July 31st, 2018


reviews: Jim Henson's The Storyteller; A Hidden Magic

Have any of you seen Jim Hensen's The Storyteller? I recently rewatched several episodes, and I'd somehow forgotten just how wonderful the writing is. For example: in 'The True Bride' a young orphan girl is enslaved by a troll who keeps giving her impossible tasks, culminating with building a palace in a single day. Her--fairy godlion? Magic lion?--whatever you want to call him, keeps showing up and doing the tasks for her, including the palace. And then this scene happens:

"I know. I built the palace. I also built the door."

A perfect line if I ever heard one. This is just one example, but if you like fairytales--or just excellent writing--this whole miniseries is great. My favorite episodes are probably this one and 'Sapsarrow', which is a version of the catskin/donkeyskin fairytale where the princess hides as a beast-monster thing in order to escape having to marry her father.

I couldn't find a video clip of it, but there's a fabulous bit in this episode where the story and storyteller are actually talking to each other and it's perfectly edited so that what could be a clumsy gimmick is instead heartwrenching as the princess comes to grips with the fact that she's going to be forced to marry her father (against both their wills).

A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde, on the other hand, doesn't have that same catch-your-breath quality to it, or even quite the degree of whimsical charm that Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest quartet manages. Though it's a pleasant enough "princess must save the prince" story, and clearly aiming for the same effect and feel of Wrede's work, the selling factor is actually the illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, which are wonderful.