Mixing Stories

I’ve been watching Into the Woods this afternoon, and it’s made me think about mixing stories.

For those of you who are unfamiliar,Into the Woodsis a musical that takes several fairy tales and blends them in interesting ways to make one united story.  Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the beanstalk, even Little Red Riding Hood are all mixed, with their characters intertwined by the princes (who are brothers), the witch, and two introduced characters, a baker and his wife.  The baker is really the key piece – Rapunzel is his sister, the witch who stole her is his neighbor, Red buys bread from him, and he and his wife have to collect four items from the other characters to break a curse.  (The items are Cinderella’s shoe, Jack’s cow, Red’s cape, and Rapunzel’s hair.)  The baker even ends up playing the role of the woodcutter for Little Red, saving her from the wolf, and he’s the one who gives Jack the magic beans.

And that’s just the first act!

It’s fun to take traditional stories and intertwine them.  When you start to think about fairy tales, it becomes even easier.  Many feature a prince – perhaps they are the same prince?  Maybe they are rivals, or brothers.  There are also lots of stepmothers, evil queens, and witches.  Can a witch from one tale marry a king and become another story’s evil queen?  There are so many possibilities!  I think I might want to play with this a bit more…

Veering from the Original

I love the recent Disney movie Tangled.  The plot is fun, the romance is well done, and it has the best Disney horse ever!  However, it doesn’t really stick to the original story of Rapunzel.  There’s no craving for vegetables and theft from the neighboring witch, there’s no loss of eyesight, and the main guy is far from a prince.

Granted, most movies made using fairy tales have a lot of variation.  Even some of my favorite novels are new twists on fairy tales.  (Beauty  by Robin McKinley is fabulous, and I really like Mercedes Lackey’s approach in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series.)  I guess that’s the reality of fairy tales.  They were handed down orally before they were ever recorded, and generations of tellings have created a whole slew of changes, tweaks, and unique interpretations.

Movies based directly on novels irritate me because they make changes, but for some reason movies that are derived from fairy tales are somehow not just acceptable, they’re fun!