Traumafessions :: Reader Matthew H. on Jim Henson's 'The Storyteller'

When I was about 7, there was a great prime-time childrens' show by the name of THE JIM HENSON HOUR. It had a memorable motley '80s cast of new Muppets (many of you may remember Digit) and some old favorites . There was one segment that had a detrimental affect on my perception of death. It was a segment titled THE STORYTELLER, staring JOHN HURT as a wizened, well, storyteller. In the particularly traumatic story, "The Soldier and Death," JOHN HURT regales us with the story of a kindly soldier returning home after a long war. He happens upon many strange circumstances and comes into possession of magical affects: a deck of cards that he cannot lose with, a magical sack that will hold anything that he commands into it, and a crystal chalice with which he can see whether death is going to claim the life of a person lying sick in their bed. The soldier returns home with the tools that he had scored upon the way, and becomes a king. One of the reasons was that he could tell people whether or not they would die, by using said magical crystal chalice. There was the effect that the Henson studio had whipped up that gave the viewer the same perception the soldier had through the chalice to show the most chilling creation of death. This episode had its share of frightening JIM HENSON creations, the waxy snarling demons standing out. But none were as frightening as the infantile, globe-eyed, hoarse-voiced death in his tiny, shiny robe. The bony grimace and scythe of the traditional death, even INGMAR BERGMAN's SEVENTH SEAL incarnation seems comical and approachable to the HENSON creation. When they first showed him through the chalice, my younger brother ran from the room, without speaking. I couldn't take my eyes away, locked into his giant, creepy blue eyes. I got the entire collection of THE STORYTELLER on DVD this past Christmas, and that awful little Muppet still chilled my heart 18 years after the fact. There have to be others out there who were just as shaken by the blue-eyed child Death from the HENSON studios...

UNK SEZ: Matthew I am sure you are correct! Something tells me that intentionally or not, JIM HENSON is second only to STEPHEN KING in the trauma delivery department. THE STORYTELLER is home to some of his darkest work simply because it stays true to the tone of classic fairy tales. Besides the appearance of death itself and those hideous winged demons in the episode you mentioned, there's something to ignite bed time jitters for the wee ones in just about every episode...

...thank god we had this cute talking dog to lighten things up a bit!!!

Notify of
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
15 years ago

What a great show this was! Too bad, it didn't last long enough. My co-teacher purchased the series on DVD because it had so many folk tales and mythology. We showed the students (7th grade) a few episodes near the end of the school year and most of them enjoyed it.  Hey Unk, I noticed that the cute dog was also the voice of Hoggle (Brian Henson) from Labyrinth.