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Storyteller, The

1 9 8 7 – 1 9 8 9 (UK)
9 x 25 minute episodes

Once upon a time, people of all ages enjoyed the folk tales we now consider strictly for children.

This stunning series aimed to return to that ancient tradition, seducing viewers to the medieval fireside where the storyteller (John Hurt) spun his yarns – mostly old European fairy tales featuring kings, handsome princes, devils, trolls and characters with names like Grovelhog, Fearnot and Sapsorrow – in a West Country accent, bringing to life the monsters and magicians of his tales.

The storyteller was accompanied by his (muppet) dog, who spoke with an American accent.

The British-made series – created by Muppet man Jim Henson and billed as “Stories for grown-up children” – deployed actors alongside fantastic beings of the kind that Henson created for The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986).

Some of the stories were a bit twee, like the renovated Cinderella story, “Sapsorrow (despite the presence of French and Saunders as the bad sisters), but others – like “The Heartless Giant” – were fine robust moral fantasies that helped restored faith in the narrative arts.

Guests who appeared in the episodes included Bob Peck, Geoffrey Bayldon, Miranda Richardson, Sean Bean, Bryan Pringle, Edward Tudor-Pole, Jane Horrocks, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Alun Armstrong, Gemma Jones, Brenda Blethyn, Colin Farrell, and Peter Hawkins (voicing the devil).

The Storyteller
John Hurt
Storyteller’s Dog
Brian Henson

Episodes

Hans My Hedgehog | Fearnot | A Story Short | The Luck Child | The Soldier and Death | The Three Ravens | Sapsorrow | The Heartless Giant | The True Bride