“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein
Stories, perhaps especially the more elaborate and potent examples of fantasy and fairytale, can do more than entertain: they can reveal how others, and ourselves, manage being human. And how we can do better at it.
The movie “Into the Woods” intertwines several classic fairy tales, with a screenplay by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, based on their musical which debuted in 1986.
Narrator in the movie: “And it came to pass, all that seemed wrong was now right, the kingdoms were filled with joy, and those who deserved to were certain to live a long and happy life.”
Of course, many stories offer that kind of comforting assurance, but the more enduring ones provide much more depth.
James Lapine notes he had dedicated the libretto to his baby daughter. He recalls in an article about creating the movie on his earlier work on the musical:
“I was chatting with a friend as her young daughter was having dinner. Actually, more like playing with her dinner, most of which was going everywhere but in her mouth. I casually asked my pal if teaching her kid table manners was going to be important for her.
“She looked at me: ‘James, I just hope I can teach this kid the difference between right and wrong.’ That resonated with me when I wrote our show and comes back to me now. How well have I taught my child and what world have I — have all of us — left behind for our children?”
From Back ‘Into the Woods’ for librettist James Lapine, with new feeling, by James Lapine.
[Photo from article: Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood in the movie adaptation.]
One of the main stories is Cinderella. Anna Kendrick portrays her so well in the movie, both singing and acting. She comments that her character represents inner and outer challenges many women face.
“She’s thinking about escaping a home of abuse and neglect and trying to find validation and love literally for the first time in her life. What’s extraordinary is she’s brave enough to say, ‘I deserve better.’ She comes from the worst situation, and we as women have seen — publicly and in our own lives — other women who stay in bad relationships because they think it’s the best they can do.”
[10 Perfect Anna Kendrick Quotes To Live By – by Vanessa Golembewski.]
Book: Into the Woods (movie tie-in edition) by Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine.
Historian, critic, novelist and short story writer Marina Warner (a Fellow at Oxford, among other credits) comments about how meaningful these forms of story can be:
“Impossible – absurd – enchantments define fairytale as a form of storytelling, but the magic also gives expression to thought-experiments: the wicked fairy turning out to be capable of love, the Frozen princess thawed into humanity by her heroic sister’s staunchness and love. Fairytale is a country of the mind made by imagery…”
– From her article: How fairytales grew up.
One of her books: Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale.