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Storyteller Collection, The

Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // August 26, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Shannon Nutt | posted September 3, 2003 | E-mail the Author

I vaguely remember Jim Henson's The Storyteller when it aired on TV. I remember catching an episode or two, enjoying the show (I particularly liked The Storyteller's talking dog!) and not thinking much more about it when it no longer aired on my television set just a few weeks later. In fact, I had completely forgotten about The Storyteller as a series until I saw that the episodes were being released on DVD.

This single disc version of the nine episodes that starred John Hurt as "The Storyteller" (forgotten by Columbia/Tri-Star, apparently, is The Storyteller: Greek Myths, in which Michael Gambon played The Storyteller, although I'm not sure if these episodes ever aired in America) hold up pretty well and prove to be solid entertainment for both children and adults. Each one of the episodes (which run about 25 minutes each) are based on actual folk tales, with – of course – a bit of the Henson magic and fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Here's the nine shows that make up this DVD:

"Hans My Hedgehog" – A woman is so desperate for a child that she will accept anything, no matter what he or she looks like. Well, she winds up with a boy hedgehog and her son grows up as one taunted by the community, but loved by his mother. Later in life, he comes to the aid of the King, and the King promises to give him the first thing the Hedgehog sees upon the return to his kingdom…which turns out to be the king's daughter!

"Fearnot" – A young boy named Fearnot decides that he will go out into the world to find out what fear really is. But it isn't until he faces losing the love of his life that he finally discovers the true meaning of being afraid.

"A Story Short" – It's the only episode where The Storyteller's story is actually about himself, and how he tried to steal a meal and gets punished by the king. His punishment: to tell a new story to the king every night for a year. But on the last day, The Storyteller can't come up with a story to save his life…and that's exactly what he's trying to save!

"The Luck Child" – A king learns of the birth of "The Luck Child", a child who is prophesized to take over the crown when he grows up. So in order to prevent this, the king offers to raise the child himself…but this may be just the stroke of "luck" the child needs to fulfill his destiny.

"The Soldier and Death" – Perhaps the best episode of the series, this one concerns a soldier, a magical sack and the idea that cheating Death may not be a desirable goal.

"The True Bride" – A young girl falls under the care of an evil troll, who makes her perform seemingly impossible tasks. However, a white lion comes to the rescue of the girl and performs the tasks for her, much to the confusion of the troll. The troll dies, but his daughter has cast a love spell on the girl's one true love. The lion returns to offer the girl magical gifts that will help break the spell…but will she figure out how to use them in time?

"The Three Ravens"– A witch plans to marry a widowed king and places a curse on his three sons that turn them into ravens. The daughter of the king escapes, but to break the curse, she must be silent for three years, three months, three weeks and three days. However, when the daughter gets married herself, her babies start disappearing and she is branded a witch to be burned at the stake! Will she be able to speak before her death sentence is carried out?

"Sapsorrow" – A new spin on the classic "Cinderella" tale, about a young woman with two evil sisters who is facing an arranged marriage with (of all people) her father. She runs away and poses as a peasant, only to find herself falling in love with a prince.

"The Heartless Giant" – A mean giant is caught and imprisoned by the king. After many years, the prince befriends the giant, but the giant uses him to plot his escape. Going out to find the giant, the prince winds up becoming his servant. But will his search for the giant's heart lead to redemption or more tragedy?


The Storyteller DVD may be the prime example of why no studio should try to cram nine episodes of a series onto one disc. The picture here is just short of horrible - dark, grainy and with obvious pixilation in almost every scene. In fact, the video is poor enough that I'm doing something I almost never do – I'm recommending picking up the VHS tapes, since they only contain two episodes per tape. This is really a poor transfer for a show that deserved much better treatment on DVD. The episodes, by the way, are presented in their original full-frame 1.33:1 format.

The audio is presented in 2.0 Dolby, and while it's nothing to write home about, it's worlds better than the video quality!

The only extras on this DVD are two Trailers, one for The Dark Crystal and one for Labyrinth. In fact, these aren't trailers at all, they are more along the lines of promotional commercials that you'd see on TV or at the beginning of a videotape. But they do provide one thing – they prove that the quality of the video on the episodes is a bad transfer rather than the result of bad source material…the trailers here are just as grainy and pixilated as the episodes.

Although there is nothing else on the DVD aside from episode selection (with no chapter selection for the shows or chapter stops within the shows, for that matter), the DVD itself does have two nice inserts (please, no jokes from the forum regulars!) – one of which features an introduction by Jim Henson (from a 1988 book about Amercian storytellers), plus some background information and a list of awards for the show; while the second insert contains episode synopsis for all nine shows. This is the kind of material you wish Columbia/Tri-Star would have put on the DVD, but at least we get some additional info about the series thanks to these two inserts.


There's a big difference here between the quality of the episodes and the quality of the DVD they are on. As a program, The Storyteller is wonderful entertainment for the whole family and highly rewatchable, especially for youngsters. As a DVD, The Storyteller is just short of a tragedy, an insult to the imagination of one of the industry's most memorable (and now sadly lost) creators. The Storyteller DVD is worth a rental to see these episodes, but don't waste your time with a purchase…use that time instead to demand that fans are provided with a better digital transfer of these shows.
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