Today was a bit of a scramble to get my folklore quota in. What I was going to do got cancelled, and then I felt knackered and uninspired and it was raining. So I read a bit and found some great ideas for days that weren’t a Sunday-After-A-Roisterous-70th-Birthday-Party-in-a-Windmill, but found nothing I particularly felt like doing today.
Then I remembered Buzzfeed’s penchant for publishing articles about people re-watching something and then ‘having some thoughts’, and I felt I could probably manage that. As long as it was folklore-y, and not too complicated, and not too long.
Enter Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. It’s a series I’d been obsessed with in the 80s but hadn’t seen for ages, each episode is self contained, and it has John Hurt as the narrator. Perfect. So I put on Hans My Hedgehog (first broadcast in 1987, a year after Labyrinth was released), sat back and had some thoughts:
- I remember nearly all the words to the title sequence
- There’s a Chilly Down!
- John Hurt’s glorious Cyrano nose in profile in the opening shot
- The Dog has Hoggle’s voice (doh, of course, it’s Brian Henson)
- Sleeping upside down to get pregnant
- That is one very ugly baby, but genius puppetry
- No, I’m not making the Hans has a big cock joke
- ‘Tugging his ear like billyo’
- I’d forgotten how grumpy the Dog was
- All the different types of animation are just stunning, if a tiny bit ropy occasionally
- I’d forgotten this German fairy tale is an adaptation of the Cupid and Psyche myth
- Anthony Minghella’s screenplay is ridiculously beautiful
- Bloody patriarchy
- The emotion on the Grovelhog’s face is heart breaking! That is some serious prosthetics
- And the princess ‘dreams of waterfalls and ice cream’
- ‘But we all know about promises, and secrets’
- The Dog licking all the plates clean as the Storyteller talks to the camera
- The Queen is rocking a proper breakfasting helmet
- Blacksmith! This could be a drinking game
- The silhouette animation on the chipped and grazed plate next to the pregnant wooden bear/cat? covered in cobwebs
- As 1980s transformations go, that wasn’t bad
- ‘Looking without hope of finding and hanging on for dear life’
- The Dog’s deadpan look to camera at the end has never been bettered
So those were my thoughts while watching Hans My Hedgehog. I hadn’t expected it to be still so delightful. The attention to detail, the creativity, the language, the humour was all perfect and with the exception of a few special effects, it didn’t feel dated at all. And I realised I’ve been using this series as a yardstick against every folklore/fairytale themed film or programme I’ve seen since. And off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything that has come even close to beating it.
All in all, today getting cancelled wasn’t the disaster I thought it was going to be. And I’d be very up for having some thoughts again. Let me know if you have any recommendations in the comments below, while I’m off to re-watch the rest of the series…
Header picture (c) Jim Henson Productions