As avid readers of this blog know, I like watching movies and television–particularly when the films or shows involved have relevance to the materials of this blog (or, sometimes, not!). I’ve seen two things recently in particular that have great relevance to this blog, and which also have Thracian connections–no matter how distant–and I’d like to share the first of those with you here.
I have enjoyed almost everything that I’ve seen Jim Henson do, from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show onwards. I heard about Jim Henson’s The Storyteller many years ago, but never saw it on television; I heard about it on a Jim Henson retrospective documentary, and it seemed interesting. I wasn’t able to see it until about five or so years ago, when I found the fairy tales episodes on a previously viewed DVD. I have enjoyed that series a great deal ever since; but, I did not know there was also a Greek myths series until a few years later. I was finally able to see these–there were only four episodes–over the last few days.
I have to say, I think that Jim Henson’s The Storyteller did an excellent job with these, both in capturing the essence of each story involved, as well as doing it in an accurate and mature way that was, yet, likewise appropriate for younger viewers. The four stories in the four episodes were “Daedalus & Icarus,” “Orpheus & Eurydice,” “Perseus & The Gorgon,” and “Theseus & The Minotaur.” While each had its charms, I have to say I think I enjoyed the first and the last of these the most.
The gods are mentioned in every single episode, and are actually shown in “Orpheus & Eurydice”: Hades (seen above) and Persephone, of course, being major characters in the story, along with Charon. (Pan is mentioned as the “brother” of Aristaios, the satyr who brings about Eurydice’s death; Cerberus gets a mention by the Storyteller’s dog, not surprisingly and quite appropriately!) Thrace gets mentioned in that episode as well, quite appropriately; though, the death of Orpheus by maenads is not exactly told as usual, and Dionysos never gets mentioned–even though the abandoning of Ariadne on Naxos is featured prominently in the “Theseus & The Minotaur” episode. I suppose of the many gods, Dionysos might be the one most difficult to explain to children…I know in my own education, he was never mentioned until the 7th grade, when the (at that point) familiar Greek myths got a whole added dimension of sexuality that had been absent from their earlier presentation to us in school.
In the episode featuring Perseus, Atlas the titan is shown, and likewise Hermes and Athena are mentioned (and the latter is also said to have been Daedalus’ instructor in engineering and architecture), and even Zeus gets several mentions throughout the series, and appears as the “golden shower” into Danaë’s chamber, which elicits the comment from the Storyteller’s dog, “So THAT’s how it happens!?!” I do have to say that the dialogue, and many of the speeches of both the Storyteller and the various characters are very much in keeping with the character of the figures depicted, in my opinion; the fact that there are many different versions of the stories as well is accurately and beautifully expressed by the Storyteller, who in the Greek Myths series is played by Michael Gambon. Other notable actors in various roles include the incomparable Derek Jacoby as Daedalus, a brilliantly menacing performance by John Wood (of Ladyhawke and War Games fame) as Minos, and Lindsay Duncan (Junia Servilia in Rome) as Theseus’ step-mother Medea!
I’d highly recommend seeing this, if you have not already. Copies of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: The Greek Myths on DVD are rather expensive new, and not exactly cheap previously viewed, unfortunately; I believe it is available through Netflix, however.
When I get to “Part II” of this series, I’ll detail the third season of STARZ’s Spartacus! (My first post on that series from a few years ago has been one of the most consistently viewed ones on this blog…for reasons I’m sure you can guess at!)