“Though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.” (Into the Woods, Lesson 1)

As I mentioned in the introduction, I will be explaining several life lessons in a series of posts based on the musical film Into the Woods, which intertwines several well-known fairy tales.

In this lesson, we will examine the scene in which Little Red Riding Hood ventures into the woods on the way to her grandmother’s house. She is portrayed as a strong and independent girl with a saucy demeanor and a competent air about her.


As she strides down the path, she encounters Mr. Wolf, portrayed by Johnny Depp. He has a dark of air of danger and mystery about him.

Mr Wolf

Yes, Mr. Wolf quite definitely has an air of Mystery about him.

mystery method

He tries to engage her and at first she resists, but eventually he succeeds in distracting and charming her, and she gives in to the temptation to stray from the path her mother warned her not to leave.

lrrh and the wolf


The rest of the story follows the classic fairy tale, with the wolf proceeding to devour the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood before the baker cuts him open to free the trapped females.

Little Red Riding Hood then sings to the audience about the lessons she learned during this adventure, wherein we find our lesson for today.  I have copied in the lyrics to her song below.  The audio from the film is available in this YouTube clip, which you should listen to while you read the lyrics.

Mother said,
“Straight ahead,”
Not to delay
or be misled.

I should have heeded
Her advice…
But he seemed so nice.

And he showed me things
Many beautiful things,
That I hadn’t thought to explore.
They were off my path,
So I never had dared.
I had been so careful,
I never had cared.

And he made me feel excited-
Well, excited and scared.

When he said, “Come in!”
With that sickening grin,
How could I know what was in store?
Once his teeth were bared,
Though, I really got scared-
Well, excited and scared-

But he drew me close
And he swallowed me down,
Down a dark slimy path
Where lie secrets that I never want to know,
And when everything familiar
Seemed to disappear forever,
At the end of the path
Was Granny once again.

So we wait in the dark
Until someone sets us free,
And we’re brought into the light,
And we’re back at the start.

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:

Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.

And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.

Now I know:
Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not…

Mr. Wolf is clearly meant to symbolize a player, a man who seduces a woman, gets what he wants, and then disappears (and if you think I’m reading too much into it with that interpretation, have a look at the Wolf costume used in the original Broadway musical to confirm that this was the image Sondheim had in mind). Little Red Riding Hood correctly identifies him as a wolf at first sight, chirping, “Hello Mr. Wolf” as she strides past purposefully. It is only after he manages to detain and engage her that he is able to charm her with his attention and it is at this point that she refers to him as “nice”. Although she refers to the wolf as nice, in the film he doesn’t actually do anything that we would typically think of as a nice thing to do for someone. His behavior is lecherous and devious, which scares and excites her.

lecherous wolf

What I believe Little Red Riding Hood interprets as “nice” here is the same as what many other young women interpret as “nice” – he paid attention to her in a dominating and sexually suggestive manner. But as the classic fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood teaches, not everyone who pays attention to you is actually “nice”; they don’t necessarily wish you well or have honorable intentions.

The moral of the story: Young women, you cannot base your estimation of a man on whether or not he seems exciting and scary and pays attention to you, which you will interpret as him being “nice”.  Wolves are easy to spot if you have eyes to see and a “nice” man is not necessarily a good man. If a stable marriage and family formation are what you desire, seek a good man but keep right on walking should a wolf try to detain you, no matter how scary and exciting he may be or how nice his attentions feel.


6 thoughts on ““Though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.” (Into the Woods, Lesson 1)

  1. I don’t know what to think. I’m a bear, not a wolf. However, it does seem to me that Littl Red Riding Hood is in the driver’s seat here.


  2. Pingback: The just desserts for a woman who takes a baker for bread and a prince for “whatever” (Into the woods, Lesson 2) | The Sunshine Thiry Blog

  3. Pingback: Anatomy of an illicit seduction (Into the Woods, Lesson 3) | The Sunshine Thiry Blog

  4. What’s the moral of the story for men?

    All I can see is facts on wolves being wolves and it’s on the red riding hoods to avoid them. But why only they have to be so careful? Event with flowers 😑

    What messages are we giving? Let’s make sure that cubs don’t become wolves or careful little girls.

    “Careful the things you say, children will listen.
    Careful the things you do, children will see. And learn”

    Liked by 1 person

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