The poet Homer compiled the epic histories of great Greek heroes such as ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ and ‘Daedalus and Icarus’ in 800 B.C.
Michael Gambon stars as the narrator in The Storyteller: A Labyrinth of Legend, an exciting follow-up to The Storyteller. From the devastating depths of Knossos’s Labyrinth, he brings the Greek myths and legends to life.
The courageous acts of the Ancient Greeks come to life as shafts of light cut through fallen masonry, illuminating ancient frescoes and broken bronzes.
The Storyteller: Greek Myths is a four-episode sequel to The Storyteller season 1 (9 Episodes), which featured a new storyteller (Michael Gambon) and the same dog (once again performed and voiced by Brian Henson).
The second series, published in 1990 by Jim Henson, began shortly before he died and continued after his death. Due to a lack of a US broadcaster, the original Storyteller episodes were deemed too intense for children by NBC and were not broadcast as a distinct series.
It was never aired in the United States until 1997 when HBO reran all of the 13-episode season. The four episodes were first shown in the Netherlands in April 1991 and in the UK in December 1991.
The four episodes focused on Greek mythology and took place in the Minotaur’s labyrinth, which the new storyteller and his dog search for a way out through while discovering some of its hidden riches and relics, all of which serve as a reminder to share your own narrative along the way.
This spin-off was created by Nigel Williams (writer), who wrote the original novel. However, it was produced by the series’ creator, Anthony Minghella (creator).
View the complete library of The storyteller theme.
- Title: The Storyteller
- Original release: 31 January 1987
- Released: May 15, 1988
- Genre: Children’s film
- Created by: Jim Henson
- Developed by: Anthony Minghella
- Theme music composer: Rachel Portman
- Country of origin: United Kingdom, United States
- Original language: English
- John Hurt
- Michael Gambon
- Brian Henson
No. of series:
- 1 (Original)
- 1 (Greek Myths)
No. of episodes:
- 9 (Original)
- 4 (Greek Myths)
Producer: Duncan Kenworthy
Production location: Elstree Studios
Running time: 22 minutes
Production companies: Jim Henson Productions TVS
Distributor: The Jim Henson Company
The Storyteller: Greek Myths – Theseus and the Minotaur
In the labyrinth of Knossos, an Athenian storyteller and his dog seek refuge. He then recites King Minos’ tale of how the Minotaur was kept in the maze for ten centuries.
The islanders told Aithra that their king, Aegeus, had left his sword under a large rock and instructed her that when their son Theseus grew up, he should move the rock to discover who his father was.
Selene grew up and became a courageous young man. He was able to shift the boulder and reclaim his father’s blade. His mother revealed to him the truth about his father’s identity after that.
Theseus, a young, brave, and ambitious hero who wanted to become king of Athens, decided to travel there by land as opposed to by sea. Theseus was a relatively young man in his twenties at the time, eager to expand his rule over Attica and please Athena with new walls and temples.
He arrived in Athens where King Aegeus welcomed him while Medea plotted to kill Theseus. After King Aegeus recognized the sword that Theseus is carrying, he knocked the poisoned drink out of his hand.
Before the guards can capture Medea, she vanishes and curses Aegeus.
Theseus returned to his kingdom of Athens, where he reclaimed his position as the king’s son. To accomplish this goal, Theseus travelled to Crete and killed the terrible Minotaur. Having completed his quest, Odysseus promised his father Aegeus that he would hoist a white sail if he returned successfully.
Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, assisted Theseus in escaping the Labyrinth by giving him a ball of thread so that he might retrace his steps. The Minotaur was slain by Theseus.
On the trip back to Crete, Theseus took Ariadne with him but left her on Naxos upon his return. On his return voyage, he didn’t fly white sails, thus causing his father to throw himself into the Aegean sea, which was subsequently named after him.
- This episode stars David Morrissey as Theseus, Steve Varnom as the Minotaur, Maggie O’Neill as Ariadne, Lindsay Duncan as Medea, Amanda Burton as Aithra.
- The episode was directed by John Madden.
The Storyteller: Greek Myths – Perseus and the Gorgon
The oracle’s prediction that he would murder his grandfather, Perseus, the son of Danaë and Zeus, was born in isolation and darkness. King Acrisius of Argos condemned Perseus and his mother to a wooden box thrown into the sea after revealing their presence.
The children of Poseidon survive the shipwreck by swimming to shore and being found by Diktys. The young hero vowed to retrieve the Gorgon Medusa’s head in order to prevent the evil King Polydectes from marrying his mother after coming of age.
He was armed and armoured with supernatural weapons and clothing by the gods so that he might accomplish his mission. He acquired instructions from Graeae, who led him along a route until he encountered Atlas.
The head of Medusa was used by Perseus to turn Atlas to stone on his journey home after killing Medusa. As he travelled back to King Polydectes, Perseus utilized the head of Medusa to petrify Atlas, turning him into a mountain.
The king of Colchis, Polydectes, was not persuaded that Perseus had brought the true head of Medusa back with him when he returned.
He escapes the prophecy by using Medusa’s head to petrify him, but Perseus shows it to him by turning him to stone. He was still unable to avoid the prediction that he would one day kill his grandfather.
- This episode stars Jeremy Gilley as Perseus, Frances Barber as Medusa, John McEnery as King Polydectus, Kate Buffery as Danaë, Tony Vogel as Diktys, Arthur Dignam as King Acrisius, and Pat Roach as Atlas.
- The Gracea are played by Barbara Barnes, Justine Glenton, and Tacy Kneale.
- The episode is directed by David Garfath.
The Storyteller: Greek Myths – Orpheus and Eurydice
Eurydice, daughter of Persephone and Orpheus, the muse god, fell in love with him as soon as he saw her.
When his love for her was so great that she died from a poisonous snake bite while being pursued by the satyr Aristaeus, Orpheus travelled down to the Underworld in order to petition Hades for her return.
Orpheus’ music was used to persuade Charon, the ferryman of Hades and father of Cerberus, into transporting him across the River Styx. His song melted the heart of Persephone, Hades’ wife. Hades permitted these two souls to return to the living world as long as Orpheus did not look back.
Orpheus looked back, forgetting the condition and losing Eurydice forever because he was not sure if Eurydice was following him into the light.
He also had not played any music for the villagers, instead striking his lyre’s chords with a rock over and over.
The women of the woods knew that they had to silence him, so they murdered him.
- The episode stars Art Malik as Orpheus, Gina Bellman as Eurydice, Jesse Birdsall as Aristaeus, Robert Stephens as Hades, Mel Martin as Persephone.
- The episode is directed by Tony Smith.
The Storyteller: Greek Myths – Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus and Icarus are the subjects of The Storyteller. Daedalus was a talented architect, inventor, and skilled craftsman. Daedalus lived with his son Icarus at home. Daedalus was ashamed and irritated by his inept son, so he took on his nephew Talos as an apprentice.
Talos outmatched Daedalus in terms of intellect and ability. Daedalus was enraged that Talos was everything his son wasn’t, and he worried the boy would surpass him in skill. To eliminate the threat posed by the boy, Daedalus threw him from the roof, believing him to be a danger to society.
The vulture thwarts Daedalus, confronting him about his feelings for Talos and forcing him to murder the child. He also repelled the invasion of King Minos and fled to the island of Crete, where he became a guest of King Minos.
In Crete, Daedalus created the Labyrinth to imprison the terrible Minotaur. Minos threw Daedalus and Icarus into his Labyrinth. The hero of the story, Daedalus, was able to flee from the Labyrinth after all since he had created it. The vulture appears again, accusing Daedalus of murder and referring to Talos’ death.
Daedalus kills the vulture, which is filled with anger and guilt. Daedalus decided that he and his son would have to flee Crete and avoid Minos as soon as possible. Daedalus, however, possessed the island of Crete and controlled the surrounding seas. There was no way to flee because Minos dominated the area. Daedalus observed that the only solution was by air.
Daedalus built himself wings and Icarus constructed with vulture feathers fastened together with beeswax in order to flee. Daedalus told his son not to fly too near the sun (which would melt his wings) or too close to the sea (as the spray from the water would dampen them and make him sluggish).
They took to the air from Crete, but Icarus quickly flew too near to the sun. In the tragic tale of Icarus, when his father warned him not to fly too close to the sun, or he would melt the wax that held his feathers together and fall to his death in the sea (which was renamed after it). Daedalus wept over his dead son, blaming himself for the tragedy.
After this, Daedalus ended up in the court of King Cocalus. In the meantime, Daedalus fled to Crete and continued his trade and expertise in invention and construction. King Minos, however, came to Athens’ throne soon after.
The Minos, who lived in the region of Crete where Daedalus was exiled after losing his son, decreed that anyone who could weave a thread through a spiral seashell would receive a prize.
King Cocalus’ daughters recognized that Daedalus’ skills might be of assistance in solving the riddle, and they presented him with the shell. Daedalus fastened the string to an ant with honey and made it walk through the spiral chambers until it emerged from the other end.
When Minos discovered that someone had solved the puzzle, he compelled King Cocalus to give up Daedalus. Daedalus went to King Minos and “persuaded” him to take a bath before removing him to be murdered.
Daedalus then used his knowledge of the plumbing system to fill Minos’ bath with boiling water, as King Minos had agreed.
- This episode stars Derek Jacobi as Daedalus, Ian Hawkes as Icarus, Alastair White as Talos, John Wood as King Minos, with Peter Hawkins as the voice of the Vulture (which is operated by David Barclay and David Greenaway).
- It also features a very young Victoria Shalet as one of King Cocalus’ daughters.
- The episode is directed by Paul Weiland.
The Storyteller History
The series re-enacted several European folk tales, including ones that were formerly neglected in Western culture. With the help of actors and puppets, it was created.
The framing device was set in an old-fashioned tale-teller (John Hurt) by a fire telling stories to both the audience and his talking dog (a realistic-looking puppet of a brown and blonde Pudelpointer performed and voiced by Brian Henson), who served as the voice of the viewers, written in a language and style that was consistent with old folk tales.
In the “Secret of the Muppets” episode of The Jim Henson Hour, Jim Henson mentioned that the Storyteller has a half-puppet appearance.
Make-up was used to bring the character to life, notably large ears and a prosthetic nose that made him look like the title figure from Roald Dahl’s children’s book, The BFG.
The Storyteller was originally designed as an animatronic puppet character by Jim Henson. However, Ron Mueck shot a test using facial prosthetics to demonstrate that make-up would be more convincing than an actor in costume.
Henson, who had worked with director Steve Barron on the music videos for David Bowie’s “As the World Falls Down” and “Underground” (both from Henson’s Labyrinth (1986)) was so taken by Barron’s work that he asked him to direct several episodes of Farscape.
The Storyteller Books
There are two versions of the book: one with and one without pictures. The narrative, which was written as a series of short tales by Anthony Minghella, is little adapted to fit the mode of “short story.”
The second novel, The Upside Down (ISBN 0-517-10761-9, Boxtree), features a photograph of the Storyteller on the cover; the images within are the silhouettes as seen in the program, and still photographs from each episode are printed alongside the text.
The other choice (ISBN 0-679-45311-3, Random House) has full-colour hand artwork by Darcy May on every page, illustrating the tales alongside the text.
The Storyteller Graphic Novels
Archaia Entertainment released an anthology collection of The Storyteller on December 6, 2011.
The stories announced are:
- “Old Nick & the Peddler” (from a Scandinavian folktale)
- “Puss in Boots” (from a French fairy tale)
- “The Milkmaid & Her Pail” (from an Aesop fable)
- “Old Fire Dragaman” (from an Appalachian Jack tale)
- “Momotaro the Peach Boy” (from a Japanese fairy tale)
- “An Agreement Between Friends” (from a Romanian folktale)
- “The Frog Who Became an Emperor” (from a Chinese folktale)
- “The Crane Wife” (from a Japanese folktale)
- “The Witch Baby” (from a Russian fairytale)
This last is adapted from one of three unproduced screenplays for the original series by Anthony Minghella.
This is part of Archaia’s bargain with The Jim Henson Company, under which they are also publishing Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal graphic novels, as well as a graphic novel based on Jim Henson’s unfinished tale of Sand, as well as the rights to Labyrinth and MirrorMask.
Following this, other miniseries were released based on various themes, including:
The Storyteller is a film about witches based on an unused screenplay. “The Magic Swan Goose & the Lord of the Forest,” “The Snow Witch,” “The Phantom Isle,” and “Vasilissa the Beautiful” are all stories from earlier versions of this script.
The Storyteller: Dragons which featured the stories “The Son of the Serpent” (based on Native American folktales of the Horned Serpent), “The Worm of Lambton”, “Albina” (a gender-swapped retelling of the Russian story of Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin), and “Samurai’s Sacrifice” (based around the Japanese folktales of Yofune-nushi).
The Storyteller: Giants, which includes “The Peach’s Son,” “The Tailor’s Daughter” (from Russian, Norwegian and German tales), “Pru and the Formorian Giants” (from an Irish folklore), and “The Fisherman and the Giant.”
Subtitled The Storyteller: Fairies, with “The Elf Queen and the Shepherd” (from an Icelandic folklore tale), “Faerie Hill” (from a Danish folklore tale), “The Pond” (based on the Menehune of Hawaiian mythology), and “The Fairy Pool,” among others.
The Storyteller: Sirens, which features “The Fisherman and the Mermaid,” “Empress Wa” (from Chinese legend), “One Spared to the Sea” (from a Scottish folktale), and “Lorelei: Daughter of the Rhine” (from a German folklore).
The Storyteller: Ghosts, a collection of ghost tales from Scandinavian folklore, the Ahp of Cambodian folklore, the Banshee from Irish mythology, and Weles from Slavic mythology.
The Storyteller: Tricksters, featuring stories of Anansi, Eshu, Loki, and Reynard the Fox
The Storyteller is a fusion of songs from the Children of Lir, The Dancers (inspired by Lipan Apache traditions), the Kitsune, and the Ole Heg.
The Storyteller series, which aired on HBO in 1987, was one of Jim Henson’s finest hours. Henson provides the screen with beautiful creatures that evoke a little bit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy, as he did with his other non-Muppet characters (Labyrinth).
Anthony Minghella’s eight-part miniseries, which was based on Greek mythologies and earned him an Oscar a decade later with The English Patient, was adapted from Anthony Minghella. To intriguing effect, the narration of the storyteller (a strong and wonderful Michael Gambon, accompanied by a scene-stealing dog) is woven through with dialogue from the tales.
The Storyteller: Greek Myths
The Greek myth episodes, by nature, are a bit more mature and pessimistic (ages 8 and up) than the rest of the series, yet they provide enduring impressions of well-known stories. In “Perseus and the Gorgon,” King Argos keeps his wife confined when it is foretold that his son will murder him.
Another angry ruler (Pegasos, fathered by none other than Zeus) arrives to seize Perseus’ mother after she and her baby are washed up on the beach. What is Perseus’ primary goal in this narrative? By slaying the evil Gorgon, who has a snake-covered head with eyes that turn men into statues.
In the second story, “Daedalus and Icarus,” Jacobi portrays the great Greek designer. The father goes through a lot of difficulties, including that famous scene in which his son flies too close to the sun. Everything isn’t perfect and doesn’t end well.
“Theseus and the Minotaur” is a Shakespearean tale directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love). A young man reconnects with his father, King Aegeus, but is cursed by his terrible stepmother (metaphorically). The young prince Theseus attempts to stop the regular sacrifice of a half-bull, half-man Minotaur when he is confronted by a new curse.
In the Greek mythology tale “Orpheus and Eurydice,” the composer Orpheus (Art Malik) is inspired by his love to search for his inspiration in the underworld. Unfortunately, she dies soon after and goes to Hades, where Orpheus follows in an attempt to reclaim her soul from Lucifer himself.