A Lovely Thing - Jim Henson's The Storyteller

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): When Can I See You Again by Owl City [Wreck It Ralph soundtrack].

 Jim Henson is a master storyteller. There is no denying his revolutionizing work with puppetry, nor his iconic characters. But it seems few people know of his work outside of the Muppets.

Now, some are familiar with the Dark Crystal (a movie which I adore but still haunts my little child-memory to this day). More still are versed with the Labyrinth, a fantastic movie in its own right, and a fairy tale in its own way. I hadn't thought of doing a post just on that but perhaps…

The Labyrinth is quite arguably a modern fairy tale in its own right, and hints at Henson's love of those stories. Which brings me to perhaps one of his least-known works of all, outside of his commercials, that is - The Storyteller series.

Created back in 1988, it is a work that is both lovely and remarkable. Narrated by the excellent John Hurt (of the Ollivander from Harry Potter variety), as well as a talking dog, voiced by Brian Henson (of the Jim Henson variety), ;) it is a collection of 9 retold fairy tales. Some well known, others, less so. You'll remember from my last list of 10 Fantastic Unknown Fairy Tales - The Grimm's Edition, Allerleirauh, or "Sapsorrow" as it is known here, was first introduced to me through Jim Henson's Storyteller and is a far more rocking Cinderella than the usual version that is thrown around. There is an emotionally strong and clever girl in this one, that's for sure.

I didn't grasp the full awesome of this series until I was reading a book all about Jim Henson (I wanted to know how he got into being a puppeteer, and if a certain story I'd heard about him was true). It covered the gamut of his work, and I learned some things about the Dark Crystal I had not known before (those skekis things STILL freak me out). But I also gained a deeper understanding of this now-beloved fairy tale series.

Each story opens up with our storyteller, John Hurt. After a brief introduction and weaving of words that feels like magic itself we are thrown into the story at hand, often with a little help of some nifty camera work. I discovered that Jim Henson was intentional with every piece of magic he worked. He wanted to hearken back to the days of when these stories were first made real. When they were told orally. He wanted to make us feel like we were sitting right there beside our storyteller, and then as he delves into the story, as we are fully immersed and our imaginations are flung back, and it is as if we are actually there. Hence the tricky, sudden, and cool camerawork. It is quite effective, once you realize what is happening.

Of the nine stories told my favorites include:
The Three Ravens
A Story Short

"The True Bride," even though it has a very young Sean Bean in it (I squealed when I first recognized him), was not quite good enough to make my top three. But I love the white lion. :)

But there is still more. This was a brief series, and how I wish it had been longer. But there is a book, which came to me as a very startling birthday surprise to me one year. It is even written by the same man who penned the episodes they came from. And the clincher I love - the illustrations are done with the same visuals as the Storyteller series. It is wonderful to sit and read them as fairy tales as well as having our oral tradition, and I cannot recommend the book highly enough.

If you can, find a way to get hold of this hidden treasure of Jim Henson's. You'll learn to sit back, enjoy the fire, and always be prepared for a great story. :)


Anonymous said...

I remember the Storyteller! A lovely series. I remember the female Troll was called the Trollop, but didn't know there was another meaning for that word until much later! They played with words as well as producing a visually beautiful series. I agree with the feeling of sitting by the fire, at the Storyteller's feet.