By Regina Hong, Yale-NUS ’17 – See bio
The Big Bad Wolf (or Big Bad as he is called nowadays) slinks into the theatre and merges into the shadows. The order of things starts with warm ups for the voice box. A few theatrical growls, the snapping gnash of molars and canines. Next, the bristling fur. Each wiry, grey hair whips up and quivers a threat. The impressive spectacle only lasts a moment until the Three Little Pigs walk by.
“Hey look, it’s BIGGGG BAAAAAAAAD” the eldest Pig bleats, to the chorus of his brothers’ laughter. With a knowing glint in his eye, he leans in conspiratorially and hisses into Big Bad’s ear “I will add a little something to the final scene tonight. The tomatoes were a nice touch last time but far from dramatic. Perhaps red paint will do the trick.” Big Bad flinches. The tomatoes took forever to wash out of his coat, resulting in the cancellation of his performance with the Lamb that night. The red paint would probably earn him a boot in the rear straight to his den in the Dark Woods and then what would he do about the hungry mouths waiting for meat?
Things had not always been like this. Yet, ever since Man had taken it into his fancy to install wolves as the villains of tales, they had been flushed out of their homes and herded into the Dark Woods to better “fit into the expectations of the people”. Little Red Riding Hood had even marched into their midst and picked out a wolf for her red cloak, claiming that it would be poetic justice to have a wolf’s pelt for her cloak, as well as spice up the show with a nice tinge of old-fashioned dramatic emphasis. She had forgotten that she merely lived a tale woven out of nothingness; the cries of the wolf’s cubs as it was slain were, however, real. The wolves that howled their protest then were lined up as actors for the final scene in “Little Red Riding Hood.” It had never once occurred to the audience that the stench of blood in the final scene had not been engineered. The scene was eventually modified when the producers realised they would soon run out of wolves if they kept up with it.
Big Bad had seen wolves braver than he fall to the swing of the axe and it gradually dawned on him that the only way in which he would be able to live was if he honed his skills and took up the role of the villainous wolf in the other stories. The producers and directors liked him because he could take any amount of abuse from the actors who had fallen prey to the intoxicating rush of power they now held. The audience was delighted that they could jeer at this fallen wolf, this spectre that had once haunted their nightmares. Everyone reveled in the heady fumes of the power-laden atmosphere save for the wolves, who were yoked in submission to the arbitrary whim that had seen them fall from grace.
“Up in 5 minutes, Big Bad.” The runner announces in a bored voice. Big Bad nods and gives himself one final stretch before heading towards the curtains. The stage is being set up for the first show of the night, and two of the Three Little Pigs are brandishing their trotters in mock fury as they rehearse their lines. The eldest pig catches sight of Big Bad and gives a smirk, drawing a hoof across his wobbly neck as he points at the brick house. Hidden behind the facade is a huge cauldron of red paint. Big Bad looks away. It’s a futile fight.
His claws scrape on the brick as he attempts to scale the wall. The chimney looms ahead and below, the red paint lies in wait, innocent as a bog. Big Bad shuts his eyes and takes the plunge. He is immediately caught in the embrace of the red paint and is aware of it insinuating into his nostrils as he chokes and wheezes for breath. Beyond the walls, the audience claps as the lights dim and the eldest Pig gives vent to his long-suppressed laughter, safe in the knowledge that it escapes the notice of the audience. The Three Little Pigs take their curtain call and the stage hands grudgingly haul Big Bad out of his misery. It’s not over yet. There’s still “The Wolf and the Lamb” to come after the interval.
“Up in five”. Big Bad lets his tired body run on autopilot and feels his feet pad of their own accord to the designated waiting area. Thankfully, the red paint had been easy to rinse off. Earlier, the Lamb had looked askance at Big Bad’s bedraggled appearance and turned her back on him, compounding Big Bad’s already bad state of mood, for there is no show he detests more than this one.
The Lamb is maligned by a wolf, martyred for the manifestation of the coda “Any excuse will serve a tyrant” and is eternalised kindly for ever more. Yet, who weeps for the nameless wolf who is killed by Man in the name of sport? The Lamb was given a chance at flight but there is no respite for the wolf from poison or the determination of cunning hunters. The Big Bad Wolf is but evil given a convenient visage. No longer does Big Bad remember who he was before he became “Big Bad”, nor does he remember how wolves were once thought of before stereotypes came into play.
The curtains are rising. It is time to take to the stage. Big Bad takes the steps that have been drilled into him. Yet inside, the embers of an old song begin to kindle.