An honest soldier receives a ruby whistle, a comparable dance, an unbeatable deck of cards and a magic sack for being kind to three beggars. He defeats a bunch of devils by playing cards and catches ...
A witch has set her eyes on the widower king and manages to turn his three young sons into ravens. Their sister escapes the curse and vows to remain silent for three years, three months, three weeks,...
The marriage of young, ambitious writer Nico Thomkins with Helen, coming from a rich family, is nothing more than a hardly concealed love-hate relationship. Because of Nico's aggressiveness... See full summary »
A variety of European folk tales are retold in nine new stories. A soldier captures Death in a magic sack. A fearless young man sets out to learn to shudder. A boy with a destiny that frightens a tyrant is sent on an impossible task that will see him wed the princess, or dead. A storyteller must spin tales to stay alive. A woman bears a hedgehog-child who grows up to live alone in a castle until he does a king a favor and gets the princess's hand in return. A princess must keep silent while she works to free her brothers from an evil spell. A princess runs away from wedding her father and disguises herself as an ugly forest creature. A young boy must overcome a heartless giant. A princess searches the earth for her stolen bridegroom. Written by
The number "3" features in every episode of the series:
The Soldier and Death - The Soldier helps 3 beggars and is rewarded each time. He also captures 3 geese the first time he uses the magic sack and later has of a family of 3 (wife, son, and Soldier).
Fearnot - Fearnot comes from a family of 3 (father, brother and Fearnot) and was tricked by 3 bullies early in the story. It takes 3 encounters before he finally learns how to shudder (encountering the swamp creature, the half-demon in the castle, and the thought of losing his sweetheart).
The Luck Child - Lucky survives 3 attempts on his life by the wicked King (thrown over a cliff, sent to the castle with a letter instructing the queen to kill him, and being sent to the Griffin's lair).
A Story Short - The Storyteller loses to the Beggar 3 times while playing dice. He loses his money, his wife and his own self.
Hans My Hedgehog - The Princess, after marrying the Grovelhog, learns he sheds his quills each night and she has to keep it a secret for 3 nights in order to break the curse. When she fails and he runs away, she searches the world and wears out 3 pairs of iron shoes in the process.
The Three Ravens - After the Princess's 3 brothers are transformed into ravens, she has to keep silent for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days to break the curse. She also gives birth to 3 sons after marrying the Prince, and speaks 3 minutes before noon (happening to call out 3 times) on the appointed day.
Sapsorrow - Youngest of 3 daughters, Sapsorrow commissions the making of 3 dresses to stall the arranged marriage with her father. She then wears those 3 dresses on 3 different nights to woo the Prince.
The Heartless Giant - Youngest of 3 princes, Leo tries to find the Heartless Giant that he released. On the way, he helps 3 animals (bird, fish and wolf) who later aid him. When Leo tries to find where the Giant's heart is hidden, he finds out on the third try.
The True Bride - Anja completes 3 tasks given to her by the troll (with the help of the Thought Lion). The Lion also gives her 3 walnuts with gifts hidden inside to barter with the Trollop.
When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for... The Storyteller.
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Despite its pedigree, the most interesting things about this series are not the animatronics or puppetry, which, while charming, are little more than sideshows, at least in the story I saw, A STORY SHORT. In fact, loathe though I am to admit it, the programme's chief pleasure lies in that most ancient art, storytelling.
John Hurt, in Rowley Birken QC-mode, grotesque, medieval make-up, relates a story about story telling, seated by the fire, accompanied by a cynical dog. One winter's day, starving and poor, he spots a fellow beggar thrown out of the Royal Kitchen by the nasty cook. The Story Teller tricks this latter into giving them an excellent soup. Furious, the Cook pleads with the King for permission to boil the villain, but, pleased with the Story Teller's wit, the monarch offers him a reprieve - for 100 nights, he must tell the King a new story: if he fails to do so, he will hand him over to the cook.
The story may be old, but it's told with great gusto. Anthony Minghella's script is excellently dramatic (as befits a playwright), witty, and with some disturbing concerns beneath the fun, such as fears for the self, or the culturally self-generating power of storytelling, linked to the continuation of ideological power. For a programme aimed at children, it is bracingly self-reflexive (with little nonsense about film being the new oral culture); despite the Americanised style, there is a charming sense of medieval bustle, its grotesqueness and arbitrary terror, as well as its magic and power.
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