With the new Muppets movie out in the theaters this week it seemed like the appropriate time to talk about an older Jim Henson series, The Storyteller. This series originally aired on HBO in 1988 (it’s twenty-three years old) and is available on DVD. It ran nine European fairy tale episodes and four Greek myth episodes. Like the other non-Muppet creations from Henson (Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal), this is a little darker and gritty — but not too much.
The series features John Hurt as The Storyteller who weaves his tales to the audience. The language is flowery and poetic as it should be for a teller of stories. I love the interaction between him and his sarcastic dog who is voiced by Brian Henson (the voice of Hoggle in Labyrinth among many others). The costumes are well done and not over the top. Some of the visual effects are really original and fun, though definitely a little dated for this day and age. Still, it doesn’t seem to detract from the series.
The choice of fairy tales are excellent as they are lesser known and are even different variations on tales that I know. For instance, Fearnot tells of the boy who went into the world to learn how to shudder. His learning to shudder came from seeing the girl he loved unconscious and unable to wake. It was here that he saved her and learned to shudder. The ending I remember reading in my Grimm’s collections was that after his adventures and marrying the damsel, he still had not learned to shudder. He lamented so about it that his wife grew tired of it and sought a resolution. While he was sleeping she dumped a bucket of cold water and fish on him. He woke with a shudder and was finally contented. Hans, My Hedgehog really gives you a look at the absurdity of some aspects of fairy tales without making it feel absurd. A hedgehog boy goes off into the world on the back of a horse-sized rooster might sound really strange, but you can easily overlook it and lose yourself in the series. I think that’s the secret to this series. The Storytelling is GOOD and is a good representation of fairy tales. My only real complaint is that there wasn’t MORE of this series. Nine tales just wasn’t enough.