks parent-child relationships money management
adultery fulfillment in your career puberty
self-defense grief and loss marriage
baby care animal care  

Sweet endings

Last, you may remember from both the fairy tale and the musical that part of the story hinges on Little Red Riding Hood getting a basket of bread and pastries to her granny. Perhaps they were unwittingly creating a metaphor for our current debate about the dangers of wheat and gluten.

Whatever your take on the issue is, we have a slew of wonderful baking books as well as books about reducing or removing wheat from your diet. 
    Into the Woods