Betrayed Monster: The Giant’s Wife from Into the Woods

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is from Allison, who you can find out more about on our contributors page or on her blog, Eclectic Alli.

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Into The Woods is a musical that I adore, have written about a few times before, and will be writing about more soon. The stage-production allows for far more depth of characters than the film did (in my opinion) so I am drawing largely on the stage productions for this examination of one of the “Monsters” that I really appreciate in the show.

The Giant’s Wife first appears as a passing mention within Jack’s story – she welcomes into her home, gives him food and rest.

Only just when you’ve made a friend and all, and you know she’s big, but you don’t feel small, someone bigger than her comes along the hall to swallow you for lunch.–Jack

The second act sees her return as the villain. She comes down from her home in the sky, searching for the boy who, after she had welcomed him into her home, thanked her by stealing from her and ultimately killing her husband.  She is trying to find Jack to “punish him for his wrongs,” noting that “justice shall be served, and I will leave your kingdom.”

The other characters can save their lives (and the lives of any number of other individuals) simply by handing Jack over to her (which, of course, most of them are unwilling to do).  While I certainly can’t agree with her methods or idea of justice it’s easy to understand those feelings.  Into The Woods explores human relations, values, and they psyche – and the choices that the Giant’s Wife makes fits into these themes.  She is focused on her path, sticking to the decision she has made.

Little Red Riding Hood:  I think my granny and my mother would be upset with me.

Cinderella: Why?

Little Red: They said to always make them proud.  And here I am about to kill somebody.

Cinderella: Not somebody. A giant who has been doing harm.

Little Red: But the giant’s a person. Aren’t we to show forgiveness?  Mother would be very unhappy with these circumstances.

We actually know very little about the Giant’s Wife – which is part of why it is easy to see her as a monster. Her shadow and the effects of her movement are the only things we see of her until she has been slain (which, yes, may be for the very practical reason of her being a GIANT and this being a stage production). She is largely defined by being 1) A Giant and 2) An individual who has done harm.

The other things we know about the Giant’s Wife?

*She is nearsighted and has lost her glasses

*She keeps house while her husband is out

*She apparently thinks nothing of letting a stranger into her home – perhaps indicating that she is a trusting individual at heart.

*She cared deeply for her husband (it’s possible that her rage filled search for Jack is a form of mourning)

We learn nothing of her hopes, her dreams, her goals.  In a story that starts and ends with the two words “I wish,” where we know the desires and wishes of pretty much every other character that passes on the stage, it seems a major overlook to not really be able to know what her desires and wishes are beyond vengeance.

Witches can be right, giants can be good.– The Baker

I honestly gave the Giant’s Wife very little thought for a long time – she was like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White – a side character that serves a plot-driving purpose but nothing more. The reality, though, is that she does embody something more in the story.

intothewoodsscriptA Giant’s the worst! A giant has a brain, hard to outwit. A giant’s just like us, only bigger! Much, much bigger! So big that we are just an expendable bug beneath its foot.– The Witch

She is a thinking monster – and it deserves to be questioned if she is even a monster. Other characters lie, cheat, steal, and indeed do kill – what sets the giant apart to create her death being the cause of celebration?  She is an embodiment of dangerous, unpredictable, intelligent unknown – something not understood, with a focused goal.

We learn nothing of her hopes, her dreams, her goals.  In a story that starts and ends with the two words “I wish,” where we know the desires and wishes of pretty much every other character that passes on the stage, it seems a major overlook to not really be able to know what her desires and wishes are beyond vengeance.

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11 Comments

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  1. Welcome to PTM, Allison! I’ve never seen the stage production of Into the Woods, but I have a feeling it is much more effective in that format. I had a hard time getting through the movie, so I actually don’t even remember the Giant’s Wife… she sounds very interesting, though!

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    1. I’m fond of the filmed version of it (with Bernadette Peters, Chip Zien and Joanne Gleason) available through PBS. I’ve never ACTUALLY seen it on stage, but the Original Broadway Cast is pretty stellar.

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        1. You know, I’m hearing that from some other people as well — it may also be that Sondheim’s style doesn’t work for you musically (that seemed to be what two of my friends who dislike it agreed on). Try to PBS one though, I think it’s awesome, and much better.

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  2. Singing….INTO THE WOOOOODSSSS….My daughter and I went to the move version and when we are having a bad day we call each other and first thing we say/sing is INTO THE WOOOOOODSSSS…..lol great show…..Hello I am Kathy, Rowena for beyond the flow suggested we come visit your blog….so here I am…LOL I look forward to reading your blog…..

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