No One Is Alone: The Implications of Non-biological Family in “Into the Woods”

*This article contains spoilers for the musical “Into the Woods.”

Since I’ve joined the Stance crew, I’ve become hyperaware of family relationships in everything I read and watch. So it’s no surprise that I had family on the brain when I watched the movie version of “Into the Woods” and the stage version at my little brother’s high school.

There are loads of different types of families in “Into the Woods.” There are stepfamilies, absent fathers, adopted children, helicopter parents, ghost parents, infertile couples, bloodthirsty grandmas… Pretty much anything you could ask for. (I could write a whole essay on the relationship between the Witch and Rapunzel alone.)

Picture from here.
Picture from here.

However, what struck me during these most recent viewings (I have seen this musical A LOT OF TIMES) is the non-biological, found family dynamic. By the end of the second act, most of the characters are dead, killed by the giant or by each other, and most of the families have been dissolved. All four surviving main characters have lost someone—the Baker lost his wife, Cinderella lost her husband (and mother too, sort of), Little Red lost her mother and grandmother, and Jack lost his mother. It’s both haunting and beautiful, then, when they sing “No One is Alone,” because at that moment, each of them is probably feeling the loneliest they’ve ever felt.

In the end, the Baker, his son, Cinderella, Little Red, and Jack all decide to live together and try to help each other recover from their trauma. Even though they aren’t related by blood and even though they’ve seen each other at their nastiest (like viciously blaming each other for all the bad things that have happened), they still care about and want to protect each other.

This is family.

Yes, family is the fundamental unit of society, and yes, that is usually referring to biological family, but your non-biological family can be just as important.

Loving your family is wonderful. It can be hard, but in the end, you share blood, so you might as well stick together.

Choosing to love people you’re not obligated to love is scary. They can leave at any time. They might not come from the same background as you, or they might see the world from a completely different perspective. Sometimes it might seem like it’s not worth it. You’re not bound to them, so why bother?

Learning to love people unselfishly is part of why we’re here on this earth. What is more unselfish than seeing someone’s flaws and loving and supporting them anyway? Than sticking around even though you don’t really have to?

Because if everyone you’ve ever known has left you halfway through the woods, finding someone who is on your side is precious and sacred.

No one is alone.

—Becca Barrus, Stance

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