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What Was Happening at The Time ‘Into the Woods’ Was Set: Analysis of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood

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What Was Happening at The Time ‘Into the Woods’ Was Set?


The first written European version of the fairy tale Cinderella was by Giambattista Basile in 1634 called ‘Cenerentola’. This name comes from the Italian word ‘Cenere’ which means cinder or ash. This is a reflection on the modern-day fairy tale that most people associate ‘Cinderella’ with as her evil Stepmother and Stepsisters treat her as a servant. Therefore, the words cinder and ash usually were covered in ash due to cleaning. The story is based the Prince’s daughter called Zezolla and she helps the Governess marry the Prince but the Governess has six daughters who mistreat Zezolla as they force her into becoming a servant in her own home. There is a fairy who gives a golden spade, a golden bucket, a silken napkin and a date seedling to the Prince when he visits the Island of Sinia so he can give them as gifts to Zezolla. Zezolla appears at the King’s ball and the King pursues her however she flees the ball before he realises who she actually is. She continues to escape the ball for another day but on the third day the King’s servants finds on of her slippers so they use this to track down Zezolla. The King requests that all maidens in the land try on this slipper so he can marry his true bride. Zezolla tries on the slipper and it fits so the King marries her.

The second version of the Cinderella fairy tale is called ‘Cendrillion ou la petite pantoufle de verre’ which was wrote by Charles Perrualt in 1697. This is one of the most popular and well-known adaptations of this fairy tale due to the new additions of a Fairy Godmother, a glass slipper and a pumpkin. The story follows an attractive young female who is kind and caring and is the daughter of a rich widower. The widower has two daughters just as spiteful and vain as she is. The young girl is bullied into becoming a servant for the family and the two evil stepsisters gives her the nasty nickname of ‘Cendrillion’. The Stepmother and Stepsisters refuse the young maiden from attending the Royal ball that the Prince is hosting. However, the Fairy Godmother converts her rags that she is wearing into a ball gown, the pumpkin into a carriage, a rat into a coachman, lizards into footmen and she also gives her glass slippers to wear. The Prince falls in love with Cinderella but she flees the ball when the clock strikes midnight. She attends the second ball with the help of her Fairy Godmother but she forgot that she had to flee the ball at midnight and ends up dropping one of her slippers when she runs away. The Prince finds this slipper and requests that all maidens in the land try on this slipper so he can marry his true bride. The evil Stepsisters try and the slipper but it does not fit however when Cinderella tries on the slipper fits. The Stepmother and Stepsister ask for forgiveness from Cinderella and she forgives them as she had always wishes that her stepfamily would one day accept her.

This version was moralised as it portrays the message of that ‘Beauty is a treasure, but graciousness is priceless. Without it, nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything’ - Another moral of the story juxtaposes the first moral since it explains that nothing can be achieved if one does not have a Godmother or Godfather by their side to help them out.

The third adaptation of the fairy tale called ‘Aschenputtel’ was wrote by Brothers Grimm in 1819 which is another well known version of the fairy tale. This story is the most violent version that there is due to horrifying events that happen during the story. This version differs from the second version as there is not a Fairy Godmother in the plot but there is a ‘Wishing Tree’ that represents Cinderella’s Mothers grave. Other differences are that the father did not die and the evil Stepsisters cut their feet off to fit in the slipper. The story follows a man who gets re married to an evil woman who becomes his daughters evil Stepmother who also has two daughters of her own who then becomes his daughters evil Stepsisters. The evil Stepmother and Stepsisters gives the daughter the mocking nickname of ‘Aschenputtel’ and bullies her into becoming a servant for the family. The father gives the daughter a gift of a twig and she plants it over her Mother’s grave. The twig blooms into a hazel tree and she prays under it three times a day along with a bird who grants her wishes. The Stepmother and Stepsisters rejects the daughter from attending the King’s festival so she visits her Mother’s grave and the bird gives her a beautiful ball gown to wear. She attends the King’s festival and the Prince falls in love with her. Aschenputtel looses one of her golden slippers in the goo that the Prince spread on the stairs to prevent the love of his life from running away from him like she has done previously. The Prince finds the slipper and requests that all maidens in the land try it on so he can marry his true bride. The stepsisters cut bits of their foot off to try and get the slipper to fit and when Aschenputtel tried on the slipper it fit perfectly. The Stepmother and Stepsisters plotted revenge on her but the Prince escorted her away before they could hurt her. Aschenputtel calls doves to bash the Stepsisters eyes twice when they turn up at the wedding of her and the Prince which leads them to becoming eternally blind.

The moral of the Brothers Grimm adaptation of Cinderella is that ‘One should never lie or be wicked to others’ - This is shown when karma comes back around as bad people always have to face consequences in the end. This is proven when the Stepsister bullied Aschenputtel but they did not get away with it since their consequences was the doves blinding their eyes. Therefore, they have to pay the consequences of bullying her for life since they will never be able to see again. Furthermore, they have to live with the guilt of being bad people for life as they will be reminded of it every day due to never being able to see again because of their bad behaviour.

Little Red Riding Hood

The first version of the story of Little Red Riding Hood was written by Charles Perrault in 1697 where the story follows a well-off little girl who is sent off to visit her Grandmother bearing gifts of cake and butter as her Mother did not have any servants to visit the Grandmother instead. Whilst on her journey to visit her Grandmother the little girl encounters a Wolf and they engage in a pleasant conversation as Little Red Riding Hood was unaware of the dangers of a Wolf since she has never been warmed about them. The Wolf tricks Little Riding Hood into removing her clothes and getting into bed with him. The Wolf then eats Little Red Riding Hood as he uses her naivety against her.

A translation of the moral of the story ‘Child, especially attractive well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say, ‘Wolf’ but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who purse you women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all’ - Andrew Lang.

Therefore, the moral of the story along with Little Red Riding Hood stripping her clothes and getting into bed with the Wolf is a story that portrays the risks of allurement and also a lesson to remind children to always listen to their parents as they know best.

Charles Marelles, a French Writer, wrote his own version of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale called ‘The True History of Little Golden Hood’ where the young girl lived and the evil Wolf died which created a happy ending since he disagreed with the unhappy ending that Charles Perrault portrayed in his version of the story.

Brothers Grimm liked the idea that there should be a happy ending for the story of Little Red Riding Hood which Charles Marelles created. In 1812 Brothers Grimm then created their own version of the Little Red Riding Hood story where a huntsman saves Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother as he hears a mysterious snore that he has never heard before. The huntsman kills the big bad Wolf by using his axe to cut brutally slaughter him. Brothers Grimm created a second ending to the story where the Grandmother tricks the Wolf into drowning himself however this ending is not very well known compared to the first ending that they created for this story. Brothers Grimm also created the moral of the story to be ‘Don’t talk to or trust strangers’ - Pediaa, comJack and the Beanstalk

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The first version of the fairy tale was published in 1711 called ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ and the story is about a man named Jack who is so smart that he can talk to and trick giants. He took money from the giants when he tricked them and the story portrays the battles that he faced with the giants. Magic beans, a beanstalk and giants in the sky are unmentioned in this story and this version portrays Jack as a fully grown adult who can outsmart giants due to him being very wise and clever.

The second version of the fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk was published by J. Roberts in 1734 called ‘The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean’. This version of the story makes fun of giants and the cities that emerge in the sky due to the story intending to be a violation on the existence of the supernatural which lies within literature. Jack Spriggins the slays the giants that live in the sky which leads his to becoming rich. This version portrays a more recognisable Jack and the beanstalk story and was released in a Christmas themed collection of stories printed in London in 1734. The story starts with Jack’s Grandmother informing him about the magic beans that will grant his greatest wishes in life but she announces that he is unfit for the bean at that point in time. Jack discovers the magic bean that was hidden the very next day but he plants it before his Grandmother could approve of it. The bean magically grows into a beanstalk over night and he climbs it to find the city that gave him the wealth and riches that his Grandmother promised he would find. In this adaptation the line ‘Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an English man’ which is a famous line associated with this specific fairy tale. Jack the slays the giant and they all live happily ever after. Jack then becomes the ruler of the word in this version of the fairy tale.

The third adaptation of this fairy tale was wrote in 1807 by Benjamin Talbart where he changed the story as he intended to have a moralised approach to the story. This is because he wanted to add a deeper meaning to the story to teach the readers a lesson on life. The story has been changed so that Jack is justified in all his actions. The moral is ‘To make the most out of life’s opportunities, such as Jack deciding to sell the cow in order to buy the magic beans’ - This version was rejected as people believed that Jack’s actions did not need to be justified as there was no need to add in a moral to the story. Therefore, this version was not as successful as the 1734 version called ‘The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean’. In this version of the story there is a fairy who explains to Jack that his punishment that the giant robbed and slaughter his Father as his punishment. Therefore, this portrays the moralised approach to the story.

The fourth adaptation of this fairy tale was re wrote by Joseph Jacobs in 1890 called ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. This adaptation is the most famous story and the most commonly printed today due to being a closer story to the original Jack and the Beanstalk story wrote by J. Roberts rather than the moralised version wrote by Benjamin Talbart. This is because he too believed that the story did not need moralization which is also the view that the public had on Benjamin Talbart’s adaptation to the story. This version of the story is the one that is commonly re told today due to the public being in favour of this version of the fairy tale. The differences between this adaptation and J. Roberts’s adaptation is that Jack does not become the ruler of the world in this version however he does in the 1734 version of the story. Also, in the 1734 version of the fairy tale Jack’s Grandmother plays a big part in the storyline however in the Joseph Jacobs version the Grandmother is replaced by the Mother. Therefore, the Grandmother is no longer a character in the Joseph Jacob’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk as this character has been taken over by the character of the Mother.


Rapunzel is believed to be based on the life of a real young woman named Barbara who lived in Italy but due to her alluring looks her evil Father locked her away in a tower so that men could not peruse her. She chose to devote herself to God even though lots of men asked to marry her. Barbara’s Father was displeased by her newfound Christian Faith and when she wished for help, a hole appeared in her tower which allowed her to escape. However, Rapunzel was beheaded by her Father when he found her but he then was struck by lightning. Barbara and Rapunzel are both independent women who refuse to listen to others which is a further link as well as being locked in a tower by their parent.

The first version of the Rapunzel story was wrote in the early 1600s by Giambattista Basile where a beautiful young woman called Rapunzel, who has long golden hair, was trapped in a tower. This is due to her Mother giving her away to an ogre as a punishment for stealing parsley from the ogre’s garden. Rapunzel is rescued from the tower by her prince at the end of the story.

Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force wrote another version of the Rapunzel story in the late 1600s based on her own life events. Charlotte-Rose was sent away and locked in a convent as King Louis XIV was suspicious as he thought she was sleeping with his son. She also had many affairs that she was shamed for and she got caught due to an actor leaving his nightcap in her bedroom which appalled the Royal Court. Whilst Charlotte-Rose was in the convent she wrote her own version of the story of Rapunzel called ‘Persinette’ which linked to the events that were happening in her own life. For example, the evil fairy in her own story linked to Louis XIV who locked her away in the convent against her own will.

Brothers Grimns took inspiration from these different versions of the story of Rapunzel and is an adaptation of Rapunzel by Friedrich Schulz which was published in 1790. Brothers Grimm created their own version of the fairy tale in 1812 where the Prince climbs up the tower that Rapunzel is locked in every day to see her. Then Rapunzel falls pregnant which leads to the evil fairy banishing her from returning to the tower and she also blinds the prince who impregnated Rapunzel. The pair reunite after many years of searching for one another and live happily ever after. Other versions of this fairy tale is Die Padde by Johanne Gustav Busching which was wrote in 1812 and Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelins ky which was wrote in 1998.

The moral of the Rapunzel story can be described as ‘When something is destined to happen then no one, by any of their powers, can stop that from happening. We should never give up on our hopes no matter how bad or hard the situation’ - Pediaa. Com


These different fairy tales conclude to our production of ‘Into the Woods Jr’ since each performer has researched the backstory to their own individual characters storyline. This has helped them to develop their character since they have deepened their knowledge about their fairy tale. This concludes to our production since the research that we have done allows us to understand how the fairy tales have changed overtime so this has made own knowledge grow about each fairy tale. This is because we now know how each story started and how it has evolved over time. This will help our production as we can develop our characters since we know the changes that have been made. Therefore, each actor can make performance decisions and actions based upon their knowledge of how the story has evolved. For example, each performer might decide to act more like the character from the latest version of their individual fairy tale since it is the most known story rather than the first version.

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What Was Happening at The Time ‘Into the Woods’ Was Set: Analysis of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“What Was Happening at The Time ‘Into the Woods’ Was Set: Analysis of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
What Was Happening at The Time ‘Into the Woods’ Was Set: Analysis of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 Dec. 2023].
What Was Happening at The Time ‘Into the Woods’ Was Set: Analysis of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Dec 10]. Available from:
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