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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
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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Series as a whole - Jim Henson's best work. John Hurt *is* the Storyteller. Often Oscar-caliber screenplays, not surprising when you consider Minghella doing the writing. Oscar-caliber acting, always.
Sapsorrow - Everybody loves 'The Soldier and Death,' but something about 'Sapsorrow' pushes it an iota higher in my favor. In the first ballroom scene, the costumes, the music - perfection. Hurt and the dog typically semi-interact with the story, but this time Minghella pushes it up that extra notch in the 'ring' scene between Hurt and Sapsorrow. The chemistry between characters is especially well-developed, more so than usual in the series, in reference to the friendship between Straggletag and the prince. Seen it? See it again. Pay more attention (to those of you who don't fanatically adore this 22-minute piece of cinematic perfection). Never seen it? I am so, so sorry.
Luck Child - not as sophisticated as Sapsorrow, but very clever in its own right. This is a story about irony. Irony upon irony, within irony... I love it. Every character is acted to perfection, with the exception of the ferryman. He was doing drama; everyone else was doing romantic comedy. I forgive him. This is my favorite of the primarily comedic episodes, 'Sapsorrow' and 'The Soldier and Death' being examples of more dramatic episodes.
Side note: Greek Myths. What it lack in Minghella subtlety (different writer) it partially makes up for in boldness as it portrays the four chosen myths with more sympathy and respect and history than is usual. Also check out the Jim Henson Hour if you can get your hands on it. For Storyteller adicts, it features The Man Himself introducing the myths, the lion from 'True Bride,' and... No Annoying Opening Theme! Half Storyteller, half pure, unadulterated muppet wit.
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