The just desserts for a woman who takes a Baker for bread and a Prince for “whatever” (Into the woods, Lesson 2)

Baker and his wife

In today’s lesson, we will consider the scene from Into the Woods in which the Baker and his wife are looking for Jack while a Giantess rampages through the land. The Baker’s Wife decides that they will go in separate directions for five hundred paces; the Baker thinks it’s dangerous to separate, but she insists and he follows her lead, as he does on multiple occasions in the film.

As she is walking at some distance from her husband, she is come upon by the Prince on horseback, who proceeds to seduce her.

prince on horseback

We will examine the seduction in detail in another post, but for today, let us consider only the Baker’s Wife’s response and the consequences of her actions.

At first she resists him, but eventually she gives in and they engage in passionate kissing.

prince and the baker's wife

When they have finished their romantic encounter, the Prince declares that he must leave, telling her in a sultry voice,

I shall not forget you, how brave you are to be alone in the woods, how alive you’ve made me feel.

He then gallops off, leaving the stunned Baker’s Wife looking longingly after him. She then sings to the audience the following lyrics, which I’ve interspersed with some of my commentary:

BAKER’S WIFE:
What was that?

Was that me?
Was that him?
Did a Prince really kiss me?
And kiss me?
And kiss me?
And did I kiss him back?

Here we have admission by the Baker’s Wife of her direct participation in the encounter. There is no sin in being tempted by sexual attraction to another man, nor did she sin when the Prince stole the first kiss. But when she kissed him back, she made the choice to give in to temptation instead of walking away from it.

Was it wrong?

Yes.

Am I mad?

No, you are not mad. You are an adulteress.

Is that all?

Yes.

Does he miss me?

No. He got what he wanted and now all he wants is to get away from you and on to the next conquest.

Was he suddenly
Getting bored with me?

Yes. You were fooling yourself if you thought you would keep his interest by giving up that kiss.

Notice how emotionally attached she has become in just a few moments of physical intimacy, wondering what he’s thinking about now, if he might be missing her. But of course he isn’t missing her, as he symbolizes the Wolf’s counterpart. The Wolf is the alpha bad boy; the Prince is the alpha high-status male. She continues by giving herself some very good advice which she does not want to follow:

Wake up! Stop dreaming.
Stop prancing about the woods.
It’s not besseming.
What is it about the woods?

Back to life, back to sense,
Back to child, back to husband,
You can’t live in the woods.
There are vows, there are ties,
There are needs, there are standards,
There are shouldn’ts and shoulds.

Why not both instead?
There’s the answer, if you’re clever:
have a child for warmth,
And a Baker for bread,
And a Prince for…whatever
Never!
It’s these woods.

It is clear from this part of the song that she knows right from wrong and that she has knowingly violated her wedding vows of fidelity. The last stanza shows a temptation to engage in the mercenary spirit that women are capable of: she wishes aloud that she were clever enough to figure out how to have the Baker to give her a child and support her but the Prince for romance and sex; if you are listening to the music, you will notice the lecherous way in which she sings the word whatever.

Face the facts, find the boy,
Join the group, stop the Giant-
Just get out of these woods.
Was that him? Yes it was.
Was that me? No it wasn’t,
Just a trick of the woods.

Just a moment,
One peculiar passing moment…
Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always “or”?
Is it never “and”?
That’s what woods are for:
For those moments in the woods…

Oh, if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments,
Then you’d never know you had one.

First a Witch, then a child,
Then a Prince, then a moment-
Who can live in the woods?
And to get what you wish,
Only just for a moment-
These are dangerous woods…

Let the moment go…
Don’t forget it for a moment, though.

Returning to the Baker while telling herself always to remember her illicit encounter is basically telling herself to continue to commit adultery with the Prince in her heart.

Just remembering you’ve had an “and”,
When you’re back to “or”,
Makes the “or” mean more
Than it did before.
Now I understand-

And it’s time to leave the woods.

At the end of the song, the fog of lust clears from her face, she gives herself a shake, and she begins to move about purposefully, seeking the path back to her husband the Baker. She realizes now that he is real life and the Prince is not; her husband and child mean much more to her now that she has nearly thrown them away for nothing.

But alas, it is too late; she cannot find the path back to them.

Little Red Riding Hood was saved from the consequences of her straying and only ended up with a scary story to tell because she was still a child. We expect children to make mistakes and to need to be drawn back onto the narrow path. But once we are adults, we are responsible for our actions, and the Baker’s Wife ultimately pays for her sins despite realizing that she was being foolish and despite her decision to return to her husband.

Once she strayed off the path, she could not find her way back and there was no man there to save her. She had sent her husband away and gone off on her own and the Prince with whom she had had her dalliance had left her with a flourish, never to be seen again. She ought to have known better.  As she frantically searches for the path back to her husband and child, the earth beneath her feet begins to shake…it is the approaching Giantess.

bakerswifeemily-blunt

The trees begin to fall as the Giantess lowers her foot toward the Baker’s Wife…and thus she meets her demise, crushed to death.

The moral of the story: a woman who has a child for warmth, a baker for bread, and a prince for “whatever” is a mercenary. She is a danger to the stability of family, kith, kin, and community. Do not be this woman if you want to have a stable, happy life. Learn from the Baker’s Wife’s fate: choose a good man who desires to husband a wife rather than being a passive wife-follower and then stick with that man loyally and faithfully, through thick and thin, and do not stray even for a moment.

Further reading:

Lessons from “Into the Woods” – an introduction

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

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32 thoughts on “The just desserts for a woman who takes a Baker for bread and a Prince for “whatever” (Into the woods, Lesson 2)

  1. The Baker’s Wife decides that they will go in separate directions for five hundred paces; the Baker thinks it’s dangerous to separate, but she insists

    Made no sense it did.
    Safety in numbers there are.
    QuiGon and Obj Wan never separated they were.
    Until they were
    And QuiGon died he did.

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  2. he Prince with whom she had had her dalliance had left her with a flourish, never to be seen again

    Admit he did,

    “Raised to be charming I was.
    Sincere I am not”

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  3. There’s the answer, if you’re clever:
    have a child for warmth,
    And a Baker for bread,
    And a Prince for…whatever-

    Chicks in theater laughed heartily they did.
    Laughed I did not.

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    • Well, it was a sold out show when I saw it, with a lot of kids in the audience. The kids didn’t get the joke, but all the adults (male and female so far as I could tell) laughed at the bawdy way the Baker’s Wife sang, “A prince for…whatever.” I think it was the bawdiness that made people laugh. I don’t know that it was a laugh of approval.

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  4. There’s the answer, if you’re clever:
    have a child for warmth,
    And a Baker for bread,
    And a Princess for…whatever-

    Is that good advice for dad also?
    The chicks in the theater will laugh as heartily for this, will they?

    Who is nurturing and cherishing child while mom and dad are off with their Prince and Princess? Does the answer even matter to mom and dad? How, then, shall we live our lives? As a society, do we really want to adopt solutions that disregard the welfare of the child? Oh, wait …

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  5. A serious question for readers – do you think perhaps I’m abnormally in favor of stability? Because I do not understand the Baker’s Wife’s motivations here very well. Even reading novels in which the female heroine leaves her stable marriage and runs off with the dashing bad boy always left me baffled as a young woman. I’d be like, “Wait, you had a decent home and family and you threw it away for the hope of a flighty lover?” The most horrifying novel I think I’ve ever read is Madame Bovary.

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    • No, I don’t think you’re abnormally in favor of stability. Or, at least, if you are, I can understand it. But I think there is a difference between someone who married for love and created stability and someone who married for stability without love. In the second case, it’s possible that love could result, but its also possible that straying could result.

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  6. It is starting to get weird out there in the world. While the women in the audience voice their assent to the Baker’s wife exercising options, should the Baker ateept the same, they would voice their objection.
    Parallel to all this, frrom different sources, I have been hearing that modern women have the equivilent of a harem. While one may be used for sex, the others perform various supportive functiond in celibacy.I am not sure what to make of this other than I don’t want to participate.

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  7. I don’t think you’re going too crazy on stability. While it may make for an interesting story, in the real world, I don’t think it ends well. If there are kids involved, it’ll turn tragic.

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  8. A serious question for readers – do you think perhaps I’m abnormally in favor of stability?

    Stability good for families it is.
    Yoda would not be Yoda with it not.

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  9. In an effort to develop an answer to Mrs. Thiry’s question, please permit me this question: re. all those “Baker’s Wives” who risk what they have for the thrill of being utilized by the Prince (or alpha) – I wonder if the thrill would be the same if no one would ever know what Baker’s Wife did? In other words, is part of the thrill of doing it the getting of rights to brag about the experience to other women? And if it was made clear that those bragging rights would not be available (no one would ever know it happened), would Baker’s Wife still be so attracted to the Prince (or alpha)? Would she still be so willing to risk what she has?

    Which is to say: Mrs. Thiry’s question is bumping up against the issue of personality or ego state development. Seeking stability / reveling in stability implies a certain type of personality / ego type that is different from the one which requires or thrives on the affirmation that is given when one engages in risky behavior. In other words, does the following verse appeal to the personality type that values stability? And would the following verse appeal as much to the personality type which seeks risky behavior, if the risky behavior could not be shared with anybody?

    Just remembering you’ve had an “and”,
    When you’re back to “or”,
    Makes the “or” mean more
    Than it did before.

    I have debated in my mind for some time whether to engage Mrs. Thiry in a conversation about Loevinger’s ego states. I still haven’t decided whether I actually want to do that, but Loevenger’s work seems to have something to say to the conversation Mrs. Thiry is currently having about the movie “Into the Woods”. I will just leave these links for anyone interested in an introduction to the subject. I’m not trying to sidetrack Mrs. Thiry’s thread into a discussion of Loevinger here.

    http://personalitycafe.com/general-psychology/7451-loevingers-9-stages-ego-development.html
    http://academic.udayton.edu/jackbauer/Readings%20595/Loevinger.pdf
    Stage descriptions start at bottom right of Page 2 of the PDF file
    http://ic.ucsc.edu/~vktonay/psyc169/EgoDevelopment.pdf
    Intro to paper concludes that Loevinger’s work is sound
    https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=loevinger%27s+stages+of+ego+development

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  10. When Mozart was writing the opera Don Giovanni, the librettist Da Ponte went and interviewed Casanova, to get some seduction insights.

    “How do you do it?” Da Ponte asked. “How do you get all these chaste, virtuous peasant girls into bed with you, when they will face such terrible consequences?”

    “Easy,” said Casanova. “I tell them they look like princesses and they deserve a much better life.”

    That conversation turned into the duet La Ci Darem La Mano, where the moment of seduction comes after Don Giovanni says: “I will change your fate”.

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    • I have begun two other posts in this series, one on the Baker and one on Cinderella’s Prince.

      Now that Christmas vacation is over and it’s back to work, blogging time will be limited unfortunately, but when I get through those two posts, I’ll ponder Cinderella. I have some further thoughts on her situation beyond just, “She was a flake.”

      In all cases, my posts are meant to teach young women more so than men. There are lessons young men could learn here as well, but I’m not really equipped to teach them.

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  11. My 5 girls all went to see the movie without their father and I. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have had the older girls reading your “Lessons” series to see if their thought coincide with yours. They think your posts area fairly accurate representation of the movies.

    Guess I’ll have to go see it.

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    • The fact that Jezebel says that Disney “destroyed” Into the Woods is a good indication that there is some valuable content in it. 🙂

      http://jezebel.com/disney-is-officially-destroying-into-the-woods-1592764491

      I never saw the original Sondheim musical, but it sounds like it was more affirming of sin and the fudging of moral boundaries. It is interesting that he feels that Disney “censored” his material, but then again in terms of morality he seems to fit the stereotype of the East Coast/New York City Jewish left-winger to a T.

      This means that it was actually Disney that made this into a fairly good fairy tale with moral lessons in it. I’d be fascinated to learn how that came about. Who wrote the Disney screen play, I wonder?

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      • I will go and see the movie if it comes here, but that Jezebel piece is ominous. The stage production is hardly pushing a feel-good message – it’s about consequences and how consequences can sometimes be very grim, even if you repent bitterly and try and undo things. But also how some things, like growing up and ageing, are inevitable.

        Disney is in the business of sanitising fairy tales. I haven’t seen Frozen, but the snippets I’ve seen suggest that in no way does it have the darkness and power of the Hans Christian Andersen story.

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      • Disney is definitely in the business of “sanitizing” fairy tales, which I don’t really have a problem with. Fairy tales are always changing over time. But I’m hardly a Disney fan – the Disney channel is one big reason why we do not have TV in this house. So I was surprised that Into the Woods was sanitized into being a pretty decent film.

        I agree that the original Into the Woods deals with consequences, but rather than framing good and bad consequences as the result of good and bad choices, Sondheim turns it into morally-relativistic slop. Consider the lyrics to No One is Alone. You get to make your own special morality!

        Cinderella: (to LITTLE RED RIDINGHOOD) MOTHER ISN’T HERE NOW

        Baker: (to JACK) WRONG THINGS, RIGHT THINGS…

        Cinderella: WHO KNOWS WHAT SHE’D SAY?

        Baker: WHO CAN SAY WHAT’S TRUE?

        Cinderella: NOTHING’S QUITE SO CLEAR NOW…

        Baker: DO THINGS, FIGHT THINGS…

        Cinderella: FEEL YOU’VE LOST YOUR WAY?

        Baker: YOU DECIDE, BUT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

        Cinderella: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
        BELIEVE ME.
        NO ONE IS ALONE.

        Baker: NO ONE IS ALONE,
        BELIEVE ME.

        Cinderella: TRULY…

        Cinderella, Baker: YOU MOVE JUST A FINGER,
        SAY THE SLIGHTEST WORD
        SOMETHING’S BOUND TO LINGER,
        BE HEARD.

        Baker: NO ONE IS ALONE.
        CAREFUL, NO ONE IS ALONE.

        Cinderella, Baker: PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES.

        Baker: FATHERS.

        Cinderella: MOTHERS.

        Cinderella, Baker: PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES,
        HOLDING TO THEIR OWN,
        THINKING THEY’RE ALONE.

        Cinderella: HONOR THEIR MISTAKES…

        Baker: FIGHT FOR THEIR MISTAKES…

        Cinderella, Baker: ONE ANOTHER’S TERRIBLE MISTAKES
        WITCHES CAN BE RIGHT.
        GIANTS CAN BE GOOD.
        YOU DECIDE WHAT’S RIGHT
        YOU DECIDE WHAT’S GOOD.

        Cinderella: JUST REMEMBER:

        Baker: JUST REMEMBER:

        Cinderella, Baker: SOMEONE IS ON YOUR SIDE

        Jack, Little Red Ridinghood: OUR SIDE.

        Cinderella, Baker: OUR SIDE…SOMEONE ELSE IS NOT.
        WHILE WE’RE SEEING OUR SIDE…

        Jack, Little Red Ridinghood: OUR SIDE…

        Cinderella, Baker: OUR SIDE…

        Cinderella, Baker, Jack, Little Red Ridinghood: MAYBE WE FORGOT:
        THEY ARE NOT ALONE
        NO ONE IS ALONE

        Cinderella: HARD TO SEE THE LIGHT NOW

        Baker: JUST DON’T LET IT GO

        Cinderella, Baker: THINGS WILL TURN OUT RIGHT NOW.
        WE CAN MAKE IT SO.
        SOMEONE IS ON YOUR…

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  12. I think it’s Rollo Tomasi that keeps pointing out various aspects of female sexuality are coming out into the full light of day and it’s women exposing them. From my standpoint, it’s as if there is no more need for the good opinion of men. It’s devolved to “Take it of leave it.” Farm Boy’s observation of the reaction of women in the theater to the Baker’s wife entertaining the possiblility of cuckolding her husband hit me hard.
    In the near future, I see a lot more revelations along these lines. This will give the guys good reason to pause and consider.

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

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