“Into the Woods”

Since it looks like this may be a good time to write about something new, I thought I’d post this little observation just for fun.

I recently saw the movie “Into the Woods” and loved the concept of all sorts of characters from fairy tales being brought together because they must travel through the woods to reach their destinations or complete their missions. The woods have always had the connotation of being dark and scary and we can recall Hansel and Gretel getting lost in the woods, or “The Princess Bride” using the woods for all sorts of fearful objects to overcome. Certainly Little Red Riding Hood has always taken a path into the woods to find her grandmother’s house. In this film Cinderella also escapes by running into the woods, Jack (of beanstalk fame) takes the cow to market by walking through the woods, and Rapunzel lets down her hair while being held prisoner in a tree in the woods.

It occurred to me that, like other examples I used in my post of  June 16, 2014, titled “Doc Martin and the Mystery of the Folktale,” having Martin and Louisa enter the woods (and even mention there’s a difference between a forest and a wood) is another way the writers of the show undercut the concept of the fairytale. In these woods our couple encounter scary animals, an obstacle they must find a way around, and an old man who makes his home in the woods and from whom they seek help but who treats them as intruders instead. Aren’t these all the ingredients of a fairytale? But here, as before, the animal isn’t ominous or threatening-it’s a pony who is just as scared of them as they are of him; the brook they must cross is dealt with by Martin giving Louisa a piggy back ride (after first trying to put her over his shoulder) while they argue (amusingly) over the idea of going on a honeymoon; and the old man turns out to need their help and ends up in a wheelbarrow being (humorously) pushed by them to safety.

They have used all the tropes of Fairytales and turned them into comedic events.

Originally posted 2015-01-17 12:17:16.

3 thoughts on ““Into the Woods”

  1. Linda D.

    Thank you for your great observations of one of my favorite episodes! It prompted my to watch it again with fresh eyes. I see Martin as the “prince” and Louisa as his “princess bride”. The inhospitable man is the “troll under the bridge” who gets in the way of their crossing. Was the stream that martin had to carry Louisa across the same one which went under the bridge??? Hmm. The man was seen on the road as they passed with Bert in the fancy car. It appeared that neither they, nor Bert noticed him. He had a menacing look on his face which foretold of trouble ahead. We see this action in many fairy tales. The prince tries to be a hero and protect his defenceless princess. The dark, misty woods/forest, reveal many dangers and obstacles for the travelers. The house/caravan is much a haunted, foreboding house where help is sought but not given. Of course, Martin saves the day and the story has somewhat of a happy ending. So yes, you are very right about this episode having most, if not all the tropes of a traditional fairy tale! Well done!

    Did the writers have a fairy tale in mind when they wrote this episode? Perhaps. What was different was the humour that permeated this whole episode! Most fairy tales are very dark and serious. I think we laughed more during In Sickness and Health than in any episode we had ever watched! Both Louisa and Martin were hysterically funny. This episode was so full of humour and innuendo that we were all taken a back when the next episodes began to become very dark and sad!

    On Portwenn On Line, In Sickness and Health finished 5th out of 46 episodes – behind Ever After, The Holly Bears A Prickle, Haemophobia, and The Wrong Goodbye in the episode survey. All of these top finishers contained POWERFUL and ROMANTIC interactions between Martin and Louisa. Ever After, of course was written as kind of fairy tale. I also note that The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree was written in similar fashion. It finished12th over all. It was the “coming of age” episode for their romance to heat up, in my view. Perhaps the fairy tale format has great appeal, at least to those who faithfully voted for their favorite episodes on Portwenn On-Line! Interestingly, the top episodes were not all in the last series which would indicate that voters were really thoughtful about their choices!

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You probably know that this episode is one I, too, found extremely funny. I went through the episode in detail in my post “S6E1 and its funny scenes” (Nov. 16, 2013). Noting the references to Fairytales only adds to its comedic value, in my opinion.

    I saw the results of the survey on Portwennonline and definitely agree that those episodes that ranked highest are the ones with the greatest romance between Martin and Louisa. If there is anyone associated with the show who keeps tabs on that blog, they will also notice that. We all like the humor and appreciate the writing; we all struggled with the deterioration in S6; and we all are romantics at heart. I’m guessing that will have some influence over S7.

    BTW, I am working on another post and will be ready to publish it pretty soon.

  3. Amy Cohen

    I also adore this episode, and I love how you describe how the fairy tale trope fits right over it. I hadn’t thought of it through that perspective. It certainly adds an enriching layer to it.

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