Sweeney Todd is a Public Domain Character originating from a book that was first published in 1846. He is a London barber and Serial Killer who murdered his customers and disposed of their bodies by having them baked into pies and sold in the pie-shop of his accomplice Mrs. Lovett.
Notable versions of the story include:
- The String of Pearls (1846-1847). The original version, serialized in The People's Periodical and Family Library. Anonymous, but thought to have been written by James Malcolm Rymer (the author of Varney the Vampire) and Thomas Peckett Prest (thought to be that author at first).
- The String of Pearls (1847). The first stage adaptation, a melodrama by George Dibden Pitt.
- Sweeney Todd, the Barber of Fleet Street: or the String of Pearls (c. 1865). A Victorian melodrama based on The String of Pearls, written by Frederick Hazelton.
- Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936). A film adaptation of the Victorian melodrama, starring Tod Slaughter as the demon barber and Stella Rho as "Mrs. Lovatt."
- Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1973). A play by Christopher Bond, which gave Todd a tragic backstory and a revenge motivation.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979). The famous musical by Stephen Sondheim, based on Christopher Bond's play.
- Sweeney Todd (2006). A BBC movie drama that attempts to stay closer to the original version of the story, taking place in the 18th century.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). Tim Burton's film adaptation of the musical.
- The "Dreadful Crimes" DLC of Assassin's Creed Syndicate contains an Expy of Sweeney Todd who is a leatherworker that uses the remains of his victims to create meat pies. He's also the main boss of the side mission "The Fiend of Fleet Street"
Tropes common to multiple versions of the story include:
- Adaptational Sympathy: The titular character is motivated entirely by greed and cruelty in the original penny dreadful The String of Pearls. The play by Christopher Bond, which was later adapted into the Steven Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, gave him a tragic backstory and a revenge motivation.
- Based on a Great Big Lie: The preface of The String of Pearls claimed that Sweeney Todd was a real person, although all proof of his existence was conveniently lost when his barbershop was demolished and a chapel was built in its place. The claim has remained attached to the story on and off ever since. However, the idea of a barber killing his clients and having an accomplice bake them into pies is itself Very Loosely Based on a True Story: that of Barnabé Cabard and Pierre Miquelon, dating back to the 15th century.
- Dangerously Close Shave: Instead of shaving his customers, Sweeney murders them. Ironically absent from the original penny dreadful, in which his barber's chair is a deadly booby-trap that flips his customers into a pit, although he does threaten to do this to Tobias if his shop-boy speaks a word about his doings.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Sweeney murders dozens or even hundreds of men, but typically only one or two women. Justified because it's men who patronize his barber shop.
- Promoted to Love Interest: Mrs. Lovett has often been portrayed as Todd's love interest since the 1970's.
- Public Domain Character: Sweeney Todd and other characters from The String of Pearls are under no copyright due to being created in the 19th century.
- Related in the Adaptation: In "The String Of Pearls", Johanna has no personal connection to Sweeney, only becoming involved because she fears her boyfriend has fallen victim to the villainous barber. Starting in the 1970s, she's been depicted as Sweeney's long-lost daughter.
- The Secret of Long Pork Pies: Mrs. Lovett disposes of Sweeney's victims by baking them into pies. In most tellings this improves her pies and enriches her business.
- Serial Killer: Sweeney Todd is one of the earliest examples in English literature.
- Setting Update: "The String of Pearls" was set in 1785. Most adaptations have the setting as the Victorian era but the 1936 film has the setting as 1836, modern book-ends excluded, making it still Georgian albeit extremely late Georgian. The 2006 film with Ray Winstone likewise keeps the Georgian setting.