The Storyteller: Hans My Hedgehog
From an old German folk tale about the same name. A farmer's wife drives him insane with her desperate efforts to conceive a child. Marge does not want to hold back, so she tells him that she wants a kid badly enough that it doesn't matter how he looks, he is just like a hedgehog covered in quills.
That is precisely what she gets: a baby covered in quills, as delicate as feathers. His mother thinks of him as "Hans My Hedgehog," and he is the only one who cares for him; his father becomes resentful because of it.
Hans eventually departs for a remote location where he cannot harm anybody and where no one can harm him. For many years, Hans lives with his animals for a company in the forest's deepest recesses.
A king wanders into Hans' forest one day and hears a lovely tune being played on a bagpipe.
He follows the music and arrives at Hans' castle, where he finds him. When Hans aids him in escaping the forest, the King agrees to give Hans the first thing he sees when he enters his castle - which will undoubtedly be his dog.
Instead, it turns out to be his lovely daughter, the Princess of sweetness and cherry pie. Hans has made a bargain with the King that in exactly one year and one day, his reward (the princess) will belong to him. A year and a day after, Hans arrives at the castle.
The princess explains that she already understands what she must do. Hans asks her if she thinks he is unattractive, and she replies that a broken promise is not nearly as repulsive as him. They are married against the wishes of the kingdom.
On their wedding night, the princess is in bed awaiting her spouse. He enters the chamber with his bagpipes and sits down near the fire to play the same lovely music that saved the king a year prior. The Princess begins to relax as the music plays, and she falls asleep.
She arises to find a pelt of quills as pleasant as feathers on the ground before the fire. She imagines her husband as a beautiful young man liberating the castle's animals and migrating to his forest castle with his pals.
He discovers her sleeping on the discarded quills the next evening, and he knows she has seen him. The beautiful woman tells the handsome man that he is bewitched and that only if she can keep his secret for another night can he be released and return to his original form.
The Queen concurs. The following morning, at breakfast, the Queen asks why her daughter is so happy. The Princess attempts to resist, but her mother forces her to confess that Hans has been enchanted.
The Queen claims that the only way to break the enchantment is to cast the quills into a fire. She fulfils her mother's command and burns his quills that night when Hans loses his feathers. She hears him shriek in agony as though he were on fire, and he flees the castle.
The Princess leaves her home, hoping to find her spouse, and travels to the blacksmith's shop. With no change in his expression, the man goes on to the next pair of shoes and finds that they are still empty.
She discovers a river when she is wearing the third pair of shoes, then lies down by it and removes her shoes, massaging her aching feet. She sees her hair has turned white in the glass. She cries bitterly over her hair and her husband, who is now gone forever.
The next day, she arrives at an empty house that is covered in dust and cobwebs. Then the flapping of wings alerted her to the presence of her spouse, whom she had sought for so long.
He toasts a glass of wine "to the lovely lady who could not keep her promise" to no one in particular. She speaks with him, and he stiffens up and asks how she discovered him. She explains. She tells him about all of the challenges she has overcome, including how she travelled the world and wore three pairs of iron shoes.
Then she throws herself into his arms and, with her declaration of love and devotion, he transforms back into the gorgeous man, the enchantment broken by her fidelity and regard. The Storyteller claims that he was given the final pair of the Princess' third set of shoes, which had been worn down to nothing.
- This episode stars Jason Carter as Hans' human form, Terence Harvey as the voice of Hans the Hedgehog, Abigail Cruttenden as the Princess, David Swift as the King, Helen Lindsay as the Queen, Eric Richard as the Farmer, and Maggie Wilkinson as the Farmer's Wife.
- The episode was directed by Steve Barron.