Jim Henson's The Storyteller
In 1988 Jim Henson created a new show, The Storyteller.
All nine episode are based on old European folk tales and are told through true Henson technique, a mix of puppets and actors and of course with a brilliant old fashion fairy tale approach.
The series is narrated by the Storyteller himself, and is played by none other than John Hurt. The Storyteller sits by the fire with his dog, voiced and acted by Henson's son, Brian, and takes us on a journey throughout the world with tales as old as time.
A great and quite wonderful series, meant to be seen under your covers at night. The first episode really sets the bar for the show and of this episode I will tell.
The Soldier and Death, an an old Russian folk tale about a soldier coming back from war, and in his bag he has three biscuits. On his travels back to his native land he encounters three different beggars, to which he gives the biscuits. The men, brimming with gratitude, give the Soldier a gift each. The first one gives the Soldier the gift of a beautiful whistle, the second a magnificent dance and the third a pack of magical playing cards and a sack which can trap anything when ordered into it.
When arriving upon a small village he discovers that the local castle is inhabited by small devils and the village lives in fear of them. The soldier takes his pack of cards and challenge them for a game, and with the magic the card beholds he wins. The devils then tries to kill the soldier but he catches them in the sack, makes them promise never to return and releases them…but only after he snatches one of the devils foot, now having him forever in his debt.
Years later the soldier is a wealthy man, married and with a son. One day the son falls ill and the soldier calls for his devil to collect the favour. The devil appears with a magic glass, through which he can see death around sick people, and if death is standing by the foot of the bed there is still hope and the water inside the glass will save the person, if death is by the head, there's no hope. The son recovers by a splash of the waters and the Soldier, so impressed, gives the devil his foot back in exchange for the glass.
Now he has an extraordinary gift, to see death and to save the sick people who has death by the foot of their bed. When the Tzar falls ill, the soldier rushes to his side and looks through the glass, but he sees death by the head.. He knows nothing can be done so he asks death to take him instead, and death agrees. When the soldier is dying and death is coming for him, he tricks death into his sack hangs the sack in a tree and releasing the world from.. death.
The soldier feels he's done something good but when seeing the world grow older and people waiting for death, which will never come, he regret his actions. He climbs up in the tree and releases Death hoping to set everything into order, and everything is, only.. not for him. Death punishes him to everlasting life, and the soldier sets off for an unending journey looking for the end.
A very sad story of a man who only wanted to do good, and did, but happens to mess with the most powerful creatures in the world.
Jim Henson was a genius, bringing magic into everyones lives. Like many others, I grew up in his puppet dominated worlds of The Muppets, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. So this series is a treat for everyone who loves the worlds of Henson, and who doesn't right?
Sidenote: The man who played the Soldier was actor Bob Peck. More known as Robert Muldoon, the hunter from Jurassic Park who said the unforgettable line "Clever Girl", just before he is eaten by the Velociraptor.